The painting workshop was very laid back and the instructor Larine was very knowledgeable about not only painting from flowers but oil painting in general. We started with a talk of materials and how to use them best. Then Larine did a “Master Copy” demo. Here she taped up an image of a flower still life from Fantn Latour with her canvas right next to it then laid down a dark oil and Gamsol wash in a square the same size of the photo.
So my wilting flower still life was a failure, but not due to the still life itself or the whole of the idea. What killed it was my choice of materials. I’m not sure if I will ever go back to gouache now, I hope that at some point in the future I have another reason to use it because I paid a good deal of money for the paints.
Still more change in the still life tonight. Of course not near as much as the previous day but there is still some movement. Even with this small movement of the flowers I’m not sure how I’m going to continue with the painting without starting over each night and painting over what I did the night before. I don’t want to start new each night, I want to catalog the decay of the still life over time in one piece. Although, I have already lost any work that I have done on the first session. I think after tonight I have a better idea of how Gouache needs to be worked so this will help me in figuring out how to move through the painting.
I set aside today to give some thought to a long term art subject. The subject needed to be something that I could work on at night under constant light, so of course it ended up being a still life. I decided that I would like to do a painting of flowers in gouache over a 7 day period. Each day I expect the still life to change slightly as the flowers wilt and change positions. I’m not sure how I’m going to handle the change in the still life every day but I’m very excited to see what I come up with.
I figured it would be interesting to split the flower in half with the background. Its very similar to a horizon line, but I wanted to see how the flower and its stem would play between the competing values. Unfortunately I didn’t spend the time in darkening in the black background much, I was so focused on the details of the withered flower that I left it mostly white.
I really need to look at master drawings from Asia. Artists like Seitei Watanabe who’s compositions and elegance are masterful. Sometimes I get a glance of this possible beauty while I’m working, but its a simplicity that my anxiousness will never let last.
I was a bit rushed tonight on this drawing. Pattie and I walked to Cinebarre, a theater very close to our house, but we arrived too late to see the movie without having to sit in the front row due to the theater being almost sold out. So we purchased tickets for the 10pm showing and decided to have dinner at Mazatlan instead.
When starting a drawing most nights I have this urge to do more with each still life, so I intentionally stay away from very simple subjects. Maybe I think that their simplicity will transfer somehow into the drawing and it will be bad or unimportant from the start. That is not the case, and this drawing really shows it.
I could have done a lot better with the values on this one and after showing the drawing to my wife she commented that it looks like he is riding a platypus and not a manatee. As soon as she said that I realized that the snout of the manatee was too long and I didn’t quite capture the roundness of it.
There were so many ornaments on the tree to choose from that it was very hard picking one. I like Pinocchio because he is made of a bunch of simple shapes. I remember at one point during the drawing he fell over, luckily I was far enough into the drawing that it didn’t destroy my chances of getting his shape accurate.
There is something about this drawing that has really grown on me. When I was doing it I wasn’t liking it at all but the more I look at it I’m reminded of those wonderful Japanese ink drawings that focus deeply on the elegance of line quality and the power of simplistic composition. I may need to chase this down more.
So I didn’t have any of our furniture setup and the new apartment was in a bit of disarray but I managed to setup a flower from a large bouquet of wild flowers we purchased at the grocery store today. After moving 90% of all our belonging out of one apartment and into another I really didn’t have much energy to do a full hour of drawing so I kept this one short at 30 minutes. I tried something a bit wild and expressive, but I don’t think it turned out too well.
I realized tonight that drawing a thin person standing straight up is probably one of the hardest things to draw ever. Actually I think its even worse when your trying to do 2 minute gestures of the standing straight poses. There seems to be nothing to latch onto, there are so many subtle transition in the line that it takes a lot of concentration to get the quick strokes of the charcoal perfect. This is why the first few gesture drawing are really terrible.
For this drawing I really focused hard on the values and I’m really happy with the result. I also took a couple glances at the still life through my iphone and its “mono” filter that basically turned everything black and white. I didn’t do this to get the exact values of certain areas of the satsuma, but to get the relative values. In my previous drawing the leaves were much too light and I was surprised to notice when looking at the iPhone that the leaves were much darker than anything, very close to the value of the cast shadows.
I picked up a few Satsumas from the grocery today. I may end up doing a painting of them as the green and orange is really nice. I also changed up my paper tonight for a sketch book of really flat almost plate like paper. I was having trouble with my earlier drawings taking on too much texture from the paper. The texture isn’t bad, it’s just too distracting for such small drawings. I think this very flat paper worked out much better even without a blending stump.
I was very excited to do the drawing for the fist time at Gage Academy or Art today, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to get there until after 1pm. So, by the time I walked into the building it was into full swing and it was PACKED with artists and everyone. There were drawing session with short poses, long poses, clothed models, nude models, multiple models and single models. More drawing opportunities than you could shake a stick at. Also all of the studios were open and it was nice to see some of the great work that was coming from Gage.
My wife really does have a good artistic eye. We were at Central Market getting groceries and I wanted to go by the produce section and pick out a plant / vegetable / fruit for my drawing tonight. We both walked down the long row of vegetables weighing each one for its still life potential as well as it inevitable usage in some future meal. She picked out the coral mushroom, pointing and saying, “ooh that looks cool!”, I agreed and I think we touch every single one trying to pick out the best for a still life.
I forgot to take a picture of my setup after finishing the drawing, so I had to settle for a picture of the subject and setup that was different from the conditions in which I drew it.
There were lots of subtle transition in this leaf so I was trying to be very careful with my values. I also did something very different than what I normally do, I mixed charcoal and graphite. I used the charcoal to quickly cover the cast shadow of the leaf but I needed to use a stump to blend it evenly. I learned a while back that graphite and charcoal doesn’t mix well, you wouldn’t think it, but there are two very different colors. So to get around this I made sure that I kept the charcoal in the shadow only, separating the medium so the difference looked natural.
We had a wonderful dinner tonight with our good friends the Miller’s at Brouwer’s Cafe. I fit right in with the crowd as there was an unusually high percentage of beards throughout the restaurant. Maybe it was part of the dress code?
“Just a simple clove of garlic” I said. Little do you know of the subtle nature of the curves of garlic until you really focus down hard on them and try to reproduce on paper. I think I redrew the shape of this clove three time but I got close enough, even after this I’m not very happy with the outcome. I really think I could have gotten much close with the values, but spending only one hour on a drawing doesn’t leave much time for improvement. One of these days I will focus hard on a subject that demands many hours of work.
We had a great day today at the Wildlife Safari in Winston Oregon but the drive back took longer that expected and we didn’t get back home till 11pm. So, I was tired and ready for bed so I only did a quick 30 minute drawing of an ornament that was painted by one of the Elephants at the wildlife safari.
Even though I spent two hours on this small drawing working hard on the detail and accuracy it still seems stilted and un-natural. This is the same problem that I have seen many artists face. It’s all about keeping the life and energy within the subject while at the same time focusing down upon its details. I have heard many artists comment on studies for major work having more “energy” than the finished major work. Its difficult to retain the lively essence of a subject while focusing on accuracy, John Singer Sargent, one of my most favorite artists, does this well.
While surfing the web I found some great drawings of leaves by Edwin Monsalve. I have done several drawings and paintings previously of dried and dead leaves but the difference between my works and his was how I felt about them. I had chosen these leaves as one of my nightly subjects and no more, but Monsalves’s are important and specific. The level of care and detail attributed to them commands that a viewer take notice. Monsalve is saying that this small leaf is as important a subject as a figure, or a whole landscape of leaves.
There are always those days when any skill at art that I posses seems to be well out of my reach and frustration wins out. Tonight was such a night. But, one thing I leaned from this is how amazing the art of Andrew Wyeth really is. Tonight his ability with tempera, a medium very similar to gouache, seemed light years ahead of me and completely unreachable. I hope to learn more from tonight’s failure.
Every body is different and interesting, but sometimes we have a model with a body much different than the norm. Tonight’s model was very thin and her body had many spots where the bone could be seen plainly. All of these areas where the bone is closest to the skin are seen as “landmarks” for an artist and tonight’s model had so many that it made the drawing much easier.
At the start of this drawing I was longing for sleep even though it was only 8pm. Needless to say I only lasted an hour before I decided to break this work into two session. Tonight I will be attending my weekly A&C Art Supply class so I will be continuing with this painting on Thursday, maybe while I eat myself stupid at the same time.
I’m finding gouache very interesting yet difficult to work with. Its very similar to watercolor yet I feel like it wants to be worked in a more opaque manner. And for the first time I really have to think about the white of the paper and use it to my advantage. Which in tern causes a need for careful consideration before laying down paint. I have to figure out if I want certain areas to only have transparent layers and show the white of the paper through or if they should be opaque.
It has been a while since I have done a self portrait and I don’t think I have done one in graphite yet. I guess I am out of practice because starting this self portrait seemed daunting to say the least. I started very sketchy and small then after establishing the general shape of my head and shoulders I jumped straight in with the detail.
Still inspired by Andrew Wyeth I was searching the apartment for anything that I owned that was dear to me. I quickly became surprised that I couldn’t find anything. It seems that I have no keepsakes, no meaningful trinkets lying about my home, whereas my wife has a ton of keepsakes around the home and each and every one has a special meaning to her.
Tonight I went so far as to have an Andrew Wyeth book open next to me during the whole drawing class. I used it as a constant reminder to look hard and try to achieve the best drawings possible. I started out well with the 1 minute poses at the beginning of the class. My drawing was slow but accurate and I had deep concentration on the shape of the model. Only for a few did I falter and loose focus, and with those you can tell because my line work is not near as confident.
Today I was looking desperately for some motivation and inspiration so I searched within artwork of one of my most favorite artists, Andrew Wyeth. I have several books on his work and after looking at all of them I was inspired more by his drawings. So I decided to put down the paint brush for a while and go back to drawing.
There were a lot of great color variations withing the light and shadow areas of this squash. One of the hardest things that I have found to paint is yellow in shadow. Sometimes it gets cooler and goes green or it keeps its warm hue and just gets darker brown, but to make it convincing enough it has to be properly subdued yet still retain the idea of yellow. I also enjoyed trying to get the variation of texture of the squash, texture is one thing that oil paint excels at.
Over this year I have painted a lot of apples. You would think that they would get easier, but you would be wrong. Of course the drawing of the contour of the apple isn’t hard, but the detail of the skin with its subtle shifts in color and value can prove to be a huge challenge especially depending on how deep you look into the apple. Like most living things the longer you stare deep into it, the more detail you see.
It is no secret that I have been struggling with subject matter for weeks. Every night seems to be a struggle to find something of interest to paint. It’s late by the time I start a painting so my subject matter is reduced to what I have close at hand, so I arrange it under the light and go through the motions.