Paint

We talked a lot about the PAINT itself. Nancy was interested in how we ‘laid out our palette, moved the paint around, messed with it and put it on.’ She would say that we have to ‘attack’ the paint, not mix it gingerly, all willy-nilly; after all the goal is to create an original chemical compound from two or more — you have to use strength to recombine the molecules.

This idea of ‘recombination’ had never occurred to me. Now, every time I mix paint, I think of her words and remember how vigorously she mixed the paint and try to do the best I can with my messed up arthritic hands/ wrists/ elbows— it’s not easy. Instead of the effort and force shown, I mix the paint for longer hoping to achieve the same effect. It’ll have to do.

We did class exercises in Fast and Ugly and Pale Tonality using large canvases and brushes in order to get more fearless and “push the paint around more.” One of our home assignments was to make a small copy of a Van Gogh since he was a master ‘paint pusher’. I chose to copy one of his self portraits on a small square canvas. I used quick visible strokes and worked way faster than I usually do. In the end, he looked like a skinny version of himself, but I kind of liked that.

The experience of making the paint becomes part of the subject of the painting…if it is any good at all…

beautiful paint is honest paint…

and the great artists are our teachers…

Whose paint do you love the most?

NMM

6″ x 6″ Oil Painting on Canvas adapted from Van Gogh Self Portrait

Abstract Figures

Last week I took a 3-day workshop on abstracting figures. I’ve been wanting to really loosen up in my work and have this idea of just slapping on paint, stepping back, and voila, I’ve created a masterpiece! While I know that’s a pipedream, I’d like to work towards it anyway. So, this workshop was exactly what I needed to push me in the right direction.

Our instructor, Leslie Masters, is a wonderful older lady whose been around forever and styles herself in the most quirky bright-colored clothing; all shades of pinks and oranges! She tough but sweet at the same time and you can tell she really knows her stuff!

The first day we talked about Picasso and Matisse and started with contoured line drawings of faces from magazines. I chose a beautiful Asian model and copied her face onto tracing paper starting with simple line, more detailed line, straight lines, and curved lines. From there, we chose one to paint, using bold blocky strokes focusing on the value and shapes. Below are my classmates works from the first day:

(Side note: most everyone in my class worked in acrylic or watercolor. Acrylic lends itself to these exercises very well – working in oil was much more difficult.)

The following day we began with looking at Pop Art especially Peter Max. I was not familiar with his work and didn’t really care for his style; flat, colorful with black outlines – very cartoony, 70’s psychedelic; think Beatles Yellow Submarine.

Our task for the morning was to work with a partner and transfer an outline of our profile onto a canvas, then create a bubbly landscape in the background that followed the curvy lines from our portrait. I must have missed the memo, because I used straight lines to create my background. I didn’t get too far with the painting and I’ll probably gesso over this one and use the canvas for something else. However, I loved the way some of my classmates turned out. Here is my partially finished design/painting.

In the afternoon we created figure collages based on images from magazines focusing on the large shapes. Next, we painted the figures in an environment – channeling the abstract artist Richard Diebenkorn.

The third and final day was really fun!! We were channeling de Kooning and our task was to create a large, loose, messy, abstract figure painting using house paints and large brushes. I chose to paint from a favorite picture of my young son when he was about 4 years old. Below is the original picture and my abstract interpretation: my pièce de résistance!

In the afternoon, we each took turns showcasing our works from the three days and gave a brief synopsis of what we learned, what we liked / didn’t. It was a great foray into abstraction; I learned several ways to approach the subject without feeling overwhelmed, great techniques to get started, and about several abstract artists. Now, I can take what I learned and hopefully approach my paintings a bit looser. We’ll see, stay tuned!

Volkswagen Beetle

When I was just a baby, we had a Volkswagen Beetle. It was 1970 and side-burns and “Bugs” were in fashion. Of course I don’t remember the vehicle, other than seeing it in photographs and hearing that my Dad smashed the front-end not too long after he bought it. I have the small original photograph of the two us in the driveway and thought it would make a great Christmas gift for my Dad.

Having just completed the commission piece for my friends, I didn’t have long before Christmas and we were getting together just prior on the 23rd. I had just over a week, so I went pretty small and fast; 12″x 12″ on Ampersand Gessoboard. It was my first time using the board and it was quite different from the usual canvas. The surface is smooth with very little tooth so the paint just glides on which definitely takes getting used to. The paint seems to dry faster which was a bonus given my short time frame. I was a bit rushed at the end, and wanted one more day to smooth things out and add a couple of details, but all-in-all, I was very pleased with it. And best of all, he loved it!

Baby Jenna and Bug
Baby Jenna and Bug

True Love

The finishing touches have finally been applied on the large commission painting for my friends. I am very pleased with the final outcome. I’m hoping they will ♥ it! I’ll ship it in a couple of weeks – just in time for the New Year! Since it’s not a surprise, I’m sure they won’t mind if I share it with you.

As I had mentioned in previous posts, I began the painting in September and had to take a bit of time off and work slowly due to my new elbow and nerve injury. Painting once again proved my saving grace, and although difficult at times, helped my mental state during the healing process.

Shiela and Leo - True Love
True Love
mini

Traditional Ojibwa Girl

Young Ojibwa Girl

This painting was done for my beautiful niece Brianna. She and her sisters are part Cherokee / Ojibwa on their mom’s side. I hope she loves it.

I knew going into this, it would be a challenge, but one that I needed to tackle head on (literally and figuratively). I really haven’t painted a face in oils, let alone a Native American.

Ojibwa Girl
Second Attempt

The first step was to locate images of Ojibwa Indians. I discovered this one of a young native girl on the internet, only it was in black and white. Next, I searched for color images of the traditional clothing and was able to find what I believe matched her outfit.

Once I got the clothing blocked in, I went back on to work on her face. I had to consult my books on proper facial structure and Google painting combinations for Native American skin pigmentation.I must have revisited her poor face and neck at least ten times before I was content enough to let it go.

I admit she was headless a few times in the process; looked like Pocahontas; looked too Caucasian; too African-American; too old; and had a broken nose. At one point (about 3 in the morning) I swear she even looked exactly like Ryan Gosling!!

Young Ojibwe Girl
Ojibwa Girl

Life Drawing

Last Fall I took Life Drawing at PCCA with Charles Pompilius. At first, I was very intimidated taking his class because he’s such an accomplished painter well known for his commissioned portraits and figurative paintings. However, he turned out to be very humble and easy going and I was immediately put at ease.

It would also be my first time working from live nude models. Going into it, I wasn’t sure how I would feel staring at a nude person while attempting to draw or paint them. But, it really wasn’t all that awkward. We had both male and female models and I found that drawing the ladies was much easier; possibly because I am more familiar with the female body or because it was a tad strange looking at a naked man for hours.

Either way, my output was not great, but this was the first time I’d ever taken a figure drawing class or worked with live models. It’s a far cry from a bowl of fruit or a vase that doesn’t breath or move for hours on end! Once the class was done I put the drawings away and had forgotten about them until yesterday; I rediscovered them while clearing out my art bag for the start of a new class.

I decided to include a couple of sketches that weren’t too horrible. After all, this blog is about the journey, good, bad, or ugly!

Ethan

Ethan
12″ X 14″ Pen & Ink on Bristol Board Adapted from Personal Photograph

Before I left Kathy’s class, I had one more piece to complete: a stippling of baby Ethan. My idea was to draw Ethan at the same age as Dylan so that I could frame them together: my two boys at 8 months old.

(Side Note: this photo was taken post framing).

The Beach

In May of 2006 I found out that we were expecting baby boy number two. Dylan would be three in December and it was a good time to add to our family. Before baby’s arrival, I wanted to do a large pastel painting of Dylan. We took this photo of him playing by the ocean in Florida. He loved the sand – mesmerized by the feel and texture, he played for hours! What better way to capture our first-born son at such a special moment in time.

I was determined to finish the painting before baby boy two arrived. I had to rework the sand and ocean many times before they looked right. Surprisingly, painting Dylan was the easy part! I was so pleased with the end result and completed it just in time – about 1 week before Ethan was born!

Playing in the Sand
24″x36″ Pastel on Canson Pastel Paper adapted from Personal Photograph