Kvelling Again

The Beautiful One Is Come

This young woman had us kvelling the last time she modeled for us. Well, she did it again. And the work showed it. Each on of us produced very good work. She was an inspiration. Not only is she a lovely woman on the outside but she is just as lovely as a person. There is a sweetness about her that cannot be denied.
All I kept thinking about was that she had the look of an Egyptian portrait. There is one royal fragment presumed to be that of Nefertiti. It consists only of the loser portion of her head. The shape of the mouth is just like our model’s mouth. So I think of this beautiful woman as a neo-Nefertiti.

T F m
April 28, 2014

Blue Eyed Girl

Blue Eyed Girl

Blue Eyed Girl
Watercolor on Masa Paper, 7.25″ x 5.25″

This little watercolor was made last year when visiting an artist friend of mine. Of course our greatest joy is to make art together. We went to a figure drawing session and this lovely woman was our model. She was all tricked out in her jewelry and hair adornments. I usually prefer the adornments to reside in the setting rather than on the model, but this works.

The paper was very wet and that accounts for the soft, dreamy effects. Atmospheric conditions are a real factor in that. It was relatively humid, so the paper was long in drying. It was to my advantage in this instance. By staying wet longer, I could achieve this soft effect without re-wetting the paper. It’s always a problem to re-wet the paper. If I add too much water, the paint runs or I get unexpected blooms where the water has pushed the pigment aside. That can partially or fully obliterate the image. I guess I got lucky.

T F m
April 26, 2014

Channeling Matisse with Watercolor

 Surrounded by Pattern
Watercolor on Masa Paper. 7.5×10.5″

I am a big fan of Matisse. I have always been attracted to color and pattern. Matisse always filled the bill for me! His Moorish Screen is one my favorites. I saw it in the real in Philadelphia about ten years ago. It’s far more gorgeous than any reproduction. That painting is full of color and pattern!

I also love Gustav Klimt. The Kiss is probably his most famous. I have seen his patterns in use in commercial settings because I think they are more easily reproduced that Matisse’s. The Tree of Life comes to mind. The swirling pattern and color of that painting are on the upholstery at The Cheesecake Factory!

This is only one example of my figures with decorative patterns. I have many. You need only click on my slide show to see many more. I think I spent more effort on the drape with its pattern than on the figure. I’m sure it was a time consideration. Do I spend my time on the figure or on the fabric? It’s an engaging juggling act that I love!

T F m
April 25, 2014

Transparent Watercolor Luminosity

Seated on Pink
Watercolor on Masa Paper, 10×7.5″
This image is painted from a fully draped model stand. That, and having more than 20 minutes to work, led to this painting. Color is exciting for me so you can imagine how thrilled I was with the way this set was decorated! I may have changed some of the colors in this little piece to suit the color needs it presented to me here. There is also enough pattern to keep me happy too.
I realize the screen through which you are viewing this is a luminous one. It exaggerates the luminosity of transparent water. I think luminosity is its allure. But, I have a lot of complementary colors in this to further intensify the luminous effect. The blues are contrasted by the oranges, reds by greens and red violets by yellow greens. The black printed fabric is a dark foil for all of that. Even if the color is modified to slightly reduce the saturation and intensity, those relationships remain.
The kind of color brilliance seen here wasn’t always available to watercolor artists. There was only a very limited selection of colors available until about 100 years ago.  J. M. W. Turner and Winslow Homer started out with three colors: indigo (blue), red oxide, and gamboge (yellow). Together these pigments form a primary triad which mixes to whatever color one wants. However they are not the kind of bright color we are used to seeing, but they do give a very nice color range, albeit, a grayer one.
Turner changed the status of watercolor from a sketch medium to that of a medium for making a complete work of art. It was only after his reputation as a water colorist that manufacturers began making a wider palette available to watercolor artists. With more available to them they could explore color and color effect. It is known that Winslow Homer was never without a copy of Chevruel’s book on color theory.
John Singer Sargent was the master of the luminous effect. One of my favorite examples is a painting of a white tent in the sunlight. (He achieves it in his figure painting too.) The tent is tinted to a light yellow; the shadows on the tent at the opening are violet while the interior is very dark. The surrounding trees are also very dark. The shot of red inside the tent completes the contrast to the green of the trees. It’s the combination of complementary colors and strong value contrast that make it so effective.
It’s really important for artists to look at a lot of art. One can find techniques for resolving concerns or interests one might have regarding one’s own work.
I’ve written more on color theory here.


T F m
April 19, 2014

Drawing From Life

Ballpoint Pen on Paper, 8.5×5.5″

The title of this post has a double meaning. This was drawn as it occurred. It is not photo derived. So it is drawn from life. It is also part of my life’s experience. So it is drawn from life. My life. This my mother getting a haircut.

The beauty parlor is a good subject for art. Such places deal in fantasy. There are the images of young, impossibly flawless, Photo Shopped woman plastered up everywhere. Then the real people walk in the door and are confronted by those images. The contrast presented by my 99 year old mother and those false images is flabbergasting!

I remember seeing a show years ago with women who were competing to be Mrs. America. All were married and had children and were very youthful looking (of course). They had to be paraded around in swimsuits. In essence, it was a meat rack thinly veiled in the superficiality by a well paid public relations firm. When I think of all the courageous women who would not have met the narrowly shallow ideal represented on that show, it makes me want to scream!

I thought, “Why can’t my elderly mother be Mrs. America?” She was married to my dad for 63 years. When she married my dad he had the clothes he stood in and little more. She raised 4 children all of whom have been self-sufficient. All of us have maintained our marriages for long terms. She has been a wonderful grandmother and now great grandmother. So I nominate my mother to be Mrs. America.

T F m
April 11, 2014

Sort of Funkie Watercolor Painting

 Reminiscent of Cabanel
Watercolor on Masa Paper, 10.5x.75″

I thought this piece had the look of Cabanel’s Birth of Venus, in the pose, not in the materials or the execution.  Cabanel and his Victorian audience would be horrified by effects produced by watercolor on wet masa paper. He wouldn’t paint like I do either. I work directly with no preliminary drawing; no studies. Eek! He would never present a watercolor as a work of art. Though I paint with oils and acrylics, I consider watercolor to be my first medium. My drawings are rare in comparison to my output with watercolor. For me watercolor has largely replaced drawing.

There are still those who scoff at watercolors and insist they are mere sketches. I really get pissed off by that attitude. Watercolors have been fully accepted as complete works of art since J. M. W. Turner created techniques that revolutionized the medium.

I, however, am delighted with this little painting! This is so much more interesting than a precisely painted figure of the academic kind. I find that, when looking through Cabanel’s ouvre, I get bored by the repetition of poses and the sameness of the application. That kind of consistency, while valued by his very conservative audience then, has no allure for me now, 150 years later.  

Things unacceptable in the 19th century are the things I prize about this tiny piece. I love soft edges, the indications of paint crawling from one area to another and the fading out of certain features. I am always taken by surprise by the development of effects as the paper dries. That’s the fun! It’s the ‘what if’ factor. The play with materials and the accumulation of experience, from making one painting after another, makes the artistic process. It allows the flow of ideas from one piece to another. It’s never the same each time nor should it be.

T F m
April 7, 2014

Watercolor Figure Painting, My Approach

Seated Woman
Watercolor on Masa Paper, 10.5×3.75″


This is a watercolor of the same woman pictured in the last post. The difference here is that the time for completion was doubled. This was done in two 20 minute sessions. The paper had time to start drying and I could capture some facial features. I am very satisfied with the quality of light in this. It represents the strong lighting conditions present at the time of execution.

You can see there are fewer bleeds at the edges. There is a detail not possible when the paper is very wet. It has an overall crisper look. I do try to minimize the number of strokes I take. The fewer marks the better. I impose that on myself as a condition of painting or drawing. How few marks can I make and still have it appear as a human figure? How coherent can I make it with the fewest marks?

It is a very good practice as it encourages the development of a kind of personal short hand. One must be a ruthless editor when making quick studies like this. The emphasis on minute detail becomes tiresome for me after a while. As a viewer myself, I find the obsession on the minute details leaves something wanting in the whole. It’s the vitality of the thing that seems drained from it. I can give the impression of detail by implying with my personal shorthand.

I don’t like to make preliminary studies for similar reasons. I feel the liveliness of the original impulse is dissipated and can never be recaptured by a second rendering. I only make preliminary sketches for large pieces to make sure my idea suits the proportions of my painting surface. Then those sketches are of the most cursory kind. Then I can work from there just to make sure the placement of elements is correct. Of course there are always some changes in making the leap from small to large. That’s part of the practice.

T F m
April 1, 2014

Drawing on Unexpected Changes

Waiting and Dozing and Moving and Dozing
Ball Point Pen on Paper, 8.5×5.5″


I was drawing this woman at the eye doctor before the dilation solution in my eyes took effect. She was as antsy. She coped by alternately dozing and shifting the position of her right arm. Between snatches of near sleep she would alternately clasp her left hand or prop her head against her fist. I had already drawn her hand in one position when she moved into her other position. So I drew it again. That’s why she has three arms.

How else does one draw and acknowledge such changes and the passage of time? Picasso’s cubism provided a means for doing that. He really did acknowledge the passage of time by representing people and things from many points of view. It was a new metaphor for representation. Since the Renaissance the metaphor was that an image was to be a window looking out onto another world at a single, still moment in time. With Picasso, image became a flat object with snatches of the subject represented all at the same time. He was very influential.

The practitioners of Futurism took Picasso’s cue and ran with it. His multiple, simultaneous mode of representing the world suited their glorifications of the machine age, speed, and violence. They reveled in the continuous motion and energy of the modern industrial age. 

They had a dark side. They were part of a nihilist fringe who longed for a “cleansing” war. (That ethos was present all over Europe and in the United States.) They were irredeemable misogynists. Some were Fascists. 

Well they got their war. Most were killed during World War One.

T F m
April 1, 2014