Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Ba ba bird, bird, bird...bird is the word.

Posted by: Dave

The true story of this still life is as follows.  I was out for a hike in the woods with my father- in-law and we happened to bring our shotguns with us (which we use to scare off hunters from harming innocent woodland creatures) along with a giant bag of bird feed (which I'll get to later).  It was a beautiful autumn day when all of a sudden, a rabid 6 ft grouse jumped out of the woods holding what appeared to be a rusty shiv.  He made a throat slitting gesture towards me, followed by cutting his own tongue open to let me know he was serious.  I told him I didn't want any trouble and I would just be on my way.  He motioned to the giant bag of bird seed I was carrying and instructed me to hand it over.  I told him I was delivering it to the orphanage for adorable baby ducklings.  He eventually became impatient and violently came at me. I had no choice but to break his leg with a spinning round house kick.  Knowing he was defeated and having no chance of survival, he picked up the end of my shotgun barrel and placed it on his head.  I knew what had to be done.  I had to do the humane thing. That day I took a life, but in return, I may have saved my father-in-law's.  After that, I figure I would paint him then eat him (the bird, not my father-in-law).  Below is a picture of the grouse in his final moments.

On that note, let's talk about painting.  When painting anything that is perishable, it is going to change over the course of the project.  This means you have to work fast to block in the drawing and large groupings of color.  Things like superficial textures and details will have some level of conceptualization as the object decays, thaws, etc.  At times it is possible to substitute one object for another.  Example would be an apple versus say, a killer grouse.  However, in the case of this painting and many of Kate's Icarus series, we don't have an unlimited supply of dead birds.  (One of the reasons Kate started painting kittens.  Pick up a new litter every week from the SPCA.)  When I had the bird out, I had to be working as fast as I could towards completion.  

Initial lay-in of ébauche
 End of day one of painting.  Started to impasto some thicker paint before the day was out.  You can really only hit values when paint is applied opaquely.

Adding wood texture and refining grouse.  For the texture of the wood, I stole one of Kate's tricks of applying the blue tone over top of a dry umber wash, then scraping out the wood grain with a rubber knife to give it a tactile feel.  This way the ridges cast a natural shadow that emulates chippy paint. Its important if you are going to do this to keep the umber brush strokes vertical, so it looks like wood grain.  However, the feathers on the grouse I had to layer quite a bit.  Not making every feather looks the same is extremely important. Birds have a variety of feathers that have different qualities and sizes.  In the white feathers, I used a rather ratty filbert bristle brush to impasto the lights since these feathers were quite wispy.  For the feathers on the side, I found it easiest to shape the small whites of each one first, before defining the rest of it.  The belly feathers were perhaps the most difficult as they were the most subtle.  As soon as they became over realized the big form of the belly was lost, so it was a tricky balance.  To avoid this, I sculpted the largest form of the belly first before adding the smaller details.
Addition of other elements to balance composition, ie, bullet bag and hinges.  Typically I am more planned at the beginning of a still life, but this was a painting of circumstance.
 Done.  In the end I left some of the umber wash showing through completely to break up all that blue.
Detail of wood with hinge.  Actually used a make up sponge to layer up some rust texture. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Teeny Tiny Art Show

Posted by: Kate

I don't always enter local art shows, but when I do, I corner the market on kittens and hawt chicks.

I've lived in the Cowichan Valley for four years and have yet to participate in the local art scene.  However!  That is all about to change.  I've got two pictures in the Teeny Tiny Art Works gift show.  And since I'm trying to appeal to as many people as possible during my debut, I've painted two 5x7" paintings of...a kitten and a hawt chick.  I pretty much can't fail.

I've put a lot of science and stuff into the chart below.  I'm sharing it here for free.  You can thank me later.


By the way, the first painting is of my friend Tara.  Painting her is always kind of like cheating, because she just doesn't make a bad painting.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Postcard Portraits

Posted by: Kate

I love painting kids (but until kids come taxidermied, from photos only).  This past year I've been making some small scale portrait commissions, mostly of kids.  Some are alla prima (if all goes well) and some take a few passes.  What I like most is the chance to nail a likeness (thrilling), play with colours (since kids usually wear bright colours, and those colours tend to bounce around into the under jaw area), have fun with paint quality, drop mic and walk away at the end of the day.

Now for some blow by blow.  Below you can see my very brief umber drawing and the very beginning of my colour application.  I've found it's nice to attack a cheek first.  That way I can establish my flesh colour range all the way from the dark shadow under the chin, through the cool halftone colour, into the red of the cheek, and right up to the highlight on the cheekbone.  My "flesh rainbow," if you will, which also happens to be the name of Dave's former thrash metal band.  But now that I have my darkest note, my halftone, my reddest note, and my second highest note (after the forehead) established, the flesh colours in the rest of the face will magically fall into place, like the first level of tetris.

I like to nail the eyes one at a time.  This sounds like a bad idea in theory, because common sense says that the eyes really ought to be developed in tandem to make sure they work with each other, but I find this works so much better for me for some reason.  And that makes me a Hypocritical Teacher because I would totally force my students to work out both the eyes at the same time.

Just getting more paint up.  I'm just sticking to all the same colours I worked out in my flesh rainbow:

Sculpting the mouth and nose, finessing that first eye, plunking a little more red into the cheek:

 Finally developing that second eye and refining the transitions all over the place with a soft touch:

Lots of cool colour in the hair.  When I paint ears, I like to start off by drawing the rich red shapes hiding out in the fold of the helix and in the concha.  This nails down the drawing of the ear and makes the whole ear-painting process tidier.  It's really easy to paint light flesh tones around the red shapes, but hard to plunk clean red shapes in if there's flesh tone already there mucking the area up.

Before I could really call it done I noticed the second eye I painted was a bit too far out to the left and hurt the likeness and dropped his perceived IQ by about 10 points.  That was a quick fix the next day.

Doesn't he look perfectly angelic?  Now, I know that's how everyone wants their child painted, but you see, I know this kid.  I'm an honorary aunt.  I was playing it safe when I picked this shot.  The next shot I picked for me, and I was snickering the whole time I painted it:

Above is the kid I know and love.  The kid who matter of factly says, "I just farted on you," while I'm reading him a book.

Most of these portrait paintings that I've been doing are 6x9" or thereabouts.  For more information about my portrait commissions, please visit my website.

Monday, November 2, 2015

The David Gluck Show: An Interview with Carl Dobsky Part 1

Posted by: Dave

Your atelier is called "The Safehouse Atelier." The word “safehouse” is defined as a secret place for sanctuary or a place suitable to hide persons from the law, hostile actions, or from retribution, threats or perceived danger. So like, what are you running from, bro? You do some messed up shit in the past we need to know about? Is this why you grew that beard of yours? 

Nah. Nothing like that. When we first opened it, it was just called “Dobsky Studios.” But business was REAL bad. Nobody was showing up. Then one day as I was walking by the soup kitchen, I noticed that their business was booming. That’s when lightning struck. So I went and picked up a few dirty cots, changed the name to Safehouse Atelier and BOOM, now we are the busiest atelier in town. Granted none of the vagrants that we give shelter to here can draw or paint, and you have to break up the occasional rusty knife fight over a piece of bread, but hey, students are students and we are PACKED. The beard is mostly just to blend in with the patrons. It makes them feel comfortable- like someone they can trust. Whatever keeps the customers happy!!! 

If a wizard said you could have unlimited money for the rest of your life, but every day at a random time you would crap your paints, would you do it? (the original question was supposed to be "pants" not "paints," but it still works)

Is this a trick question?!!??!! I don't see the downside. Its an obvious win, win. Obviously, unlimited cash is a good thing but if I could crap paints, regardless of the unlimited money, I would be a happy man. Can you imagine? I bet my crap paints would make Old Holland look like that shit they give to old people to paint with. Hell, I would just sit around eating fiber all day and crap out paint. Now that’s the true path to unlimited money.

We know you prefer to work from life, is this why you don’t paint mythological beasts like dinosaurs and unicorns?

It's true. I do like to work mostly from life. Since I have this mountain of money laying around from painting fruit in bowls I can afford to hire as many models as I want for as long as I want. The other thing is that I'm just not a big believer in this thing called "imagination." I consider it to be a gateway to empathy, and as we all know there is no room for empathy in art. For me, painting from life is the only thing that makes sense. I do have trouble with that from time to time though. Some things you can't capture directly from life. Not because you can't find that situation out in the world but more because of the limits of the law. For instance, I'm working on a painting with a bunch of people at a pool party with the Hollywood Hills on fire in the background. At first I was thinking that since it was summer and everything was really dry on account of the drought and all, I could probably get a pretty good fire going, set up my easel down on the Boulevard, and capture all of those houses getting torched. Of course, when I checked with my lawyer, he told me that the fines and jail time might be a bit more than I had expected. So I decided I was going to have to sacrifice my ideals a little and figure something else out like a diorama or something. So I took all my six year-old niece's doll houses and set them on fire and got to work. It probably would have been better if I had set the hills on fire. But, hey, we all have to make sacrifices for Art and that includes my six year-old niece. I could paint unicorns or dinosaurs if I really wanted to. God knows we have enough of them in Southern California. I don't really paint them though because...well... it's just nerdy and you get beat up for that around here. People down here aren't as wussy or as nice as they are up in Canada. 

How do you settle upon the subject matter of your work? If the answer isn’t interesting, make up a better one... that involves dinosaurs. 

Normally it's when I'm walking through the kitchen and I see a bowl of fruit and I'm like, "Damn! That shit's money!!!" Or sometimes it happens when I see a chick and I'm like, "She's hawt!!! I bet I could sell a picture of her!!!" Sometimes I get all introspective and try to come up with something that will embody my thoughts and feelings. But, as you would expect, that usually turns out pretty stupid. You know how it goes. I try to not beat myself up for it because I know we've all done it. At least that's what I tell myself. But, hey!! I can always just walk back through the kitchen and BAM!!! Problem solved! I haven't tried dinosaurs yet but maybe I should since you keep mentioning them. Maybe there's a market for wussy things like that in Canada and I could make a killing on it. I'll keep that in mind. 

What advice would you have for kindergarteners to make their finger paintings better? 

Well, there's something that they need to understand. Their finger painting technique could be absolutely killer, but that's not enough to make it out there in the real world. They need to realize it's all about ideas. So my advice to all of these kindergarteners would be to step back a minute and ask themselves why they're doing what they're doing. Is it relevant to today? Are they engaged with the contemporary dialogue? Is finger painting even relevant to today? Do they have an original point of view or are they just rehashing the same old finger paintings we've all seen before? This is the thing that is going to push their work past mere technique.

Many people have described your work as being at the crossroads at a crossroad, which is pretty much a four way stop. With that in mind, who gets the right of way? 

Oh, this happens all the time down in this part of the country!!! You guys up in Canada might not have heard of it yet, seeing as how you're the newest state in the U.S., but it's called a Mexican Standoff. You all arrive at the intersection at the same time and then wait a minute to see who's going to make a move first, but nobody does. Then you say to yourself, "f##k it. If no one's going to go, then I'm going!" Of course everyone else is thinking the same thing and so you all wind up going at the same time. It gets a bit hectic in the middle and only the one with quickest reflexes and the most luck makes it out. Making art is definitely like that a lot of the time so I think the crossroad analogy is a good one. 

What was your favorite scene from Mad Max Fury Road? I mean, there are so many to choose from as it’s pretty much the best thing mankind has ever created, including space travel and antibiotics. Oh man, remember that one guy with the flamethrower guitar? Or how awesome was Imortan Joe’s skull breathing apparatus? Or how Furiosa would cover her face in axle grease right before she was about to ruin someones day?

Wait. All that happened??!!! Well, I missed out... I feel stupid admitting it, but I thought it was Mad Max: Furry Road and that it was going to be a bunch of Furries running through a post-apocalyptic world where in the end it all winds up with some disgustingly perverted furry on furry action. I was wondering why everyone was so into it. For a minute, I thought everyone had lost their minds. I guess now that I know that there aren't any Furries involved I'll check it out.

How has having a crying crotch goblin destroyed your will to do art? Do you now bore people with lame baby stories like “this one time, my baby was staring at a spoon, it was soooo cute.”

I don't think it's really destroyed my will to do art. I never really had any will to do it in the first place. Art is pretty wussy when it comes down to it and I'm really only in it for the money. Actually the only reason why I tell those baby stories to people is to see which ones are popular. Those are the ones I'll make paintings of because that equals stacks of cash. Maybe if I combine pictures of babies with pictures of cats I could make some serious money.

(for more information on Carl Dobsky and Safehouse Atelier use google)

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Dealing with "Sinking In"

I got a lot of questions from my last post about Rublesol Light, oiling out, and sinking in.  I thought I'd treat you all to some off the cuff verbal diarrhea about my opinions on the matter.

Sinking in is just awful.  You put all this work in to making your painting a shining gem, and then twenty-four hours later it looks like complete crap and there's not enough wine in the house to convince you your art career isn't a lost cause.  I can think of four ways to deal with sinking in:
  1. Oiling out: Not a great idea (whether your "oiling out" layer is oil or any other painting medium).  Applying isolated layers of oil to your painting, which then become sandwiched between paint layers, is not great practice.  It will lead to problems that get art conservators' panties in a bunch, like yellowing and delamination.  I have to point out that in my vocabulary, oiling out is different from laying down an oil couche (French for "layer" and pronounced "koosh" in civilized parts of the world, "couch" in America, and "chesterfield" in Canada).  Oiling out is when you saturate the surface of the painting with oil so that you can take a look at it.  This oil then dries, and the next paint layer goes over top.  Painting into a couche is when you oil out the specific area that you are going to paint overtop of that day.  This brings back the colours so that you can see them and match them correctly (very important, especially around the perimeter of the area you are working on so that there is a seamless transition between today's work and the rest of the painting) and makes blending and fine detail easier.  The oil that is laid down in a couche ends up being incorporated into this new paint layer and does not dry as an isolated oil layer, but helps make this new paint layer fatter than the previous layer.
  2. Retouch Varnish:  During a studio visit once I saw a gorgeous portrait painting that had been retouched with spray Dammar retouch varnish in between each of about a dozen paint layers.  The beautiful thing was cracking and flaking right off the canvas before the painting had even been completed.  Similar to having isolated oil layers in between your paint layers, having isolated varnish layers is also a bad idea, and probably a worse idea, since varnish/resin doesn't have as much tensile strength/flexibility as oil.  Hence the flaking and cracking in the beautiful portrait painting.
  3. Tackling sinking in before it happens: Using a painting support with a very low-absorbency surface or painting very fat will help prevent sinking in.  Personally, I don't worry about sinking in enough to bother preventing it, but if, for example, I'm working on a painting in which a dark background is a very important element visually (ie, all my values have to be gauged off of that background) then I will mix stand oil into my paint on the palette before I apply it at a ratio of about 1:4 or 1:3 stand oil to paint (do not add OMS to the mixture to increase flow.  This will make it sink in).  This works really well.  The only thing is that subsequent layers of stand oil-y paint need more and more oil added, as per the rule of painting fat over lean.  There are other mediums on the market that seem to help prevent sinking in if you mix them with your paint.  Like I said, I don't really care enough to bother and I don't like adding mediums to my paint if I can help it.
  4. Rublesol Light/Essential Oil of Petroleum: This is a zero-repercussion way to saturate the surface of your painting and make it look like it will when varnished, if only for about fifteen minutes.  It gives you a chance to take a look at your painting, photograph it, restrain yourself from throwing it in the fireplace, or show it to a studio visitor.  You can use it at any stage of the painting so long as the paint is dry.  It will not leave any residue.  It is also not a silver bullet.  It's just a really useful tool to have in your arsenal.  If you have some handy in your studio, you will eventually get to the point where you are using it almost everyday for one thing or another.
My parting advice on sinking in is, let's not let it ruin our day.  Make the painting read right the day you're working on it with fresh paint, and don't panic when you come back the next morning and you have a coyote ugly moment.  Just get to work on the next section of your painting and don't lose time chasing around the sinking in and trying to fix it every day.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Rublesol Lite

Posted by: Kate

I have a studio elf.  His name is Justin and he helps me make movie films.  I'm going to be a star.

I'm demonstrating the use of a new product just about to hit the market.  Dave and I have a pet product called Essential Oil of Petroleum, which always makes me think of Essence of Gelfling.  It's kind of similar, because Essence of Gelfling makes Skekses look youthful and healthy, and Essential Oil of Petroleum makes paintings look fresh and sexy.

Essential Oil of Petroleum has always been tricky for us to find.  Something about being in socialist Canada where we only have one brand of paint and you have to get on a wait list to qualify for brushes.  So we've been heckling Natural Pigments to start making something comparable and I've even told workshop students to send harassing emails to George and Tania.  Harassment works.  I received a little phial labeled "Sample 142," which can only mean there were 141 inferior samples before they found the perfect one, and I've given it a trial.  Love it.

Here's my super sophisticated first video:

Notice how I kept emphasizing the need to make sure the painting is dry?  That's because this is take two.  During take one, I used a painting that wasn't dry and I smeared paint all over the place.  Don't worry, it was Dave's painting, so it was hilarious.


Edit: Questions coming in so I'll answer them here.  

Why not use oil or retouch varnish?  This product acts to "oil out" or saturate the surface of your painting when it's sunken in, but it completely evaporates leaving no residue after about twenty minutes.  If, like me, you are leery of oiling out and of retouch varnish, this is a very useful product.  If I use it on a painting and realize, "oh hey, this eye needs more work," I will wait until it evaporates, oil out just the eye and paint into that oiled out area.

Why not just use mineral spirits?  I find that mineral spirits usually evaporates faster, is streakier, is more likely to lift up paint that's only moderately dry, and turns the surface of the painting milky.  You can use mineral spirits, but this stuff's better.

Is this like Oleogel?  Nope.  Oleogel is an oil.  This is a solvent.  Don't be confused by the "oil" in "Essential Oil of Petroleum."

Where can we buy Essence of Gelfling?  As far as I know it's still a restricted product, but I'm sure Natural Pigments is working hard to bring it to us.


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Working Vacation

Posted by: Kate

Dave and I have been perfecting the art of the working vacation.  We'd planned ages ago to go on a nice, clichéd, sugar sand beach vacation somewhere, preferably one of those places where people go to be gorgeous and suntanned so that we can pretend to ourselves that we blend in.  Not a chance with my pasty, potato-spud-sprouting-in-a-dark-cupboard skin, though.  When Dave first started dating me I used to slather zinc sunscreen like it was a full body suit, wear sunglasses and a drapey voile shawl to keep off the sun, and I would scuttle around with a parasol between islands of shadow like an earwig.  He started calling me Dr. Moreau.

When I first googled Dr Moreau, I was all like, "Who's been putting pictures of me on the internets?"

This is where we stayed.  Awesome, right?

Sometime between watching a dolphin surface in the distance and trying not to be weirded out by being surrounded by more natural blonds than we had ever seen in our lives, our eyes met and we both knew: we'd outgrown our art student days.  Hopping on a plane was no longer about seeing an art museum.  It was about getting the f*** out of our studios and away from painting, period.

I taught two workshops on either end of this vacation, both of them fantastic fun.  The first was hosted by the Southern Atelier in Sarasota, Florida.  Charles Miano is the man behind the plan there.  I was stunned to walk in and find out that my ten students had multiplied furiously in the night and become 21 students.  Thank goodness I had brought Dave along as my lovely teaching assistant.  People always tell me I'm really lucky to have married another artist that I have so much in common with.  Yep.  I know.

Charles took some pictures of me looking all intense and teachery.

That person in the foreground is performing my patented finder goggle technique.  When trying to match a colour, put a dab of the colour you think is correct on your painting, then isolate that dab and the corresponding colour on the subject.  SO EASY.

Above is the demo I did in between rounds with students.  To keep things simple, we used a limited, low-chroma palette.  It forces students to think about skin tones in a very basic, common sense kind of way.  Flesh colour can either go redder, yellower, lighter, darker, greyer or more chromatic.  That's it.  And when a student says something like, "But don't you see kind of a purplish green with a hint of Payne's Grey in it?"  I stare at them and say, "I didn't know you wrote poetry.  But no.  That's a low chroma orange.  All of it's a low chroma orange.  Now get back to work."

I snapped some pictures of Charles' awesome school and the stunning work he demos for his students.  I've visited quite a few schools and this one's facilities are dreamy.  I don't think there was a poorly lit easel in the entire group.  It's a fantastic place to take a workshop, so get thee onto his mailing list if you are local to Florida.  I myself would love to take a charcoal workshop with him.  Can you believe the demo work he has on display for his students?

Dave and Charles and I were able to hit up the Ringling Art Museum while we were there and bond deeply over some Rubens.  My favourite was this Judith et al painting by Francesco del Cairo.  I love how matter of fact Judith and her maid are always depicted with a bleeding, decapitated head.  It's just something that happens everyday, apparently.

The second workshop was in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and was hosted by Thomas Rosenstiel.  Fantastic studio space again.  North light!  Waxed hardwood floors!  Exposed brick!  A fully functional kitchen with a constant stream of baked goods pouring out of it like a veritable cornucopia of empty carbohydrates!  Consider my artistic engine primed and whirring!

I got some alone time in at the studio before the workshop started.  A good studio is one where you completely forget your surroundings while you work.

Yes, Dave is always this thrilled when he watches me paint.

I keep my still life workshops small so that I can do what I love best--eating the cherries off of other people's sundaes!  Or rather, painting the fun parts of their paintings to demo specific techniques and painting strategies.  It doesn't really work with a class of more than eight people.  This was a great group.  The fun part about traveling to do workshops out of private studios is that you wind up teaching a tightly knit little friend-group of artists, sometimes with a few out of towners who cozy into the friendly vibe.  The atmosphere is always supportive and fun.

I don't know if Tom is planning on hosting anymore workshops (apart from my next one, that is!), but his studio is just a fantastic space and he really knows how to host a workshop.  Every single contingency had been planned for.  So if you see a workshop listing in Tuscaloosa hosted by one Tom Rosenstiel, give it a closer look.  And if you're an artist being invited to stay with Tom and teach, dear lord, say yes.  You should see this guy's liquor cabinet.  Cough.  I mean.  He's a conscientious host and you will enjoy your stay.

In short, this whole trip to the Southeast was so much fun that Dave and I have decided to do it all over again next year, with different workshops on offer.  A workshop at Townsend Atelier in Chattanooga, Tennessee will be added to the line up.  All information will be posted on my website, Facebook, and here on the blog, by Spring 2016.