Monday, March 31, 2008

Seated Faun

Here's the latest. I hope you like it. I'm calling it "Seated Faun with Lilac." It's a very pretentious title, don't you think? There are things I like about it and things I don't. We'll get into that later. What most of my viewers are going to be shocked at is the NUDITY. My apologies if you're offended. What you art lovers should be shocked at is my continuing lack of oil-painting technique.

This is an oil painting. As you know, I have worked mainly with acrylics. I'm also mostly self taught. So I'm learning from my mistakes. But, I'll explain what I was going for.

I've always admired the old Renaissance works of Caravaggio. You've seen some of those works with the dramatic chiaroscuro effects. His paintings of John the Baptist and Dionysus have inspired me. Basically, they are paintings of young men in pastoral settings. They usually feature dark backgrounds and golden skin tones with dramatic high contrast lighting effects. I know I can't match the quality of those masterpieces, but I wanted to see how close I could get.

I wanted the painting to have that same "Old World" look about it. So, I chose a photo reference taken in the mid-1800's by Wilhelm von Gloeden. I've previously painted a portrait using one of his photos as reference. I called it "Youth with Lillies". At that time I was painting with acrylics and didn't get the blending that I wanted. I was also trying for a Pre-Raphaelite style that I admire quite a bit. I fear that my mixing of styles and techniques may have been a hindrance for me in this painting. But, I'll let you be the judge of that.

I began with an oil sketch in umber. Bougereau called that a frottie. During this stage it was all about composition. I love using oil paints during this phase. Its so easy to wipe out and redo anything that's not going right. It's not necessary to commit to anything early on in a painting. With acrylics, they're dry within minutes. There's no way to wipe out, just paint over. That leads to a very unpleasant build-up of paint unless you're very accurate with what you're doing. Oils seem to be much more forgiving. I'm starting to realize why the great masters have always loved the oil medium.

Next I worked up the frottie with an opaque grissaille. Here's where I began to model the forms and refine the values in the painting. I like to think of this phase as "injecting light" into the painting. The frottie is a very transparent and "washy" stage. White paint, either titanium or flake white, acts like a light reflector under the colors. If its not obliterated by the subsequent layers it lends a painting that glowing effect that seem to mystify the viewer. I love working on this layer. Its such a challenge to establish a sense of realism using nothing but light and dark. You also have to be careful not to lose the original composition as you work this up.

The next layer is the first application of color. I don't like using black in my color layers to modulate value, so I try to work with compliments to create various neutrals. I've experimented with a couple of techniques with color and I've decided that this method works best for me. As a matter of fact, I tried a different color process on my current painting and I'm not getting the results I want. So, I'm going back to the primary and compliment process.

Since I wanted to get a "classical" look, I put the background as a deep ultramarine blue with viridian and sienna to intensify it. The old masters did this because blues were so flattering as a compliment to golden skin tones. I started my colors with a pale white and ochre skin tone with dioxazine violet as my shadow. It really makes the contrasts pop. But, we all know that skin doesn't really look like that. So I needed successive layers. I started to refine the details of the face. I'm also experimenting with leaves and bushes for the background. Its not very imaginative at this point. The flower in his hand is the focus of his gaze. I know I'll eventually have to do a good job on that or it will seem unimportant. I'm beginning to see already that I've lost the structure of the hand and feet. That's always a danger when overpainting as many layers as I do.

In the subsequent layers I begin to work the contrasting values and more intense hues. I use more opaque white in the color to get the high points and a transparent smoky gray created from ultramarine blue and sienna to deepen the shadows. I decided the background lacked interest so I inserted a tree and couple bushes with more reflective leaves on them. I decided to make the flower in his hand a lilac because that's kind of easy. Its a bushy purple flower that can be splotched in without a lot of expertise. There was no way I was going to detail that dainty little thing he was holding in the original. I'll learn to do that some day but not for this painting.

I began adding more pinks and oranges to the skin tone. After a few days of drying time I detailed the hair and face and added a few bright white highlights to the forms. I'm happy with it. I feel its pretty successful for an amateur such as myself. Look at the close up of the face detail and you can see for yourself how much TLC I gave to this painting.

All that's left now is the signature and the varnishing. I hope everyone is pleased with this. I can tell you there were times I became very frustrated with this painting. But, every time I thought about throwing in the towel on this, I would think about the model. No doubt, it was very scandalous in the mid-1800's when this young man posed for von Gloeden. We think that our culture is homophobic now? Just think about what it must have been like then. Out of respect for the model and photographer I wanted this to be a classy piece of work. Both the model and photographer have been dead for almost 100 years now. I hope this little painting will serve as a homage to their work.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

New Guy in Grissaille

Hey everyone. This will be brief. I promised that I would post more work soon. Here it is. As some of you may remember from previous posts, I have just recently started dabbling in oils. I've painted exclusively with acrylics for years. But, as I've studied and experimented I've discovered that I probably won't get the results I'm after unless I learn the oil medium.

This first picture is the initial graphite sketch of a subject that I thought was appropriate. I've had so many positive responses on this blog and on the Flickr site of the Blue Towel guy that I decided to return to the "towel" theme. Just so you know, I feel I missed on the likeness of the model terribly. However, the focus of this painting is not necessarily to create a portrait but to learn oil painting technique. But, I feel I got the body proportions fairly accurate and the hands and forearms may be the best I've drawn (except for blue towel guy).
The second picture here is the actual painting. It's a 16 x 20 black and white grissaille. I apologize for the quality of the photos, as usual. The lighting in my little painting room is terrible. My wall color really gets into the photos terribly. The pencil drawing is actually photoshopped and color corrected because the light was so bad.
Now, because I would rather point out my flaws rather than have someone else do it, here's the critique. I did a pretty good job with manipulating values and getting the forms modeled correctly. However, the light source is really unclear. I think the reference photo was probably lit with multiple light sources. But, it still created enough deep cast shadows to make an interesting composition. My backgrounds are usually pretty lame but I'm happy with this one. The towel is still very unrefined. I've intentionally left a lot of soft, lost edges throughout the work so that I won't have to commit to final decisions until later layers. I'm not happy with the face. I'm going to live by that artist motto that perhaps it will just "work itself out". If you get a hint of brown in this when you enlarge the photo, you're right. The underdrawing is a raw umber frottie. Let me know what you think of him.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Are You Kidding?

Is it just me or does anyone else see the humor in this?

For pity's sake, do they actually have editors at this newspaper? Do they not realize just how this headline can be taken out of context? Especially if the reader is possessed with a quirky sense of humor and is given access to his blog machine after drinking a little too much wine.

Now, just so all of you in Blog'o'land won't think I'm a complete idiot, I understand they're talking about money. But, comedy writers could have a field day with this little headline. Such as: "Whose endowments are being examined?", and "Who is examining the endowments?" Of course, more importantly, "Why do the endowments need to be examined? What's wrong with the endowments?" If you ask me, we just need to take the word "endowment" out of the English lexicon. I mean, what do you think of when you hear the word endowment? "Trust-fund" or "perpetual philanthropic financial contribution." Yeah,........sure you do. Me, too.

Oh, well. Enjoy your St. Patrick's Day. I guess the newspaper and I both felt the need to write about "Shillelaghs" on this most esteemed of Irish holidays.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Award Winner

Can you believe it? I actually won an award for this simple little picture I took while standing on the porch in my PJs. I posted it on Flickr yesterday right after I wrote the blog post. This morning I checked my email and checked my Flickr account. Lo and behold, I had an invite to have this picture placed in a fancy schmancy nature photography group and they had given me this cute little sticker to attach to it. Gosh, I'm all misty now. "I'd like to thank the Academy, Mom and Dad, my high school english teachers...."

Gee, if any of my work (photos or paintings)would actually sell for money that would be even cooler, don't you think? You can email me your compliements now...... I'm waiting.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Snow Day

We so rarely get snow where I live that when we do it becomes an "event". I'm sure in the north this little wintry puff is just an ordinary occurrence but here in the south it is treated almost like a national holiday. People skip work, schools close, fireplaces light up, mom's cook huge hot breakfasts.

Of course, there are reasons for this. My northerner friends complain to me that we in the south just don't know how to cope with it. We don't have the equipment to clear the roads. We don't know how to use the equipment to clear the roads. We don't know how to drive in this weather so we're a risk to ourselves and the public safety. Our houses aren't built with enough weather-proofing and insulation. Therefore, we simply have a winter "freak-out" when we see a few white flakes.

Be that as it may. I think its one of the little gifts of life every time this happens. I think nature has a way of cooling things down when the machinery of life starts to overheat. Things like this serve as a cosmic "time out." This is mother nature saying, "Go to your room, take a nap, and don't come out until I say so." So, who am I to disagree?

This won't last long for us. This is the month of March in the south. Already the temperature is above freezing and the big puffs and drifts of snow are wilting and drooping into dripping slush piles. So, as soon as it was light enough outside to get pictures, I ran out in my PJs and snapped a few. I hope you enjoy them.

We southerners may not know how to deal with winter weather. But, I would argue that the northerners just don't know how to appreciate it.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Gemini Art International

Once again I've been contacted by a viewer who is from "across the pond". The latest international fan is from Italy. I was excited about the contact. His email was very sweet (or should I say molto dolcissimo). He said he had seen some of my work on this blog and on the gallery site and admired it. He also requested that I link to his site in exchange for a link on his.

I normally don't link to the site of bloggers or artists that I haven't personally met. I want links on my site to be connected to legitimate artwork and people who truly love art. I would never want to link to a site that would offend some of my more conservative readers. However, Freddie (Federico actually) was so complementary and charming that he has ultimately persuaded me. He reassured me that his site would not display anything inappropriate. I've checked his site and see that he shares the same interests that I do. However, he focuses more on photography and is a little more contemporary in his tastes than I. But, who can resist a charming Italian man?

I started thinking about it and realized that Freddie's just a regular guy like me who enjoys sharing the stories and pictures of his daily life. I also remembered that I live next door to a city that calls itself the, "sister city of Cisterna, Italy." So, in the spirit of goodwill and global community I've excepted Freddie's request. I'm opening a new section of links on the site. So, check out Freddie's link in the new "International" section.

Viva Italia!