Friday, July 22, 2011

Study for the Trapper

Posted by: Dave

I am starting a new piece depicting a trapper, and above is part of the unfinished study I am doing for it. I always do a number of drawings and small painted studies to better understand structure, color, and composition before I begin a more elaborate painting. The less you have to work out problems on the final piece, the better. This piece was inspired in part by the Russian academic paintings of the 19th century, such as Kramskoy, Repin, and Shishkin. Not only do I love their paint quality, but their subjects as well. It is amazing that Russia is still following in this painting tradition. My friend showed me this middle/high school in Russia. No work on the site is done by anyone over 17. The four links on the page will take you to their drawings, paintings, and compositional studies. They are training in preparation for the Repin Academy, one of the world's greatest institutes for art. I remember when I was in high school, all I was making was crappy pictures of Wu-Tang.

I also have been playing around a little bit with sponge brushes and pastel powder, as seen on the fur collar. Hard to control, but great for blocking in large masses.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

How to Build a Pochade Box

Posted by: Dave

A year ago we purchased an Open Box M for my wife. Amazing craftsmanship and a great product, it came in at around 300 dollars, so I decided to build my own version for myself. Most of the ideas for this design came from my friend Matthew Mancini, but since he doesn't have blog, I am going to pretend I thought of everything myself. Below are the details.

The tools needed are a drill, a sponge brush, a metal file, a table saw (not pictured), and a power sander (not pictured). Ok, so you don't really need a chainsaw but I wanted to show off the fact that I have one. I really just use it for hunting bears and juggling.

I started by picking up two cradled birch panels from the art store. The dimensions are up to the individual, though 12 x 16 inches seems to be a nice medium size. These were stained with 2 coats of Minwax and sealed with 3 layers of Varathane. Don't forget to sand the panels before beginning.

The first thing I did was to create two slots in the upper part of one of the panels. These will be for the locking mechanisms that hold the panel in place later. I left just a little under 5 inches in the space between them. This was all done on a circular saw, though it could also be achieved with a router.

The first thing that I attached were the two brass hinges on the back. Make sure that each panel is facing the correct direction before assembly.

The next thing I assembled was the hinge system on the sides. The curved metal brass piece and the piece on the upper right corner of the above pic is part of a box lid support. Sometimes they come with an extra unnecessary piece of metal that has to be filed off. Other than that, everything can be found at Rona or Home Depot. Make sure that everything is properly spaced and the box opens and closes smoothly before sinking in all the screws. The wing-nuts and bolts will allow you to lock the box in place to keep it open during painting. The brass handle is simply mounted on the front with 2 screws.

The last thing I attached was the T-nut, which will act as the connection point for a tripod. Make sure to drill a pilot hole before hammering it in.

I fabricated two sliding/locking mechanisms for the canvas panel using two one inch by one inch pieces of wood. I used a power sander to give them a 45 degree angle on one side and drilled a hole for the bolt to go through. I used the same sized wing-nuts, washers, and bolts that I used on the hinges.

Behold my Pochade box in all its glory. The only thing that I didn't get around to attaching are the two catches that go on the front to hold the box shut in transit.

Some of our readers have expressed concerns about what to do in case of a bear attack while painting. With a few easy modifications to your Pochade box, you will be good to go. For close bear combat, the box can now be used in a stabbing motion to ward off bears or thrown like a short-range spear. For long range bear combat; use the attached hunting bow. Painting can be fun, but studio safety is no laughing matter.

There is another version of how to build your own Pochade Box on Mark Reeders blog (

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Harry Potter Doppleganger Extravaganza

Posted by: Kate

A few months ago we posted our first doppleganger of Ronald Weasley:

In honour of the recent release of the final installment of the HP series, here's some doppleganger wizardry for you.

My favourite Hogwarts professor, Remus Lupin:

An uncanny look-alike of Professor Minerva McGonagall, right down to the wonky hat:

And the fez wearing Headmaster Albus Dumbledore:

Here are some more pictures to consider:

Don't you think Vernon Lee out-Harry Potters Harry Potter?

And are we the only ones who see Lucius Malfoy here?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Lucie and the Wind, Part 3

Posted by: Kate

Now that I've painted the face, it's time to paint the face.  Again and again until it's right.  I use pure paint but it tends to go on very thin, partly because of the surface I paint on (slick oil-primed stuff) and partly because I pet the paint to death on the canvas, so it doesn't hurt to have several layers of paint all describing the same thing the same way, because one day the paint will go transparent and if there aren't enough paint layers to hide it, the drybrush from an unfinished nude might start to show through.

Even though I established some pretty nuanced passages last time around, it's more time-efficient to obliterate them and repaint them than to try to put a dab of the exact same colour over every square inch of the canvas.  Not only is it faster, but I get better at being a painter and not a dab-matcher.  Instead of playing paint-by-numbers, I get more efficient each time around at painting the thing I'm supposed to be painting.

Here's what I mean by obliterate:

Over top of my nicely turning cheek, I've laid down some flat bands of colour, which is exactly how I started it the first time around.  I've labeled them so that you can see each one.  Each band shifts in hue and value, and to a less obvious extent, chroma.  If at least two of those qualities hasn't changed from one bar to the next, I'm breaking the form down too much.  I exaggerate the hue and chroma at this stage, but try to keep the values right.

This is what it looks like half and hour later:
I don't blend to get here.  After establishing the main colour bands, I take my trusty No 2 bristle filberts and create ever more narrow bands between the bands, using small strokes to nudge values back and forth to get the form to pop.  If I start to lose a colour at a certain point in the form, like the pink in her cheek, I lay down a nice big band of colour again and start over in that area.

Now the same for the chin:

Colour "D" shifts in hue as it wraps the form.
By the time this photo was taken I had worked the whole of the face, including laying down simplified values for the eyes.

The next day I noodled around with the background.  Noodling is a time consuming and inefficient technique reserved for painting things I don't know how to paint.  My notes from that day say "Jan 17-Trying hard not to make it suck."  It would have been nice to go outside and actually look at some grass, but the snow was up to our knees so I was going off of memory and some lousy references.

Next time, the coat.

Here's the start of a cherry study I've been working on:

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Friday, July 8, 2011

Lucie and the Wind, Part 2

Posted by: Kate

In the last post I left off part way through my first big painting day on Lucie and the Wind. After painting the face I still had a couple more hours to kill until my 4am curfew, so I went ahead and laid in a flat value for the hair.

There is a bluish outline around the face. This is the original bit of hair tone that I laid in earlier in the day and it is now sunken in. I didn't paint over it with fresh paint because I had very carefully softened the edges between the face and the hair and didn't want to lose all that work. Once the fresher paint is dry it will all look the same anyways.

Since the hair was going to sink in within an hour I decided to get the sky value in that night too, since we all know values are contextual:

See that nice warm halo the fuzz of the hair creates against the sky? Know where I saw that?
My man Bouguereau.

I went ahead and sketched in some trees because I was feeling antsy to get the feel of the painting. I knew they would have to be repainted later. Then I scrubbed in some darker value for the mid-ground.

So by now after a day's work I'm feeling pretty clever and it's not until the next day that I realize how half-baked those trees look or how squooshed her face got. But while I was painting that day I recalled a post I saw on Gurney Journey, and I started thinking about this guy:

He really simplifies his values.

So I took a photo of my painting in black and white to see what my value arrangement looked like.

And at that point I decided to try to maintain my fluke simplification of values (something I don't think I've ever managed before).

So far we've caught 62 slugs and my strawberries have never looked better. My dog also seems to like drinking the beer once the slugs are done with it.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Lucie and the Wind, Step by Step

Posted by: Kate

I started this painting over Christmas and blew through it until it was about 70% finished, and then set it aside and forgot about it until now. I experimented with a different approach to my cartoon: instead of just eyeballing it and using a needle to double check my measurements, I CHEATED by using guidelines in Photoshop to grid up the photo and then worked directly from my laptop screen onto gridded paper. It doesn’t really feel like drawing, but it’s a great method if you’ve got a tight deadline for a portrait commission and want to shave off a few hours. I transferred the drawing to the canvas and filled it in with some washy colour, not aiming to create something visually appealing, but a surface that is easier to paint on than pure white. At this point in the painting I hadn’t decided what colour or even what sort of garment she would be wearing, so I laid in some umber hoping it would be a good underpainting to whatever I eventually chose. That brings us to the stage you see here:
Once the washy stage had dried, I dove into the first painting of the face. Normally if I had to paint something really light and/or bright, I wouldn’t lay in any neighbouring dark tones first because then the entire day is spent managing contamination, but in this case I needed to have the value of the hair to judge my skin tones by. When painting faces I like to start by laying down some exaggerated colour in the cheeks, lips, nose and forehead. Now I have the “bounds” of my colours—the darkest note, the lightest note, the reddest note, and the yellowest note (the forehead, although in this case it is very grey). The bluest note in the face is soon to come. It’s easy to now work within these boundaries.
And here starts the ugly stage, which usually lasts a couple of hours:
I lay the eyebrows and irises in quite flatly. They don’t need a lot of detail right now, and I do a lot of softening with the surrounding flesh colour.

More exaggerated colour:

And quite suddenly, there you are:

Here’s an angled view without the glare:

This was half a day's work. I did some more once the face was laid in, but that's for the next post. As usual her features got a little smooshed in this stage, but there’s a couple more passes of paint to come. All the work so far was done with regular old store-brand bristle brushes. The wash was done with Gamsol, but the first-painting of the face was all pure paint. I’ll talk about my palette some other time.

Since our move Dave and I have been enjoying the country life. Did you know that you can set out beer traps in your strawberry patch to catch garden slugs?