Face Painting

September 29, 2011

It's been over a month since I last worked on Wedding Preparations, but today I got enough courage to tackle the issue of the face of the young woman looking out the window. It's still not perfect, but at least she doesn't look like a doll now. I found some other reference sources and have changed the angle of her head slightly. Before starting to paint, I spent a good deal of time looking at the work of several art masters of skin tones--- John Singer Sargent, John William Waterhouse, Jan Vermeer, Norman Rockwell, and contemporary portrait artists Nelson Shanks and Everett Raymond Kinstler. There's so much blue in the cool light coming through the window that it really throws me off when I try to mix the color, but I think what I did today will be an improvement.

Have been going through the material from the road trip and there sure is a lot to work with. Seascapes...architecture...landscapes. Looking forward to starting a couple of new things, though it's imperative at this point to get back to the paintings that'll be in the upcoming show.

I am beginning to think that panels are the way to go for anything under 18" x 24".


Back from the Road

September 26, 2011

Am back from an insanely great road trip, up the east coast to New England, all across Cape Cod, and back again through western Mass and Downstate New York. I took about 850 photos.There was something new and wonderful to see every mile, and a lot of the photos are going to translate into paintings.

I got back Friday night, and went into the new painting studio first thing Saturday. It is a little weird being down there, but I'm getting used to it, and everything I need is in the same room...no having to scrounge around in the upstairs hall when I need a tube of Cadmium Vermillion, for example. Did some more painting Sunday, and again today. Eventually I'll get caught up in transforming the basement and cleaning out closets again, but for now, all I can think about is painting. And all I want to paint is landscapes, and organic stuff.



September 13, 2011

Another painting has sold, so that's nine this year; pretty good, considering the economy. It averages out to one per month. It's not enough to live on by any means, but maybe once things improve...

Heard from a gallery on the West Coast a couple of days ago, and they're interested in showing my work. Also heard from the Ratner Museum today; time to start planning for that exhibition in March! I'm hoping to interest a D.C. gallery in the new impressionist views from across the Potomac. And five of my paintings are going to be published sometime next year. So things are looking up.


River Views

September 9, 2011

Saw P.T. at her reception Saturday night, and she advised me to try some quick, impressionist-style paintings. I took photos of D.C. from across the Potomac on the way home, and pulled out three 12" x 18" panels today. It was certainly different, and kinda refreshing to work in a looser style.



September 6, 2011

Hurricane Irene came and went, and though there was a lot of lingering rain and some tree branches down, we never lost power. It seems like the folks up north caught the worst of it, with flooding and a lot of damage.

I got hooked on an ebook about the life and times of Lorenzo de Medici, and finished it this morning. I miss reading it.

Getting back into a painting routine has been slow going--- I really wanted to finish up some yard and domestic work after the storm, and am glad I did. Today has been cool and we've had nothing but rain; apparently it's going to continue for the next three weeks. After some scrubbing and cleaning inside, I did work on three paintings into the early evening. The studio is very accommodating even after the sun goes down.


Painting Through Hurricane Irene

August 27, 2011

The basement studio actually is working out. We woke up to cloudy skies associated with the hurricane, and it's been pretty dark for the latter half of the afternoon, but I've been able to work uninterrupted in the studio. The light--- a combination of different types of bulbs---has been absolutely consistent, and bright enough--- I'll bet I could even start to think about painting at night, now!

Spent all day yesterday preparing for the storm, but there's been very little drama all day. The really bad wind is supposed to hit us late tonight, so we'll see.


Perspective Woes

August 25, 2011

I've been having a tough time all along with the perspective lines on Inside/Out, but decided today was the day to deal with it. I went hunting for a ruler that would align all the way across the painting so I could, once and for all, establish the vanishing point for the buildings and street outside the coffee shop. (My yardsticks just haven't been long enough, so the lines get thrown off in the process of drawing.)

I ended up using one of those old folding rulers, but it did the trick. I knew those lines were nasty! At right, just look at how whacked off they really were--- I've drawn the true perspective in charcoal. Anyway, I'll get it all painted correctly now.

Working in the dungeon studio today was interesting. The light was consistent, even though we had both sun and rain all day. The room feels good. It's not exactly cozy, but it does feel self-contained, and there are no distractions. It feels like a serious place to do serious work.


Recent Earthquake and Approaching Storm

August 25, 2011

So a couple of days ago, the house started to shake violently. I thought that the tree guys had shown up, and were up on the roof with chain saws, but as the rattling got worse (much worse), it sounded more like a jack hammer, and I decided to just get the hell out of the house as things fell off the walls around me.

Out in the back yard, shoeless, I realized no one was working on the tree limb that overhangs the roof. I considered the idea of an earthquake, but everybody knows we don't have earthquakes on the East Coast! Went back in to get my shoes, as I heard the voices of my neighbors out in the street, so went to check with them. The consensus was that it was an earthquake, since it wasn't only my house that had shaken. I wondered how localized it was, and went back home to try to calm down.

After the excitement was over, it was kinda fun to watch the news reports. I know they mock us on the West Coast, but we just don't get temblors like that here, so the first time you feel one, it's very surreal.

Now, of course, the news is agog with the current hurricane (Irene) heading towards the Eastern Seaboard. It'll impact us over the weekend, so we'll see how the place holds up.


Getting Back to Work

August 24, 2011

It's been two weeks since I actually worked on a painting. The only brush I've held has been a one-and-a-half inch angle brush, which I've been using on walls and woodwork here in the house. I got completely wrapped up in finishing the weeding and mulching in the perennial garden, sorting through old boxes of papers, getting rid of outdated graphic design books, scrubbing, dusting, watering plants on hot days, and just in general doing household tasks I haven't done in years. I'm very much aware of how quickly Fall is approaching, and once the cold weather returns, all of the activity outside the house will have to cease. I still want to get to the garage, which still has one more wall that needs to be painted, and a messy area that has to be cleaned out.

Inside, there'll still be plenty to do over the winter, but I can take my time with all of that.

So, anyway, today marked the return to fine art painting in the new studio. I'm still working out some of the bugs as far as efficient placement of things goes; like, the new trash container, the brush holder, the palette and paints...that sort of thing. But I did get back to painting, and the new surroundings feel comfortable.


Moving to the Dungeon, Part 2

August 16, 2011

There really has been a lot of stuff to move downstairs, and that's what I've been doing for the past several days: gathering up armloads of sample picture frames, gessoed panels and canvases, oil and acrylic paints, palettes, cans of brushes, and many, many books--- and then running them down two flights of stairs to the newly cleaned-and-painted room. At least it's good exercise. Still have some more stuff to transfer today, but hopefully I'll get some time in at the easel this afternoon.

The upstairs studio looks empty and lonely now.


Moving to the Dungeon

August 12, 2011

I'm moving all of my art stuff down to the newly-painted room in the basement this weekend. The space is very white, courtesy of Benjamin Moore, and I'm excited. Have to pick out a new lighting system--- it turns out the one I had used at Artomatic isn't going to work--- but I can't wait for the chance to get it all together down there and have a constant, reliable source of lighting.

Have been painting like mad lately, though it hasn't all gone as well as I'd have liked. Will update soon.


A Week of Work

July 21, 2011

I really did get a lot done this week. I'm attacking Inside/Out; it's about time I got the darn thing finished. There's plenty more to do, but at least it's not sitting idle on the wall anymore, begging me to get back to it.

On the business side of things, I got in touch with someone at a national art magazine to find out about pricing, with the December solo show in mind. It's pretty costly for even a quarter page ad, but I just have to bite the bullet and do it. Also talked with Robert A. about the show; apparently, large pieces are not out as a possibility. I'm beginning to get excited.

One other thing I've been doing lately is cruising the websites of galleries in Chelsea and SoHo. The range of work is mind boggling! I need to connect with a gallery that appreciates the kind of thing I do... but where is it?


Summer Heat

July 19, 2011

We're looking at a heat wave here, with temperatures expected to be around 100 degrees in the next few days. That will limit the amount of yard work I can do, so hopefully, I'll be able to spend all of my time painting.

Have been reading up on Maxfield Parrish's technique, and find it interesting. We worked on glazes in school, and as I've mentioned in earlier posts, I'm trying to incorporate them as much as possible into my paintings lately. But I find his use of blue, "straight out of the tube," in place of black in an underpainting, very intriguing.


One Stalemate Ends

July 15, 2011

Finally, I was able to get back into working on Wedding Preparations. I knew it needed some changes, and have had it sitting on the floor in the upstairs hall for a week so that every time I passed by, I could get a glimpse of it and evaluate the problems... The model's head has been bothering me for a long time, both in the profile view and in the mirror. The mirror view has an unreal stare that makes her look weird, and that'll be the next thing I try to fix. Having a reliable brush helps (in this case, a Winsor-Newton Cotman, size 1) but I've been reading up on skin tones (as mentioned below) like mad lately, and some of it is beginning to sink in. Also, finding a better image of the model's profile helped me to see where the mistakes were regarding her nose and chin.

Now, on to the weekend!


Still Learning

July 13, 2011

I finished Robert Henri's The Art Spirit, finally. Though the advice is good, I found it to be overwhelming. It's hard to keep any one of those nuggets in my head for very long. I think the only way to approach being an artist is to get in there and find your own path. Also, Henri's philosophy of painting is a lot looser than mine, and his absolute certainty about the rightness of his belief system makes me feel like I'm deficient in some way. But it was definitely worth reading.

Meanwhile, I'm finding that the Internet is a rich source of information about painting: there's advice on color, composition, techniques and materials, etc.There's a particularly good article on the net about skin color. Adding to this is my bookshelf store of books about painting, plus the literature that came with the Gamblin paints. All of it is giving me new perspectives on how to make my work better.

Frames from Dick Blick arrived today, and I'm really pleased with them. They're half the price of similar ones I'm used to buying from another source, and there's no loss of quality. Buying frames from Blick was a tip from P.T., and I have to thank her the next time I see her. Anyway, the frames look like they'll work well for the December show.


Drama and Tiny Faces

July 6, 2011

When I got up this morning, the sky was overcast and there was a very light rain falling, so I abandoned all thoughts of working in the yard. I ended up getting a lot of work done on the art.

Two of the current paintings have black, billowing clouds in them. It Was Just a Bad Idea needed some more definition in the clouds of smoke coming from the car, so I put in some time on that and then went over to Power Play, which uses a similar palette.

The faces on the people in the background of A Long Way To Go are SO small---in some cases, only three-eighths-to half-an-inch wide. I remember S.M. once describing the particular torture of being a contemporary realist painter working in a small format, and she was specifically referring to faces. Yup. Sure is no picnic. A slip of the brush and you've wiped out that feature or expression you were trying so hard to capture. I find it's so tedious I need a break every fifteen minutes or so, and I'm sure the work doesn't show up as anything much in the Works in Progress updates. Am placing a close-up at right.


Biting the Bullet

July 5, 2011

Every day I wander into the studio and look at the paintings, then decide which ones to work on. I've been avoiding Angelo's for almost a month, because I knew I had to deal with the subtle changes in the light on the walls and ceiling before moving on to other areas of the painting. Today seemed like the day to face up to the challenge.

It did turn out to be painstaking stuff, and it took me a couple of hours and 14 brushes to do it, but I think it's okay. Why 14 brushes? All of the blending required clean, soft, dry brushwork... Once you dip your brush into mineral spirits to clean it, it ends up thinning out the paint and smooshing it around wherever you use it next, no matter how well you think you've wiped it dry. In order to achieve the illusion of tungsten lighting graduating against the drywall, I had to use three different yellows, orange, black, white and Manganese Blue, and it was important to have a clean brush ready to do the blending whenever I added a new color mixture.

What ticks me off is, I got the whole thing just right. The blending was perfect. Then I realized the wall surface was one of those old plastered jobs that has taken a beating over the years and probably been repainted dozens of times. So I had to rough up my careful work and add a few inconsistencies. Now it looks like I was just sloppy, but it's more accurate to the actual setting.


On the 4th

July 4, 2011

Have managed to work on a couple of paintings over the holiday weekend. The one of the hayrolls looks very dark right now, but that's just the underpainting for the deep shadowy areas in the foreground. I feel lured by landscape painting this time of year...landscapes and seascapes. The window boxes on the balconies are brimming-to-overflowing with plants right now, and everything in the yard looks lush. The back yard is full of birds and wildlife. It's easy to get lost in the beauty of the natural world and put the city paintings I'm planning to do on hold for a little while.


The Second Half of the Year

July 1, 2011

So, yesterday I did get back to working on A Long Way To Go. I decided to concentrate on small areas on the right side: the pillar and the shadow of the guy leaning against it; the woman with crossed arms; the machine next to the iron grate, and the subtly graduated poster wall. If I can just continue to select manageable parts of the painting and do my best on them, I'll eventually get the thing finished.

The Fourth of July weekend is coming up. I hope there won't be many interruptions to painting.

Finished the ceiling in the new studio.



June 30, 2011

There are several paintings that I just can't seem to force myself to work on lately: Inside/Out, A Long Way To Go, and Wedding Preparations. Sometimes the problem is easy to pinpoint: in the case of Inside/Out, I'm having trouble relating to a scene that took place on a freezing cold winter morning. ALWTG; because working on it is so sporadic, I can never remember what colors I used anywhere, and even when I've taken notes, I can't find them. As far as Wedding Preps goes, it's the same old problem with skin tones. Should the focal character have more pink in her skin? Should the shadow areas have more blue or grey in them? Should the shadowy skin areas be darker or lighter? I'm hoping I can do some meaningful work on at least one of them today.

I started something new yesterday, in a kind of spontaneous mood... It's a small landscape with power lines running through the countryside, and an ominous sky above. The weather this spring took some nasty turns, and it looks like there will be a lot more of them in the future.

The new studio space in the basement is getting closer to being ready for the move from upstairs to down. Working on big paintings will be better as the light source will be more constant. One of the other problems with working on Inside/Out in the upstairs hall is that this time of year the trees in the back yard cast shade over the house, and it's much darker in the afternoons than it is in the winter, when the sun's low in the sky. So determining changes in color and value is much harder. Today I plan to finish painting the ceiling. This weekend, with a little help, I'll move the rest of the furniture that's blocking the back wall and get that done.


Visitors; Now, Back to Work

June 28, 2011

Can't believe how long it's been since I updated this blog. The last few weeks have mostly been spent on domestic chores. There's been a little paint dabbling here and there but mostly I lost my groove and just couldn't focus, then we had family here for about a week. The visit was entirely enjoyable, but now I need to settle down and get into some serious painting.


Eye Candy

May 27, 2011

Sometimes I feel like breaking out of the mold; that is, trying something loose, brushy, and impressionistic. I had hoped to make Grand Central a festival of visible brush marks, but soon lapsed back into my old ways. But the tedium of being careful in all of the current paintings makes me want to try again, so I'm attempting a beach scene in gorgeous sunset colors. The format is square, and I'm thinking about using a palette knife instead of a brush to force myself to stay loose.


Off to a Good Start

May 17, 2011

Started two new paintings today. One of them is the oil version of the graphite drawing of the young woman on the ferris wheel; the other is based on a photo image made by a family member. I've admired it for a couple of years now, and got permission to use it as a painting. All in all, I'm getting pretty excited about the potential for the December show.

Also worked on the museum painting. I think the use of glazing will really bring out the atmosphere, especially on the back wall.


Weirdness, Glazes, and New Work

May 14, 2011

The last few weeks have been a combination of events and inaction. I had minor surgery last Thursday, and though it was non-life-threatening outpatient stuff, I wasn't prepared for the muddle-headed feeling that comes from general anesthesia... and seems to last for days and days. I managed a little painting here and there but mostly had to be content with mining the photo database for new ideas, which actually turned out well.

Then one of my old friends died; someone I met in 1981, when we were both Yankees fans living in a hostile environment.We had many good times together, a lot in common, and I am so sad that I won't see her anymore. So the last few days have been sad and dreary... and the weather isn't helping, either.

In the midst of having to sit around and rest, I found the bag of Gamblin paints and mediums that I'd won last fall in the Vienna Arts Society's Treasury of Art Show. That was also a time of mourning, so I had put the bag away and forgotten about it. But what a great prize it turned out to be! The accompanying literature about the paints and the philosophy of Robert Gamblin was fascinating, and made me realize how little use I've been making of the glazing technique to bring more depth to my work. Now, today (despite the cool overcast weather) I am excited about moving forward, and seeing what'll happen using some of these new colors and mediums.

I've got four or five new ideas that make me even more excited. They'll start to show up on the Works in Progress page very soon. Oh, and one other note; since the first of the year, somewhere between 7-9 of my works have sold! I'm trying to get an accurate count now.

At right: if at first you don't succeed... eventually, I will get the face right on Inside/Out. It's really critical that it be right.



April 28, 2011

The flower painting is FINISHED.


Painting from Guilt

April 26, 2011, 5:20 p.m.

I felt guilty enough to abandon my plans to tear up the yard and get back to the easel. Or, in the case of Country Bouquet, the wall. I think one more session on that painting and it'll be done. There's a stem that's too thick, I don't like the way the pods look (too regular and maybe stylized) and a couple of touches are needed here and there; but that ought to do it.

My S.O. doesn't seem to feel the charm of It Was Just a Bad Idea From the Start, but I don't care. I love the goofy humor of it. Plus, it's easier to paint than most of my other stuff. And I love working on the smoke and the flames. Worked on it and the bartender today. Maybe tonight I'll start another silverpoint.

Now, to the transplants.


The Lure of the Garden

April 26, 2011, 9:00 a.m.

I know I'm supposed to be painting. And I know that despite weather reports to the contrary, and threatening dire things, the last two mornings have been both gorgeous and temperate. I need to transplant some stuff before it gets too large to move, but hopefully will get back to Country Bouquet and a couple of other paintings today.



April 22, 2011

So, I went to a wedding in Fayetteville, NC last weekend, and the ceremony took place as tornadoes raged all around. Driving home on Sunday there was debris strewn all over I-95. The wedding itself was wonderful, but the drama surrounding it was kinda scary.

Monday I had to get back into work mode and hit the ground running, as I planned to deliver 18 paintings on Wednesday morning to a home show that takes place next weekend. The paintings all had to be prepped, cleaned, and labeled. Also needed to print out a receipt with images for all of the work.Then Tuesday night my external hard drive bit the dust (heavy sigh). There were also numerous tasks to take care of around the house and in town, but I managed to eke out a little painting time in between more doctor stuff and running errands.

Started a new painting based on a scene I saw on the New Jersey Turnpike a few weeks ago (on the way home from the last wedding). I love paintings with a quirky sense of humor, and this one fits the bill. Meanwhile, am making progress on the one of the bartender (it needs a better title), Country Bouquet (almost done!) and Angelo's. Rain today and all this weekend will hamper painting and yard work.


Floor Work

April 12, 2011

Today was the day to get back to the floor in the museum painting, taking out some of the guidelines and softening the entire look. It's a definite improvement, but still a long way from being done. The middle area looks a little muddled and gray, though it should be lighter, more gleaming. I'll get to it next time around.

Meanwhile, Spring has done its thing. Overnight (it seems) the lawn turned bright green. The blue jay has been feeding his mate. The apple trees have just started to blossom, and the Northern Magnolia is spectacular. The day itself is about as dismal and damp as they come, but there's the promise of finer weather in a few days.


Little Painting Done

April 7, 2011

Have been trying to catch up on all of my overdue doctors' appointments, so painting time has been fractured into small segments here and there. I've mostly been working on Country Bouquet, as it has several different areas that need an hour or two and then can be left to dry until the next session.

Had the reception Tuesday night in Gaithersburg. Turnout was pretty good for a Tuesday evening, and the show looks marvelous. Met some interesting folks and had an easy drive home.