Wednesday, November 25, 2015

"somewhere between there and now"

this will just be a brief post to show what i am working on currently. it's obviously a work-in-progress. the process isn't actually different than what i have been doing painting-wise. however, the thought process and the preparation is different.

so what is new? well, actually the details of the drawing are much more meticulously rendered so that i am not winging it in some important areas in which i was previously pretty sloppy. the most obvious area is in the hair. i now carefully map out where the major tresses lie rather than scribble in a "there...that will be fine" vague line or lines. the exact type of pattern on the apparel is more carefully drawn where before i might just have gone with a solid fabric. it just wouldn't have been the same feeling. i don't think.

additionally i have put a lot of thought into the background and researched a bunch of artists to see how they handled background of their figurative paintings. one such artist, who actually is an oil painter, who uses a bright, warm, glowing, rather plain background with some, dripped, whatever details along the edges in a sort of complementary color is daniel sprick. i had the incredible opportunity to meet him and speak briefly with him (along with the group of fellow workshop attendees) while out in santa fe last month. he was filming a documentary about his work with PBS at the evoke gallery where some of his recent works were hanging. i was taken with the the warm, high-value, yellow background with complementary marks along the top and edges from which lines, drips, and a variety of other thin shapes were effected. in talking to him his reasoning for much of what he paints is that he just likes the object(s) or likes the way they, or in the case of the background, it) looks or that he just likes to paint it (that way). if one is looking for a greater, deeper philosophical meaning, quite likely one will be disappointed. in the case of the background however, he did say the inspiration for the glowing yellowish tint was the description of the "light" many report seeing in near death experiences.........whoa. okay so that is somewhat deep.

anywho, if your next question is,"where are you going with the background in this piece?" i would say look to daniel sprick (website).

okay, so maybe not so brief.............

so, here then is the wip, "somewhere between there and now" (13"X21").

"somewhere between there and now" (wip)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

class on thanksgiving hiatus

as of monday, last, we are now officially on the two week thanksgiving hiatus. we finished out the figure in landscape of the egret in a stream and i will post the remaining three steps here today.

after value correction and adding some ripples
(over done for demo purposes, as usual)
we talked about reflections in water and then went on to paint same and do some correction. the basic two concepts were (1) that the reflection needs to come straight down vertically below the object that produces it and (2) dark objects generally reflect lighter than the object and light objects darker than the object. in terms of the latter, consider the reflection of a white boat in's dark right?

we finished out the painting by modeling the bird and adding some other details to him such as the beak, eye, and legs.

finished version with even more overdone ripples...for demo
purposes, obviously!
i got back to a habit i had at the last class of "raffling off" the demo painting....actually the students didn't know why they were picking out a number between 1 and 10........and lori was the (un?)fortunate recipient.

i'll finish out this post with the homework for the first class following the holiday which is the start of the figure portion of the class.....our reference photo of a hapless fisherman that they are to draw out on watercolor paper ready to paint monday morning. i also started to demo the manner we would start in case someone wanted to get a head start before the turkey tryptophan kicked in. painting of a figure

Friday, November 13, 2015

second beginning watercolor course: fourth session

we are now well into the second iteration of the beginning watercolor course, having finished the fourth class yesterday. it is also the time of year that the various and sundry upper respiratory virus are starting to make their rounds. as such, there were some unexpected absences from the class due to family members that either needed care or rides to the clinic to be checked out.

therefore i will go over the lessons that we tackled yesterday for the benefit of those who couldn't be there for the entirely. yeh, that's you,  lori and joan.

first wash of cobalt blue: graded dark to light at top
 and then light to dark at the bottom. preserving
 the white of the bird and its  reflection

we started out by going over the larger area washes: flat, graded, variegated (both horizontal and vertical). hard to say much more about this without a demonstration.the basics were to use as large a brush as possible, mix up enough paint to cover the area without having to remix another  (and probably mismatched) puddle half way through the wash, and keep the whole thing flowing down the sheet, which is held at approximately a 45 degree angle, by keeping a manageable bead of paint at the bottom of the wash. joseph vbukvic feels this later is of such importance that he has given it the moniker, "mr. bead." when he's gone, the wash is dead.

second step: medium value flat variegated wash
 down to the tops of thestream-side rocks. tops of
rocks and twigs/stems scraped in when wash
had lost its sheen when viewed from the side.

having mastered these techniques we went on to start a "real" painting of a white egret wading in a forest stream with a rocky shoreline. it incorporated virtually everything tht we hav covered to date in the course: direct painting of and object, negative painting around and object , maintaining the whites, a flat wash, several graded washes and variegated washes. new techniques were scraping paint away to get back to a lighter value area. this was used to define some light-struck area on the rocks and put in some stems and small trunks of stream-side vegetation. in order to do this properly one must wait until the sheen has just gone off the wash and "squee-gee" the paint aside rather than actually scrape it.  either a finger nail or the flat side of a palette knife work well for this.
third wash: darker value flat variegated wash from the
 "bottom" of the rock reflection to about 3/5 of the way
 to the bottom which represents the reflections of the woods.
some lighter streaks were lifted out with a thirsty brush
and also some horizontal "ripples"

here are the steps as i demo'd them in class.  we are about half finished with this painting and it will be finished at the next class on monday.

Friday, November 6, 2015

recap of santa fe experience

now that i am back from santa fe and have had time to reflect on the experience, i can say that in terms of growth as an artist in general, and painter, specifically, i have never had a more intense, concentrated and productive endeavor. the lead-in to the one-on-one mentoring with ted nuttall, that being the 5-day workshop (4.5-day in my case.....more on that later) was perfect.

i was able to reacquaint myself with ted's teaching technique, review those didactic elements of making art and painting that he considers important, and get my both my brush and mind in the painting mode.  the workshop was pretty much vintage ted with each half-day session starting with some sort of slide session emphasizing various aspects of painting, not just watercolor painting. the topics included, but weren't necessarily restricted to, some examples of figurative artists' work, contemporary and historical, painting the facial features, hair and beards, design and composition principles. the later were, for me, the most valuable of these.

to sum up the design/composition part one should first sort out who (or what) the subject of the painting is going to be. after that critical decision, one needs to decide what shape of paper, then what size, and then finally and where in the painting the figure will reside. it's a mistake to try to work with 1/2 or quarter sheet sizes and shapes where a square may be a more appropriate shape for the story one wants to tell. just because the long axis vertical is the convention for "portrait", the landscape orientation may suit one's needs better.

in terms of placement the conventional rules such as not in the dead center, not at an edge toward which the figure is walking or looking, may not meet one's needs and also may not result in an exciting, fresh, interesting painting. so, be prepared to break the rules, but then also be prepared to make the transgression work.

i finished one painting during this time period: the painting shown on the previous  post, "ready for middle school."

after a day's rest and a strategizing meeting over dinner on saturday, sunday brought the 3-day mentoring session. the days usually started with bemoaning the world's current sorry state, musing about the obvious solutions, discussing recent novels we both had read, and ingesting quarts, if not gallons, of dunkin' donuts coffee....ted's favorite. the harmony of this activity was helped  significantly by the fact that we are both of similar political persuasion.

the first day we spent the entire morning carefully and fully critiquing my most recent 15-20 paintings. some of these i knew had problems, but the ones that i thought were pretty good were found lacking in some area or another as well. this often came down to my penchant for leaving quite a bit of white paper in the background juxtaposed with some fairly dark element(s). this, obvious in retrospect, clearly detracted or at least took some of the attention from the figure. the analysis of these better paintings often yielded the most eye-opening and useful observations. so, objective one was identified: work on backgrounds by looking at other artists whose work i admire, think about ways to make it somewhat interesting but enhance the figure rather than hijack the show, and go at it slowly with many thin layers rather than diving into low value, irretrievable territory right from the get-go.

the other thing that emerged from this most valuable session was that i had to pay as much attention to all aspects of the drawing as i did to the placement of the figures and shape of the face (or figure). ted made the observation that it looked like i sort of "winged" it when it came to the supporting objects such as hands and hair........they needed to be just as carefully drawn as the face. people are so familiar withe the face and hands that any little inaccuracy will be seen as "not right" (even if they are not sure why) additionally i had a tendency to do the same thing with the surrounding inanimate objects that i chose to include. any ambiguities as to what the object was was a detractor. if it really couldn't be drawn and painted so that it was pretty obvious what it was find a way to leave it out....don't make it up. all of these inaccuracies and ambiguities would probably lead to an inordinate amount of time on the viewers part trying to figure it out and detracts from the artist's main message or story.

the good part was that my compositions were strong and fairly interesting, and my brush and paint handling were good.

after that first morning i painted on two works with ted at times offering impromptu advice as he watched from behind or specifically requested comments. he also worked on some of his pieces that allowed me to see how he tackled various problems while i took a break or was letting something dry. even though he was working, he readily stopped everything when i had need of help and came right over.

work time was more or less 0900-1200 and 1300-1600 hours each day. i usually took a nap after the afternoon session under the guise of intending to "read."  ted usually caught up on stuff with his business. we also took several side trips to local galleries to see exhibits that ted thought interesting or important. one such trip (during the workshop portion) resulted in us seeing and speaking with daniel sprick who was engaged in the filming of a documentary about himself and his work. as daniel was a long-time idol of ted's, he (ted) was like a little kid who just met his favorite super hero. of course there was a photo taken....i'll try to find it to post.

ted was a most gracious host offering housing in his home in santa fe and free reign over the kitchen. for the most part we ate at his home and i gladly did a little cooking when we didn't go to a restaurant.

as usual when an experience has been great,  i didn't want it to end.  as the wheels came up at the albuquerque airport i had already decided that this sort of mentoring is a most productive method to advance in one's ability as an artist and painter and will gladly go out again in a year or two to have another "go" at it.

Monday, November 2, 2015

"ready for middle school": work from santa fe with ted nuttall

i really can't say enough about my 10days studying with ted nuttall. so, much so that i will wait until i have a little more time to expound on the experience (i am on my way to the first session of the next iteration of the beginning watercolor class). suffice it to say i would do it again in a flash.

here is the first painting that i did in the workshop portion of the sojourn. "ready for middle school" is taken from a photo i had of our granddaughter sophie just after she received her schedule for her first year in middle school. it was a couple of years ago as she just entered high school....gasp.

it is on 300# hot press arches paper and is 11"X15".

Friday, October 16, 2015

one last tidbit before santa fe

end of work  10/15/15
i have been doing some dribs and drabs on the current painting whilst preparing for my ten days in santa fe with ted nuttall. far from finished even for this "sketch". i have just been putting some thin glazes on the background playing around with what the color might eventually end up being and doing some more sculpting on the face and shadows/folds on her white shirt. so far i like what is going on and her facial expression and pose are saying a lot to me. the eyes in shadow are a bit of a problem that i am not sure i have totally solved......maybe a question for ted?

any way, just some last minute packing and then off to the twin cities for wheels up sunday morning.

"it just suits her" (wip; 11"X15").

just to santa fe

Thursday, October 8, 2015 in progress......and especially for jane

i started a small (11"X15") exploratory painting using the photos with ashley as inspiration. it started out really as not much more than a sketch with a fairly quick drawing and palette choices. i often do this when approaching a new series of paintings. as i said in my facebook page, these early works with their raw, unfinished look often are more compelling than the later "real" paintings.

this brings me to a random thought about painting in general. we often hear the "advice" that we shouldn't stew over choices in (watercolor) painting as it's, "only paper." while this is true and they're not life or death decisions, they are make or break decisions with regard to that particular painting. many look at this "only paper" admonition as a license to go forward without much thought at all. i think this is a mistake. while it shouldn't paralyze the painter, each painting should be approached with the notion that one is going to attempt to paint one's best work to date. if it doesn't turn out that way, one shouldn't lament for too long. after all, the afterthought is that it's "only paper", not the mind set going in.

enough of that.

"it just suits her" (11"X15", wip)
after the drawing on 300# hot press arches (yes, i am back to the old stand-by....for me it just has no equal for these portrait/figure paintings) paper, i flooded all but the white shirt and parts of the background with a variegated high value wash of scarlet lake, brilliant orange, manganese blue, and raw sienna using a large squirrel quill mop brush. when this had completely dried i started on the large shadow under the hat brim, on her forehead, and beginning of her hair with the same colors with the addition of burnt sienna and ultramarine blue to the palette. this phase and all subsequent steps were painted with an escoda #14 versatil round brush. her left hand was modeled the same way. i started the background by trying to give it an underlying glow with a loose mixture of raw sienna, quinacridone gold, and carr yellow(cheap joe's american journey pigment named after the plein aire landscape painter betty carr).

that's it for the day.