Friday's portrait class

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Pictured here is the oil painting I did during the portrait painting class I'm taking from Gabriel Lipper, an amazing artist who lives and works here in Ashland.  The portrait was painted from a live model, and actually turned out to be a pretty good likeness, I'm happy to report.  The canvas panel here is shown still on the fantastic panel holder that my ever-resourceful dad built for me...he's so very clever and handy!

It's so interesting to continue to learn about the difference between painting from pictures and painting from life.  There are so many things that the eye can see but the camera edits out.  The subtlety of all the colors and shapes and planes can feel overwhelming at times, but is amazing to be able to observe and work with.  I feel so lucky to be able to paint and draw from live models!

red shoes

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Today's post is a watercolor sketch I did in one of my experiment sketchbooks this week.  I love the idea of using shoes as a still life subject.  There are always interesting shapes and colors to be found in the arrangements, and of course they're also, well, shoes.  I like how this one turned out, and ended up wishing I had painted it on better paper.  I never know when an experiment is going to be a keeper or just an exercise.  I should probably just paint on good paper all the time.   It would be a better strategy for learning to paint,  because the paint acts much more predictably on good paper...I'm sure I'd paint more often too, since good paper is such a huge treat for watercolor painting!

padlock

Today's painting shows this cool padlock I found in a drawer, as well as some of the berries pictured in last weekend's leaf painting.  I know that I need to choose simple subjects so that I can learn to convey form without getting overwhelmed, but I'm realizing that a single item in a painting is often really dull as a composition, and I'd like to practice composition with each painting I do.  Easier said than done!  It's tricky to come up with still life subjects that go well together.  I mean, why would random berries be hanging out with a padlock?  However (ahem) I think the round shape of the berries and the squareness of the lock give variety, and I like the little red pop of color!

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some of this week's drawings

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Today I'm posting some of the drawings I did at this week's life drawing session at the Ashland Art Center.  I'll hopefully be going to tomorrow's session as well, and will have some new work to post from that one soon!

Today I'm posting some of the drawings I did at this week's life drawing session at the Ashland Art Center.  I'll hopefully be going to tomorrow's session as well, and will have some new work to post from that one soon!

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Drawing from a live model is so interesting!  I have been surprised by how much different it is compared to drawing from photographs.  There are so many decisions that come up for life drawings about composition, light and vantage point.  So much more educational than using pictures (although I like drawing from pictures too!).

today's paintings

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Today's oil painting is a still life of some leaves and odd berries found during a walk.  I like the colors and the composition, but the interesting thing I noticed once I was midway through the painting was that the big leaf in the center had lost all of its detail under the lighting I had set up. I think it makes that part of the painting less interesting;  but it was definitely instructive to notice  it.  So many things to think about when coming up with an idea for a painting!

I made the second painting as a goofy watercolor exercise, where I set up a still life of some new pairs of socks that I just bought (from the Halloween sock collection at Sock Dreams, of course...note especially the Ouija Board socks) and I found it was a really good way to just try out some different ways of creating particular effects with different materials, like wax resist and gouache.  It's journal paper, which is not particularly good watercolor paper for more than one wash.  I should really just paint on good paper all the time, but I think I am less uptight when I'm not too concerned about putting expensive paper to good use.

Fork and spoon

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Today's painting had me looking carefully at the reflections and light in silverware.  It's very challenging and fun for me to follow the contours and look carefully at the shapes created by the light. I'm especially interested in starting to see color shifts from warm to cool as the form turns.  In the bowl of the spoon, I was excited to see some yellow colors that give the spoon more of a concave shape.  I really liked using only three colors to mix the greys:  burnt sienna, yellow ochre, and french ultramarine (and some white, of course).  Red, yellow and blue can do almost anything together!

Today's painting had me looking carefully at the reflections and light in silverware.  It's very challenging and fun for me to follow the contours and look carefully at the shapes created by the light. I'm especially interested in starting to see color shifts from warm to cool as the form turns.  In the bowl of the spoon, I was excited to see some yellow colors that give the spoon more of a concave shape.  I really liked using only three colors to mix the greys:  burnt sienna, yellow ochre, and french ultramarine (and some white, of course).  Red, yellow and blue can do almost anything together!

Today's painting

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Today's painting reminded me that it's nice to just choose something simple and look at it carefully.  I love the shape and the simplicity of this pretty tool, and I was able to set up my shadow box to get a single light source on my subject.  (I have not done any still life painting in awhile, and I had forgotten that the planning and setup can sometimes take more time than the painting!

Welcome to Ashland, Oregon!

I'm finally settled in my new home in beautiful Ashland, Oregon, and have my studio set up enough to start posting daily paintings!  Today's image is an oil still life of (obviously) cherry tomatoes.

I'm finally settled in my new home in beautiful Ashland, Oregon, and have my studio set up enough to start posting daily paintings!  Today's image is an oil still life of (obviously) cherry tomatoes.

today's angry woman

Today's angry woman is the actor Rose McGowan, who was featured in the current issue of Bust Magazine, in a kickass interview where she angrily declares her intention to dismantle the patriarchy.  Awesome!

Today's work was mostly composition, and pictured here is one of the geometric grids on a picture of this amazing Botticelli painting.  It's so interesting to see how the figures are actually positioned along a pyramid that frames the central figure of Venus.  I am also fascinated by the way my understanding of the painting evolves with both doing a thumbnail drawing and with evaluating each of the lines in the grid and how it relates to different elements in the painting.  I don't think a piece of art can be fully absorbed in the handful of seconds that most people spend looking at it in a museum. 

Post-election post

It's been over a week since the election and, having emerged momentarily from my coma of dread and despair, I though it might be both politically appropriate and psychologically helpful for me to start posting some of my drawings of angry women.  This is a drawing I did based on an awesome illustration in Greg Rucka's graphic novel "Queen and Country", which stars the badass British agent Tara Chace.  I wish I could pinpoint which particular artist did the illustration on which this is based, but there is a long list of artists that contributed to the book.  I do feel like this illustration accurately reflects my current state of mind.

 

On the bright side, I've been working with some composition tools outlined in Juliette Aristides "Classical Painting Atelier".  They're systems based on Pythagorean geometry, and these grids show the subdivisions around which many of the old masters arranged the subjects in their paintings.  Here I've done an acetate overlay on a beautiful Da Vinci painting;  it shows the classic way to subdivide space.  I'm still absorbing the ideas in this way of thinking about composition, and have an old art textbook full of examples of Renaissance paintings that I can analyze in the same manner.  (I also have a little value sketch on the bottom.  I think drawing the image helps me to understand how it is put together, even if it is just a thumbnail sketch.)

Diane Arbus

I found an amazing book of photographs by Diane Arbus at the used bookstore last week, and did this oil sketch from a photograph of her (the photo was taken by Stephen Frank).  A quote from one of her lectures at Rhode Island School of Design in 1970:

"Everybody has that thing where they need to look one way but they come out looking another way and that's what people observe.  You see someone on the street and essentially what you notice about them is the flaw.  It's just extraordinary that we should have been given these peculiarities.  And, not content with what we were given, we create a whole other set.  Our whole guise is like giving a sign to the world to think of us in a certain way but there's a point between what you want people to know about you and what you can't help people knowing about you.  And that has to do with what I've always called the gap between intention and effect."

I think her work is so incisive and brilliant and original. 

Progressing through a painting

Here is a series of photos of a painting in progress, at least with the method I'm using right now.  To start with, I've toned the panel with a bit of color and blocked in the drawing as a guide.

Next I blocked in the basic colors I want to use and tried to get close to the values I want for the skin, hair and background.

Here I added in some details and refined the drawing more.

And last is obviously finishing details and making final adjustments to the color.  This is an imitation of a painting by the incredible Malcolm Liepke.

My favorite painting from last week

This is a watercolor painting from a still I saw in the trailer for the upcoming movie "American Honey".  I love the way the cinematographer Robbie Ryan captures her backlit profile.  (The trailer is awesome.  I can't wait to see the movie!) 

A new palette setup!

Today I reworked my palette so that I can reach all the colors I've been using, and made a new color chart for reference, with all the names, brands and pigments of the paints.  I'd been trying to squeeze out fresh paint for each session, which is great, but I found myself scrambling for tiny bits of this color or that color to adjust what I'd mixed, and so I'm now using mostly fresh paint with these wells free to use as needed.  It made things much easier for today's painting session, which was based on a photograph from the most recent issue of Bust (one of my favorite magazines: feminist pop culture!).  This was painted on 300 lb Arches cold press, which I really prefer over the 140 lb (of course I like it better...it's much more expensive).  It absorbs the water beautifully, and there is absolutely no warping or buckling.

More Vavagiakis

Two more watercolor portraits based on the beautiful oil figurative work by Costa Vavagiakis.  I remember reading thatsomeone who wants to be a portrait painter does not start producing really good paintings until after the first hundred.  I better get to work!

The original portraits (and much more!) can be seen at www.costavavgiakis.com.

today's work

These are some cool step-by-step painting exercises I did based on a lesson by Roberta Carter Clark in Watercolor Artist magazine.  She gives these great sequential instructions about doing a progressive series of washes over one another, letting each wash dry before proceeding for most of it.  I need more practice before I am able to apply the technique to a portrait, but I really like the looseness she achieves in these examples.

This is today's portrait, based on an oil painting by Costa Vavagiakis.

 

more color charts

Another set of color charts, this time glazing stronger colors.  I am definitely seeing how the optical effect of glazing is much different than the effect achieved by mixing the colors on the palette.

Another set of color charts, this time glazing stronger colors.  I am definitely seeing how the optical effect of glazing is much different than the effect achieved by mixing the colors on the palette.

color charts are awesome

This is a hugely instructive color chart I did this morning that looks at glazing skin tones with different combinations of yellow, red and blue.

 I used light washes, first of each yellow in my current palette, followed by the reds, and then two different glazes of each blue, one darker than the other.  It's so interesting to see the subtle (but powerful!) differences in the colors, and I especially like how the chart illustrates the use of blue to "grey down" a color.  Often my attempts at skin tones have been too yellow or too red, and I think the problem is not that the washes were too strong, but that the colors were not neutral enough.

I think this portrait I did today (based on a photograph by a photographer named Carla Tramullas) shows some improvement in managing skin tones.

another portrait sketch

Here is a sketch I did today based on a lovely photograph by Anairam.  (It was published in this month's issue of Nylon.  I'm definitely a hopeless pop culture junkie.)  I did start working on those gummy cherries again, but was having some persistent technical problems producing the right darks (experiments are in progress), so I decided to take a break and work on this instead.

(I think portraits are much more fun than still life, to be honest, although they will definitely let you know if your drawing is not correct!)

This photographer does lovely dreamy fashion photography, as can be seen on her website at www.anairam.com.