Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"Deepa/Palette Knife Portrait", 12x16" And Some Upcoming Events

A few weeks ago, I painted Deepa using only one color (Burnt Sienna).  I brought this painting home and decided to add color to it using a palette knife.  Using the underpainting as my guide, I covered the painting again in thick color.  The process was made easier since my values (darks and lights) and my drawing were already worked out.  It was a bit like putting pieces of a puzzle together, and it was actually pretty fun!

I'll be teaching this method at the Northlight Studio in Arlington Heights IL this coming March 6th.  In other news, I'll be giving a demonstration on Painting Impressionistically for the North Area Arts League on March 3rd at the Woodstock Opera House at 7pm.  Admission is free!  I hope you can be there.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

"Early Autumn, Paris", 20x16" And Thoughts on Light With Claude Monet

"Early Autumn, Paris"
The light in the city was much cooler than the light in Provence

"Sunday Morning, Aix en Provence"
I tried to capture the warmth of the sun in southern France

The Impressionists are famous for their attention to the light in their paintings.  A viewer can often tell the season, time of day, and sometimes even the geography of a scene when they look at an Impressionistic painting.  When I was in France, I could see for myself how the light changed when we moved further south.  I tried to convey the difference in the light in the two paintings above.  I even went so far as to put a bit of a blue "halo" around the light on the Parisian sidewalk to make it appear cooler.  In Provence, yellow became a dominant color for the light.

Monet spent close to a year in Rouen, panting the front of the cathedral there at different times of day and seasons.  He set up camp in a women's clothing store across the street, much to the dismay of many of the store's patrons!  He didn't see why a male painter in a women's shop should cause any disturbance for a few months.

Here are three versions of the cathedral, as painted by Monet.  Each one is lovely in its own right, but they convey very different feelings through the colors he chose.  

As a painter, I could take a page from Monet's book and paint the same scene over and over again in different seasons and times of day.  What better lesson could there be in conveying feelings about a scene through color?  

The facade of the cathedral today.  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

"The Character Portrait", A Lesson From David Hockney

"Focus"Ann Feldman

A friend asked me the other day if I ever find a model session uninspiring or difficult to paint because the model is not what you'd call a "classic beauty".  My short answer is no.  For the longer answer, here's why.

A few years ago, I took an afternoon in Los Angeles to see David Hockney's portrait exhibit at the Los Angeles Contemporary Museum of Art.  At first glance, these huge paintings appeared strong and somewhat characateurish, but as I spent time there, they became so much more.

"Mumby", David Hockney

I could feel the relationship between the sitter and Hockney, and I imagined what it must have been like in that room the day the model sat for him.  Faces were not made beautifully, but I felt that it was the personality he was after, much more than the likeness of the face.

I made a mental note that day that sometimes the most beautiful portraits are much more than "skin deep".  There are indeed many beautiful portraits of beautiful people out there, but a portrait of a beautiful unique character can be much more difficult to achieve, and it may say much more about the model than a simple likeness.

Ever since my time with Hockney's portraits, I approach model sittings differently.  I take a few minutes to observe the model in silence.  I consciously take a few deep breaths and I wait for something about this unique person to introduce itself to me.  I want my portraits to communicate how I felt about the model that day, beyond an accurate likeness.

 "Friendly and Open"
Ann Feldman

Saturday, February 14, 2015

"Signs of Spring", 8x10" and Inspiration from CW Mundy

There are times when a piece of art seems to paint itself without much effort on the part of the artist.  Sadly, this is a very rare occurrence in my life.  In fact, it hardly ever happens, but like the crack of a great golf swing or a perfectly risen soufflĂ©, the rarity of the occasion and the rush of satisfaction I can feel keep me coming back for the promise of more.

This painting did not paint itself.  In fact, there may be five layers of other iterations underneath this one, and I finally decided to call it a day.  I'm not striving for perfection after all, just a comment on something that happened that day with the light or my mood, or perhaps just the glimmer of hope that Spring will come someday soon.

CW Mundy is one of my favorite teachers in the world.  I've learned from him that a painting can be lost and then found many times in the painting process.  The painting below is a landscape that he labored over time and again, yet the final piece is near perfection, with no sign of struggle.  After spending time with CW, I've learned to keep returning to the canvas until the painting says something worthwhile. 

CW Mundy
Creek Bed at Story, Indiana  

oil on linen

Thursday, February 12, 2015

"Deepa, Monochromatic Study", 16x20"

When I only have a few hours with a model, I will sometimes limit my color choices so I can concentrate on getting my drawing and values (darkness vs light) correct.  Yesterday, I used only Burnt Sienna to make a map of Deepa's face and shoulders.  I used a rag to lift out the lighter areas, so there was no need to even add white.  I may decide to let it dry and go back in with color, or I may leave well enough alone and be content with a nice study of a beautiful model.

I will be teaching this technique at my upcoming one day workshop at Northlight Studio in Arlington Heights on March 6th.  If you would be interested in attending, please drop me a line.

Monday, February 2, 2015

"Blue Jar/Winter Day", 8x10" (And Breaking Rules with Picasso)

Pablo Picasso was a prolific artist, both in his art and in his philosophy on creativity.  I've drawn so much inspiration from him when it comes to "breaking the rules" in art.  Here is one of my favorite quotes:

When I started today's painting, it was textbook good, but boy oh boy, it was boring.  I put it in a sunny window to dry, and forgot all about it.  It was THAT boring!  I pulled it out this morning and armed with some Picasso inspiration, I went to work on it again.  I decided to make this painting more about the BACKGROUND than the objects in it.  I threw on paint with abandon and then scraped away with palette knives and a spatula.  Once the rules were completely broken, I felt more satisfied.

"Girl Before A Mirror", Pablo Picasso