Friday, November 29, 2013

Historical Portraiture

I have a lot of fun when I do one of these projects. The challenge of trying to imagine what a person really looked like from such a poor reference requires thought and creativity. I was given two references and asked to create a painting of the client's great-great grandfather, who was a member of the 69th Regiment of the Ohio Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War. There was a family situation and all the old pictures of this man were thrown away except for two. One image shows Private Borton in military uniform but is badly stained and discolored. The other photo is a black and white image taken with his son and grandson later in life, after he suffered a stroke.

Surprisingly, the image of the grandson seemed to help me with this task more than the other references. The client shared that he was of Irish descent and the hair color tends to be brown and eye color hazel in the family. In the end, I think it's more about getting the attitude and the demeanor correct than worrying about details you will never know. He was a very good looking guy with a wide face and a nice square jaw.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Another Christmas Quickie!

Sometimes you get a picture of a house that is perfect in every way except the angle. I used tow different picture to completes this painting for Kaitlin, who will gift it to her parents for Christmas. The straightforward angle of the first picture showed the bushes in bloom and was lovely. In order to get a little more dimension to the painting she went to Google Maps and grabbed a pretty good picture of what the house looked like from an angle. The resolution of those photos has really improved over the years.

What I really like about doing these house paintings is that I am learning how to advance the important stuff and delete the extraneous data. There was a time when I would have painted in the background houses- now I know it's better just to suggest them and keep the focus on the house.

Kaitlin's House
11" x 14"
oil on canvas

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Shall We Have Tea?

You might think I haven't been painting, as I haven't posted much lately. You would be wrong. This is my busy time of year, and I am up to my ears in commissioned pieces for Christmas. I have stopped accepting them as of now. I want to enjoy my Christmas too so I plan to have the last one of the seven I still need to paint in the mail by December 15. There- I have said it and posted it publicly so it WILL happen.

Still, I could not miss the opportunity to paint Jessica form life again. She is such a great model and I loved her outfit. I had the distinct advantage of arriving with an underpainting done form a photo my friend Jim emailed me. so it was just a matter of making some adjustments and coloring it when I arrived last Saturday.

I wish I had used oil primed linen. The canvas I used has a glossy look that is hard to photograph. It looks fine in person but I'll have to take it outside to photograph it without glare sometime soon.

Time for Tea?
11" x 14" oil on canvas

Friday, November 22, 2013

Drama with Still Life

I love this painting. In it I have finally achieved a level of expertise that allows me to think I might be on the right track. What did I do differently than normal? Not a lot. Perhaps it is just my love for the curvy objects and the way they are arranged that somehow transmits itself into the piece. It is definitely a keeper and I will need to figure out what makes it so interesting. Is it the push/pull between warm and cool? The composition or the background. or maybe a combination of all three.

Shades of Green
11" x 14"
Oil on canvas

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Taffy, a Cockapoo and a Christmas Miracle?

This adorable little dog has passed on and her owner misses her greatly. His son commissioned a painting but unfortunately he didn't have any good pictures. I am going to share the reference photo I used because I have never had one this bad and been able to make it work.

Now we will rename my studio the Miraculous Pet Portrait Emporium... for coming up with a likeness based on this photo and numerous googled reference images of 'white cockapoos'.

The client liked the result so I hope the bereaved owner recognizes his little friend in this portrait too.

I have to emphasize that this is a miracle that even the most skilled photographer probably could not replicate, so we oil painters do perform useful services!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Archie-- an Older Lab

This is a portrait of Archie that I did over the weekend. The portrait will be a Christmas gift. This dog really has personality plus. Every photo I was given had the dog smiling with his tongue hanging open. So, I guess that's his typical look. We strive to be authentic here at the Magical Instamatic Pet Portrait here it is:

9" x 12"
oil on canvas

Monday, November 18, 2013

Tea Time

I pulled out my pastels on Saturday and went to the Hyter Group, a weekly portrait open studio that I try to attend whenever possible. Jessica has posed for us before and she always comes up with something 'different'. This time she seemed to be dressed as a rich lady having some tea. Whatever, it was certainly interesting!

I finished this at home and I still may do some more to it but this is where she stands now. I think the tipsy teacup is pretty funny.

18" x 21" pastel on Canson paper

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Jezabelle, a Lab Mix

You never know what kind of pictures you're going to get when someone asks you to paint their dog. You can ask them to take the dog outside and put her in the shade and take a few close ups and some from far away. And you will still have people who take out their cell phone and shoot a couple photos indoors with bad lighting, email them to you and ask, "Are any of these good?"

Sometimes it works Ok, though, even if the photos were taken inside. This dog has an obviously needy look to her and she is quite adorable. Yes, her nose was too large thanks to the odd perspective in the photo, but I made it a bit smaller and her pretty eyes are just begging us to love her.

9" x 12"

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Winnie, a Goldendoodle

Winnie is a surprise for the client's niece for Christmas. She is a very sweet looking dog and as soon as I saw her picture I thought to myself-- I want one of these! Then I thought- No, I can't have another dog. Then the voice in my mind said, "Sure you can. What's one more?" I have a Golden mix and she is a joy. I can see why these Goldendoodles have become so popular. They look like stuffed animals and they reportedly have the even temper and loving personality of the Golden Retriever. Plus they don't shed.

I am seriously considering it. No, I'm not. Yes, I am. Feeling. Ambivalent.

8" x 10" oil on canvas

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Northwest Ohio, Farms and Photography

I drive past this barn every time a train interrupts my regular route. I had my camera with me a few weeks ago and I stopped and took a few pictures. I have always liked this barn for it's sheer size, its wonderful 'cool' red color and the way it contrasts against the surrounding countryside. When I approach from the west the sun is rising in the east and the contrast between light and shadow is gorgeous. I hadn't noticed the smaller buildings before; that barn is so massive it screams. "Look at me!"

This is where a photograph really helps to build a better composition. No matter how much I love the big red barn, it would easily take over my whole painting if I let it. I had to think about the painting as a whole so I moved the path a bit, making it more serpentine. When I was finished I thought it needed something else, so I added a dog. The dog appeared lonely so I gave him a friend and a master.

Now I scrutinize the painting and decide I like it even better. It has progressed from a painting about a red barn in the fall to a story about two dogs and an old woman raking her yard. Does it need a truck parked in front of the barn door as one person suggested to me? I;m not sure. What would the truck be? A way for the woman to escape her labor? I think she's pretty happy just being outside on the last days of autumn enjoying the exercise and the company of her furry friends.

This is the kind of painting I am more interested in doing lately. One that tells a story without falling into too much sentimentality. I have painted many plein air pieces over the past three or four years and while I enjoy doing them I need to keep in mind the main reason I began painting them was to learn how to paint a believable background for my 'people paintings'. Landscape painting has never been my main interest. People and the realities they live in have always been that.

Farm on County Road F

Friday, November 08, 2013

Another Holiday Portrait Swap at Wet Canvas

Judy Manuche from San Francisco is my partner this year in the 10th Annual Wet Canvas Portrait Swap in the Portraiture Forum. I think this is my tenth year and it will be my final one. I have all the paintings of me that I and my two children will ever need. WHAT will happen to them when I die? I know my kids won't want them so they will be relegated to the burn barrel, and that's a shame. Because many of them are quite wonderful. I think the artists always try to flatter one another a little bit; delete some wrinkles here and there, leave out the zits etc. Why not? We are painters or sketchers...not photographers. Why not do something that is easy with paint but (perhaps) more difficult with a photo.

Judy sent me a great photo with Rembrandt lighting and I have had fun trying to do it justice. The mod asked us to show progress pics if possible so I did take a series of photos when I began. The last two hours I spent on it were not photographed as I tend to get too involved in the process of fixing all my mistakes.

I used the same size I usually do-- 11"' x 14". This kind of thing is never fun unless you turn it into a self-lesson, so I decided to limit my palette to Indian Red, cad yellow light, black, yellow ocher, violet-gray, ivory black, aliz. crimson and pthalo green. The pthalo green and the Indian Red are both REALLY strong and they formed the basis of my color scheme. Judy's photo had a red background and she is wearing a green sweater so it seemed to make sense to me.

I used a failed plein air painting as my base, and it always helps me to have SOMETHING on the canvas before I start. Eliminates all that 'white canvas anxiety'.

11" x 14"

oil on canvas

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Finishing Touches

I had to go back in and "finish" this painting, especially after doing the drawing of her and seeing how much information I missed when I did the initial study. Here is a link to the first two hour painting if you want to see where I started.  I had a picture I took with my phone for detail so that helped. I mostly wanted to correct the values. Doing a two hour drawing emphasized the difference between light and shadow and I think I missed that the first time around. So here is "Amended Ami", with the areas in light just a bit lighter, the darks just a bit darker, some manganese blue added to cool the background and a few edges softened.

9" x 12" oil on linen

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Kiowa Chief- Sitting Bear

Sitting Bear 
11" x 14
Sitting Bear is well documented as the leader of the Kiowa 10 Bravest War Society (called the Ko-eetsenko in the Kiowa Language).  The chief was born in the Black Hills of South Dakota around 1810. He had six wives and several children before his death in 1871. This poainting was done from a photograph taken near the end of his life when he lived on a reservation. There were many photos of Sitting Bear but I found this one the most interesting. Edward Curtis, the photographer, created black and white portraits of thousands of Indians during the late 19th century and early 20th. The Indian's way of life changed drastically during that period and without Curtis' photos  much of their history might have disappeared.

Sitting Bear lived in Oklahoma when it was simply called, "Indian Territory." He was honored for his bravery and leadership. During his lifetime he watched as Indian families were separated and relocated to reservations. He strived to keep his family together.

One story in particular illustrates this well:

"Old Chief Sitting Bear left the Kiowa reservation against the threats of his U.S. Army overseers. His reason was to retrieve the bones of his son in Texas and bring them back home. Following Kiowa beliefs, the family unit was of primary importance throughout ones life.

Upon his return, he was captured, shackled and taken by wagon to Ft. Sill for leaving the reservation. With Ft. Sill in sight, he told the wagon driver and escort, "See that tree up ahead? You will not live to see the other side." He then stood up and began to sing his death song:

 'O sun. You remain forever, but we Ko-eetsenko must die.

 'O earth you remain forever, but we Ko-eetsenko must die."

According to Kiowa oral history, when he ended his song, he pulled a knife that he had been concealing and took the life of the wagon driver. The escort immediately shot Old Chief Sitting Bear to his death. It is said that Sitting Bear would rather give up his life than live without the remains of his cherished son."