Monday, February 25, 2013

It's Not Vacation Unless I'm Working!

Last week my in-laws treated Steve and me to an all-inclusive beach vacation with them in the Bahamas. We stayed at the Sandals Royal Bahamian in Nassau, which includes lots of water sports, restaurants, drinks all day (not that I took advantage of that!), and even an off-shore private island. Of course, I couldn't stand the thought of spending five days without painting, so I brought my pochade box and supplies along with me. I managed to do a little bit of plein air painting almost every day we were there. There was something incredibly freeing about standing there in a bathing suit, barefoot in the sand, doing what I love the most. :-) 

 Finished painting (about 1 1/2 hours) of rocks and waves along the offshore island at the resort.
8x8" - oil on panel

Later my father-in-law even posed for one of my paintings. You may remember him from one of my portrait sketches a couple of years ago... click HERE to view that one.

Below is a 15-minute quick sketch of one of our many little beach visitors. :-) 5x4" - oil on linen glued to panel.

On our last day there, I got up early to paint the sunrise. The colors weren't as exciting as I hoped they'd be, but I still enjoyed the process of watching the clouds and colors evolve with the rising sun.

Yep, it's just not vacation unless I'm working. I love my job!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Guy with a Beard

This guy... Michael Mentler. The Infamous 'M'. :-)

Michael runs the Society of Figurative Arts in Carrolton, TX. I have known him for almost five years now and have enjoyed regularly attending his Tuesday portrait painting sessions. We have gotten to be very good friends, and I have enjoyed celebrating with him in his remarkable success as of late (he has been hailed as a "modern-day Leonardo" by Richard Schmid himself!). Michael is an excellent artist and teacher, but he also has an overall look that is begging to be painted! He has posed for such greats as Sherrie McGraw and Rose Frantzen. At SOFA, though we work from all different models week to week, we are always begging Michael to sit for us. This week, our model didn't show, so Michael complied, and I finally got my shot at capturing this great man's likeness. I have tried at least twice before, and was never satisfied with the result. This time, I am much happier with it.

"Portrait of Artist Michael Mentler" - 12x9" - oil on linen panel (quick sketch completed in under 3 hrs)



Sunday, February 3, 2013

"Glass Sparrow" - Inspiration & Progression

My recent painting, "The Glass Sparrow", was inspired by a piece I saw at the Meadows Museum of Art at SMU. It was part of the special Diego Velazquez exhibit that I was fortunate enough to attend just before it closed. The piece that really grabbed me was called "Female Figure (Sibyl with Tabula Rasa)". It wasn't the subject matter that attracted me, but rather, the abstract value pattern. An abstract value pattern is what the image would look like if it were broken down into its simplest shapes and values, so essentially, what you would see if you were squinting at it from far away. A successful AVP will draw you in from across the room and make you want to look closer - and that is exactly what this painting did for me. I loved the square composition, the perfect diagonal 50/50 division of light and dark, and the fact that the figure's face was slightly obscured by shadow.

"Female Figure (Sibyl with Tabula Rasa)" c. 1648, by Diego Velazquez

I did a very quick thumbnail sketch of the painting while I was at the museum, and went home with an idea for my own take on that exciting composition.

After two 3-hour sessions with a live model, I finished "The Glass Sparrow." Below are some shots of the progression of this painting.

Though there are many "formulas" that I draw from for starting a painting, I look at each new piece as an experiment, approaching it differently from the last. This is partly because of the uniqueness of the subject matter and lighting, but also because I simply love to try new things. The last thing I want is for all of my paintings to look identical!

With this painting, I started by lightly blocking in the main overall shape that I wanted, making sure that both the model's head and hands would fit on the 16 x 15" canvas. Then I dove in with color, taking an alla prima approach to it, and trying my best to get accurate colors and values from the very start. After that, I began pushing the paint around and "chiselling" out the features - going back and forth between background and subject - until the likeness emerged.

Eventually, I had to decide whether or not I wanted to make the background uniform or more contrasty (as in the Velazquez piece). I decided that for this painting, more uniformity was required, but still with interesting brushwork that helps direct the eye and give the piece a feeling of motion.

Here it is, finished. Besides the interesting composition, there is some symbolism in this piece. The bird and the nudity are both symbols of vulnerability (a theme I have been exploring a lot lately with my figure paintings). I drew from this particular model's experience for the development of the painting. Like all of us, she has had some challenges in her life, and the painting represents a turning point where she is ready to be open and vulnerable again.

"The Glass Sparrow" - 16x15" - oil on linen panel - Available

By the way, I just found out that this piece has been accepted into the Greenhouse Gallery of Fine Art's 12th Annual Salon International! It will be on display from April 13-May 3, 2013 in San Antonio, TX. Click here for more information.

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