20 July 2010

First Studio Painting

That's Close Enough 2010, oil on linen, 16" x 12"
During this last break I tackled my first studio painting, a portrait of my 16-year-old daughter, Amanda.  Human beings are so complicated at this age, and I was trying to capture that whole teen angst thing. I hope that comes across in the image. I followed the procedure described here, from the "Staging Artwork" class.  Briefly, this involved value studies on small b/w thumbnails, followed by a small oil color comp, transfer to the final canvas using a free-hand/grid method, then paint.  The painting took about 30 hours to complete, not counting the photo shoot.  For the shoot I used a single overhead light to illuminate the subject, placing most of the face and torso in shadow, and brightly illuminating the arms.  Warm reflected light bounces from the arms back onto the face. I wanted a lighting scheme that required a second look.

I used the limited palette of yellow ochre pale, cad red light, transparent oxide red (TOR), viridian, ultramarine blue, titanium white, ivory black. Keeping the palette simple let me focus on value, shape, and edge.  Color will come later.  

I'm trying to avoid over-blending, it's so easy to do.  My preference is the flowing, painterly brushwork style shared by Zorn, Sorolla, and De Laszlo. In fact, the abstraction in the upper left corner of my painting is an homage, inspired by a similar pattern in the corner of a portrait Sorolla painted of his own daughter, Maria.  During the break I picked up a few books, including Joaquin Sorolla by Blanca Pons-Sorolla, which I highly recommend, if you like his style.  Also picked up a book on Degas and one on De Laszlo, both affordable and recommended.

07 July 2010

Painting Progress

At times I don't see much progress in my technical skills.  Effort does not always immediately translate into improvement.  That's when it helps to compare my work over time.  The paintings above are from a class I just finished with Jeff Watts called "Portrait in Oil: Exploring Different Lighting".  They're in sequence from first (at the bottom) to most recent (at the top). Each week I painted a 9x12 portrait in about 2.5 hours from life.  Timed portraits are exhilarating because you don't have time to mess around.  Make your decision and move on.  They're about learning, not about a nice finish.  Good practice.  I think I see some progress here between the first and last portraits.  Mainly, I see my brushwork improving and I'm getting more paint on the canvas.  Baby steps.

Marc Delassio posted a worthwhile blog entry with some thoughts on this topic of improvement over time.  The graph at the bottom of the post says it all IMO.  Technical skill and artistic progress (real or perceived) are not always directly related.  Progress is unpredictable and non-linear.  You never know when lessons learned will finally gain traction and kick in.  What a thrill and relief when they finally do.