Happy Memorial Day Weekend, Have Some Watermelon!

May 29, 2011

Wine & Watermelon, 8x10 in. oil on canvas, alla prima from life

A quick little study to kick off the unofficial start of summer. I did this as a demo in my advanced oils class. Began with a coating of BRIGHTLY tinted gesso (pthalo green!), which was unusual to work on, but why not try something a little daring. I chose that because of the color of the aqua cloth, which is hard to make out of my “typical” palette. It worked beautifully with the pinks of the watermelon for creating complementary contrast and depth in the shadows. Was a bit challenging in the cloth area where you might think it would be the most helpful. The trouble was the tint of the canvas was bolder that any color I could make with the oils I had in my box, so the paint I put on top, did not look quite as “loud” as I would have expected. But that turned out ok in the end, once all the canvas was covered and there was no brighter shade to compete with.

The palette on this was: burnt sienna, Prussian blue, King’s blue, yellow ochre, cadmium barium yellow pale, Naples yellow, Naples yellow light, alizarin, naphthol red, and a tiny bit of titanium white.

The straw texture on the chianti bottle is all implied rather than painted in detail, same with the reflections on the glass plate. Sometimes an offbeat subject is in order, particularly after working on paintings for a show or a commission. Paint something light and fun now and then, it’s a great way to bring creative energy to the surface. Have a great long weekend!


Silver & Flowers, oil alla prima

May 25, 2011

Silver & Flowers, 24x18 in., oil on canvas, alla prima from life

This is my latest still life, I’ve been painting a lot of flowers lately and these were leftover from one of my workshops, so I could not let them go to waste. The challenge on this was the light, overhead incandescent and back lighting from the windows behind the flowers, but that’s what made it interesting. The back lighting cast a wonderful silver grey reflection on the table surface and make the stems in the glass vase almost a silhouette.

The palette used on this includes: burnt umber, Prussian blue, King’s blue, yellow ochre, cadmium yellow, cadmium barium yellow, Naples yellow, Naples yellow light, magenta, cadmium red light, titanium white. The underpainting was done in burnt umber, followed by blocking in the darkest values in burnt umber and Prussian blue. From there, it was a matter of working in color through the middle values on through the brightest brights and highlights. I spent about 5 hours on this from start to finish, everyone always asks “how long does it take you to paint one of these?”, so I figured I ‘d get that out up front. I typically don’t work this large for pieces I intend to finish in one session. I prefer to work a little bit smaller for one session paintings, 11×14 is perfect, but this was the only size I had available. I find that after 3 hours of painting, 4 at most, I begin to get tired. But, I wanted to finish this, as I knew I would not have an opportunity to work on it beyond the one session. It was good practice. 🙂

Is it darker, or is it lighter?

May 19, 2011

Value study, charcoal and grey scale pastel on Canson middle grey paper, 11x17 in.

My students hear me ask this question over and over. I can emphasize the importance of values in drawing and painting enough! Without a range of values, a drawing or painting looks flat, there is no getting around it. You have to get the values right, or else it won’t have depth or dimension.

I set up this still life of black, grey, white, metallic and transparent objects to prove the importance of getting the right values. If the values are correct–and the forms, perspective and proportional relationships are in place–you will have success. This is a very workmanlike study of simple objects, the kind of thing you do in Drawing 101. However, this type of practice will get you a great deal of experience in terms of improving your observation skills and learning to see the importance of the relationship of values.

I wouldn’t dream of starting a big painting without doing an under painting that breaks down the values (not to mention blocking in the composition and getting the drawing correct). It is the structure of the painting. Yet many artists are in such a hurry to get to the color component of painting, they ignore or rush through the most important stage–the values! If you are a representational painter, whether you chose to paint photo realistically or loose and impressionistic, you need to have correct values mapped out in the beginning in order for your painting to have depth and dimension. Drawing matters! Loose does not mean sloppy, practice your drawing skills whenever you get the chance, they will serve you well!


May 16, 2011

Cross Bronx study, 4.5x9 in. watercolor

Figure study, 4.5x9 in., watercolor

Cup studies (from life), 4.5x9 in., watercolor

Study of Railings/Shadows, 4.5x9 in., watercolor

As an oil painter (or acrylic, or pastel) watercolor presents a different type of challenge to me. It isn’t the fact that once something is there, it is there, you can’t go back and change it that bothers me–I don’t do that when I work in other mediums, I tend to paint fast and spontaneously, so in that respect watercolor is wonderful. However, I find saving the “whites” and not getting as intense color as I can with oil to be a bit of a challenge. I could of course punch things up a bit by adding some pastel on top or even some opaque acrylic, but I want to see how far I can push just the watercolors.

I don’t draw anything in with pencil the way most watercolor painters do. I prefer to draw with a brush, and I am used to first blocking in values. In order to avoid getting mud, since watercolor is transparent, I’ve been experimenting with 2 approaches: using the predominant shadow or complement to the predominant local color (for example, in the Cross Bronx study, I used a light purple wash of permanent red and ultramarine to block in my drawing first); or using a light warm wash in yellow ochre (this is what I did in the one of the railings). The figure study was done beginning the way I normally would work in oil, with a wash drawing in burnt sienna. I’m finding the dark neutrals are sometimes more likely to cause mud issues than the colors or light approach with yellow ochre. Of course, this might not be the case in a predominantly dark painting, time for more experimentation…

Exit 4B, Cross Bronx Expressway, Acrylic on Board

May 9, 2011

Exit 4B, Cross Bronx Expressway, acrylic on board, 24x12 in.

I just finished this one, the horizontal nearly panoramic format is very interesting to work with, particularly for highway/traffic paintings. This one is of Exit 4B on the Cross Bronx Expressway (Westbound), supposedly cited as the worst intersection in the US. I found the overpass, which is actually an elevated railway station, interesting in the way it crossed the roadway at an angle. There are lots of these types of overpasses and tunnels on the older highways in NY and NJ. They make great compositions if you enjoy severe angles and strong perspective. I use brushwork to emphasize that flow and sense of perspective whenever I can, stroking towards the vanishing point and using bold arched strokes with the darks to carve out the shapes of the tunnels. For verticals, I use the edge of an angled or flat brush rather than a very narrow round one. You get a much more natural looking line and it is easier to do because you have more contact with the surface.

This painting will be featured in my upcoming exhibit at the Visual Arts Center of NJ. The reception will be on June 17 from 6 to 8 pm. Meanwhile, please check out my solo show at Gallery Egan in Morristown, it will be on display until May 31.

Ink Wash Drawings

May 2, 2011
Cross Bronx Expressway II, ink wash on paper, 9x4 in.

Cross Bronx Expressway II, ink wash on paper, 9x4 in.

Ink wash drawings are a great way to practice drawing with a brush. It forces you to be much looser. I did this one with a 1/8″ angled flat brush, my favorite type of brush, the only other kind I use are brights, which are short flat brushes. With these types of drawing, I block in the forms in 3 or 4 values by adding water to the ink to make it lighter. You can also layer washes one on top of each other to create some nice transparent effects. I like the way these types of drawings force you to concentrate on the big forms and forget the details. You can say so much with so little…