Sunday, February 3, 2013

Peale and Paul

Thomas Jefferson, charcoal copy  made from Rembrandt Peal's portrait of Thomas Jefferson
The only painting that got done this weekend was the ceiling of our powder room which was damaged from the flood in the bath above it. The painter wasn't me, but I did let him use my studio sink to wash his brushes, if he promised to leave it as he found it, spic and span. After drawing Adams, I figured do Jefferson. It was only fair. This time, however, I went for vine charcoal. Halfway through, I wished I had bothered to look for my charcoal pencils, for I had a hard time smudging in just the right places with the soft sticks. As it stands, however, Thomas does look like the Thomas that Peale painted. (When you do something like this--examine the man's facial structure--you see beyond the portrait that Peale painted. Thomas Jefferson was a very good looking guy. His cranial structure was outstanding. Now what about Ben Franklin, the ladies man)?

McCullough's John Adams is sending me off in all sorts of directions. I've suddenly developed an interest in Peale, Trumbull, Copely, Stuart--the colonial portrait painters who were very important in 1776 and well to do back then because of it. They recorded all the special people and events in paint, in color.

I've developed an interest in the Alien and Sedition Acts that cost John Adams a second term in office. He lost to Thomas Jefferson and I wondered why? I'm still not sure, but it had to do with party politics and which supported the French Revolution and which did not. I'm still reading.

I'm also reading a new book I'm very excited about: Paint from Photographs by Tony Paul, an excellent  painter, who's alive and well and teaching and painting in England. The phrase 'from photographs' is what caught my attention and got me to order the book. He discusses what makes a photograph suitable for reference and what disqualifies it.  He also talks cameras and angles and lighting. Being a strong supporter of the use of photography in painting, I had to read what he had to say. On page 9 in the introduction on Thursday, he had me:
'And what about those who are less fortunate than most of us--the infirm, disabled, elderly or frail--who find going out to paint an impossibility? Without photographs and other two dimensional references, they would be condemned to paint still lifes or views from their windows for the rest of their lives.'
Once having a problem knee (just a few days ago), I fully agreed that for many people unable to schlep their easels out into the sunshine to paint plein air, photography is an alternative and knowing how to read photographs and translate them into  paintings that look like they were done at the scene is valuable information--indeed, the first thing I did, while reading chapter one, was to pull out my camera and manual. I wanted to know more about its capabilities. I do believe that the painter who doesn't spend some time exploring and perfecting photography techniques is cutting themselves short . They had better be fast or remain fit  and able--and none of us do.  

19 comments:

  1. Lovely soft marks in this portrait and love the way you are combining these portraits with a visit into the history.

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    1. Thanks Mick. I haven't had much time to paint. i have had time to read while others worked in the house. These little quickies connected to what I've been reading seemed to be a satisfying option. Hopefully tomorrow, life returns to normal.

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  2. Well now you have my favorite president. I really love this drawing, it is immediately recognizable as Jefferson, smudges and all. Love the freeness of it.

    One great book is "Undaunted Courage" about the Lewis and Clarke expedition which includes information about Jefferson's foresight and personality. This week on "This American Life", they had a really neat story about a scandal in the Andrew Jackson administration - the petticoat scandal - that may have saved the union. Pretty fascinating stuff, political history, if it is well told.

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    1. It almost got away from me. The vine charcoal was difficult to control due to the small size of the drawing--9 x 9"--and I was lazy about rounding up my proper tools. I've been enjoying my renewed knee. I'm loving that the aches are gone and I feel like getting physical again--on my bike.

      I'll make a note of Undaunted Courage and see if This American Life - Andrew jackson will be shown again.

      We just watched a wonderful PBS program called The American. It was about Henry Ford. What a weird, horrible genus he was! Totally antisemitic-Hitler style. Totally antisocial, egotistical, tyrant and to boot, an abusive parent. He parented by denigration. Poor Edsel.
      Then of course, there was old Detroit, bustling Detroit in its heyday, in the background, which made me mad all over again about the thieves that ran this city into the ground--not Bing, but recently Kilpatrick and primarily Coleman Young--not to mention the city council--and the egotism of the auto industry, which refused to recognize the strength of foreign competitors till it was too late. Wow. I am taking a hard look beyond my little studio of joy. Should have done it years ago.

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    2. "This American Life" is a radio show - not what you think. It generally includes vignettes that are real life stories about your average folks. If you'd like to listen to it, "Act One" on the episode entitled "Surrogates" is the one about Jackson. It can still be heard at (let's see if Blogger allows the link): http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/485/surrogates Otherwise you can Google it.

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  3. Wonderful rendering of Jefferson, and he really does look handsome. I enjoyed your notes on painting from photos, and would love to read more as you go through the book.

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    1. I don't have the sparkle in his eyes yet. I couldn't find my eraser template, or my white pastel pencil. I think I packed it with my pastels for that class I took? But a couple of white dots and a fixative spray and off to something more meaty. My plan is to finish Wildfire this week.

      Sorry I've been negligent these couple of weeks. That procedure knocked the wind out of me. I'm fine finally back to myself this last weekend. while the anesthetics nearly killed me, the knee is 100% improved. I'm getting back on my horse today--that is my bike. Your pictures of Bruno were fantastic. I never thought about a horse's dental care. Good to know. But what about those mustangs out there roaming free? Doesn't the lack of dentistry do them in? What in the wild keeps them eating grass in comfort. You're going to have to write another post.

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    2. For you, I will have to do another post on horse/vet care. And you ... make sure you don't get bucked off your bronc today!!! :)

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    3. Went great. For insurance, I iced afterwards, but I think I can cancel my PT sessions and save them for when my back goes out or the other knee starts to act up. Insurance covers only so many sessions a year. I don't like to waste them.

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  4. It's fun to see your drawing and read the history lesson too. I am interested in your new book ...sounds great! I'm sure it will have wonderful ideas.

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    1. I'm all for drawing from life as much as one can. It's the only way to really see the depth of shadows, which are often too light in paintings. I'm also for recording the sitting, the landscape, for people shift, light changes, it rains, you have to wait for the plumber who's coming between 8:30 and noon.The more shots you take the better, for they let you see the features from all angles--the better to paint them my dear. The book is not about ideas for the use of photograph, but more about how to take them and use them-- what to look out for when photographing a subject, which qualities in photos will work as references, which photos will not and why. In between the lines I've read so far, I got the impression that some days are not fit for painting or photographing in plein air, so a lot of adjustments must be made either on the spot or in the studio to compensate for the dullness. My example: While the snow in the woods is pristine and beautiful, there are no colors, just blah grays, very bleak. Since snow melts, photographs are called for and if the scene is translated to canvas, a whole lot of color imagination will be in order along with the cutting out of superfluous details. Good reminders of things I know well, but don't always recall in my rush to put brush to canvas. I don't know how I stumbled into this book, but I did snap it up. It sells for 50 at Amazon, but I bought it for 3 and change from a outside seller. It came from the Nashville Public Library and is like new. The people in Nashville respect their books.

      Jefferson is as far as I'm going. I was just waiting for the painter to patch the sheetrock and paint the ceiling and gave him the use of my sink in exchange for his work and incredible neatness. I really am enjoying my newly cleaned studio. --Jefferson was the first Republican--it's curious to see how much the party has changed since his times--or has it? Hmm.

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  5. Very interesting post. American history....not so.......but I agree with your thoughts on photography. My lack of skills cost me dear once. I have no talent for photography though, so it probably will again!
    Powerful strong drawing.

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    1. Yes you do. The eye you use to choose a composition is the same eye you use to compose a photograph. Sun behind you is a good first rule, auto settings is another, and takes lots of shots from your vantage point thinking 180 degrees arc is drawn around your subject. If photographing people positioning them where there's no tree or lamp post coming out of their heads is good too. Photography is like painting, you expect to break some eggs learning.

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  6. Today I went to see my teacher with my acrylic work on tonal values.
    He was happy with me and has promoted the use of color, the next time.
    It will mean the creation of color tones for each leaf or petal or other ...
    He was doing a portrait today, I wonder if one day I can learn something about this.
    The best work, which I painted, it was done from a photo of an orchid that he showed me how to shoot. The plant was in the house, and he has photographed in the studio.
    Photographing a subject is already decide many things, and he taught me how to do it from his point of view, of course. A photograph made ​​by a painter takes into account the representation that will be made on the basis of that ... the dark behind the light colors, the light behind the dark colors. And everything that makes the subject carved from light in an extraordinary way of expression.
      I've long since real problems to be en plein air, the sun as the shade.
    I also have trouble making painting sessions are too long and at home I can handle this. Undoubtedly paint from life is a good thing, but Degas and VanGogh not have despised the photographs.
    So dear Linda also this creative medium, the camera in your hands is a great contributor of your painting!

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    1. I can't take long painting sessions either and I've found that to be advantageous to my work. Painting for shorter periods of time allows me to back way away and really take a good look at what I've have done unencumbered with any of the emotions I might have had while being into the piece; my next move becomes clearer. Watercolor and acrylics demand stopping for drying times. Shorter painting sessions also aid in keeping myself from overdoing. I try to get two painting sessions of about an hour and a half into a day.
      In three hour art classes, I found myself looking at the clock after two hours and then time dragging through till the end. I was always first at the sink washing my brushes.

      I adore photography. I think it's a marvelous tool--so did Vermeer and a bunch of others. It aids in composition. It stops the light from changing. It stops the subject from moving.
      It is another sketching tool if you know what you're doing with that camera.

      The thing to avoid, I've heard from pro-lifers, is copying the photograph. But if I took it, using everything I know about horizon lines, parallax line correction, light directions, depth of shadows, bracketing, angle of subject, etc.) then it is my photographic sketch and I can copy it if I want--but in most cases I use a number of shots of the subject to zero in on what I want in the painting and what I don't, e.g. JD with open smile or closed? I'm going to use which ever one that says "I gotta crow" the best with that pose he took.

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  7. You give me so much guilt about not sketching and start to use it as a tool, something you are so good at and me so bad at. Nice sketching .....

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    1. You're busy trying to make a living at art. You're producing product--and doing a very fine job. I imagine by the time you finish your daily painting, you need time off. Take it. Enjoy it. Right now, I fiddling about. I had to get past my knee thing. Yesterday, I painted Wildfire. Being expressionistic, I can go in and paint for a while, get emotional with it, then back off. I can make no mistakes for the more paint on that canvas the better. I didn't sketch yesterday. I put on my snow shoes, took my camera and tested my rejuvenated knee in the backyard along with making a few shots of the woods. I was exploring the results of poor lighting (an overcast day) and thinking about composition with regards to the thick brush and woods. I was sketching with the camera--it was too damn cold to paint alla prima. I'm hoping for sun today, to photographically sketch again, but the days not looking that way. More snow is in the forecast.

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  8. Visiting your site for the first time. Your charcoal drawings are truly inspirational. Makes me want to put my paints down for a change.

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