Monday, April 21, 2014

PSoA Conference Vendor's Room

If you're headed to the PSoA conference in Washington DC this week, keep some extra jingle in your pocket for the free-for-all madness that is the Exhibitor Room. In fact, Dave and I will be spending quite a bit of our time in that room with the vendors, not just because we're spendthrift shopaholics with too many credit cards, but because we're going to be hanging out with George and Tania at their Natural Pigments booth. We'll be on hand to talk about our preferred colours and mediums with anyone who wants their ears talked off (service free of charge). And don't forget, Lynn Sanguedolce, First Honor Award winner of the Portrait Society of America International Portrait Competition for two years in a row, will be demoing her portrait painting technique on Friday, April 25th, from 9am to 12pm. It's simple. Show up at nine, spend three hours circling around racking up an astronomical tab of brushes, palettes, and paints, and then see her wrap up her painting at noon.

I'm pretty sure Lynn can knock out a three-quarter length figure in an interior with a still life in the background within her three hour time limit.

Don't forget to use my patented technique for buying art supplies: buy as many small purchases as possible on separate tabs so that you don't ever see your total spendings all at once.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Cecilia Beaux Forum Discussion Panel

On April 26th at some ungodly hour in the neighbourhood of 7am, Dave and I will be presiding on a Discussion Panel for the Cecilia Beaux Forum at the Portrait Society of America Conference.  It might be the only time I preside over anything, so I'm going to preside like a goddamn queen and enjoy it, even though I'll probably be staggering to the podium directly from the lounge where I spent the night losing track of my martini glass.

The topic that Dave and I are supposed to talk about (and therefore know something about) is...duhn-duhn-DUHN...BLOGGING!  We have fifteen minutes to wax poetic about the whimsical and carefree lifestyle of the non-professional blogger.  So my question is, what do you all want to know?  Bonus, we'll answer all your questions in a blog post after the conference, so you don't even need to get out of bed before 7am if you don't want to!

So tell us, what do want to know about blogging, art sales, and alienating collectors and galleries with appallingly frank discussions about our art?

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Icarus IV (Auction!)

It was pretty heartwarming when my parents called me up to tell me they had a dead bird for me.  I'm taking it as reassurance that they've come to terms with the fact that I didn't go to med school like my sister.

This beauty is a Varied Thrush.  I immediately thought of Thomas Hardy's "The Darkling Thrush."  I didn't know there were thrushes around here, but slowly I'm learning the local bird species one dead bird at a time.

Icarus IV, 8x10", oil on linen

I've painted this chippy teal wood three times, so this time I changed the colour a teensy bit to better complement the orange of the bird and the green of the ivy.  My favourite part of the painting in the beak and chin area.  Isn't it annoying how it's the areas that go quickly and effortlessly that are the best, and the parts that took a lot of work always remain dissatisfying?  Someone should fix that about the universe.

Icarus IV is up for auction right now.  Go take a look if you were thinking to yourself, "My interior decorating lacks a certain je ne sais quois.  Perhaps a dead bird would tie everything together."  

(eBay and Blogspot strip metadata from images, resulting in distorted colours.  The eBay picture looks absolutely awful.  The picture above is very close to the painting, although a bit lighter and more saturated.  No amount of tinkering made the photo above match the painting perfectly.  If you really need to see a perfect picture, message me and I'll send one to you.)

Monday, March 31, 2014

O Sorrow: Part I

You saw the preparatory drawing in a previous post.  Here is the head study:

To me it is absolutely necessary to rehearse the face before I start on my final painting.  By the time I get to my final painting, I will know exactly what colours need to be on my palette.  A colour study on vellum is great for a general colour idea, but often in the head study stage I will find that I need to tweak my palette further.  A head study also helps me to anticipate problem areas.  Usually, for instance, my noses get gunked up with too much paint to quickly, and my eyes slide towards the graphic side.  By rehearsing beforehand, I figure out the best way to paint these areas.  And if I keep it for myself, then I have a memento of my painting, in keeping with my serial killer style modus operandi.

The head study was bigger than the face in my preparatory drawing, so there was nothing to be gained by doing a transfer.  If I wanted to be all mathematical and stuff I could have scaled up, but whatevs, dog, whatevs.  I just dove right into my painting directly without doing a transfer or anything.  It's such a simple arrangement--just the face and hands.  What could go wrong?  And I know that sounds like famous last words, but really, it all turned out okay.

My ground had to be really warm because I wanted warmth to glimmer out of the shadows.  Is it just me, or is the ground colour the most angst-laden decision to make in painting?  I usually wipe it off and redo it a few times. 

One of these days I'm going to do a blog post that's just a long line up of photos of all my paintings at their ugliest, awkwardest stage.  Behold:

Of course, to me, it was beautiful.  Exactly what I wanted.  But when Dave sees my paintings at this stage, he's very sweet and sympathetic because he thinks I must be having a TERRIBLE day.  I don't disabuse him of the notion because it normally means him surprising me with a chocolate bar or something.

I conceptualized the colours and values in a big way.  The fingers had really dark shadows on the side planes of the fingers, but I made those shadows rosy pink.

I wanted the hand to glow, even more so than the face.

After everything had a chance to dry, I glazed a veil over her.  The veil passes over her face, but I did not glaze over the face except where a fold formed over her cheek.  I still had to do another pass on the face anyway.  The highlights on the organza veil were fun.  I used a couple of Rosemary mongooses, the bristles of which  create a natural open "weave" of paint application.  If you enlarge the photo above you'll see that those white reflections look kind of blurry, as though the photo shook while I took it.  It's actually the effect created by the brushes.  It beautifully mimics the blurry and confused highlights on organza fabric.

The husband dissed my background, which, by the way, turned out perfectly, thank you very much, and no one asked you anyways, and don't you have a painting to work on?  But I decided to play around with creating a sky behind her, reasoning that I could always wipe it off if I didn't like it.  But I liked it.

Thank you, Impasto Medium.  I can see you're earning your keep on my palette.

Next post:  Final photo and some talk about inspiration.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Workshop on Whidbey Island

On Sunday I wrapped up a workshop hosted by Whidbey Island Fine Art Studio.  This is the same venue at which Dave tormented baby rabbits last year.  It was a small group, which lent the whole thing a nice intimacy and gave me lots of time to work one on one with students.  Every day started off with a slideshow presentation of the concepts I wanted to introduce, with some high res close up photos of my own work as an example.  I then spent the rest of the day circling around the room painting with people and problem solving. 

I am just plain giddy with the paintings my students produced.  Four days is not a lot of time to do a still life, and furthermore, everyone's still life set up was pretty complicated.  Nobody copped out with a bunch of sissy objects.

One of the focuses of the workshop was techniques for creating wood texture and chippy peeling paint.  Amelie excelled at her rustic old paint, and she's only been painting for about a year.

Kathy had a ton of chippy paint and wood texture to do, and she gave herself the extra challenge of working with natural light on her set up.  She attacked it with gusto and combined additive (applying paint with brush and knife) and subtractive (removing it with a brush and spirits) painting to achieve a convincing paint texture with lots of interest and variation.  She's actually attempting to finish this at home and I can't wait to see a picture of it.

One thing I put a lot of emphasis on was the importance of painting solidly, specifically, and opaquely, especially when painting glass.  Here, George's bottle passes the upside-down test: if you turn the painting upside down and you immediately feel uncomfortable about your freshly painted object dangling in a gravity-defying manner, then you've created the illusion of realism.

I bullied a couple of my students into using tiny eyelash brushes.  Amelie renders a rusty key above.

Katt must have done a scavenger hunt for complicated objects before she came to the workshop.  She showed up with satin damask, and embroidered silk purse, and a handful of coins and pearls (there's a true still life miniaturist in the making).  She nailed the modelling on the purse, which I thought might be the hard part.  We solved the challenge of painting the damask by exploiting "lost and found."  Where the pattern showed up blatantly, we copied the filigree and swirls best we could, and were it was less obvious, we "lost" the pattern into the base colour of the fabric.  This prevents an overly graphic effect, and also shaved off nitpicking drawing time.  The fabric that she painted on the right illustrates this approach clearly.

Chippy paint time on George's painting!  After meticulously woodgraining the old board behind her still life objects, she applied thick paint chips.  George is an accomplished trompe l'oeil artist and it was informative to hear her compare the still life approach I was teaching to the trompe l'oeil methodology she was familiar with.

Meg slam dunked something that a lot of artists struggle with--turning a form that has dense texture AND colour shifts on its surface.  I showed her a simple little trick for creating rust texture and we had fun creating the striated effect on the pages of her book.  She did get to do one thing in particular that I never thought I'd encourage a student to do: she performed surgery on the spout of her oil can and shortened it by about six inches so that it fit within the composition of her painting.

Cary Jurriaans, the school's brain, has a gorgeous studio, by the way.  It was a pleasure to work in.  She provides a lovely spread of home baked goodies and fruit, and with the monitor's help there is a constant drip of coffee in the kitchenette.  She also has a comprehensive stash of still life objects, which we used in an impromptu still life composition discussion on the third day.  For an hour we played around and tried to figure out how many composition "rules" we could break, and still create a nice set up.

Skylight envy!  She has one of those total black out blinds, too.

My next workshop is in May at the beautiful Sadie Valeri Atelier in San Francisco.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


One of the first things Dave said to me, sometime before telling me that his life ambition was to start an art movement called the "Zombie Realists," was: "A white chalk drawing is like a pizza.  Even if it's a sucky pizza, it's awesome.  Cause it's pizza."

We both still feel like using white chalk must be cheating because it ups the total score of any drawing, instantly and with minimal effort.  White chalk is awesome.  It remains the soggy, gelatinous, delicious ham and pineapple pizza of art mediums.

This is, once again, a charcoal and white chalk drawing on grey Canson paper.  I often use graphite and light-coloured paper for my studies, but for a painting that will have a strong value arrangement, like the tenebrist one that this drawing was made for, charcoal and white chalk can't be beat.  Instead of spending all my time modelling my delicate half tones, I can jump right in with bold value arrangement, letting the grey of the paper sit in for the half-tones while I spend my time deepening my darks and teasing up my lights.  If you've been following the blog for long, you will have seen some of these drawings before.  Generally, I prefer to keep my white chalk and my charcoal from mixing too much on the paper.  That avoids that milky look you will otherwise get.  Blech. 

I love these drawings for the hatching potential.  I just go nuts with it.  I've even been taking a bit of inspiration from Leyendecker with my backgrounds:

Don't you love how his background hatching wraps around the subject?  Totally taboo to do that, but it looks great.

Here's another one of the same model, artist Tara Juneau.  A seriously impressive artist, although she's only got a small fraction of her work up on her site (Tara, what gives???).  The above drawing happens to be up for auction.