30 April 2015

Painted Portrait for a Friend...and Chuck Close on Inspiration

Portrait of Erin, 11x14" oil on board

This simple portrait is a gift for a friend.  She's been patient...I did the shoot last July.  It often takes me a while to get inspired.  I need a motivator.  My subconscious needs processing time.  Chuck Close says "inspiration is for amateurs".  That's a great quote.  I know he's right, too.  When it comes to making art, you gotta show up.  I often feel resistance at the start, but when I hunker down and get on with it, I am always happy I did.  Those first few moments in the studio can make or break the whole day. 
"Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work. And the belief that things will grow out of the activity itself and that you will — through work — bump into other possibilities and kick open other doors that you would never have dreamt of if you were just sitting around looking for a great ‘art idea.’ And the belief that process, in a sense, is liberating and that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every day. Today, you know what you’ll do, you could be doing what you were doing yesterday, and tomorrow you are gonna do what you did today, and at least for a certain period of time you can just work. If you hang in there, you will get somewhere."
The present portrait was painted on gessoed MDF primed with Golden Acrylics Neutral Gray (N6).  I like how flesh tones vibrate against the bluish background.  I let the background show through in the face and hair to unify the image.  I painted this wet-into-wet, no scumbles or glazes.  I put the painting in the freezer between the 2 sessions.  Below is the progression.  For an explanation of my process go here.

There are actually a lot of visible brushstrokes, which you can see in the detail below.  It looks gauzy and blended from a distance because the values are close together. 

Obey (detail of Erin)

Here it is framed...


And finally, a bonus for reading this far...a link to more on Chuck Close's artistic philosophy.

11 April 2015

Self-Portrait Painted in Oil

Finally getting around to a self portrait.  I painted this from my website profile photo.

Regarding the brushwork, I tried very hard to leave well enough alone.  I'm beginning to understand how this relates to individual style.  What each artist considers "well-enough" supports their aesthetic.  When we overwork (eg. not leaving well enough alone) the uniqueness disappears.  The work becomes generic. 

Self-portrait, 9x12 oil on board

Some comments and the progression...

I start with a charcoal drawing on toned, gessoed MDF.  I seal the drawing with workable fixative. It's not a good likeness at this point.  Big shapes are fairly accurate, though.

Next comes a loose underpainting in raw umber to set the values.

On the first color pass, big shapes are laid on quickly with flat bristles, using the largest brushes I can handle.  I'm thinking about the underlying forms and facial symmetry. Looking for "happy accidents" and trying to get a fair amount of paint on the board.  I want a nice wet surface to paint into on the second round.  This is an important stage, even though it's hard to look at.

 I refine the smaller shapes on a second pass.  This is the "leave well enough alone" stage.

Finally I add highlights to round out the forms, trying not to overdo them.  I like the contrast of the unfinished background against the face, so I consider it done at this point.

Recently I changed to a low chroma palette.  At Watts, students started out with a modified Zorn palette.  Cad red light, yellow ochre, ultramarine blue, ivory black.  I now realize this was the wrong palette for me, way too chromatic.  My skin tones were always too hot.  It's better now.

Self-portrait, detail