Friday, February 20, 2015

"Jessica's Scarf" - A Progression

Last night after putting Cecelia to bed, I left to paint with a group of artists who meet regularly in Plano on Thursday nights, and my husband stayed home to hold down the fort.

I had a blast doing this painting. I'm really hoping I can go to this art group more often. There's always great energy in a room full of like-minded people, all working to perfect their craft. And of course, there is no substitute for working from a live model!  Last night's model was one of my favorite muses, Jessica, and even though I've painted her many times before, she always manages to pull off some new look or expression every time she poses. That is a gift, folks!

Anyway, I thought I'd share some of the progress shots from the three-hour session. A couple of the artists in attendance decided to watch me work throughout the evening, and I have decided that I'm a much better painter when I have an audience! I love the pressure!

Here is the progression. My palette consisted of titanium white, cad. yellow pale, yellow ochre pale, cad. orange, cad. scarlet, cad. red, alizarin crimson permanent, transparent oxide red, transparent oxide brown, viridian, and ultramarine blue (which I barely used).


Step 1: The first ten or fifteen minutes. The start is the most important part of the painting. In this case, since she was under a warm light but had a green background behind her, I decided to start with a warmer tone for the wash (transparent oxide red, with a little ultramarine blue). The wash was then blotted with a paper towel, and I jumped right in with tic marks for placement of the head, as well as the angle of the eyes and eyebrows.  Accuracy of shapes and placement was crucial during this block-in stage. I also wanted to be accurate from the get-go with the values of the light and shadow shapes as well as some of the local colors (like the background and that bright red hair!). In alla prima painting you don't really have the luxury of "guessing now, fixing the mistakes later." You want to get it right immediately. As far as placement, I wanted to make room for the handkerchief around her neck, so I purposely put the head farther up in the right-hand corner than I normally would.


Step 2: About 35-40 minutes in. The shadows were tricky. We all see colors differently, and I tend to see more greens than purples in skin. This time, though, I decided to push the purples a little more, since there was already going to be so much green in the background.


Step 3: After the first hour. All my major shapes and values in the face were established, as well as the likeness (because form determines likeness, not detail!). I was pretty far away from the model stand, so this forced me to keep things simple, especially in the eyes. I didn't even have to squint! The contour of her jawline was established by pushing back and forth between the background tones and her skin tone, as opposed to drawing it in with a hard line.


Step 4: This was about halfway through (so an hour and a half of work). Part of me wishes I had left it at this stage, since it already has so much emotion. But I was having so much fun I couldn't stop.


Step 5: Painting everything else! Okay, I admit... I missed a step. I kept painting right through one or two of the model breaks, so I forgot to take some progress shots. But I can say that the scarf and top were essentially painted in one of those 20-minute sessions, very quickly. All it needed after that was some tweaking here and there, especially to soften edges since I tend to be clunky when I'm laying on paint that fast. The finessing comes afterwards. :-)


Above: The finished 3-hour alla prima head study. "Jessica's Scarf" - 12x9" - oil on linen panel

Below: a detail of the face


Below: Jessica with the finished painting



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Monday, February 16, 2015

The Eyes of a Child

As a woman who thrives on exploration and discovery, whether it be along the streets of Venice (ah, Europe - how I miss you!) or the mountain trails of the Colorado Rockies, I have found myself struggling lately to find meaning in the rote operations of motherhood.  Without prospects for a great new painting idea, I become complacent--like my "painting muscles" have gotten flabby--and it's an awful feeling. I've been searching for a way to overcome my frustration over life being so ordinary.

There is a way.

I have to stop spending so much time inside my own head, and start seeing the world through my daughter's eyes. Everything is new and exciting to her. There is nothing ordinary about anything! I've seen the way she holds up her own hand to study it, moving it around and twirling it in front of her face. I've watched her marvel over interesting new textures, tastes, sights and sounds. I've smiled until my face hurt watching her bounce up and down in her Johnny Jump-Up, her expression one of pure joy.

That joy is what this new set of paintings is about. "New Discoveries" and "Exploring" are designed simply, with the brimming morning light on Cecelia as the focal point. She is alone but not lonely, for there is so much yet to see and discover.  

"Seek the wisdom of the ages, but look at the world through the eyes of a child."        
 - Ron Wild


"New Discoveries" - 12x12 inches - oil on linen panel


"Exploring" - 12x12 inches - oil on linen panel

Below: Cecelia's first time on a swing, January 2015



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