12 December 2014

Cannon Art Gallery 2014 Juried Biennial

If you're in the San Diego area this weekend, and you're looking for a good gallery experience, consider visiting the William D Cannon Art Gallery 2014 Biennial.  The opening reception is this coming Saturday, from 5 to 8 pm.  The exhibit is on view through February 7, 2015.  Here is more information on the show location and content.

From the gallery's website...
While each Juried Biennial has its own emphasis, due to the change of jurors from exhibition to exhibition, what remains constant is the chance for gallery attendees to see what is taking place in San Diego County’s visual arts community. From young, emerging artists to veterans of gallery and museum exhibitions, and with works in painting, lithography, photography, ceramic, metal, wood mixed media and fiber, this exhibition is a snapshot of art in San Diego County today.
My painting "Best Friend" (aka "Portrait of Young Man, Cat and Coffee") is one of the pieces on display.  Hope to see you at the opening.

Best Friend  18 x 24", oil on linen

11 December 2014

Double Portrait Commission

I just finished this portrait of a husband and wife, B and K.  I posted the color study a while back.  Arranging 2 people in a composition is hard, I think.  The challenge of the double portrait is to find a pleasing composition of 2 bodies that avoids the predictable.  I thought about encouraging them to go with 2 single portraits, but a double is what they wanted.  In the end, the commission was a good learning experience, and the clients were happy with the result.

Portrait of B and K, 24 x 30", oil on linen

I always have a painting or 2 on display for inspiration.  For this portrait it was the painting below, by the English portrait artist Alastair Adams, of Tom and Dominie Newton Dunn.  Love that intertwining pose. So fresh and intimate. I wanted some of that in B and K's portrait.

"Young Couple" by Alastair Adams PPRP

Some technical notes on the double portrait of B and K:
I started with a burnt umber underpainting.  Once dry, I covered the entire canvas with a loose thinned layer of paint, approximating the colors of the big shapes.  Half the painting was left in this loose, single-layer state, with underpainting showing through extensively.  You can see it clearly on his pants, the sofa cushions and background.  
 The clothes, arms and hands were modeled more carefully with a second layer of paint.

Finally, I went all out on the faces, which were painted in 5 or 6 layers, hoping the contrast between the rendered faces and the loose surroundings would make those faces stand out.

The set-up involved 2 light sources, a warm overhead light coming from behind, and a cooler dimmer light from the right.  I pushed the color temperatures slightly to emphasize that lighting scheme. You can see this most clearly on his shirt.  The shoulders are brightest and warmed with yellow ochre, the chest is less bright and cooled with cerulean blue, and the shadows are warm purple. 

04 November 2014

New Art Studio Lighting System

For the last few years my easel has been lit by 2 19W BlueMax CFL bulbs.  I liked the quality of the light, but there were two problems with this set up.  First, the spot lights created glare and hot spots on the canvas.  Second, they weren't bright enough on their own, I needed some daylight, too.  That meant I could only paint at certain times of the day.  Very frustrating.

My old easel lighting...2 spots with 19W Blue Max cfl's.

Last week I finally solved my studio lighting problems by replacing the spots with 2 ceiling-mounted T8 fluorescent fixtures, pictured below.  This is more than enough light for my 11'x16' studio.  I'm using 4 Phillips 20905 T8 32W bulbs per fixture.  The bulbs have a light temperature of 5000K, which is a crisp white, with a CRI of 98.

Even though the fixtures include diffusers, it was important to mount the lights on the ceiling in the right spot to avoid any canvas glare.  Mine are mounted directly above and slightly behind my head when I'm standing at the easel.  The light hits the canvas at about a 10 degree angle, which produces no glare at eye level.

My new studio lighting system...2 4-tube T8 fluorescent fixtures

I can paint exclusively under these lights, so no need for additional daylight, which means I can paint at night.  Added bonus...I can photograph my work on the easel with good results.  I just set my camera custom AWB to 5000K and colors are accurate.

Cost for the system was around $300 USD.  That's a good deal considering how essential good lighting is in the artist's studio.  

20 August 2014

Color Study for a Portrait Painting Commission

A portrait commission is a collaboration between artist and client.  People want input during the design process, and they want to know what their finished portrait will look like.  Small oil color studies serve these needs.  Framed and viewed from a distance, a color study is a good approximation of the final painting.

Portrait of B and K (color study), 8x10", oil on linen

As the artist, I also want to know the final painting will succeed.  And I like working through color choices and composition on a smaller scale.  I'm not comfortable starting out cold on the big canvas.  I refer to the color study often during the painting process, and if I want to make changes towards the end, I try them out on the study.

Here's how I paint color studies...

I start with a pencil drawing, spray with fixative, then paint over with a fast drying pigment (burnt umber here, but it could be any pigment...experiment).  Using a pick-out technique, I work up the value relationships at this stage.

I use Rublev Oleogel medium to thin the burnt umber.  It gives paint a creamy flow and transparency, and doesn't slow drying time.  Better than just thinning with turp, and probably healthier.

Next, I add colors in big strokes...experimenting with color choices.

After the colors are in, I work up edges and add a few key details...not too many. 

This is ready for client approval, then I can move on to the big painting.

More information on color studies...

Here is a collection of color studies by students from Studio Incamminati, known for it's color emphasis, and carrying on the traditions of Henry Hensche.

A good book on learning to see color through color studies is How to See Color and Paint It by Arthur Stern.  A classic, full of great studies.

Here's a cool little color study by Anthony Ryder, from Underpaintings, via David Gray's blog.  And another link to a color study demo on Ryder's website.

07 August 2014

Another Slow Alla Prima Portrait Painting...and the Joaquin Sorolla Exhibition in San Diego

Here's another "slow" alla prima portrait of Tammy, the model you met in my last post, from a different angle.  I discussed the concept of slow alla prima painting in that post.

Tammy (vignette), 9x11", oil on linen
This is a vignette, a simple head study on an abstract background, a style of portraiture I offer my clients.  Painted in 5 hours...3 with the live model, and 2 back in the studio to finish things up.  If you'd like to learn more about the types of portraits I offer, please visit my website.


About the Joaquin Sorolla Exhibition (San Diego Museum of Art through 26-August-2014)...

Last Friday, for the second time, I saw the Joaquin Sorolla exhibition here in San Diego. If you admire his work, see this show...a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The selection of works is outstanding.  Some of his most important pieces are here ("Sad Inheritance", "Another Marguerite", well-known portraits of self and Clotilde).  Several pieces are accompanied by preliminary sketches, showing his working methods.  There is a nice mix of earlier and later works, and of paintings, drawings and pochade sketches.  Many portraits, beach scenes and landscapes.  He was a painter of motion and light, and a skilled draftsman.  I found it as impressive as the Anders Zorn exhibition at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco earlier this year.

Don't be tempted to order the exhibition catalog for the images.  The reproduction quality is poor. 

To close, a few images from the show...enjoy.