Red Ground Paintings Continued

Three Quarter Portrait on a Red Ground
Oil on Linen Panel, 20×16″

This is another attempt at painting on a red ground. Not much of the red ground is left showing on this one. Ideally, the red ground is not to be totally covered. Much of it should show. It has for the previous paintings but, I got carried away. The lighting for this pose is much like the lighting used for the demo which got me interested in this technique in the first place.

This kind of high contrast is the first time our group went for strong lighting in a long time. I am having difficulty clearly seeing the dark areas and the boundary between light and dark along her nose. My astigmatism is pronounced and may be beyond what is correctable. So I can’t see edges clearly. It’s all doubled.
I had real difficulty with the contour of the nose and, since it was so dark, I couldn’t  see exactly what her right eye really looked like. It is a little distorted. On the whole I am pleased with my value range. This approach has helped me a great deal with that. If you click on the image to enlarge it you will see a little of the red ground to the right in the background. It will look a little bit violet there.
I am still figuring out what the shadow tones should be. I have to look at the demo again to see if a shadow palette is suggested. It will be the 6th or 7th time I will have watched it all 12 parts! I’m going to do a small red ground painting next time. I will have to be home to prepare for a Mother’s Day family gathering the following week and will have only one session to finish. I have a son who is getting married and the wedding families are coming together to meet each other on Mother’s Day. Exciting stuff!
(And my mother’s 97th birthday was yesterday. We all celebrated at our favorite sushi restaurant. She loves oysters!)

T F m
April 29, 2012

Another Red Ground Painting

Profile Portrait on a Red Ground
Oil on Linen Panel, 20×16″
This is another attempt at using a ground for establishing a full value range with a limited palette. This was painted over the dismal failure that was my first attempt. The shadow in the hollow of her cheek was created by using a thin layer of a light, warm temperature color mixture. By scumbling a light value. warm mixture, thinly, onto a dark value, warm ground, one gets a cool middle tone. Go figure!
One of the advantages of using an iron oxide red ground is that the painting can be done quickly. This was done in only one session with this model. I usually complete in two sessions. Granted I am excluding my usual obsession with pattern so this has been distilled down to only essentials. The blue was added as a complementary contrast to the warm flesh tones and the warm red ground.
My current attempt which is still in progress is coming as well. It’s a three quarter view with strong light and my geeza eyes are having a hard time seeing all the planes of the face in the dark shadows. Stay tuned.

T F m
April 15, 2012

Friendship Art Connection

Susan and Friends
Ball Point Pen on Paper, 5.5×8.5″


On spring break I made a visit to some dear friends in Florida. This is my friend Susan sitting on the sofa relaxing with her little dogs, Joy and Happy. They are named for the delight they bring to her home. The term relaxing needs to be qualified. It seems when she sits down to relax like this the dogs take it for an opportunity to play. The play becomes quite vigorous with energetic growling and tussling about.  This is the relaxation after they have worn themselves out after their vigorous play.
The scene is all very comical and lends more justification for their names.

T F m
April 13, 2012

Annual Eye Exam Drawing

Waiting at the Eye Doctor
Ball Point Pen on Paper, 8.5×5.5″

This was done while waiting for my eyes to dilate during my annual visit to the eye doctor. After the drops for dilation take effect, he checks a freckle behind my left retina and then I’m done for a year. It’s extra dark sunglasses for the trip home. Drawing is my best activity for waiting.

T F m
April 10, 2012

Struggling with a New Approach

Oil on Linen Panel, 20×16″
I am dating myself by admitting that I earned my bachelor’s degree in the ’60s. It was the era of abstract expressionism (ab-ex). All my instructors were practitioners of ab-ex. Their attitude towards their students was one of creating more ab-ex artists just like themselves. Since that was the case, their students didn’t need to learn drawing skills or the methods and materials of good practice. So when it came to my learning to paint, I was handed two cans of turps and some paint brushes and told to go paint.
Then, when it was evident that pop art was supplanting ab-ex it was acrylics and masking tape for hard edged color field painting. I never knew why I was doing what I was doing, but I knew I would never graduate if I didn’t comply. I never got anything but the most basic instruction in figure drawing. Over the years, I have had to very single-mindedly pursue how to draw and how to paint the figure in all the media I use.
My instructors were probably as ignorant as I. While they were in school, they were busy throwing things at, or, dancing on their canvases. (Whichever seemed like the best idea at the time.) All that energy directed at these activities meant they disrespected basic skills. As for drawing anything in a representational manner, (raspberries here), that was passe. The one instructor who taught watercolor and figure drawing was cruelly ridiculed for not giving up his retrograde agenda.
I continue to teach myself. I have just stumbled upon a technique new to me on the internet. (What did we do before the internet?) I came across a demo by Dominic Cretara. You can find it here. It’s an old master technique of painting on an iron oxide, red ground. The ground becomes the darkest value of the figure with changes of color temperature of the same value to create a perceived variation in darkness within the shadows. It requires a limited palette of mostly earth tones of varying degrees of opacity.  If you place a warm tone thinly on the warm red ground you end up with a cool optical mixture. It’s very counter-intuitive.
If you have been following my blog at all you know what a sucker I am for color. You know how hard it is for me to limit my palette. But it is always a good idea to go out of one’s zone of comfort not only to learn new things but to stimulate new ideas. This portrait is my second attempt at this technique. The first attempt was a dismal failure precisely because I was not disciplined enough to limit my palette to a few earth tones. (It has already been over painted. The results will be posted in the next few weeks.) I am determined to master this. It’s another tool for my toolbox.
What struck me was how quickly I could finish a portrait in this way. It also helped to achieve a complete value range. These two things were why Venetian Renaissance painters used a red ground. They needed a full value range and they needed to complete works quickly to meet commission deadlines. Their’s was a business for making a living and deadlines had to be met.
Most people have such romantic ideas about art making that the whole making-a-living aspect has been ignored. Artists have to have food in their mouths and roofs over their heads to make work. Without the  ability to pay the bills that can’t happen. That has been forgotten in this country. Artists get such little respect. I get solicited all the time to give my work away in exchange for some vaguely described exposure. People die from exposure!  But I don’t want to indulge in that rant. I don’t want to ruin my day.  Enjoy the portrait instead.
Remember, all my work is for sale.

T F m
April 6, 2012