Friday, December 08, 2017

Painting Challenges: Faces vs. Bodies, Warm Colors vs. Cool

In my weekly oil painting class, we're encouraged to paint the head. But today, I decided to paint the full pose.

Instructor Ismael Checo warned me that 2 hours wasn't enough time ... but artists like Terry Miura (figurative work here ) paint the figure alla prima, so I went for it. Turns out, that takes much more experience!

Here's what else I learned:
  • Clothing vs. skin tones: Once you get the proportions right, you can fudge clothing colors much easier than skin tones. Blue pants read as blue jeans. A blue shadow on a nose, not so much! 
  • Color temperature: I painted the shirt pale blue, until Ismael pointed out that it's really a warmer color. Ditto the sweatshirt highlights. My instinct was blue, until he suggested something warmer.
  • Hands and feet take practice! Note to self: Do your homework (draw 100 hands and 100 feet). My sketchbook friends already know this.  
  • The head matters.  I was so focused on details below the neck, his head became an egg on his shoulders, and his facial features came out totally scrunched:(
So ... back to painting the head next week (hopefully, no blue noses) . Practice sketching more hands and feet! And notice if colors are warm or cool, compared to adjacent colors.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Free Wifi (9" x 12" Pastel)

In order to get better, it's essential to paint more frequently. These smaller studies can be done in 2-3 hours, so there's really no excuse!

This guy was waiting for a train the Graham Avenue subway station (the L subway line), in Brooklyn, NY.  Or, maybe he worked there ...

Not so fond of the color palette here -- maybe it's all too cool -- and clearly the hands and feet need work. (According to artist and drawing instructor Melanie Reim, a good goal is to draw 100 hands and feet, just to get the anatomy down).

Even though I'm less happy with this one, it's all in the name of practice:)

Monday Morning Hustle (Pastel, 9" x 12")

This one was lots of fun to paint.  

First of all, I'm reading Carol Marine's book, which has great advice about composition, values and more. 

And a recent life drawing workshop* with illustrator and teacher Melanie Reim helped me to notice proportion and movement.  

*Over two weekends, we drew over 100 figures -- with poses varying in length from 1 - 10 minutes. 

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Learning How to Paint in Oils: Week 3

I'm in the third week of a new portrait painting class, to learn oil painting. This has long been a goal of mine.  See progress above.

In weeks 1-2, instructor Ismael Checo had me use only 2 colors (burnt siena and ultramarine), plus white. Today, I got the OK to put out every color on the palette. I used trial and error to mix skin tones -- yikes! The model ended up looking like he has a bad sunburn:)

We work on a canvas that's been toned a neutral gray. Initially, we work to get the proportions down quickly, massing the big light and shadow areas without thinking about detail. Then, we refine the values within the big shapes -- defining the warm and cool areas as you go. If you do it right, you get a pretty good likeness.

Figuring out proportions, mixing colors and using the brush is a huge challenge. Mega respect for artists who can paint a model in one sitting. Anyway, now I have a much better idea of what colors to use. We'll see how it goes next time!

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Storm Coming (Pastel, 12" x 16" )

This dramatic sky was a challenge. I actually painted it twice.

The first attempt was just too gray ... so I scraped it down and tried again. The second attempt was more successful.

Teacher Rae Smith's advice throughout: "make the clouds lighter".  I hesitated using pure white, but in the end that's exactly what it took. I also added a brighter blue in between the clouds, which gave the sky some life.

Rae's other suggestions: to lighten the water (I did) and keep the light on the horizon more focused (originally, it went all the way to the edge of the paper).  Both suggestions helped.

Finally, I added a few values to the sand. That wasn't in the photo, but it gave the foreground more interest.

I may not frame it or hang this painting, but at least it didn't land in the trash!

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Into the Woods (Pastel, 18" x 24")

After painting a few figures, I decided to work on a simple landscape.

I chose a reference photo from a few summers back, taken during a hike in the Colorado woods. In the actual photo, the path directed your eye out of the scene, so I changed the direction of it.

It was fun to paint bigger and looser, but I don't love the finished painting -- not sure why.  Maybe it's the palette ... spring colors aren't really my thing. Or maybe it's the way it was painted. There are sections I like, but the overall painting seems too "fussy".

Next, I played with cropping it digitally, to see what that would do. I think the cropped versions are more interesting, perhaps due to a simpler composition. Compare the original painting to a few cropped versions below, and see what you think.

My takeaways: pay more attention to composition, define the big shapes, try not to go overboard with detail, and (horrors!) perhaps work with a more limited palette.

We'll see how that works:)

Monday, September 25, 2017

Hold On Tight! 12" x 12"

Working on this beach painting reminded me how much I love painting figures in the landscape.

After I finished it, I started to think about how photo references can be misleading. For instance, usually there's an atmospheric effect, and things appear paler in the distance. In my photo reference, not so much ...

I guess that's why some artists paint en plein air, do thumbnails and make notes. In real life, there's much more nuance.

About the scene: my friend Jill and grandson Max were playing at the water's edge, on the beach in Westhampton, NY, in the aftermath of a big storm. The waves were a little rough that July day -- hold on tight, Max!

PS - My friend loves her new painting, which is the best feeling of all:)

Monday, July 03, 2017

Drawing from Live Models

An unexpected opportunity to draw from life came my way recently.  

A wonderful artist -- Melanie Reim -- invited a group to draw from live models in her studio. Check out Melanie's work at  Her work is beautiful ... so full of life and energy. 

Time flew as we worked to capture the fleeting poses and record the most important visual information. Some drawings were more successful than others. Hope to try this again soon!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

"Walking the Dogs" - Brooklyn, NY (9" x 12")

A quick sketch of a Brooklyn street. If you know the area, downtown Williamsburg has certainly changed in 60 years, when my father-in-law had his store there. Brooklyn hipsters weren't a thing back then:)   

About the painting: I worked quickly, got the mood down, and Rae stopped me from overworking things. That's the value of a great teacher. My instructor (and master pastelist) Rae Smith makes a few precise suggestions, and stops me from going to far.  I'm so lucky to be in her class.

Happy with the looseness of it! Done:)

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The "L Train" (15" x 18")

Recently, I've been traveling by subway to BOND Studios every week, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. That's the home of my daughter's accessory business, BOND Hardware.

Traveling by train, you can't beat the people-watching! Some days it's hot, some day's it's rainy ... but no matter what the weather, you always see some interesting folks.

In my class, we talked about whether it's kosher to take pictures of people without their permission, to use as a subject.  I do that all the time ... thoughts?

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

"Sam", the Rescue Dog (Cocker Spaniel x Golden Retriever Mix)

Samantha is a 6 year old cocker spaniel/golden retriever mix. We have no idea what she was doing in a South Carolina shelter, but she became a part of our family a year ago this month, and we got very lucky. She's incredibly sweet.

Anyway, Sam's portrait was today's project -- and since I go to Rae's class each week with a very limited set, it results in some odd color choices. Of necessity, I shoot for value over color.  And while she isn't this purple(!), I captured her essence and I'm happy with the result.

PS - If you know someone who'd love a pet portrait, I love doing them. Feel free to get in touch!

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Tempus Fugit. (Scott) - 18" x 24"

The last time I painted my son Scott, he was a lot younger. No mustache, with a dimpled smile that lit up a room.  Happily, he let me take his picture yesterday, and it became today's painting in Rae's class.

She's back (Plant with orange flower)

After 8 years, 1 month and 5 days (and over 200 B2B blog posts, but that's another story), I returned to the easel.  

Rusty, yes. 

But to my great good fortune, master pastellist Rae Smith is still teaching at the Katonah Art Center.

And to my surprise, it's a bit like riding a bike.  You feel a bit wobbly, but the pleasure is just the same.