Sunday, October 19, 2014

Free Hand Weekend

Michael's eyes are driving me nuts--the reference is driving me nuts.  I must get a better one.

Steve, graphite and charcoal pencil study
Free hand drawing time at my house begins at seven AM, or earlier, when I sit down at my SAD light for a half hour dose of ionized air and a brilliant facsimile of sunshine.  I'm back into my boys these days.  I really made a mess of the painting I had the audacity to attempt in 2012, I thought I'd give it another try.  These are warm up sketches and something to do while just sitting there in front of the light getting rid of winter doldrums.

 I bought a starter drawing kit from the General to see what they had to offer and I love it.  It comes with a complete range of charcoal pencils of varying grades of hardness, white and black chalk like, conte like crayons, a knead eraser and the sharpest little sharpener--the kind you wish you had in your grade school pencil box, the kind that doesn't break the lead.  I am really enjoying this half hour of free handing with the General.

 I am also enjoying the fact that the grand monochrome painting exercise I've taken on has had a positive effect on how quickly I'm reading the tones in my grayscale references. The burnt umbra/white, nine step value scale seems to have been burned into my brain...

BUT I KEEP WANTING A DARK DARKER THAN BURNT UMBRA CAN GIVE.. So I added Ultramarine to the BU for a darker than the darkest tone for this alla prima oil study and I like it!  The other color I'm missing is Burnt Sienna.  I guess I'm really missing the play of cool and warm? While BU washes out warm, add white to it and color goes blue--too blue for someone who sits in front of a SAD light every morning. 

Alla Prima weekend with Michael.  Trouble with the reference is the photo was taken with a flash. Shame on me.
But that was way back when I didn't know any better--though this is a better likeness than the one in the 2012 painting.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

White Takes a Long Time To Dry

Two colors, nine values for the grisaille

My work habits have changed. I've become fastidious. My mom is probably spinning in her grave. Ellis is wondering who is this gal?

I was a sloppy painter. Then, I added a multi drawer tambour for paint tubes and reference photos and a wall with a drying/observation ledge;  those additions pushed me towards Professionalism, a town North of Dabbler. Since then, I have continued to improve my work place and as I have, my work comes easier. It's a damn good thing too, for the complex painting I've taken on demands no messy distractions.

Since Schmid,  I've added a 20" x 30" glass palette placed over a 20" x 30" middle gray piece of foam board that I clean every evening.   I've hung a cork board for references. With my hands free and seeing them from a distance, squinting down and handling loaded brushes of light and dark values has become the norm. My palette knife has become more than a fast way to paint.

I am using it for what it was originally intended. Mixing gradations of values with fresh paint is the first task after the lights are on in the studio. Thoroughly cleaning brushes and reshaping them with Da Vinci Gun Arabic is the last task before turning off the lights. 

I have become meticulous. I haven't had to clean my sink since last July when Schmid's insistence on cleanliness hit a nerve my mom couldn't.  Cleanliness in the studio yields uncontaminated colors on the canvas, he said.  In September,Todd's class slowed me down and gave me plenty of time to care for my tools.

I'm no longer in a rush to finish my painting. I am in a rush to train my eye to read a value and mix it accurately on the palette, not by trial and error on the canvas, as I used to. Patience and serenity has replaced urgent production.  Add BB King's blues to the tidiness and the studio turns rosy. It's a fun place to be. The irony is: White takes a long time to dry.  White is dominant in the window area of my selfportrait.

Indirect and Direct Painting, a detail from Linda

The woods in my backyard cannot be seen from the viewpoint I chose for my reference.  All you can see is a wall and the railing of our deck.  That would not do.  So I replaced it with this improvised landscape painted wet into wet freehand with no grid and no under-drawing. The  tonal range is in the lightest end of my nine value monochromatic color scheme. It's  a long drying time out for this area. 
The reference photograph.  Everything was fine except the view out the window.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sunday, A Day For Drying, A Day For Blogging And Sweeping the Garage

Slow going or going too fast?   I suspect the latter. 

I like my art in small doses and usually in doses that are specific: the Rauchenberg Show; the Picasso Show; the Drawings of Michaelangelo.   Before the Venetian Technique class started, I dragged Ellis to the DIA for a quick look at The European Art. I wanted to see  the Venetian School up close--in particular, two Titians.   After contemplating them for half an hour, we went to lunch; I had gotten what I needed.  Oddly enough as much as I like painting, I don't like looking at paintings,  UNLESS  they apply to what I am doing at the easel.  Perhaps that's why I was struck by the four giant, ultra realistic 2D finalists in Grand Rapids' Art Prize?


Yes, but not the big money.  Outcry, an oil portrait of a girl who had been dragged into the sex slave market, (you had to read the girl's incredibly sad story to get the sad picture),  by Greychyn Lauer, won $20,000. This painting was not one I favored. I don't think a painting needs text attached to attract interest. 

 A hair design, photographed and woven on canvas, The Haircraft Project by Sonia Clark, won $100,000.  

And the big money of the ArtPrize, $300,000, went to an installation titled Intersections, by Anila Quayyum Agha.  The installation won both the public and the Jurors' vote, a first in the competition's six year history. It looks spectacular, but this photo is missing what put it over the top: the shadows of the spectators interacting against the walls, ceiling and floor; The shadows of the viewing public brought Intersection to life and made it a popular piece. Everybody likes getting into the act.



The ArtPrize iPad app saved me a lot of walking around.  It was the lazy man's way of seeing the exhibit, I confess, but it may get me to actually go next year. It taught me how to cut the art happening down to a size my rebellious knees can tolerate pounding pavement.  I now know the locations of the must see venues. I suspect there is some pre voting judging going on in determining where pieces are installed. 


Before taking this class on the Venetian Technique, I looked down my nose at photo realism too. With five sessions under my belt plus hours at my studio easel, I'm relenting a little.  It's a technique to know if portraiture is your genre of choice. If still lifes  or landscapes turn you on, forget it! 

Photography has been and still is an important tool for insuring a good likeness in a more romantic medium than hp photo paper. The Venetian Technique, pulled from the 16th century, guarantees an excellent likeness with the added bonus of an obvious high skill finish. Back then one didn't want to lose their head over an unflattering sketchy portrait of the King; and today, no portrait artist wants to lose a portrait client willing to pay a kingly price for a keepsake portrait of their dead mom. Photorealism is just a modern label for a very old method of painting, a method worth having in the portrait artist's repertoire if commissions are important.  Both kings and the masses admire skill they understand. They don't give a damn about the artist's impressions, emotions or her need to express them. They just want a painting of their dear mom, child, father or dowager aunt.

 December 1st this educational stint will be over for me.   After that, I hope to digest what I experienced, while I splash watercolors freely under my blue umbrella.  By the sea, the info will percolate. Back home, it will become just one more way to tackle a painting. 


PS:  I only see this technique as being good for portraiture. Others in the class are painting large still life's, florals and landscapes.  I look down my nose at these subjects done super large, super realistically.  Done in that manner, they are more decoration   Better to have a good time wielding your brush on paintings, people can actually carry home without hiring a truck.

Unless something else strikes me, hugs for a great painting week.