31 May 2012

Portrait of Nick and Praise for iPads

I'm back today with an oil portrait of Nick, husband of my friend, Kelly.  (I spent Christmas 2010 in Greece with Nick and Kelly and his wonderful family.  Trip of a lifetime.)  This portrait is more refined than my previous vignettes, though I tried to stay loose around the edges to focus on the face. It took about 24 hours to paint from a photo. Also, I used a new tool for this painting...an Apple iPad.

Portrait of Nick, 20 x 16", oil on linen

iPads are becoming a standard tool for the visual arts.  With the improved iPad3 display, screen images are sharper and more colorful than print versions.  It's a great reader for online magazines like Artists-on-Art and American Art Collector, and for art e-books, where visual content is key.  Nice for viewing art collections remotely (eg. Google Art Project, Metropolitan Museum of Art), and for transporting and showing an artist's portfolio. Not to mention all the apps for creating and modifying art.  I just use WiFi, no 4G connection.

For painting, I attach it to my easel to display reference photos during painting sessions.  Much better than the photos I used to print out.  And there is no shift in brightness with viewing angle, a major fault with laptops.  The reference can be re-sized by touch, to zoom in on details.  Yes, I like it, and recommend it.  Here is a picture of my easel set-up.

Back to today's painting...

Before starting this painting, I did a charcoal sketch on newsprint to study the value and edge relationships.  After doing this drawing, the painting lay-in went quickly since it was my second time around the image.

Click on the image to enlarge

A few notes on the painting process...I started with a burnt umber underpainting (panel 1 above).  Burnt umber is a nice neutral which dries quickly.  After establishing the lightest light and darkest dark, I laid in the big color tiles on the light and shadow sides, following the values of my underpainting (panels 2 and 3).  The subject was illuminated by indirect daylight, so I pushed the warmth in the shadows and the cool flesh tones in the light. 

Click on the image to enlarge.

 After refining the features and planes of the face (panel 1 above), I worked up the hair and clothing (panel 2).  I moved around the subject so that I was always painting wet-into-wet.  My personal focus in classes at Watts this term, is edge work, so I was giving that lots of attention here.  Trying to direct the viewer and create depth with my edge treatments.  That requires invention when working from a photo.  Can't copy what you see.

Towards the end of the painting I realized the face was too narrow. Darn. Between panels 2 and 3 above, I widened the face and moved the ear over on the shadow side.  Because I used clove oil, it was easy to remove the paint with a Q-tip and make the adjustments. I also laid in the highlights at this point.

Total time to completion was around 24 hours.  I plan to modify the background after the painting sits for a while.  I think I will skip the underpainting next time...start with a small color comp (as shown previously) and proceed with a linear lay-in.  I'm more confident in my drawing skills than in my color sense, so the color comp is probably a better way for me to start.

Portrait of Nick, 20 x 16", oil on linen
 Portrait of Nick (detail)

21 May 2012

Regarding Ilya Repin and Valentin Serov

First, I've changed my blog format to gray letters on a light field to improve readability.  I found the previous black format difficult to view on mobile devices, like my iPad.  I like the light ground better anyway, although it still needs tweaking.


I recently added 2 books to my library, The Best of Ilya Repin and Valentin Serov.  I especially like the soulful portraits created by these great Russian realists...contemporaries of Sargent, Sorolla, and Zorn.  As with Sargent, Serov's portraits were in high demand by artists, politicians, and Russian high society during the Silver Age of Russia, prior to the revolution.  My original interest here was to do master studies from each book.  The drawing below is after Repin, a pale shadow of the original, but I learned a lot, as I always do with master copies.  Such a good learning tool.

Alexandra Botkina after Repin, Charcoal and chalk on paper

Back to Repin and Serov...In his early 20's, Serov was a student of Repin's for several years and that influence is clear in his work.  As I looked through each book, I recognized a similar portrait which must have been painted by them as they sat side-by-side (see below).  It's clear from her gaze that the model was deferring to Repin.  Models always pose for the master, not the students.  Interesting to see how each artist interpreted the shapes and colors before him...Repin more literally and with more saturated color, Serov more impressionistically and tonally.  I like the Repin, but if I had a choice it would be the Serov.  I'd take Serov over Sargent.  Something subtle and psychological in Serov's portraits.

Portrait of Sophia Dragomirova, 1889 by Ilya Repin

Portrait of Sophia Dragomirova, 1889 by Valentin Serov

I've included a few more of my favorite Serov's below for your enjoyment.  Information on him is widely available on the web.  Here's the Google Image search.  The book I mention above, Valentin Serov, is a bargain under $80.  I wouldn't purchase the book on Repin at it's current price of $150-$200...too expensive for what it is.

Portrait of Henrietta Girshman, 1907

Girl with Peaches, Portrait of Vera Mamontova, 1887

File:Portrait of Ivan Morozov2.jpg
Portrait of Ivan Morozov, 1910

File:Portrait of Princess Zinaida Yusupova.jpg
Portrait of Zinaida Yusupova, 1900-02