If urban landscapes interest you…

December 30, 2009

work in progress, final details still need to be added

This painting is progressing through it’s various stages. If painting urban landscapes is of interest to you, I highly recommend that you keep the following things in mind:

– you need good drawing skills to do these, whether your approach is technical or intuitive, an ability to “see” (not just understand) perspective is key

– a good under painting goes a long way in any piece, but it is critical to the success of an urban landscape, this is where you get your drawing, values and compositional issues resolved

– stay away from grids and other drawing aids if you want your painting to look loose and expressive, this will also force you to build your drawing skills rather than relying on aids. Get rid of the ruler and replace it with a 1″ flat brush, you can create great verticals that are believably straight with a flat brush and you mass in form rather than outlining, a much more natural approach.

I’m currently offering a workshop on urban landscapes at the NJ Visual Arts Center on Feb. 13, for more information click on the link: http://artcenternj.org/instructorclasses.php?id=191. I’m also offering a 10-week drawing class that covers the basics of form, value, proportion and perspective for artists who prefer to paint/draw in a non-technical, intuitive and expressive manner. “Expressive Drawing” is listed in the Classes section of the same link. Either of these classses will be helpful for urban landscape artists.


Bits of Color

December 29, 2009

staying focused on the bits of color that ultimately make up the image as a whole

As I begin to add color to this urban landscape, I focus on the bits of color that comprise the image as a whole. I want the painting to become almost abstract in appearance, picking up the rhythm and motion of the urban landscape rather than becoming a “street scene” in a narrative sense. To acheive this, I pay attention to the sub-forms that make up the elements in the landscape: the strokes that make up the verticals and horizontals that ultimately are perceived as buildings, cars and streets. I’m not trying to “draw” with the paint, I’m simply placing color next to color and letting the image manifest itself as a result of that placement. Doing so creates a detachment from the subject that ensures figures and cars don’t become “cute” or cartoon like in their appearance. They meld with the background and become absorbed into the composition, rather than becoming characters in a story. This approach applies because I want  the paintings to be about motion and movement rather than to tell a story. Knowing what your work is about is key to developing the methods you employ to make it say what you want it to say.

This painting still has quite a ways to go, here is a shot of the whole composition in the stage it is at now.

work in progress, oil on canvas


SoHo Steps Work-in-Progress

December 28, 2009

under painting, burnt umber + turpenoid on toned canvas, 18x24 in.

This is currently on my easel, a new urban landscape of SoHo. I’ve done several studies of this, one in black and white and one in pastel. The under painting above is on canvas lightly toned with yellow ochre. Colors in this will be subtle, a combination of city colors and evening sunlight on the sides of the buildings. More to come…


Capturing the Essence of the Subject in Black & White

December 26, 2009

Maple Street, Morristown, NJ, acrylic & white pastel on paper, 5x7 in.

Near Bleecker Street, NYC - acrylic & white pastel on paper, 5x7 in.

The drawings above are quick studies done in acrylic on watercolor paper with a bit of white pastel for accents and highlights. I do them to capture the essence of subjects I plan to paint in oil. When working in black and white, I can focus purely on form, value and gesture, getting to the root of what makes the subject unique. I reduce all of the elements in the composition down to their most basic shapes and forms, the trees, cars, buildings and shadows are all simply forms made up of sub-forms in a range of values. I completely forget what I am drawing and focus purely on those sub-forms and getting their shapes and values correct.

I teach this method of drawing in my Expressive Drawing workshops and courses. I am offering both a workshop and a 10-week class on the subject. To register for the workshop, which will be held on Jan. 11 at the Martinsville Studio, call 732-667-5328 or email info@themartinsvillestudio.com. Registration fee is $100 for the full-day workshop from 10am to 4pm.

If you are interested in the 10-week course, it will be held at the NJ Visual Arts Center beginning in mid-January. The class is held on Tuesdays from 12:30 to 3pm. To register, visit the art center’s web site at http://artcenternj.org/instructorclasses.php?id=191 or call 908-273-9121. Registration fee is $225 for members or $255 for non members.


Recycled Surfaces – Experiment Completed

December 21, 2009

Acrylic and pastel on corrugated cardboard, about 20x25

detail of cans

detail of bottles

 I finished up this study of bottles and cans (really of color and form) and am quite happy with the way it turned out. It doesn’t bother me that the piece is on cardboard as opposed to a more archival material. I like the idea of works on paper that might not be around “forever”. Think about all the work artists produce that never sells, maybe never even gets exhibited and yet is done on expensive stretched canvas with stretcher bars and even frames. This contributes to amount of waste that ends up in landfills, if I can reduce my contribution, I’m happy to do so. I create a lot of studies and sketches like this, so I try to be as environmentally friendly as I can whenever possible.

Of course I know that I can’t expect anyone to pay what they might for an oil on canvas, but that doesn’t really matter to me.  I’ve acheived some effects on this surface that I know I can’t get on canvas, and while the materials might be non-archival, the piece really has a very vibrant presence in real life. I could put it behind glass if I really wanted to, but I’m going to try and find a way to preserve it, possibly with a pourable resin.

Another surface I’m experimenting with is corrugated plastic, the material many political and real estate signs are made of. I’ve begun surface preparation on a few panels and will see what happens when I paint with acrylics on top…stay tuned.


Drawing with a Brush

December 19, 2009

Cattano Street, Morristown, acrylic and white pastel on paper

close up of details, brushwork

I frequently use acrylic paint to draw with a brush. All of my underpaintings begin this way, I never draw with pencil on canvas. I like to do sketches on hot pressed watercolor paper with black acrylic and white pastel. I use a flat or angled brush similar to those I use when painting in oils or acrylic on canvas (but I have certain brushes that I reserve for this purpose rather than use the same ones I use when working in oils).

Drawing with a brush in this manner enables me to capture the gesture of the landscape and a wide range of values simply by using the acrylic transparently. Getting to know the subject in this manner helps a great deal when I move to canvas, I have all the values worked out and understand how the forms are working together to create the illusion of 3 dimenions on a 2 dimensional surface.

I believe that drawing is an important skill to have, particularly if you plan to paint representationally. But I also believe even abstract painters can benefit from drawing in this manner, which is about understanding form and value and using it to capture the essence of the subject expressively.  

But getting back to representational painting and it’s relationship to drawing. If you can draw well, you are freer to focus on color and composition when you are painting because you have the skills to draw intuitively. The only way to develop those skills is to practice regularly. Draw from life whenever possible, but if you do work from photos, try to get away from copying and focus more on seeing. Look for the values, try to get a range of 4-5 greys, think in terms of shapes rather than lines. Block in large areas, be bold and confident with your brushstrokes. You can always add as much or as little detail as you like, but you have to get the big shapes placed accurately first, caputring perspective and proportion correctly. This is easy to do if you simpy focus on the darks and lights and their relationship to one another. Ask yourself is the area you are working on darker or lighter than the one next to it and keep working all over your composition in this manner. Don’t be tempted to finish one object completely before you have the whole composition blocked in. In fact, don’t even think in terms of “objects”, forget what you are drawing and just think in terms of darks and lights.

I teach this method of drawing in my Expressive Drawing workshops and courses. I am offering both a workshop and a 10-week class on the subject. To register for the workshop, which will be held on Jan. 11 at the Martinsville Studio, call 732-667-5328 or email info@themartinsvillestudio.com. Registration fee is $100 for the full-day workshop from 10am to 4pm.

If you are interested in the 10-week course, it will be held at the NJ Visual Arts Center beginning in mid-January. The class is held on Tuesdays from 12:30 to 3pm. To register, visit the art center’s web site at http://artcenternj.org/instructorclasses.php?id=191 or call 908-273-9121. Registration fee is $225 for members or $255 for non members.


Expressive Drawing Workshop Jan. 11

December 15, 2009

 

urban landscape study, pastel on newsprint

On January 11, I will be teaching an Expressive Drawing workshop at The Martinsville Studio. This full-day workshop runs from 10 am to 4 pm and is designed to help artists of all levels loosen up and put more spontaneity into their drawings and paintings. Working in acrylic and charcoal, attendees will learn about the primary concepts of drawing: form, value, proportion and perspective, in a relaxed, low pressure setting. This workshop is perfect for those intimidated by drawing or for artists who simply want to draw in a more expressive manner.

Registration fee: $100, call the Martinsville Studio directly at 732-667-5328 to register. For directions and info about The Martinsville Studio, visit their web site at http://www.themartinsvillestudio.com/