I painted a demonstration for the East Bay Plein Air Painters last Saturday. Ikuko Boyland (Administrator of the EBPAP) was kind enough to take the time to photograph the demo and put together a PDF file. Thank you, Ikuko! The 5-page PDF should be loaded below (it’s 6MB, so may load slow depending on the speed of your connection). If you have trouble viewing, you can either click the full screen (box) icon in the top right of the viewer below, or click here to download the full PDF file (6.15MB). Be sure to view the color-corrected final painting below (the demo photos are a bit too cool).
Painting copies of artwork you admire is a great way to learn. Joaquín Sorolla is one of my favorite painters, so I can open “Joaquín Sorolla” (Museo Nacional Del Prado) to any page and find a work of inspiration to copy. Like this one. Funny thing is, I opened the book, and found later this is a detail of a larger painting! I had a feeling it was an odd composition (having the two people on the edge of the canvas), so it was nice to see the full composition on the next page.
Even so, copying “Sewing the Sail” (1904) was a great lesson in composition and color. I learned how Sorolla used the folds in the sail to lead directly to the figures, and even the shadows in the sand. Look how the main shadow folds in the sail lead directly to the center of interest (foreground person). I was also surprised someone how intense many of these colors were, but how adding a complement (violet to the orange) would bring down the intensity just enough (although, comparing mine to his now, I see I should have used even more violet).
This was also a great study in brushwork. The original is much larger, but I was able to adapt my brushwork to this scale (10×8) to lay down some juicy brushstrokes, particularly on the sunlit side of the sails.
It’s been a wonderful couple days here at Hearst Castle for the invitational. The artists and staff of the castle have been great. I can’t wait to see everyone’s work framed for the show June 5. Tickets are available for $175 for the Friends of Hearst Castle’s “Twilight on the Terrace” fundraiser benefiting art programs for at risk youth.
My first effort was painting “Casa del Mar”, a guest house on the South Terrace of the castle. I got to take a peak inside…wow. Opulent doesn’t begin to describe it. Hearst himself spent his final years in this house. This is just about done, I think a couple minor tweaks when I get back to my studio should do it.
My next effort was painting this white marble statue, which I imagine is Cupid (sans arrow). While in full sun is always a joy for me to paint, as white takes on so many colors and reflections of light. I’m not sure the color of reflect light is quite right, so I may make some adjustments before I call this one done.
And on my final day, again on the South Terrace outside Casa del Mar, I painted this fountain and gold statue of a princess holding a frog. I realize the princess statue on top looks like an Oscar statuette, but that’s really what it looks like! Even the shadow side on the gold had a red glow. I’m happy with this one. It’s interesting to me because it almost looks like two different painters/styles: the fountain is high-key, colorist, and the background trees and distant shore are more traditional value painting.
As you can see, all of these paintings push color a bit. With full sun available, I didn’t paint much tonally. To make sure these colors are still on track, I look at the images in black & white as well. If light and shadow read well in black/white, it almost doesn’t matter what color you choose to paint (see my 2007 post on values). I think the light/shadow patterns read in this black/white versions, so these seem to be working.
Two days of cloudy/foggy weather in Big Sur (CA) gave me chance to relax a bit. The sky cleared completely on my last day, so I was able to get a couple done on my way to the paint-out at Hearst Castle.
Getting a great block-in is really important. To me, that means a great design, division of space, interesting shapes, etc. I liked this one enough to photograph. Cool, huh?
And here’s the finished painting, or “near finished”. I think the rocks are a bit too warm/red (and actually, my camera over-saturates reds), so what you’re seeing is redder than you see here. The rocks are granite, with other reddish tones, so a blue-ish violet should improve it.
I started the day with this quick study to warm up. For small studies like these, I look for an opportunity to represent both the shadow and light side in each element. Here, was able to do light/shade for almost all elements in the painting.
Here are few more recent figure studies. I continue to enjoy this new challenge–although I think I’ll sneak in a landscape soon. This figure (sans mouth!) was done in about 10 minutes with a live model in Al Tofanelli’s class (at l’Atelier aux Couleurs). I like these quick studies–they force you to react quickly and focus on the fundamentals.
When I got back to the studio, I painted a couple more small quick ones (although, these are about an hour) from photos.
This one (and my previous self-portrait) reminded me that I should probably talk about my influences in figurative art. I’m seeking a sculptural quality, and trying to use color temperature and inventive color (although stable values) to create this new work.
I count two of my biggest influence Lucian Freud and Ann Gale. Both are wonderful draftsman (clearly needed to paint the figure), but there’s something very modern and sculptural about their work. I look to these contemporary painters for inspiration.
While this Lucian Freud work is terribly inventive in terms of color, it’s exaggeration of value and forum is something I really admire.
You can see in Ann Gale‘s work her form is somewhat distorted, although incredibly interesting. Look almost “pixelized”, doesn’t it? I really like her general restraint with color. When she does use it, it’s incredibly vibrant. You can see here how she sets up that vibrancy with a calm stage of neutrals grays.
So, while I continue to slog through the basics (which for me, is drawing the figure accurately), this is the direction I’m headed. Hopefully, these influences will help guide me to my own path and vision.
Still feeling really challenged by learning the figure. Reminds of a quote by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, “Do something every day that scares you.” I need this. I took snap shots as I progressed so I could review with my teacher Al Tofanelli (at l’Atelier aux Couleurs), so he could advise me. It’s interesting, I think a personal style in portraiture is emerging at a faster pace than landscape. Not sure why. Enjoy!
Painted this little study in my studio the other night from a reference photo. The view is from the Rubicon Trail looking down onto Lake Tahoe, which in this part of the lake is the deepest near shore. I painted in my usual “full key” (full value range), which allowed me to use rich colors and sharp value contrasts.
I set this painting next to my most recent “high key” value painting. It was striking to see the sharp contrast, and you can really see that the photo of the previous painting wasn’t over exposed, but really quite light. Coincidentally, both paintings had trees in them, and when side by side, the curve of the land connects, as if they’re part of the same scene.
I took another shot at this composition, but intended to take the high-key concept further, but failed really. I like the way the painting came out, just felt I could have made it ever more “high key”. I’m going to continue to work on this. I painted a “full key” painting from a reference photo taken at Lake Tahoe this past summer. As soon as it dries, I’ll can it and post, because I think it really illustrates the dramatic difference between low and full-key painting.
I’m continuing my exploration of high-key painting, which I define as painting in a narrow range of values, in the higher key of lights. I don’t know where this is going to lead, but it’s great to practice the control in value needed to get these paintings to work. I think I’m going to paint this scene again, perhaps a few times, each time narrowing the values further. I know looking at this now I could have taken it further, and made my darkest darks much lighter. I usually paint in a more dramatic, contrast’y way, but every technique I learn builds me as an artist. What do you think?
It’s been a long week! Everyone worked really hard, so today, we just focused on painting after a brief demo. I learned a lot from Peggi, and can highly recommend her. Her next workshop is at the Scottsdale Artist’s School in November.
As for these studies, I’m most happy with 2 and 3, and especially 3. What do you think? By the way, people have been emailing me about buying studies. I didn’t paint these to sell, so while they’re not in my online gallery store, just email me with an offer if you’d like to purchase one.
Today Peggi Kroll-Roberts focused on the structure of the head. If you think of the head as a structure of planes, it becomes easier to paint. Each plane has a relative size, shape and direction. The direction (facing up, down, towards light, away from light) gives you clues about how it should look. For example, planes that face down towards a green shirt, will have reflected green light; planes facing the sky outdoors, will reflect blue on a clear day.
Here’s a video of Peggi explaining her approach, and the measures she uses to structure the head. Peggi will emphasize that these are not rules, but guidelines. The reality is that when you’re facing with a model, they’re rarely going to be facing you straight on at eye level–but you can transpose these rules to heads that are tilted, swiveled, etc. The bottom line is you need to learn to see and draw accurately. There are no short-cuts.
Here are my own head studies from the day. So we could focus on fewer variables, the first few studies where done mono-chromatically. By the end of the day, I had time to do one study in color.