"Everybody knows a work of art takes at least an hour!" Lucy to Linus, (Peanuts)
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Sunday, August 29, 2010
Taking a break from this today and contemplating the next session. Already the painting is off in a direction that I had not wanted it to go in, which is more intense colour than I expected. I had an idea of keeping it pretty high key and very subtle, low value colour, but it got away from me. I can bring it back no doubt but now I have to decide if I want to do that. This always happens and I keep promising myself that someday I will do the same painting in more than one version so that I can really explore the various possibilities I envision. Decisions always have to be made and once made remove other "might have been" results. Monet liked painting the same scene in varying light situations and the results were quite intriguing, although I have to say that haystacks and old cathedrals don't really hold my attention, (I hope I won't be struck down by the Art God for my blasphemy!). Anyway, I do want this painting to have a subtle overall look from the slight hue changes in the fabrics, both wrapped around the figure and in the backdrop. One side is warm, the other cool. It is too easy to get caught up in small areas and forget to keep the entire image in mind as I work.
Friday, August 27, 2010
Here is something to keep away the monotony of just watching me paint Samanda for days on end...a colored pencil piece I did back in the early 90's. I have always loved those early Renaissance portraits and wanted to do something to update them a bit. Four versions of this
were started, including one in pen & ink with hours of stippling. I repositioned the heads in a
better composition than this but never completed it. I just ran out of steam and enthusiasm. Kind of fun but pointless:-)
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Today, by the time I got to the painting, I wasn't really in the mood but knowing how things work if I decide to push through my lethargy I took up the brush. I became so involved that I didn't even know it had been raining right outside my large window until I came up for air a couple of hours later. I worked on the neck, hand, and arm but had a rough beginning. The first hour was me muttering to myself that I didn't seem to know what I was doing...just mixing colours randomly, applying them carelessly and seeing what happened. The second hour I felt the "groove" and suddenly knew what I was supposed to do. I just needed to get into that zone of concentration and I'm sure most of you who are so kind to be following me know exactly what I'm talking about.
It just can't be forced, but it can be nudged:-) There are a rainbow of colours in these skin tones.
Lots of very dark reds and umbers, lighter shades of cerulean mixed with a bit of naples yellow, and subtle purples. I will need to get back into the shadow areas around the fingers...maybe I won't even have shadows there. They are making her fingers look kind of pudgy...don't know. I'm too tired to have any sort of good judgement.
I also want to get a few small things ready for an outdoor exhibit on Sept. 11th that my Campbell River gallery is having in the Spirit Square next to the Campbell River Public Gallery. If the weather holds it could be good opportunity to make some connections. I also want to get started on the two large silk scarves I have planned. One is stretched and I have my reference ready...just have to work up the impetus to mix the gutta and actually start. I'm also waiting to hear about a couple of shows I entered. The Canadian Institute of Portrait Artists contacted me this week and my entry has been accepted but no word on the other shows. Heard about a few more shows to enter by November. Do I even want to? Getting ready for shows is stressful, but the chance for more exposure is important if I want to sell more. Some days I feel too old to be keeping up the pace.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Working from the center out seems to be the way I paint best. I know of artists who paint from one upper corner down to the opposite bottom corner, completing each section before moving on. I was basically taught to work over the entire piece throughout but it reaches a point where I need to concentrate on small areas and let it build from there. This section took almost four hours. I am always astonished when I look up and see how much time has gone by while I concentrate on a small section - sometimes no more than a couple of square inches. In the case of painting fabrics it becomes a lesson in abstraction, although even painting a small section of hair or skin can result in abstracted pattern and colour when seen up close and out of context with the rest of the painting. This is not going to be a "painting in a day." Few of my pieces are. Some of this will need refining and more or less definition. Undoubtedly it will not turn out anything like my original
intention so I wait and wonder as much as anyone about what the finished painting will look like.
I sometimes feel as if there is someone else inside who takes over when I pick up the brush.
Monday, August 16, 2010
I'm going along faster than I expected on this so far but now that the underpainting is done I have a feeling that the universe will slow down for me. The layers of transparent fabric with all of the changes in light, reflected light, shadows, and highlights is going to take concentrated effort to pull off. In some ways this is about the fabrics and not the model. She is a wonderful conduit for exploring those elegant folds. Textiles are one of my favorite things and painting portraits of beautiful fabrics is a way to preserve them beyond the limitations they experience in various environments which can cause them to deteriorate quickly. Since the human face is also one of my favorite things the two subjects are a perfect meld for me. But you should paint more landscapes or florals I have been told - who wants to buy a painting of someone they don't know? Somehow the right buyer often comes along and responds to the painting regardless of the subject. I have to admit, though, to having a growing collection of figurative paintings which so far have not found a home. It is almost like the way old fashioned wire hangers seem to accumulate in the closet - are they mating in there - and do I really want to know?
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Underpainting is usually the part of painting that is most invigorating and makes me the most nervous. Everything follows what is done from this step, builds from it, and is influenced for good or ill by it. Above I blocked in warm and cool colours and established position of features. The second image has had all the colours blended with a very small fan brush and some corrections in the drawing of the features. This needs to dry now before I can start the next layer. I will block in the rest of the figure and background probably tomorrow. This session took a couple of hours which doesn't sound like much but the concentration required is very tiring.
Meanwhile, we are having a bit of a heat wave out here - kind of unusual, although it does happen about this time in the summer for a few days each year. My studio is staying amazingly cool though, set back near a lot of trees and facing northwest. When its too hot I am useless so I am very grateful for how well designed this little building is.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
It feels really good to be moving on to a new project. I can take advantage of the photographs I took a couple of weeks ago of Samanda and hope to just enjoy painting for its own sake. I have been doing "wrapped" figures off and on for a few years and keep trying to get some sort of cohesive series out of the idea. This is a new start and perhaps will lead to something...what?
If I knew I guess I'd do it!
For now I will just paint and post the progress. I try too hard sometimes and that never really gets me anywhere. I am letting it all go (for now?). As someone once said to me "no one will care how nicely you decorated your bathroom...just paint, woman! Paint!"
For any who are interested, this canvas is 24"x36" so the figure is approximately life size, my preferred size for portraits and figures. I usually start with toning the canvas an umber or sienna or sometimes Venetian Red or even a brighter red. I have also sometimes toned canvases for portraits in Viridian, as 14th and 15th century artists often did. Painting warm skin tones over cool green is surprisingly lifelike. I will stick to this umber for Samanda right now. I also want to play with the tonal and chromatic changes occurring in the fabric and backdrop...there is a nice complement of blue and yellow going on, accented and bridged by the lavendar of the central piece of fabric. Some fun!
Friday, August 13, 2010
Presenting work to the world is always a tremulous experience. Lyndia is here with herself and she was tired from her artist-in-residence work for the Parksville Heritage Museum, doing numerous pieces for a new show there and needing to organize all aspects of the presentation.
I normally have one new thing at a time to show but she is prolific and goes through series of paintings or drawings on a little sleep, occasional eating, and hectic pace. It flows in and must come out almost all at once. I never work this way. Is one better than the other? I think not.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
There has been a lot of questioning about this painting. I suppose most paintings go through
that. There are infrequent times when the brush and paint do the work almost all by themselves but that so seldom happens that I don't particularly look for it or feel disappointment when it doesn't happen. Nothing about this painting seemed simple or easy until I decided to take a leap and put in those background mountains. They fell into place. Touching up the front mini-waves also went smoothly. I spent thursday afternoon carefully observing small waves and photographing them. Then I rode back the 5km to my home dinging my bicycle bell the whole way hoping to scare off the black bear that had crossed my path on the way down to the bay:-)
Lyndia gets her painting this week and now I am free to think about the next one - Samanda I think!
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
While I'm trying to finish up the painting of Lyndia and since I have nothing else new to post yet, I was looking at some past work and found this stuck behind a stack of old stuff. I painted this when I was about 22 years old, back in the 60's. It is acrylic. I gave it to my parents and they dutifully hung it on their living room wall for many years. I look at that face and the face I have since earned and can hardly believe I was that young woman. My painting style has improved but I was more willing back then to experiment. I had no idea what my "style" was and I tried to emulate everyone from Manet to WayneTheibaud, and everything from Impressionism to Hard Edge Photo Realism. I went through a Beardsley period and a Holbein period, Botticelli, and Klimpt. I did my own version of the Yellow Submarine style marker illustrations and precision, highly detailed and stippled pen & ink works. It took years for my personal presence behind the brush or pencil or pen to become fairly obvious, to have a look that was my own. I was not interested in developing anything radical or edgy. I wanted a strong, straight forward painting style that reflected who I felt I was and who I was becoming. It has begun to work out for me...I am only now beginning to sense the real me coming out in my current work. It will never set the art world on fire but if I can add some substance that means something to those who choose to own my work I am content. I am, however, never content with the level of what I do...I always see what I might have done better.