Friday, June 22, 2012

Great Businesses Have Small Beginnings

Posted by: Kate

Natural Pigments is applying for a small business grant and needs your help.  They only have to make it to 250 votes, which means that if every registered follower of this blog votes, they'll be pretty close.  After that, it's up to a panel of business experts to decide, Dragon's Den style, who gets the grant.

We all know that setting up a unicorn breeding program to harvest his Oleogel will be a costly endeavor.  Also, he said something about training personnel for his company.  I saw this robot in a film recently, and George could totally download his complete knowledge of art materials into it and have it answer phone calls from artists who have technical questions.  Unfortunately the robot is also a sociopath, so Natural Pigments would have to have a cheques and balances system in place to make sure the robot doesn't get too much power.

But really, the reason why we need to support this business is because Natural Pigments is one of those art supply manufacturers that is handing knowledge back to the artists.  Owner George O'Hanlon will tell you how he makes stuff and why he does it that way.  He has no trade secrets to hide because a scientific approach to creating the best art supplies possible is not compatible with the spirit of secrecy.  I like that, and you should too.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The David Gluck Show: Interview with Mario Robinson

Posted by: Dave

I have decided to do a series called "famous artist interviews."  I will be exploring various artists and their techniques, inspirations, and opinions on the art world in order to get a better window into what makes that particular artist tick.  For our first installment, I have interviewed Mario Robinson.

A brief bio:

Mario Robinson and Sgt. Andrew Scott were two soldiers who turned on one another back in Vietnam.  Twenty-five years later, Robinson and Sgt. Scott, along with a team of other soldiers, have been reanimated by a secret government program known as "Unisols". They are genetically enhanced, unstoppable killing machines without memory, feelings or free will. But when Robinson's memory of being an artist came back to him, he escaped the program with a sneaky TV reporter. The superhuman chase for Robinson continues to this day.

Q and A
Looking at the development of realism in the 21st century set against a post modern gaze, would you agree that the movie Avatar was incredibly stupid?  I mean, “unobtainium”, are you serious?  Man that movie pissed me off. Did it piss you off?

I may be the only person in the world, however I didn't see Avatar. I rarely watch movies.

Besides “leave me alone”, what advice do you have for young aspiring artists out there?

 My advice is to be yourself. It's perfectly fine to study with an artist, but spend time developing your own style. As tempting as it is to benefit from another artist's success, you'll always live in their shadow. Also, keep your ego in check. As your skills develop, more people will compliment you and tell you how great you are. Stay focused --they're just words.

I noticed you have a tattoo that says “Mario” on your arm.  Please explain.  

It's a long story. The short version is that it's the signature I've always signed my paintings with.
Where did you get your training, or are you mostly self-taught?

I studied at Pratt Institute. I had great painting and drawing instructors. However, I consider myself self taught in terms of what I'm doing as a professional. My pastel and watercolor techniques were developed based on my experimentation with the mediums. I didn't have to follow someone else's blueprint. I worked with them until I felt comfortable. I believe if you work hard enough at something, you can figure things out.

What is the worst/dumbest artistic advice you have received in your career?

I've heard so many ridiculous pieces of advice throughout the years, until I have blocked them all out.
 How much can you bench press?  How much do you think I can bench press?

This is such a loaded question. Either you've never bench pressed weights or you're representing Canada in the Olympics. Since I don't have to prove it, I'm going to say I can bench 300 lbs without a spotter. I'm going to call you out and say you've never seen the inside of a gym! Boom!!!

Are there any artists in history you admire?  If you could go back in time to steal their artistic superpowers by killing them, would you? (please note that because our time machine is more sophisticated than the one from Terminator, you would be able to bring modern weapons with you to do the job)

I don't think it's a secret that Andrew Wyeth is an artist who I admire. No need to kill him for it, although you have to wonder about a person that asks such a question.
 Is there anything in the art world that truly annoys you?

The thing that annoys me is artists that name drop. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Library Still Life: The Rematch

Posted by: Kate

Hey, remember this?  It's that painting I abandoned!  I distinctly remember thinking that running a blog would be good for me because the dread of failing publicly would force me to do good work...and then the first painting I charted on here completely defeated me, and left me sitting on my studio floor sobbing great big snot bubbles the day before we had to vacate our Toronto studio to move across country.  Well, flash forward to now, and I am one year older, and wiser, and stronger.  This painting is no match for me now.  I also have a new arsenal of weapons, courtesy of Natural Pigments.

After oiling out with Oleogel (which creates a nice workable surface that is not too slick and sloppy the way linseed oil can be), I brushed on some transparent shadows using my standby Ultramarine and Red Oxide mixture, cut with some Wilson's Medium for added transparency and smoothness.  This is my first time using this medium and I have to say that I found it very distracting every time Tom Hanks yelled "Wilson!" in my head, which was pretty much every time I glanced at the tube.  Otherwise, the medium worked very well.  It seemed to solidify a bit as the hours went by, yet it didn't develop a nasty tackiness as it did so.  It also remained workable on the paint surface, so I found it easy to go back to areas that I hadn't touched for an hour, and the fresher paint blended in with the older paint just fine.  This is a big plus.  After some noodling around, trying to figure out what my game plan was, I settled on a plan and wiped everything down, applied some fresh Oleogel, and started over.

And here is my painting the way I intended it to be.  I admit that there was a moment where I lost courage and I had to break out the big guns and use a Rosemary Mongoose Flat to get that softness in the shadows.  But, of course, a painting that I agonized over for over a year took only about an hour and a half to finish.

I should probably go back and put some writing on that big blank page.  Ya think?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Iron Maiden Part VI

Posted by: Kate

House is clean, bookkeeping done, garden weeded...I guess I'm fresh out of excuses for not updating.

In my last post I left off with the background complete and the start of a lion's head.  Here is how I went back and finished up that completely fictional wood carving:

To reiterate, I used a mixture of Ultramarine Blue and Transparent Red Oxide with Titanium White, with cameos from Ivory Black and Raw Umber.  A note about Painting Things to Look Like the Things They Are Supposed to Look Like: this isn't limited to painting what you see, of course.  More and more I'm painting things to look what they're supposed to look like, whether or not they look like my reference and whether or not I even have a reference.  This lion's head is based on a drawing I mocked up using about half a dozen lion's head Google images.  I picked what I liked best about each of them, hashed out the drawing several times, and then started painting.  As an aside, I've noticed that when people "discover" the realism of the 19th century (or the realism of any prior time), the big revelation is, "Whoah!  Those artists could really paint what they saw!"  This is missing the point.  With the right education, it's not that difficult to paint or draw what you see.  What is really hard, and what the great artists of the past all challenged themselves to do, is to paint what you can't see.  The illustrators and CGI artists and Pixar animators of the world all run circles around us fine artists.

Now with the lion's head done, the only thing left is to go back and repaint all the flesh.  This is the final pass, and my last chance to tweak everything.  Values have to be perfected, shapes refined, and slick gooey highlights need to be re-gooed in all the right places.  I won't share photos because the before and after differences aren't really that noticeable.  In real life the painting has a bit more of a glow, like maybe she started washing her face with Neutrogena or something.  The actual paint application is just about the same, except that I oil in lightly with a bit of Linseed Oil cut with Gamsol (maybe a one to one ratio).  This helps the paint go on more smoothly and enables fine blending.  The second difference is that for the final pass, I switch from Titanium White to Lead White #2 by Natural Pigments.  As I said in a previous blog post, Titanium White changes value slightly when it dries.  This makes it just about impossible to paint seamlessly from one day to the next.

One thing I really love is before and after pictures.  I love them so much that I actually google weight loss photos in my spare time.  That, and celebs without their make up.  Here is a series of before an after pictures, illustrating the evolution of my sitter's face through the different stages of painting.  The photo on the far right was taken after the final pass on the face was completed.  It really doesn't look that different from the stage immediately before it, but there are slight improvements, and that extra layer of paint will improve the opacity of the face.  Oil paint thins with time, and mistakes from earlier stages of the painting can start to show through.

Now let's look at this thing all greased up with essential oil of petroleum:

The glare's pretty bad, so I'm sharing a couple of photos so you can get the idea.

This picture shows the background nicely.  It ended up being more transparent than I thought it would be.

The face.

The hands.

Now that the painting is done, my husband gave me a brutal critique.  I need to soften the hairline, darken the lion's face a bit, get rid of those dumb wrinkles on the underside of her left hand.  He also said I should have painted with more colour, and that the jump between her highly rendered face and the abstract background was too much.  I told him he's stupid and ugly and I never liked him anyways.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Coyote Skull Still Life

Posted by: Dave

Hot off the easel is my new coyote skull still life.  By now, my readers pretty much know what the stages are to my still life paintings, so I can forgo a wordy description.  It pretty much goes as follows;  blah blah blah drybrush blah blah blah ebauche blah blah blah fix some crap that looked wrong blah blah blah first and second painting blah blah blah done, time for a beer. 

What I actually wanted to talk about was my experiences with Oleogel in a painting.  We picked some up at the PSoA conference.  According to manufacturer George O'Hanlon, Oleogel is a thixotropic painting medium made with linseed oil and pyrogenic silica, but he can't pull the wool over my eyes because I always recognize the magical properties of rendered down unicorn lard when I see it.  Usually I oil out an area for second painting with a mixture of Linseed Oil, Stand Oil, and mineral spirits, but this time I tried using a thin layer of Oleogel instead (still applied with a make-up sponge).  It worked fairly similarly, but it did have the advantages of easier application, and less absorption into the underneath layer.  This in turn, enabled for a longer working time (which is counterproductive in generating excuses to support my laziness).  However, the most appealing aspect was that it interfered very little with the layer underneath.  My other medium has solvents which can sometimes be problematic if the last layer hasn't completely cured.

NOTE:  I know some people are not familiar with the term thixotropic.  Thixotropy is the property of some fluids to change viscosity as they are agitated.   I think Kate must be thixotropic too, because if I agitate her while she's painting I ruin her flow.  (cue punch line drum)

Friday, June 1, 2012


Posted by: Dave

Well, it's my turn to brag about how much fun I had at an event on my blog so the folks at home can feel left out.  This year, Kate and I got the attend the 2012 PSoA conference in Philadelphia.  Unfortunately my camera died one day in, so my photo selection is rather limited.  The highlights of the convention are as follows:

1) Hanging out with a multitude of cool artists.  Man, as a collective, we rule.

2)  Talking to George O' Hanlon and his wife Tatiana from Natural Pigments.  The man knows literally everything there is to know about paint. I simply love the product. For those of you who refuse to try his paints, remember this;  Hitler was an artist that didn't use them...are you worse than Hitler?

3)  Cool demos.  The artist in me loves all the great demo's, but the ADD in me still wanders in and out the whole time.  I still think it would be fun to have a demo called "old master recipes".  Then just have it be a cooking class when everyone thinks you are going to go over traditional materials.  

4) Exploring Philadelphia.  We got the grand tour by our wonderful host Rachel Constantine.  We got to see this little known mural by Maxfield Parish.

As we all know, in addition to all the great teaching, the PSoA is centered largely around the competition of the 20 finalists and 30 honorable mentions at the conference.  I find however, that this only allows for a small group of people to be winners.  I am going to submit a list of recommended additional competitions for next years PSoA.

1) The evening gown competition, open to both men and woman.

2)  The strong man competition where one has to pull a truck with a waist belt. (though Julio Reyes would probably kick my ass...actually, his wife Candace would too....actually, screw this competition, I quit.)

3) Hot dog eating competition.  Timed eating event with only the highest of standards. 

I feel these events will truly be the test of an artist.  In addition, a money grab booth and pyrotechnics should also be introduced somehow.

In all seriousness, I would like to give an extra special thanks to everyone who makes the PSoA event possible.  We look forward to it all year.