I think this is self explanatory. I haven’t been outside to paint because it seems to be raining whenever I make plans to do so. I have been enjoying the teaching though. If you can make it the Green Bay Wisconsin area, please join us!
I am teaching this workshop as a companion to my book of the same title. It will have the same content for each scheduled session unless I have participants repeating the workshop. All the materials are provided and lunch will be served compliments of Swanstone Gardens. Enroll online at the address above or call them. The location is divine! It’s a wooded site overlooking Green Bay.
This lady has gorgeous hair! Can you see it? Nope! That’s because she has a hat on. I can appreciate a hat in a portrait if there is nothing else of interest or, if the hat is interesting, but when the hat obliterates any hint of the good stuff, then, I become very unhappy! No dressed model stand, only neutral colors; blah! I loved the scarf because it had gorgeous color and some pattern. That hat took all my attention to make it believable. I have lots of figure paintings with color and pattern that include some of my best work. Just search this blog to see my previous. You’ll find 8 years worth.
The future holds a few surprises so stay tuned blog watchers!
I have said that I am not fond of hats for portraits especially when the hat covers up more interesting things like a funky hairdo. In addition to the hat for this pose are the glasses which did nothing to make up for the hat. I had to suck it up and deal with the whole without any dressing of the model stand. At least there was a striped pillow! I got all excited about that and the red jacket.This woman is really quite attractive but the hat and the glasses make her look much older than she really is. The blandness of the model stand makes for a very dowdy look. At least we had some good music but no conversation.
My old Saturday group carried on fascinating conversations with music and snacks to carry us through our 4-hour session. Our models loved coming to sit for us because we kept them entertained and engaged. The time flew by as a result. Of course, when the work got challenging, we shut up! There was no prompting. We just got quiet with the concentration and attention required for finishing. I did some really good work in that studio. How I miss those sessions and my artist friends!
I have been grounded by the weatherman! The classic wintry mix has been a bane to my artistic activities. Snow, sleet, freezing rain, fog, and combinations of all four weather conditions have kept me from my drawing and painting groups. This painting was done last month.
In my last post, I mentioned that hats make everyone appear androgynous. You can see that here with this young woman wearing a fedora and a shawl over her shoulders. She had a funky hairdo under that hat. I would have loved to have had that in my portrait! But, in a group situation, one has to go along with the consensus of the group. They use costume for interest. I prefer pattern and color for interest. They have no desire to dress their model stand. What a pity! Think Matisse! Think Klimt!
As an artist, I find portraiture to be a very challenging practice. It’s a real test of skills and observation. However, they can be boring in large doses. I am also more interested in context. The environment tells the viewer a lot about the sitter if components are meaningful. These are just images of people who are anonymous to the viewer. Only if the portrait is by an art star does anyone take notice. We marvel over a Rembrandt or a Raphael or a Goya but not over a Schulman.
This is the first post of a portrait of the new year and the last portrait done for the last year. I have been working with a different group as my Tuesday group decided not to meet during December because of the holiday season. The use of hats has been favored by this group. I find hats make every model look androgynous. All the hair gets tucked away. The persistent use of black hats cast some really obscuring, dark shadows. Finally, my nudging got us a model without a hat. It allowed hair to flow around her shoulders.
This is a very challenging portrait because of the tilted head. Structurally, eyes, base of nose and mouth at the meeting of upper and lower lip are at right angles to the center axis. With the tilt like this and my paper vertically oriented on the easel, it made maintaining the correct position of her features a little difficult. I managed to sneak a little pattern into this painting. Anyone who is a regular, long-term reader of my blog will know I am a sucker for pattern and color. Patterns just seem to make the piece come alive. I tend to channel Matisse and Klimt. On occasion, I will also channel Gauguin. I couldn’t emulate a better crew of artists.
We are so happy to we have models who are so reliable. They are hard to find. Most of these people work at other jobs and they come to us tired after working all day. It’s a little extra money for them and a sacrifice too. They give up an evening of relaxation and rest to give us a drawing experience. We are very grateful. This young man comes with retro glasses reminiscent of the glasses worn by elderly men smoking cigars during the 1960s. Think Milton Berle. If you don’t know who that is look him up. He was known as Mr. Television. He was a pioneer of early TV.
This evening our model came in with large sunglasses of the kind my son calls cataract glasses. I associate them with hiding; keeping some aspect of himself to himself. It’s a form of protection. The irony is that he is nude with nothing but his inner self to hide. So what are the sunglasses really for? He may also just been sensitive to the light that evening. As Sigmund Freud said,”Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” I have another watercolor of him from the same session so stay tuned dear reader.
This pose offered some technical challenges. Having the chair in front of the figure makes the painting more interesting spatially. The negative space elements of the chair with the figurative elements behind and further away make it more convincing. I have used that device in other forms with other subjects to great effect. I have landscape paintings with objects which help deepen the space by having the viewer negotiate the foreground objects. I could have placed fences or, as in this instance, chairs or tree trunks or grasses. I am fascinated by the idea of looking through places to see other information behind those places. It presents technical challenges but the metaphor of digging deeper to find what is underlying is a compelling one.
Painting without penciling makes the execution more problematic. How does one begin? Does one begin with the model, or does one begin with the chair, does one work both up together? I chose working both up together. I had difficulties with the straightforward depiction of his head and shoulders and little time for corrections. I was very satisfied with this portion of the painting so, I decided to crop it and just leave out what had given so many problems. I might have been able to make some corrections but, I had to accept the limitations of time.
I rarely take the Xacto knife route to problem solving. I did more cropping in my younger days while still building skills but, now, I find that to be a lazy way out of difficulties. I also don’t like work that is vignetted. That is, fading the painting away into white space around the main subject. It’s another lazy way of ‘finishing’. I find that beginners do this. They don’t know how to resolve the entire space so they finish by, essentially, not finishing. It is a bad habit that doesn’t let one grow as an artist. I think one should work to the edges of the field to make the entire space resolved. I always try to finish by working to the edges of the field. I’m not successful every time but in making the attempt I will be in subsequent work. It’s good practice for some excellence to come.
We had our first measurable snow fall of the year yesterday. It’s quite late in the season for a first snow. I’ll take it. I said in my last post that in spite of my being life-long resident of the upper mid-west, I have become a wuss in regards to winter. This painting is not a record of yesterday’s storm but was painted last winter and it is a record of a much more significant accumulation.
The bright white of Masa paper makes the depiction of snow particularly effective. I am very much drawn to the muted color of winter. There is still a full color range but it is very much grayer than a summer palette. As for the value range, it is shifted to the middle to light values especially when the sky is overcast. That’s pretty much the entire winter here. It’s only on rare occasions that the value range is complete from full sun. Full winter sun means very cold weather has descended upon us. When that happens my honey and I stay home and occupy ourselves with our individual interests. I, with creative pursuits and he, with technical, electronic pursuits (HAM radio). It’s good to be retired!
Three weeks ago, I gave a watercolor painting demonstration using the techniques I have developed for masa paper. It is also the chief topic of my book. It’s a much looser approach to watercolor. I call it a juicy, loosey-goosey approach. It allows for both happy, and not so happy, accidents. It also forces one to begin as one should: as a generalist. If the paper is wet, any small details dissipate into the wet surface. As it dries, it allows for further refinement. This is exactly how one should proceed even with a more tightly controlled technique.
I have done tightly controlled watercolors and I can take only so much slow, careful work. There are times I feel like I have to break out and do a more gestural kind of painting. Working with wet masa paper allows me to do just that and still have some control over the outcome. Rag paper behaves differently when it’s wet and placing saturated washes onto wet rag paper does not give the same result.
This piece started as a daylight landscape painting. I demonstrated the use of salt, the use of intentional blooms, and how easily the paint can be lifted from the masa surface. Since I am an animated speaker who talks with her hands, stray drops of water and paint ended up on the paper with unintended results that I did not care for. The painting would not have been a success in any case, so I decided to turn the whole thing into a night painting by covering it entirely with a deep, dark blue. I find such a blue to be a much better choice for night paintings. After that application, took a paper towel, bunched it up, and rolled it, with some pressure, across the wet wash. That created the light spots in the night sky along with a little salt. I wrung my brush out and then lifted color in the middle ground for a moonlit effect. The final painting ended up being far better than my starting point.
This was a gutsy decision. But, I have been watercolor painting long enough to know when to take a risk with a gutsy move. My informed intuition turned out well. Not caring about the underlying painting was also very helpful. Sometimes an E.W.A.G. (Educated Wildass Guess) is worth taking.