Friday, July 30, 2010

Rust Red, Gray Blue

This is a 16x20" painting that I finished tonight.

The photograph above I took when the painting was finished, and the photo below I took when it was only half way complete. Putting the red in the tree was kind of a risk. I already liked the piece and I have a tendency to overwork paintings. I think now, comparing the two photos that I made the right choice. I'm in love with "light red"--that's the rusty color. I can lay it down on an already wet canvas and it takes over. Such a confident color. I've been wanting to do more fuzzy, abstract landscapes.

There's a light blue scratch riding the line between the land and the sky. It's a scratch from a palette knife. I like delineations. Like lines. Scratches, scars.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Fences and Wheat Fields

The image above is what the canvas started off looking like last night, and the image below is what I turned it into. I love the scratches--like old scars--under the image. I'm not sure where they came from--a palette knife, I suppose.

I feel as if--no, I don't just feel, because I HAVE--spent hours trying to take some good pictures of my paintings. Not just these two paintings here, but all my paintings. The picture of the piece below is the best I can do right now. I will try again this weekend to get some better pictures in daylight.

This might sound trivial, but I couldn't decide if I should leave the fence, or add some trees, or maybe a person inching through the grass. So far none of the house pictures have featured figures--at least, not explicitly. I think that the presence of the people who belong in the houses I have painted are implicit in the paintings. Or the houses are the people. The people are the houses. The houses aren't houses anyway--no house looks like that. No house except those we draw as children really look like this.

Monday, July 19, 2010

life drawing session #2, frantic lines in pen and ink

So this week I used pen and ink. As it would turn out, my black ink is almost gone and the replacement I bought was actually white ink (not useful in this case!), so I used the brown ink I had on hand. I liked the sepia look so much that I think I'll try it again.

I'm a little rusty with pen and ink, but I think there were a lot of neat little things happening in most of the drawings.

I think this was the most successful of all the pieces:

like the figure on the left more than the figure on the right, and am annoyed that one of them is proportionally larger than the other:

This was a neat little moment, part of a larger image that had little else good about it:

I dislike the shortest poses, but this piece below was a nice little procession of gesture poses across the page. Torsos elongated.

wish she had held this one longer:

Her longest pose:

Eakins painting restored

An interesting article in the New York Times covering the restoration of an Eakins painting has me puzzled--the article makes it sound as though the restoration actually involved painting over the painting. Is that how restoration works? I could google it, but I don't have time right now. Maybe later.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

sad discovery

I haven't painted in a few days because I'm organizing my apartment, which means I'm doing a lot of sorting and some throwing away, etc. I came up on some illustrations I made years and years ago. I have always been really attached to these illustrations, but I've discovered that they've been water damaged. Somewhere in the move between here and there, or sometime in their storage folded up in old newsprint paper, they were exposed to something that has dried brown. This is very sad--I can still see the images more or less just fine, the paper is now warped a little stained, and not in an attractive way. I guess I always had this coming, because I never did much to protect them--never really knew what to do with them--so they sat in storage and I pulled them out once per move while packing, and looked at them, touched the paper, and put them away.

These scans aren't the best--the paper won't lay flat on the scanner now, and the images are much larger than the scanner will hold.

This is an illustration of a poem by Robert Browning. It's a bit weird.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


I meant to go to bed early tonight. I just thought it would be nice. I guess I won't now.

I never meant to finish this painting...I was just trying to rub the used paint off my paintbrushes and onto a canvas. Then I started to notice a really beautiful shade of...I don't know what you'd call that color. Sand? Seashell? and gray-blue. Really soft, beautiful colors. Reminded me of land and water.

This painting is really delicate. I'm calling it "Stitches". It's different from anything I've done.

Stitches is a really small painting--4x5, maybe. No. It's 5x7.

Then, this was the painting that I did before the Stitches painting--I thought this was the last painting of the night. I just meant to rub the paint off my paintbrushes. I started to paint the wine bottle and goblet on the table. I've been wanting to try still life paintings, although I had imagined I would start with a more original/unique set up. Maybe I'll work on this again later. Maybe I'll just paint over it.

This piece is heavily textured. I painted it on an 8x10 11x14 that had like two or three paintings--and some big scratches--underneath it.

It's really hot here. It was in the 90's today. My apartment was stuffy most of the night, even with the air conditioning, and it's 1AM and I'm tired, but I really like that stitches piece. It looks so small, and fragile.

Monday, July 12, 2010

the best. website. EVER.

Amien, the Art Materials Information and Education Network, has a forum where you can ask questions about your art materials and get thorough, straightforward answers. I don't know if I'm the only one, but I have so many questions, all the time, about my art materials. What's the best way to adhere mixed media to a canvas? What does "archival quality" mean, anyway? What happens if I use cheap oil paint? Does the expensive oil paint really make that much of a difference, or do the benefits stop mattering after a while? Does it make a difference if I use odorless paint thinner? ...and now I have someone to ask, besides the clerks at Dick Blick.

Life Drawing Session 1

I went to a life drawing session tonight--the first one in about 8 years. I was a bit nervous, during the drive to the studio. It's been a long time, and I knew I wouldn't know anyone there.

The studio was in a scary neighborhood. Maybe not scary, like,...lots of gang activity and crime, but the sort of scary that made me think, if there is a serial killer in the city where I live, this is where he skulks. It's where he dumps the bodies. There were no houses, no businesses--only brick warehouses and semi trucks. The roads were in terrible condition. I arrived at dusk, and it was just spooky.

The session was totally cool. I was instantly comfortable. I started at a table but moved to the floor so I could bend over the drawing pad. I had a beer.

We started with gesture drawings.

Then we moved to longer poses.

The model pulled a gun for one pose. (it was a prop...I assume)

They switched to shorter poses at the end. Too bad because I had switched to a larger format, and that was working out nicely for me. But because of the shorter time for each pose, these last drawings remain unfinished.

These are all 18x24. I need to spray them with fixative, but what I remember of fixative, it sort of changes the image...makes it darker in places, less fuzzy. Does this happen to anyone else? How can I prevent it? Is there anything better to preserve the image?

Oh yes, by the way, I got completely filthy.

Edit, 7/19/10:

I've been wondering the last few days, looking at these drawings from time to time, why I don't draw the model's mouth. And well, I do sometimes, but not usually. It's possible I'm like a child who draws people without arms and hands because he subconsciously feels a lack of control. It's also possible this is an aesthetic choice. That I secretly believe a mouth would look wrong if I drew one. I can't decide.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Open Door

I wasn't trying to duplicate the layout of the white house painting, but it happened. I was watching "Paranormal Activity" while I painted this, and a lot of my attention was on the movie, even if my eyes were on the canvas. Actually, it was a good thing, having something to look at instead of the television. I'm a shameless fan of scary movies (as I write this I am simultaneously watching/listening to "Jaws"), but when it comes time to keep my eyes on the tv screen, I'll do anything just to look away. I just get so giddy and scared. By the way, the movie was very creepy, and though the end was terrible, it successfully scared me. I went to bed at 2:30 last night with my head under the pillow to hide from my thoughts. (has anyone seen this? and how the woman gets up and stands next to the bed for hours? oh dear.)

I'm off to buy more canvas in a moment, and some new drawing materials. I can't find my ink well, and I'm running low on paper.

Friday, July 9, 2010

New "House" Series

I went on a painting binge last night. These paintings kept me up and working until 5AM, but they were 100% worth it. I hit on something.

Here's what happened:

By far my favorites are the first two. The neutral-near-monochromatic color scheme is so rich and gorgeous, but more than that, I'm in love with the house shape. What it symbolizes. And how lonely these homes look, in their dark, cloudy little monochromatic worlds. I must take this farther.

In college, I painted a lot of mostly-empty rooms, with iconic doors and windows. By the time I left college, I had begun to feel as if I had exhausted the subject, but this takes what I loved about those paintings and flips them inside out...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Blue Quilt

I decided I wanted to paint a series of illustrations of the Once And Future King. I chose a passage from the Sword In The Stone, at the very end, when the Wart had pulled the sword from the stone and his foster brother and foster father had bent down on one knee to hail the new king, and the Wart was overwhelmed with his fear. Actually, I chose a scene right before that scene, to be more accurate. And the sword was in the stone, and the three figures were standing beside it. The painting was very vague, mystical and weird looking, textural, I thought the colors were very beautiful, and I showed the painting to my painting-checker (family member, I have her look at all my work and she usually gives kind of vague answers like "it looks nice, I like it, what do you want from me?"), and she said something like, "it's three figures in a grave yard." I couldn't figure it out, at first, but then I realized the sword didn't look like a sword, it looked like a cross, head-stone fashion. That was when that painting died, right there. All the steam blew out of me. I had no desire to fix it--I wanted to get rid of it as quickly as possible. I try very hard to stay away from obviously morbid subjects and morbid paintings. I like dark and edgy, yes, but I like to tease meaning from paintings, not to get hit by meaning as if from a blunt object. So, nevermind the fact that this was not meant to be a painting of three figures in a graveyard--I like unexpected, happy accidents. I just didn't want it to be so obviously bleak.

I left it to dry, then I turned it into this. The pastel reds and yellows show from beneath the new layers of thalo blue and burnt umber. The texture underneath pokes up from below like little mountains. I was very satisfied with the painting when I finished it, but the more I see it, the more I enjoy it. I find the blue very comforting.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Painter's Rag

This is the first time I have ever painted a non-representational piece. I may have played with the idea in college some--painting non-representationally, I mean--but I couldn't tear myself away from painting a subject, painting a thing. Anything. Even if the finished product looked nothing like that thing.

Painting non-representationally seemed too easy, and too hard at the same time. How do you make the choice to put a line here, a shadow there, if you aren't looking at a subject?

I feel guilty at the thought of turning away from the subject. I want to make art that is beautiful and not trivial. If you're painting non-representationally, does that mean that you're painting nothing? Nothing at all? How can that not be trivial? How do you know if it looks right? How do you know when it's done?

The mental run around is problematic. My best paintings are created when I achieve a balance between instinctive action and deliberate concentration, but it turns out that non-representational painting is mostly an internal activity. I over-think as payment for the fact that this type of painting requires very little thought. If my instincts tell me to paint a box here, I should. But in my mind, painting is hard work. It should be hard work. If it's not, if it's not a struggle, it's bad art. I force myself to think hard about the painting because I don't have to, and I want to make art that affects people, and I want to deserve it.

So, this is my first non-representational piece. Now that it's all said and done, I think it's beautiful. And of course, art is not trivial, so even though this is a painting of nothing, it is not trivial, because it is art. Art has its place, an important place. (gosh...I'm normally much better at writing about art...but this hard)

I created this piece over a couple months. I just knew when it was done because I couldn't tear my eyes away from it. I still don't know if it looks right (or done, or beautiful) to other people, but I guess I don't really need anyone else to think it's beautiful, and that's important.

The Start

My most creative moments occur after midnight. I like to follow up creative moments with fried eggs once over easy, accompanied by salsa and corn tortillas.