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Entries in still life (130)

Friday
Oct012010

"Black Jug" Sessions 7-11

"Black Jug"
oil on panel
8 x 10 inches


This is the final stage of the painting I have been documenting step-by step.

Saturday October 9: 3-6pm
Sunday October 10: 4-6pm

Location:
3265 17th St, cross street Mission
San Francisco

Friday
Oct012010

"Message in a Bottle" Sessions 8-12


"Message in a Bottle"
oil on panel
8 x 10 inches


A tiny bottle wrapped in cream-colored tissue, a larger bottle carrying a message but with no cork to protect it, and finally a fragile shell, so thin a breeze could lift it... water, air, travel, mystery, and adventure are all woven into this simple design of three objects lined up on a shelf.

They seem to tell a story together, of secrets and memories, but we are not sure what it is. These objects seemed to arrange themselves on my shelf, and demand their story be told.

But what I did not realize when I set out to paint this, was what a challenge the glass bottle would turn out to be! What our mind tells us is a solid glass vessel with weight and symmetry, is actually only an arrangement of reflections superimposed on the background. One small mis-step of the brush or the eye, and the reflection wavers and the integrity of the bottle is lost.

Making this ephemeral illusion stand straight and symmetrical was a challenge, it only wanted to lean and warp! But I finally managed to nudge it into a position of solid grandeur, bravely holding its fragment of a note.

Tuesday
Sep142010

"Message in a Bottle" Session 7


8 x 10 inches
oil on panel
work in progress


You'll have to compare this very closely to the previous version to see the changes, but this step represents several more hours of work.

From here on out, the steps between stages will be incremental, hardly even noticeable in the photos posted here. But I'll try to post close-ups and describe what I am doing as much as possible.

Tuesday
Sep142010

"Message in a Bottle" Session 6: Beginning Color


8 x 10 inches
oil on panel
work in progress


Even though I have begun color at this stage, I am still thinking of it as under-painting. In fact, the more I develop as a painter, the more I find that most of my time spent on a painting is "underpainting" - preparing the bed of values and hues the final painting will lay over.

So here I am mixing my values with colored pigment instead of just grey. I'm also just starting to warm up the colors of the shell, message paper and tissue.

Finally, I am adding a new level of refinement and detail as I make my first pass of color.

Tuesday
Sep142010

"Black Jug" Session 6: Beginning Color


8 x 10 inches
oil on panel
work in progress


You might not be able to see much "color" in this stage of the painting versus the previous monochromatic underpainting stage. But now I am mixing my neutrals values with a palette of color, instead of just grays.

The main difference between painting with monochromatic values and painting is color is in the transitions between light and shadow. In monochrome, you can just mix a bit of the 'light" puddle with a bit of the "shadow" puddle to make the halftone between.

When painting in color, the "halftones" is where all the most saturated color is. So each step between the light and shadow must be analyzed and mixed to match a hue/color, in addition to the value. This is very subtle when painting a monochromatic subject in color, because all the hues are relatively desaturated. But it's what makes even a monochromatic subject look like it is "in color".

Also, even in sharp edges, like where the edges of the white seashell touch the black background of the pot, the paint will look chalky and clunky. The tiny seam where the white meets the black must be knit together with a deeply saturated, dark orange or red. Otherwise the white seashell will look like a cookie-cutter shape pasted over the background, instead of a believable object sharing the same reality as the jug.

To do this, I use a small brush to push rich, saturated mixtures into the edges of the shell, and then back-fill the seashell with white, leaving a tiny thread of color between the light edge and the black background.

Since this technique is subtle and microscopic, it's impossible to see the effect in this photo. But careful attention to the reality of the edges will make the painting look believable in person.

Wednesday
Sep012010

"Message in a Bottle" Session 5: Monochromatic Underpainting

8 x 10 inches
oil on panel
work in progress

Wednesday
Sep012010

"Black Jug" Session 5: Monochromatic Underpainting

8 x 10 inches
oil on panel
work in progress

Wednesday
Sep012010

"Message in a Bottle" Session 4: Umber Underpainting

8 x 10 inches
oil on panel
work in progress

Wednesday
Sep012010

"Black Jug" Session 4: Umber Underpainting


8 x 10 inches
oil on panel
work in progress

Wednesday
Sep012010

"Message in a Bottle" Session 2 & 3: Drawing & Transfer

8x10 inches
graphite on gessoed panel
work in progress


After I transfer the drawing to the panel I spend more time-drawing every line from life and refining it to the highest degree possible. The more details I work out here, the less problems I will have to solve in paint. The traced image always deadens, so I never just go from traced transfer directly to paint.

Sunday
Jun272010

Seashell's Dream


Seashell's Dream

8x8 inches, oil on panel

Just finished this little painting today after working on it on and off over the last month or 2 between other projects. I painted it over about 7 sessions. It developed a bit differently from my usual process for still life, because instead of doing a drawing first I just jumped in with a color oil sketch the first day, and just kept adding refinement and detail each session.

Wednesday
Feb102010

Conch Shell - FINISHED!

oil on panel, 9 x 12 inches
See previous post about this painting

(detail)

Over the last month blogging has taken a backseat to finishing the final paintings for my upcoming show at M Gallery in Florida, also setting up my new studio, starting private classes and workshops at the new studio, and teaching MFA candidates one day a week at the Academy of Fine Art.

Phew!

Oh, and I also started an amazing, inspiring ecorche class (sculpting all the bones and muscles of the human body in clay) with Andrew Ameral, master anatomy teacher from the Florence Academy.


So yes, I have been very busy, but really never happier!!

Wednesday
Feb102010

Pewter Pitcher

oil on panel, 8 x 8 inches

My favorite little pitcher, it was such a joy to do a study devoted to it alone! So many lovely oranges and lavenders peeking through its patina....

This painting and 5 others will be at my show at M Gallery in Sarasota, Florida for the month of March, opening March 5.

Be sure to check out the workshop I am offering in Sarasota to coincide with the show, and my other upcoming classes and workshops!



Thursday
Dec242009

Conch Shell

I grew up visiting Cape Cod in Massachusetts, wandering the beaches with my back tanned dark from all my hours hunting seashells. So I was delighted when I saw this familiar shape sitting on the windowsill at the home of my friend Lisa. She told me a friend of hers found it intact on a Cape Cod beach, which I happen to know is a real find because they are usually broken. Lisa agreed to let me borrow it, and now that the new studio is set up I am finally able to begin studying the shell.

Drawing a seashell is like solving a puzzle - every piece fits logically with every other piece, there can be only one way it all fits together, and it is completely wrong until it is completely right. The same way some people enjoy doing crossword puzzles, I'm going to enjoy my next few hours at the easel finding how all those pieces fit together.

Wednesday
Dec092009

Sterling Boat: FINAL

Sterling Boat
oil on panel, 9 x 12 inches

Finally finished! It ended up taking about 16 sessions over the course of a month, for a total of 68 hours, including the initial contour drawing. Thanks to everyone who has followed along the last few weeks as I posted all the stages of this painting, it been an interesting experiment to document the process so closely.

Here's a slideshow of all the stages of this painting:


Click slideshow to see it larger in Picasa

This painting will be in my March show at M Gallery in Sarasota, Florida. The show will coincide with my painting workshop, March 22-26, also hosted by M Gallery.

I've just added Still Life Painting classes to my San Francisco teaching schedule. I'm thinking about offering a drawing course for absolute beginners later in 2010, if this is something you'd be interested in please email me.

Finally, my new studio is coming together and I'm looking forward to posting photos soon, stay tuned!

Sign up for my mailing list to be notified when I post photos of the new studio, new artwork, and upcoming art classes.

Wednesday
Dec022009

Sterling Boat: Session 12

 

Sterling Boat - DETAIL - work in progress
oil on panel


Sterling Boat - PREVIOUS DETAIL

Tiny, tiny differences between the two, I just made this section more crisp, maybe you can tell if you compare the two shots closely. I won’t even say how many hours I spent today on this one segment of wax paper, except to say it was my longest single session on this painting so far.
Wax paper in the light - the whitest, brightest parts, is always the hardest this for me to paint. I think it’s because white oil paint has a different texture than the transparent paints in the shadows. White pigment is thicker and more grainy, so it looks like crusty paint even when other parts melt into a convincing illusion. And I’m always wishing it could be brighter to match the dazzling highlights I see. I always despair over these bright white sections in all my wax paper paintings.
In contrast, the strip of painted wood shelf is super easy, it flows out in a flash - I can spend hours to create the illusion of a square inch of wax paper, and only minutes for a square inch of painted wood.
What I like best about this section is the filtered cool light that shines through the paper and onto the edge of the shelf, illuminating it with a little pale glow within the cast shadow.
I listened to an audio book while I worked today, I usually listen to NPR podcasts - Fresh Air etc. But something about listening to one long narrative all day really enhanced my focus and I barely stopped painting for even a minute all day. It was great! I think I’ll keep doing that. Maybe the podcasts changing subject so often is messing with my concentration.
Sometimes I listen to music while I paint, but usually the verbal narrative in my own head starts to get distracting. I have a bad habit of ruminating on unpleasant thoughts while I paint, so I need something innocuous to occupy my verbal brain while I work.
Are all artists like this? Can you work with focus for hours in silence, or with music? Can the music have lyrics or do you need it to be instrumental?
Making art while surrounded by chatter reminds me of art class as a young kid. Art class in elementary school was the one class where the teachers usually let kids talk while working, and I would always work silently but enjoy the chatter of schoolkid gossip all around me.

 

Tuesday
Dec012009

Sterling Boat: Session 11

Sterling Boat - DETAIL - work in progress
oil on panel

Sterling Boat - PREVIOUS DETAIL

I spent most the 4-hour session today on the seashell, but I think you can see the most difference in the before/after shots if you look at the edge of the painted wooden shelf.

The seashell is challenging because it is reflective, translucent, AND colorful. I'm trying to show a shiny surface that also has depth, because the light both bounces off and penetrates the surface. So there's a lot of fiddling, pushing the values and hues around bit by bit. Slow, slow painting.

This is where glazing makes a big difference because I can layer transparent films of color into a couch of slow-drying oil medium, and make tiny adjustments.

Also, thinning the paint with oil makes a cleaner edge, because the texture and goopiness of the paint is reduced. Just like how melted butter can spread in a thinner layer than cold butter simply spread thin.


------UPCOMING CLASSES AND WORKSHOPS-----------
I teach Classical Realism drawing and painting classes and workshops in my north light San Francisco studio. I also offer workshops at other locations in the US. Please visit my Teaching page for more information and to register!

Monday
Nov302009

Sterling Boat: Session 10

Sterling Boat - DETAIL - work in progress
oil on panel

Sterling Boat - PREVIOUS DETAIL

The painting is coming down to the final stages, I'm hoping to be done in just a few more sessions. This is the stage of the painting when it gets hard to record the difference with a camera. I'm sorry to say the differences between the two above shots represents a solid 6 hours of work! The refinement is subtle but significant in real life, but almost impossible to see by the time the camera has degraded the images.

I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts today called "On the Media", and they were talking about the evolution of the book (OTM Episode: Book 2.0) now that we are crossing over into a digital era for reading. They interviewed writers and book publishers and future-thinkers who all had opinions, ranging from "it's not a book unless it has paper and glue and survives being dipped in the bathtub" to "the age of paper is dead and everyone will be reading in an entirely different way in 5 years."

One of the future-embracers was positing that the way writers WRITE will change in the new era, and floated his vision of a writer writing a novel live, online, with a real-time audience who will be intimately involved in the writing process, and that the whole process of creating a book with be collaborative and public. To which I though AAACK!!!

The interviewer suggested that many writers feel that solitude while working is integral to the process, and that some writers would not WANT to write if it had to be a public, collaborative process. The book-futurist (sorry I don't have his name, I don't take notes on my audio sources, unlike my husband who wisely documents everything he hears) said something to the point of "well, writers will just have to change they way they think about writing".

Writers will just have to change they way they think about writing. Wha????

As a an artist, I am probably on the leading edge of those who feel comfortable being public with my process - between my blog posts, my videos, and my teaching I try to make my process as transparent as possible, mostly for my own benefit of processing what I am learning, but also because some of you out there seem to enjoy seeing the thoughts behind the work. And yet, if I were forced to both share my process and allowed my visitors to comment on my decisions in real-time as I made them, and also modify my painting as the comments poured in, I would probably put down the brush and find something else to do!

I might be the extreme though, in that I shy away from collaboration, but some artists are more open to it. Personally, I need to be handled very carefully when I am in "work mode", as anyone who worked with me as a graphic designer can attest, I am not at all a "team player" when I am trying to be creative!

What do other artists think? Could you work with an audience? Even performing artists - could the musician practice with an interactive audience, could the actor rehearse with an interactive audience? Does it sound like a nightmare to you, or does it sound like a revolutionary frontier for artmaking?

------UPCOMING CLASSES AND WORKSHOPS-----------
I teach Classical Realism drawing and painting classes and workshops in my north light San Francisco studio. I also offer workshops at other locations in the US. Please visit my Teaching page for more information and to register!

Sunday
Nov292009

Sterling Boat: Session 9


Sterling Boat - DETAIL - work in progress
oil on panel

Today was another 4-hour session and I worked mainly on the spout, handle, and top edge of the pitcher. I managed to take a better photo and so I replaced the photo in yesterday's post too so the color is easier to see. (I didn't send out notifications about yesterday's post because the photo was so bad, so if you are just seeing it today that's why).

In yesterday's post I mentioned "value bracketing" and got a lot of questions about that.


What I mean by value bracketing is taking the time in the first stages of a drawing or painting to block in the value range of each particular area, and then as the drawing progresses, to stay within that initial value range without fail. Some artists assign numbers to values and codes to color, to identify a range and remember to paint or draw within a particular bracket.

For an example of two different areas I mentally bracketed in my current painting, you can see these two areas of wax paper in my current painting are in completely different value ranges:


Top left corner - DARK value range

Low middle area - LIGHT value range

As the painting develops there will be days when I am working on one of these small areas for a whole session, without ever comparing it to another area, so it is tempting to exaggerate the value range in a given area. If I am not disciplined to stay within the value range I've already determined is appropriate, I will make the lights too light in the dark areas, and the shadows too dark in the dark areas.

In the light area of my wax paper in the cropped detail above, the shadows in the creases of the wax paper are bare whispers. In real life it looks like there are huge differences between the shadows in the creases and the bright highlights of white light reflecting off neighboring areas. If I attempt to "copy" that value jump I see, I will make the shadows far too dark and I will destroy the illusion of light in the whole piece.

Our eyes can perceive a much wider range of color and value than paint can ever depict. For example, pure white paint directly from the tube is nowhere near as bright at the lightest highlights on my subject. That's why even the most hyper-realistic painting is still just an illusion, a mere hint of what our eyes can experience in real life.

To capture the sensation of seeing a subject, the artist must preserve the feeling of the whole - how every part relates to every other part. This is so easy to destroy as we zoom in and work closely, because we lose context and we forget that the individual parts, no matter how detailed or realistic, are merely supporting roles to the whole effect.


So I try to depict each edge of each shape with only the smallest value and hue shift I can manage. If I copy the big "jump" I see between two neighboring patches, I will destroy the unity of the painting.

------UPCOMING CLASSES AND WORKSHOPS-----------
I teach Classical Realism drawing and painting classes and workshops in my north light San Francisco studio. I also offer workshops at other locations in the US. Please visit my Teaching page for more information and to register!

Saturday
Nov282009

Sterling Boat: Session 8

Sterling Boat - DETAIL

Sterling Boat - DETAIL - previous stage
See previous post about this painting here

Today I worked on the wax paper - another 4-hour session. It shows how the wax paper slowly starts to look like transparent crumpled material, instead of only gradations of paint.

Painting is 99% drawing by the way. I never believed it more than I believe it now. If you want to be a better painter, study more drawing. I am amazed by how the same principles I teach the most beginning drawing student are the principles I must hold as my mantra all day every day: Look for the large shapes, bracket the values, work large to small and from shadow up to light...


It even applies to color, because you can't build a believable range of hue without understanding value bracketing.

Drawing is learning when it is appropriate to focus your decision-making on a particular scale: solve large problems first and smaller problems later. Use the problems that appear at a small scale to find solutions to the larger-scale problems.

Learning to draw is the discipline of ONLY tackling the problems you can solve at THIS stage of the artwork, without getting distracted or confused.

I've come to believe that drawing (and artmaking in general) is about organizing your thought process, and nothing else at all.