Monday, December 29, 2014

Experimenting with the Cadmium Palette

I used to use the warm Cadmium colors all the time and they were always on my palette. As I became more proficient at mixing color I eliminated a few secondary cadmiums. like cadmium orange and cadmium yellow deep. I purchased some tubes of warm cadmiums for the last workshop I took so they are back on my palette. I have, essentially, re-discovered them. I now recall why I had them in the first place. It is impossible to mix the brilliant colors of the cadmiums and they are nicely opaque. Having more choices to choose from when you want to warm a gray also gives your painting more substance. (I like to think so anyway.)

I am not afraid of their toxicity. I don't eat paint and I am not a finger painter. I like to keep my hands clean so I just donĂ½ worry about being poisoned.

I like the glass vase in this painting and the random nature of the grapes. Perhaps there is a bit too much red overall but I did achieve a sense of unity and there is a nice path that takes the eye through the piece.

Apples and Grapes, 9" x 12" oil on canvas

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The terrain where I live in Fulton County is flat. To some artists, and I admit I have fallen into thinking this way occasionally too, that makes it unappealing as the subject for a painting. Because I am so used to viewing the ubiquitous straight horizon I used to look for any and all opportunities to travel to places where I could paint hills and mountains.

There is a lot to be said for the familiar and knowing how a place "feels". I've lived in the black swamp area all my life and there is a certain serenity in that place where sky meets land. The eye moves in a slow, thoughtful manner across the vista. No sudden and jarring growth draw our attention. Instead we are tempted to consider the beauty of subtlety.

I have my camera with me on most days and if I see an interesting arrangement of buildings or a beautiful sky I take a picture.

This farm is very close to where I live and the light was beautiful. What I really like about the scene is how "typical" it is of our little corner of the world. Typical, yet beautiful and mysterious at the same time.

Dusk, Fulton County, December

Friday, December 26, 2014

An Interesting Piece of Work

A woman asked me if I could create a painting of her fiancee wrapped in a Scottish flag, similar to an image she sent me from a movie. She said her boyfriend loves the movie and had always wanted a painting of himself in the same pose. He was being sent to Kenya for a tour of duty by the British Army in a very short time and she wanted to give it to him before he left.

I managed to paint it last Sunday using the reference material below, and I mailed it on Tuesday so it was a pretty quick turnaround.

I call it Flag Guy. 11" x 14" oil on canvas

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Sunset Painting

I have painted a few sunset paintings en plein air. This one was requested by a client who had also commissioned a house painting. Her parents own a cottage in Michigan on a lake and this is the view they enjoy most. A small 8" x 10" oil painting with some fun texture in the sun area.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Still Life with Pears and Oil Can

I took a break from the commissions to paint something for myself. I wanted to jog my memory about the class I took a few weeks ago so I decided to use a complimentary violet and gold color scheme. I paid attention to what I learned and even though  I used two pears I varied their position and their color. I think I was pretty successful in keeping the painting loose and the brushstrokes varied. It was a fun exercise and really reinforced the lessons I learned at Huang's workshop.

Pears with Oil Can
8 x 10 oil on canvas

Monday, December 22, 2014

Murphy, A Rescue Terrier

Unlike Dudley, the Springer Spaniel, Murphy is still alive and her owner took a great photo with her iPhone. This painting was done in in two hours and Murphy's owner approved it instantly with the words, "You have captured her personality!"

Murphy is a rescue dog. I am partial to rescue dogs, as I own two of them. They are, it seems to me, more aware of the uncertainties of living on this planet. Most of them have been in a bad situation and they are eternally grateful to have a stable home with you.

Yes, a good photo is worth taking if you want a decent painting. So if there is ever a possibility that you might want a painting done of your pet after she has passed away, make sure you have some clear photos of her taken in her prime.

Murphy 11 x 14
oil on canvas

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Dudley, an Irish Springer Spaniel

Another Christmas commission, this is Dudley, an Irish Springer Spaniel who passed away quite a few years ago. He is a gift for someone's sister. Unfortunately she did not have any good reference photographs so I had to use some stock photos from the web to paint the dog. It was a long, frustrating process that reminded me why I usually only do commissioned work from clear, well lit photos. This painting required seven revisions, including one request to put it back the way it was before. Oil painting is not Photoshop and you can't simply hit the "undo" button. I regretted the decision to take this on every time I looked into the poor dog's eyes as he stared back at me from my easel. The suspense about whether my next version would be accepted or rejected did not add excitement to my day; it filled me with a mild uneasiness and an uncharacteristic nervousness when I opened my email application.

Dudley was a semi-permanent fixture in my studio for about 2-1/2 weeks. The painting was finally approved and I have no idea if the portrait actually looks like Dudley or is the embodiment of what several people remember him to be. He is living with his new owner and that makes me happy.

11 x 14 oil on canvas

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Philadelphia Brownstone Painting

This painting was a commission and will be given to the woman's sister, who just purchased the brownstone. I had painted the brick building to the left very symmetrically and it did not look good. So I wiped it out and left some of the bricks out.

When you do a painting you can leave out all kinds of wires and poles and even garbage cans. That's a little more difficult when you have a photograph.

11"x 14"

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Is it the Twelve Days of Christmas or the Twelve Paintings of Christmas?

When I returned from the workshop last week I had three house paintings, a lake painting and two dog paintings to finish before Christmas. I knew this would happen and I was prepared for it, but it is still never easy to paint commissioned work fast. You want that luxury of time, but I am the kind of person who likes challenges. Luckily they were all small pieces, 9"x 12"and 11"x 14", or it never would have happened. They are done now, proofs approved and sitting around waiting until they are dry enough to mail. I can breathe a sigh of relief and begin to focus on our family's Christmas plans.

This house is in Buffalo. She wanted the farm behind it to show and requested that I remove the snowblower in front of the driveway. Buffalo had received nine feet of snow when this picture was taken, and the painting I did actually tells a story and is much more interesting than a typical straight on view a home.


After the Blizzard
11"x 14"

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Third Day: Finally Understanding

9 x 12 oil on linen
Blue Pot with Grapes
By the third day of the workshop I was beginning to understand the process. I was happier with this little painting than I was with the previous two and I think it comes down to edges and brushwork. Keep the edges loose where detail is not necessary; allow the eye to fill in what is not there. This is actually harder to do than one might  think. We want to show and tell. We want to complete the line. It makes the entire process of painting still life more interesting and complex than I ever thought possible. I was having fun and enjoying myself with this one.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Here is painting no 2 from the workshop I attended last weekend

I added the bottle behind the copper incense burner when I returned home because the composition seemed a bit off. Composition is something I really need to pay closer attention to. I used to just throw random objects out there and if they looked good I painted them. I looked for a "thematic" connection and ignored the textural and size ranges for the most part. An important lesson I took away from this workshop is to position the objects intentionally, varying the size, colors, texture and materials.

9" x 12" oil on linen
Chinese Vase with Lemons

Friday, December 12, 2014

Qiang Huang Workshop

I attended a painting workshop at The Coppini Academy in San Antonio last weekend. Qiang Huang, an artist whose work I admire greatly, was the instructor. It turns out that Qi was a physicist before changing careers in mid life. So he has analyzed the painting process as a scientist would and narrowed it down to five basic steps: Placement, Value, Color, Modeling and Consolidation.

I learned a lot from him, mostly by watching him handle the paint and from his spot-on critiques of my work. He is a great teacher, which is not always the case with great artists. Just because you can paint, doesn't mean you can talk about it. He did a great job with both and while he was there he met with the owner of the Greenhouse Gallery and was invited to show his work there. I was very happy for this humble and unassuming artist.

This is the painting I did on Day 1 and I will share the others in upcoming blog posts and talk a little bit about the things I learned and why I think they are valuable. Everyone set up their own still life with things they brought from home or objects the school had on hand and it was fun as well as challenging.

I used 9"x 12"Centurion linen panels and a LOT of liquin (a drying medium), hoping my paintings would dry enough not to get smeared when I packed them for the ride home.

Grapes with Clay Pitcher
9"x 12"oil on linen

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Marking the Years

Every year I try to do a self-portrait a la Rembrandt. Rembrandt created a LOT of self-portraits because it turns out you are the model that is always available when you want to practice.

As we age the product is not always what we would want but it's still an exercise in creating a likeness.

This painting is small- 8"x 10". For some unknown reason I thought a brick wall would look nice behind me.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Parker and Penney

Two rescue dogs from the same litter, Parker and Penney are inseparable. I painted this portrait from 5-6 different photo references, the best of which featured the canines cavorting on a pontoon boat! I get the impression they are QUITE spoiled.

11"x 14"oil on canvas