Monday, March 31, 2014

O Sorrow: Part I

Posted by: Kate

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 too 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, to hang onto and ponder over forever, 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 camera shook while I took the photo.  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

Posted by: Kate

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


Posted by: Kate

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.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

I done did some art.

Posted by: Dave

Pull up a chair and get ready for a visual feast.  First on the platter, "Girl with a Boomstick."   I am trying to accomplish three things in this piece.  First, to paint a narrative work with 2 figures who are interacting.  Second, to paint a narrative work with 2 figures interacting successfully.  Third, to do a contemporary painting of a woman that doesn't involve wussy activities like chopping veggies or reading a book in bed.  You may recognize the model in the foreground from Kate's piece "Shadow of my Hand."  (It was nice to discover the model actually did indeed learn to shoot one week prior to me starting the piece.  Art imitates life I suppose.)  The other model I found here (not really).  Like previous works, it's all about the planning.  Below is the first stage of the process; the drawing.  Overall, I am already happy with the direction it is headed. I just need to do a sketch of the hand he is using to point (as I ran out of room on this piece of paper.) I am channeling a lot of Raeburn in this piece if you haven't figured it out; large tonal groupings and atmosphere.  The female is in all lighter tones and the male in darker tones.  Color studies come next.

I have also completed another painting of Brian, the same model as the Trapper.  I just can't let that face go to waste.  "The Beggar King" has a similar theme in many ways as the Trapper.  Themes of  survival, self, aging, and other artsy fartsy stuff.   Below if a craptacular picture of the completed painting.

 Third on the agenda.  Did this drawing.  No idea why, but it looks pretty cool.  Might end up being another fisherman painting looking up at the sky.

Lastly, a sneak peak of a painting I am working of for the Uncanny exhibit.

Side note.  I got my first smart phone which means I now have instagram. Holy crap, it is the most amazing thing ever.  So much better than a blog because I can just post a picture with no explanation or witty comments. So, go follow me if you want for even more Gluck per minute (or GPM) of your life.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Pearly Whites II

Posted by: Kate

I put my white swatches in a bright, south-facing window for the past week.  Here's a before and after:

Real world application: back when I used to do portrait commissions, I would sometimes tell people that if their painting started to look a bit dark or dingy, to put it in the window for a few days to brighten it up again.  I did hear back from some of my clients that they felt it made a noticeable difference to do this from time to time.