Sunday, June 30, 2013

one more to finish off july

here are some steps in a painting that i started the last day of the ted nuttall workshop here in la crosse a couple of weeks ago. just the beginning and subsequent steps to what i think is near the finish. nothing much different in terms of technique. i did start using more transparent paint and substituted brilliant orange and vermillion for cadmium orange and cadmium red light, respectively. i also started using manganese blue in some places as i like it when i saw it in the background of stephie butler's paintings a while ago. the only other thing that i would comment on is that i placed the head more to the left of the picture than usual in an attempt to myself a problem to solve in terms of composition. i'm not sure i succeeded but the clouds/sky that are already on the upper right and the one's that i plan to add do give a semblance of balance. lastly, i don't like the warm bit in the center of the cloud on the upper right. i will have to come up with strategy to either remove it or tone it here are the photos documenting the birth of yet another masterpiece!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

critiques are like........totally cool

i had pretty much given up on this painting that i had entitled "the tao of dreadlock maintenance". in my mind it was dark, gritty (literally), desperately unfinished without a clue how to proceed, and (here is the clincher and in technical jargon) generally icky.

i shared this frustration with ted nuttall while he was here and he, quite to my surprise, thought this was gem in the rough. his main criticism was that it was unfinished (hooray, i got one right) and mainly due to a lack of observation from the model leaving some critical areas too ambiguous or downright confusing. he felt that most observers would spend a lot of time trying to figure out some minor problem and miss the big picture. i had to agree with him (and not just because he was an expert) because i had noticed that i was somewhat like a horse going to the stable after long ride....i was anxious to be done with it and to move onto the next project. the result was sloppy work from equally sloppy and poor observation. not really seeing and what was analyzing what was there.  i am reminded of one of my favorite quotes, which i have paraphrased, from richard schmid: "if you have to choose from what you know (or think you know) is there and what you actually see, only put in what you see.

so, there were a lot of areas near the bottom of her attire that were ambiguous in a distracting way. there were too many areas of unclear or incorrect value that made it difficult to tell what was there. there were lines that met at too much of a tangent. there were features on her face that were not nearly dark enough.

with all that in mind i re-worked it to see if i could tease out some of that gem that ted seemed to think was buried somewhere in all that mess. here is the before and after shot of the painting. i hope that i don't need to label each....otherwise all has been for naught.

feel free to leave comments good, bad, or indifferent.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

and then it was over: day #4 of ted nuttall/la crosse workshop

once again (as in seattle) the fourth day of ted's workshop ended with almost all wishing for another day....or two.....or three.

the "lecture" thursday was mainly about composition but also included some suggestions for "must have" books for every artist. i will note some of the one's he recommends shortly. the composition talk was arguably the most important of the four. ted indicated what was meant by composition and why it was so important.

from the onset, one of the most important decisions is determining the size and shape of the painting surface. this will set the tone for the entire rest of the painting. don't just choose a quarter- or half-sheet just because its already in your stack of paper or that there is an easily obtained pre-cut mat for it. one needs to decide what size and shape will best tell the story of the painting.

once that is accomplished, the placement of the major elements, while subordinate to the former, is none-the-less important. here is where it may be a good idea to consider breaking the "rules" (like not centering the major figure in the space, or having the figure looking into the space within the painting rather than near an edge looking out) and then solving this "problem" you have created for yourself so that it works. that is where the challenge lies and also what may speak to a uniqueness that cannot be acquired any other way. small elements can make a big impact. he showed us some paintings with one small detail either changed or omitted, and how much this changed the overall feeling of the piece.

the demo for the day included how ted approaches the details of the hands and reiterated how important the hands were for supporting the emotion and feeling portrayed in the face of the figure. the hands in the demo painting are included here.

"stories of my people" 14"X11"
in the free painting time i finished the first painting by strengthening the value in the background at the top painting and noodling around will a small number of things inconsequential.  i then decided that her head was too much in the center vertically and that i had made a bit of mess of the folds on the bottom of her t-shirt. both were easily(?) fixed, in my mind, by literally ripping off the bottom 2-3 inches. whether this was absolutely necessary, i am not sure, but i feel better about it. one of those things my inner intuitive voice was yammering at me about. here is the finished product.

with about two hours left of the workshop i decided to start another painting. i quickly (and not too expertly but perhaps adequately enough) drew the cowboy at the left of a sheet of 300# hot press paper that was 11"X15".

beginning of another painting
i followed the usual steps by putting down and initial light wash of scarlet lake, cadmium orange, and cerulean blue mixed on the paper. i incorporated the shadow on the under side of his hat into that largish shape. when that was dry i started modeling the nose and then moved onto the eyes. he has startlingly blue eyes and a ridiculously detailed bandana, both of which i wanted to keep featured. i will have to take a liberal dose of my patience pills when i tackle the bandana.

i put down a light-mid value, variegated wash over the hat that i eventually want to be sort of a buff, felt-like surface. some of the darker areas of his face were strengthened value-wise by glazing with the initial colors and adding some raw sienna as i dropped out the cerulean blue. i put some arbitrary color here and there. perhaps the most noticeable over the near eye with a splotch of prussian blue going from the iris up and over the upper lid into the forehead.  i knew that i needed to solve the problem of the large empty space to the right of the head. decided to try putting down a somewhat stark western-scape with a distant horizon line complete with a butte silhouette or two and a graded wash coming forward in the space at it moved down the paper. i am still left with what if anything to do with the "sky". i am thinking some clouds described by some splotches of blue acting as a negative shape to the white cumulus......we'll see. shown is the stage things were at at the end of our too-few four days with ted.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

ted nuttall workshop/la crosse: day #3

not too much time to post this morning so this will be somewhat brief. ted went over the differences between corm and and cast shadows. the former having soft edges and the latter having hard edges. one must pay attention to these characteristics. doing so and rendering them accurately will pay big dividends on the painting.

in his demo he worked some more on the shadow side adding layers of paint in light washes. additionally he added the first of the neutral washes on the front of the bodice of her dress. there were also a few changes to the background most notably to the bottom right of the figure with the addition of a warmer glaze to a small patch below the whitish railing. a bit more work on the nose with the addition of some arbitrary color (hooker's green in this instance) around the side plane of the nose. i think that was about all and here is the photo of the progress to date.

i continued to tweak  my painting. i realized i made a classic mistake by trying to make up the folds on her shirt and really got them wrong. so i get a larger reference photo printed the night before and tried lifting and repainting some of them to make things seem a little more natural in terms of the drape of the fabric. i tried to add some color to the shadows and think i went a little too overboard in some places although ted seemed to like it. i had some problems with dividing up the background into isolated shapes, mainly in the bottom left. this happened by the yellowish streak that was literally the first thing that went down on the paper with the initial wash. i lifted that out.

the hair was troubling me but i think i worked out a solution. ted helped with some of the "anatomy" of errant strands that made them seem more believable.....thicker nearer the scalp and moving into a out of the light. i hanged a number of them and it seems to work better. some splashes of prussian blue above her head to help explain the top of her head and some of the lighter strands of hair that reside there finished out work for today.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

ted nuttall/la crosse workshop: day#2

another great day here in la crosse....mid 70's, partly cloudy, and dry. we started the day with our usual lecture/talk/discussion from ted. he mainly talked about painting the features on the face and painting the hands. in terms of the later, one must pay attention to the actual shape of the fingers...not just sausages but usually a group of angled straight lines. the hands can be as expressive as the face so we must take care in their rendering. each feature on the face should be painted as if it were a miniature abstract painting in its own right. this means a variety of shapes, edges, colors and values. if one were to take a macro shot of the eye, for example, it should look like a miniature abstract painting.

the demo today consisted of ted showing how he painted on a single hue flat wash over the background and the difference that made, in covering up all that white paper, to the figure. basically the life of the wash lies in the bead of watery paint on the bottom. each subsequent stroke should just  abut and pick up that bead and move on down and across the paper. to show us, he put in a light value manganese blue wash.

then he demo'd the technique where he painted a single large shadow area on the figure's face by painting a number of small pieces of it starting at the top near the forehead and working down. the bottom of each "swatch" needs to be carefully tapered off to facilitate the blending of the subsequent "swatch." each swatch had a red and a yellow (or orange) but these varied from one to another. one might be scarlet lake and brilliant orange while the next might be vermillion and winsor yellow, an so forth. each of these was perhaps 1.5 to 2 inches square.

if he was a bit in a quandary as to a next big step he might but in a small darker detail just to judge the value of it and the rest of the features of the painting. to that end he put in a darker value behind the figure on both sides of ultramarine blue and burnt sienna (or umber).

in the afternoon after breaking for a bout a 75 minute lunch we each worked on our individual paintings. today brought on some frustration and ted spent a lot of time with people to try to help straighten out things and explain how to make them "right." as one can imagine this was pretty labor-intensive and he didn't quite get around to everyone before we needed to stop for the day. ted looked tired and we all trundled off to a well earned evening of rest and eats and , i am sure, a bit of libation. here is where i was at the end of the afternoon and at one intermediary step.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Day#1: ted nuttall workshop/la crosse.........for marta

the first day of our ted nuttall workshop down at the pumphouse broke clear and dry. imagine that! i figured that augured well for the rest of the day. all participants who were attending got there without a hitch and we were off and learning from a very gifted teacher and painter.

ted started out the day talking about how he got started in watercolor and the influence his mother (an artist herself) had on him and his art career.

from there he did an overview of the week and reviewed some principles that we should all keep in mind as we moved forward in our art. they included but were not necessarily limited must enjoy and truly love the process because, art is work and may not necessarily be fun, that being nervous and afraid of the stark white paper is okay but to approach each painting as if it MIGHT be your best work eschewing the idea that it is "just a piece of paper". there were probably any number of other things that he shared with us but since i left my notes back at the pumphouse i can't remember them....must not be that important (he said knowing that might not be the case but the product of an increasingly older brain).  if there is anything else upon review when i return to the pumphouse i will append this report. lastly but perhaps most impotently....SLOW DOWN and THINK before putting down a brush stroke.
this demo included how he drew the figure and briefly how he composed the picture. it was a photo of a young dancer sitting deep in thought before a performance. he demo'd how he puts on a high-key multi-hued wash over the flesh of her face, arms, and exposed torso. he used no less that 6 different colors including vermillion, aureolin, manganese blue, alizarin crimson, mineral violet, raw sienna.....and maybe a couple more...all applied with a #16 kolinski sable (raphael?) round brush. these were put on unmixed and allowed to mingle on the paper. with this wash dry, he put in the lightest value of the hair and then started painting the eyes. he likes to treat each of these little areas in the painting as a small abstract painting itself using good edges and a variety of colors. much of the modeling and defining of the features was done with a combination of vermillion, brilliant orange (holbein), and manganese blue mixed slightly on the palette. he tries to keep the background moving forward in concert with the figure and to that end put sown some warm splotches of color next to the figure in various places to start covering up some of the "white". he finished out the demo portion at the end of the morning by starting to put in some of the shadow shapes on her dress using a combination of ultramarine blue and burnt umber (i think...maybe burnt sienna) to make a neutral gray.

we broke for lunch and started in on our own painting adventure in the afternoon while ted went around and gave each person individual attention and instruction.

here is what i started working on:

Monday, June 3, 2013

one more and keep 'em comin'

i usually like to have a couple of paintings going at any one time. that way i have something to work on irrespective of my particular mood at the time. i pursuit of that i decided to start a painting of two of the three border collies that were our frequent companions and play mates out on the mustang sanctuary in borrego springs.  the sleeping dog nevada is about half again bigger than the alert pup suka, who has been the subject a a previous painting.

after drawing the dogs on a sheet of 300# hot press fabriano artistico paper i started noodling with some light colors just to see how i wanted to handle the larger dark shapes that would be the background and the "black" parts of the two dogs. i finally decided that they should all be part of one large dark value shape and started that with the green at the top ( ultramarine blue/quinacridone gold and hooker's green dark /burnt sienna) and various dark colors (ultramarine blue/burnt sienna, mineral violet and burnt umber) for the dark "spots" on the pups. shadow shapes n the dogs was my usual combination for a neutral gray of cerulean blue, raw sienna, and alizarin crimson permanent. used a #16round brush for this portion of the painting.


of suka coat up to the correct value and hue that i imagined it wanted. this was with the same colors as above but just a little more concentrated wash. of note, suka has one blue eye and one brown eye. i will have to remember that when i get to that step.

in terms of the portraits of amanda and david, i worked a bit on the back/mid ground of pine/fir trees just behind them. i think that is about all that is different from by last post.

something rather peculiar is happening with the formatting at the present time. please forgive me the bizarre type color and placement. i will try to figure what is going on before the next post.