Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Workshop at the Florence Studio

Posted by: Kate

Time to gush about our trip to Florence!  For two weeks I taught still life painting at the Florence Studio while Dave very good naturedly shouldered the brunt of the parenting responsibilities.  I'm going to overlook that one incident with the jarred puréed cavallo and go ahead and say he did a wonderful job.  Oh, and apparently my husband speaks Italian.  Like, for real.  He had conversations with Italian people.  It wasn't quite a Fish Called Wanda moment, but I definitely had to stop and add a few dozen language points to the scorecard of a man who routinely makes up words and insists they're real.

The Florence Studio's rooms satisfied my ideal of an artist's space in Florence.  If I had a window like that in my studio I would just Vermeer it up in every single painting.  The school is located just a couple of block away from the Ponte Vecchio, so it's centrally located to all the cool stuff that an art nerd could hope to see.  We stayed at a really nice apartment not far away with my parents and sister+fiancé. 

I would have liked to fit in more museum visits, but I did fit in some really important ones.  First up was the Annigoni Museum.  Must see.  I had no idea how big some of these paintings are!

Zoologia La Specola.  Here we are in the cuddly plushy section.  The really hair raising part is the wax anatomy sculpture section.  It was a weird merging of the uncanny valley with bacon.

It felt inappropriate to take a photo of all that nude, writhing greasiness at the time, so I'm lifting a picture from the internet:

There were a couple dozens of these bodies, male and female, all in the throes of agony/ecstasy.  The female bodies were very virginal, with long braids and white veils.  If you're a Mutter Museum sort of person, this place is a must see.

And of course the Museu Moderna in the Palazzo Pitti, which contains mostly work spanning the 18th and 19th centuries.  According to the Museu Moderna, art never got more modern than Antonio Mancini, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

Everywhere we went we got the most generous and friendly treatment.  It turns out the old part of Florence is besotted with babies.  It took me a couple of days to notice it, but they have a total Children of Man thing going on.  Nobody has babies in the old part of Florence.  Cooks would come out of the kitchen to deliver mini plates of cheese and bread for Bubs when we stopped at restaurants and rabid nonnas wanted to fondle and talk to him.  Everyone was nice to us because of him.  The next time we go to Florence the sprog will be bigger, so we're planning on taking a sleeping reborn doll with us in order to receive the same goodwill.

One more thing just to make you drool: our hosts showed us into the spectacular grotto-like antiques dealer shop below.  This still life artifact fun house was completely unidentifiable from the outside, which makes you wonder how many treasure troves there are like this.  We flipped our shit and bought the only thing in the place we could afford and brought it back to be the star of an upcoming still life painting.

I owe a huge thank you to Laura Thompson and Frank Rekrut, who run the Florence Studio, for hosting my workshop and showing me an insider's view of the neighbourhood; and of course to my students for joining in the fun.

For those of you interested in traveling to and studying in Florence, The Florence Studio offers a number of great workshops next year, including a workshop by Natural Pigments, as well as private teaching to fit a custom schedule.  It's a beautiful space in the heart of old Florence and Frank and Laura are warm and knowledgeable teachers. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Baby's First Art Show

Posted by: Kate

The Fetus formerly known as Cletus tagged along with me to our regional annual art show hosted by the Cowichan Valley Arts Council.  I didn't observe any nascent art appreciation, but I have eighteen years to make him like art.

I was thrilled to receive to receive Best in Show for "Furs," but I have to admit that Cletus has done some rewiring in my brain.  Every time anyone said "Congrats!" or "Beautiful!" to me, even as I was standing right next to my painting, I assumed we were talking about the baby.  "Oh thanks!  He's two  months old!"  Facepalm.

Big thanks to Morgan Saddington, CVAC Office Manager and PORTALS Coordinator.  She put me on the radar of a local TV programmer, Daphne Goode, who put together this lovely spot about me just before the show opened:

[Before you all get up in my grill about painting with a baby, I'll have you know that at this stage in a painting I use oil only.]

And yeah, every single day is a totally idyllic day in the studio with a sleeping baby strapped to my chest.  Snort.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Nexus Opening at Abend Gallery in Denver, CO

Posted by: Kate

Tomorrow Dave ABANDONS his wife and small child to attend the opening of Nexus, a show presented by Abend Gallery in Denver, CO.  He has been diligently working away at co-curating this show for the past number of months.  Getting a bunch of artists to collaborate on a show is like herding cats, and getting a bunch of tattoo artists to collaborate on a show is like herding a bunch of insolent, authority-challenging cats.  Which is actually all cats, come to think of it.

Yes, Nexus combines paintings from artist and tattoo artists.  As you all know if you've been reading long enough, Dave tattoos part-time to pay the bills and maintain his street cred in the face of his background as a kindergarten teacher (it's really hard to undo that sort of history).  He came up with the idea to put together a show featuring paintings by tattoo artists and paintings by artists exploring or inspired by tattoo culture.

Renowned tattoo artist Joshua Carlton gave us our apprenticeships.  The hydro company has him to thank for our prompt bill payments each month.

For the five minutes that I tattooed, my eyes were opened and my innocence dashed.  I had always naively believed that painting was a self-evidently superior visual art form--nay, the ultimate visual art form!--and that the entire world was with me on that point.  But now I really believe that tattoo art is the dominant visual art form of our generation.  It's the one that is the most accessible, the most meaningful, and the most personal.  It's also a very competitive industry that attracts the best and most talented by rewarding artists with money and fame commensurate to merit.  Which is rather unlike some industries I know.

Which is to say, I hope these tattoo artists don't lord their superior cultural relevance over the rest of us painters at the show.  Sob.

Nexus has received some excellent coverage, although it will probably be another month before the gypsy caravan containing the above issue of American Art Collector Magazine makes its way to Vancouver Island.  The above image is pilfered from the Book of Face.  You can read more about the show here and you can view the catalogue here.  I wish I felt up to inflicting a crying baby on a plane full of strangers so that I could attend too.

Jennifer Balkan
James What's His Face Caffyn
Julio Reyes
Aaron Nagel

Friday, April 1, 2016

Introducing the Baby Formerly Known as Cletus the Fetus

Posted by: Kate

Time to fumigate the crickets from this blog and get back to posting.  We've been a tad busy here at Painting Stuff to Look Like Stuff HQ, aka, the end of the sofa next to the side table that has my glass of wine on it.  I've made quite a few drinking jokes on this blog in recent months, but I was just throwing you off the trail.  You see, I haven't had much room for booze lately:

Dave and I welcomed James, aka Cletus the Fetus (working title), on February 25th.

Photo credits to my sister, whose smashed iPhone outperformed my semi-professional camera and its pricey lens during my stay at the hospital.  This little porker was 9lbs.  We weren't allowed to keep him in the hospital nursery in case he ate the preemies. 

And one week later:

We just wanted to dedicate one post to sharing our wonderful news with everyone.  And now back to blogging about painting stuff to look like stuff ASAP.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Icarus X

Posted by: Kate

I take my inspiration from the Greats!  Below, Icarus on a Halfshell:

I actually painted this thing standing bent over.  The painting and the props were both resting on top of the crate.

While the wood colour was laid down willy-nilly above, I made sure to clean it up by dragging a textured bristle brush through it in the direction of the grain of the wood before letting it dry (below).

This wood texture was then easy to build up with a combination of semi-transparent scumbles and glazes.

Much easier to paint the text over the wood after letting it dry:

His gams aren't quite as shapely, but he's every bit as sweetly coy.  Available in my store.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Furs, Part III

Posted by: Kate

Hurrah!  Camera back from the repair shop.  At the end of Part II, "Furs" was pretty much finished.  Except for the background, everything had received it's due attention and was done.  But can we all just agree that backgrounds are a painter's punishment for having fun doing everything else?  I overthink mine in a big way.  Below, my first attempt at doing a final (ha!) pass over the background.  I eventually decided it was just too flat and dull.

So late one night I just started mucking around and pushing contrast.

And then, I don't even know what I was thinking, I started doodling an abstract landscape in the background.  I'm not proud of that moment.

I finally snapped out of it.  Two passes later and a month after finishing everything else in the painting, I finally just finished it off.  But not after have to sand the background a bit and correct an accidental halo around her head.  It's amazing how a small element of a painting can cause a disproportionate amount of pain.  Have you heard of the 80/20 rule?  It's something like, 20% of your painting will make you drink 80% of that bottle of wine.

Let's talk inspiration!  Of course I've always loved this gorgeous painting by Jacob van Oost the Elder, Portrait of a Boy Aged Eleven.  But you know, I'd completely forgotten it existed when I was planning out this painting.  It was obviously stuck in my subconscious.  Isn't it just plain weird how similar they ended up being?  This is a shining example of the futility of trying to be original in art. 

I only just discovered this painting by Francesco Masriera: "Winter 1882."  Isn't the fur just lovely?

One of the reasons Dave and I collect antique garments is because the textures and detail elements are just so lovely to paint.  Nobody wears muffs or ruffs or Victorian blouses with military brass buttons anymore, and it's one of the things that prevents me from painting more contemporary subject matter.  Who wants to paint cotton t-shirts and polyester slacks?

Here are some detail shots:

And finally, the finished painting:

"Furs," 18x26", oil on panel, 2016

"Furs" will be on display at the Art! Vancouver show this spring.  Dave and I will be posting more information soon about all that, but if you're in the Vancouver area, mark off the end of May in your calendars and plan to come by our booth to say "hi!"

Friday, February 12, 2016

Tara I WIP

Posted by: Kate

Here's another little head study I did last year.  2015 was really all about developing my "party trick" skills, specifically, getting proficient at painting quickly on the fly.  Being able to bust out a painting might not be as cool as some party tricks, but it is a little more career advancing.  I decided I wanted to be able to demo in front of an audience at the drop of a hat, so I did a lot of alla prima paintings both from life and from photo references.  The one below is only a few inches tall.

I've been experimenting with all sorts of approaches--drawing outlines and shadow shapes with umber first, and skipping straight to light masses on a dark ground (as above); painting with carefully pre-mixed paints, and painting into the mud (ie, letting my palette turn into a giant slurry of brush mixed tints); changing around which features I start with, the dimensions of my panel, the tone of the panel....etc etc.  Instead of finding a preferred approach, I've discovered that the fun is in mixing things up constantly.

(By the way, I've talked before in other posts about creating a faux linen weave on my panels with criss-crossing brush strokes of acrylic gesso.  I think the painting above really shows off this effect to advantage.)

Saturday, February 6, 2016

All About Palettes!

Posted by: Kate

Oh Justin.  You're the best.  Here are two new videos about my palette--both the literal, wooden palette I hold, and the colour palette I use.  Now, scientists confirm I am a chatty Kathy, so even with brutal editing there is a lot of footage.  We broke it into two pieces so you can have a break to apply ointment to your pressure sores.

The large palette is a New Wave Expressionist palette.  I probably would have been happy with an unfinished one, since I redid the finish anyways.  If you're in Canada and bemoaning the death rattle in our dollar, order from ARTiculations in Toronto.  Oh, and let me tell you a story.  ARTiculations opened their doors about five minutes after Dave and I moved from Toronto, and they're located two minutes from our old house.  After I had to spend the prior SIX YEARS busing it to the nearest art supply store over an hour away, usually once a week, for supplies.  *shakes fist at the skies*

This next video is for a handful of people who have asked me a lot of questions about the colours I use, so I don't expect all twenty minutes of it to be universally fascinating.  But if you're interested in launching into Natural Pigments paints or were thinking about buying my paint set, this video will acquaint you with how I prepare my palette.  Many of the colours require some personalization before I use them.  You'll see in the video.

Of course, Dave being Dave, he has to sabotage the photo I took of his palette by sneaking in some lines of calcium carbonate and a razor blade.  Excellent.

So that mixing trick I do with the Lead White #2?  I just showed it to Dave the other day and then he went and painted the best damn satin and embroidery.  Great for flowing impastoes.  Hopefully that slacker posts a WIP of his latest painting soon.  Of course, I'd love to hear how my readers get their imapastoes, in the comments.

Here's the colour list:

Lead White #2
Chrome Yellow Light
Blue Ridge Yellow Ocher
Orange Ocher
Orange Molybdate
Alizarin Crimson
Cyprus Burnt Umber Warm
Cyprus Burnt Umber Dark
Ultramarine Blue
(Roman Black)
Bone Black

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Icarus V Work in Progress

Posted by: Kate

I would love to finally wrap up the third and final installment of my "Furs" WIP, but I've been putzing around with the background endlessly and now my camera's broken.  I've been thinking for a while of making a study of backgrounds.  I want to amass a bunch of images of paintings with my favourite backgrounds and do thumb nail copies--hammer it all into my brain subliminally.  I think that's why I love trompe l'oeil paintings so much--there is no background!  Just more stuff that needs to be painted!

To allay feelings of inadequacy in light of my big blogging goals for 2016, I'm tossing up an old WIP from 2014.  I didn't even realize I had these pictures but I uncovered them today.

Above was as far as I got on day one.  Once dry, I taped off the panel to frame my new cropping and then tossed it on the table saw.  I impastoed white paint on the throat of the bird so that I could glaze a brilliant red over top.  As we all know, you can't raise the value of red by adding white, and adding yellow, which can raise the value, reduces chroma, so that left me with the glazing trick: lay down some thick, brilliant white paint, preferably packed with calcium carbonate, and then glaze the red over top when dry.  It ratchets up the value and chroma slightly.

Above, more work on the wood and the pebbles.  Painted pebbles and rocks always look like the fake styrofoam pebbles and rocks that you'd find in the pot of some motel lobby plant, don't you think? 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Furs, Part II

Posted by: Kate

I left off at the colour wash-in last time (above).  After this stage, I can tackle just about anything I feel like in whatever order I feel like without regretting too much too much, but all the same, I like to think through my strategy.  Some things need to be feathered softly over top of other things (like fur over top of her blouse and hair, and hair over top of her blouse).  One thing I did differently from usual is I did a quick pass in pure paint (no medium) over her eyes.  Usually the eyes are the last part of the face that I paint, which can be fun in a saving-dessert-for-last kind of way, but is also kind of disappointing in a saving-dessert-for-last kind of way.  Actually, it can be kind of lame because a portrait just doesn't look right until the eyes are perfect, so leaving them off until the end just means your painting looks like a steaming pile of mediocrity until the last day.  Here's the painting with a quick pass over the eyes:

Below you can see the start of the blouse.  This is the third time I've painted it so it's practically cheating to keep using it in my paintings.  It came out pretty quickly, and once it was out I went back and pushed the warm/cool dither by teasing warmer colour and cooler colour in here and there.

I circled back to the face and started it the way I usually do, by laying down some warm darks in the jaw area to give me what I call "value context."  If I can get my darkest values in first, everything else snaps into place.  I also try to push this dark value as warm as I can to keep the face looking, you know, alive.  With oxygenated blood running through it.  Just a personal preference, but kind of important with a subject with really fair skin posing under a cool light.

The face was laid in with a combination of Silverbrush bristle egberts and Rosemary mongooses.  It was pretty much all one go, including one more quick pass on the eyes, which went really easily with the foundation from the previous pass already established.


And now the painting looks like this:

Below the hair has been laid in using a combination of Rosemary mongooses (of different sizes so that the tendrils don't look monotonous) and Rosemary Ivory flats.  I'm always waffling between soft, transparent hair, and really graphic, ribbon-like hair.  The latter is really fun to paint, although the former often sits back and integrates a bit better with the rest of the painting.  I indulged in some linear, ribbon-like hair this time.

And now we come to the fur.  While I think that good brushes are essential for good painting, I also think that for most tasks, good brushes can be pretty interchangeable.  I've painted faces with big bristles, tiny soft brushes, sharp synthetic flats...and they all end up looking like they were painted by the same person.  Me.  But, when painting textural surfaces, I do think having just the right brush is important.  It's the difference between creating something that looks fresh and effortless and in reality took a small amount of time to do, and creating something that looks labored, painful, and in fact took forever to do.  Below are the sorts of brushes I usually gravitate towards for painting fur.  The trick is to find a brush whose natural brush stroke creates the effect of fur.  There is no painstaking drawing of each strand of fur in my studio.  If you look at the range of bristles below, you can see I have super soft, wispy Rosemarys, a springy and sensitive egbert from Silverbrush, and coarse and ratty brushes from the hardware store.  This gives me a range of texture for creating many different fur types.  I often use all of them in one painting.  Note that in each category of brush, I try to have several sizes and shapes.  This prevents monotony of brush stroke, something that is lethal to textural effects because it makes the viewer aware that the texture was created with a tool of limited range and expression and not by the hands of invisible angels.

Below is the fur hat.  I used some Velazquez medium to beef up the lightest notes and I think you can see pretty well in this photo that the the lightest wisps of hair stick off the surface of the painting.

And below is the muff.  I used the coarse hardware brushes for the sable fur on the left hand side of the muff (her right)--the area where you can see that the base of the fur is light coloured and the tips of the fur is dark brown.  They were exactly what I needed to lay down a sparse smattering of impastoed dark hair.  Most of the work on the right was a combination of bristles and mongooses.  When painting fur I generally work just like a landscape artist.  I paint the fur farthest away first (usually that means the fur around the edges) and then work my way forward, being careful that everything in front overlaps everything behind it, and not vice versa.  It helps to have a think about which area should get painted last, and then resisting the temptation to work on that.  Incidentally, the area that gets painted last is often the most interesting, because it's the portion of fur that is sticking straight out at you and therefore you can see it clumping and parting.

To be continued...