Monday, August 12, 2019

Those Born to the Storm Progress IV

The last update that I provided on this painting occurred just as my family was moving out of our previous house. The great thing about my previous house was the amount of space that I was able to use as a studio, and it was a bit of a shock to move into a space that was less than half the size. Working on a painting of this size presents some particular difficulties in a smaller space. Thus, progress has been slow but steady. Recently I have been trying wake up a few hours before everyone else in the house does to work on individual sections before I go to work. Some weeks I am more successful at this than others.  I never thought that I would be able to wake up and work in this fashion, but I went to a few 6 AM Jiu Jitsu classes and had the realization that if I can wake up early to exercise then I can wake up early to paint. I am trying to finish this painting up within the next few months. I'm including a selection of different images throughout the evolution of the painting in the new space. 

Thursday, August 8, 2019

This Means Something

I have been interested in making a work of art with blood for a long time. Marc Quinn's blood portraits were extremely striking to me as a young artist. I saw the work of Jordan Eagles in 2007 which was beef blood poured over white plexiglass and they had beautifully rich red tones. I met the artist Allen Hampton a year later and saw some of his blood drawings which demonstrated to me that it was possible to control it as a drawing medium. The problem has always been acquiring the blood to work with, which always seemed like more of a hassle than it would be worth to me. Additionally, working with blood is such an extreme medium, I believed that it required a particular subject matter that would work in concert with the material. I serendipitously acquired both the concept for the drawing and a supply for the drawing material around the same time. 

This concept for the image arose from a session of joking around with my advanced oil painting students, when I thought of myself gleefully, lovingly even, looking back a skeleton as I give it a piggy back ride. I thought that this would be an interesting approach to creating a momento mori, which are typically much more meditative and somber images that invite the viewer to consider their own mortality. In this piece I have greeted death as a friend, and lovingly carry them along with me.

(in progress)
To create this piece I used cow's blood. I did what I could to try to separate the water from the hemoglobin, essentially I was trying to saturate the red pigmentation of the blood. I tried a few things, but nothing really worked. I suspect that I might be able to increase the red quality of the blood if I am able to obtain extremely fresh blood, however to do this I would be required to perform certain actions that I am not prepared to do at present. So in the meantime, I used a watery solution that was difficult to control and darken. The only way to darken the solution is to build up multiple layers, however it is not a material that lends itself to layering. You can also see how the color of the blood changed over time, initially appearing as having the orangish glow of transparent iron oxide. But as the iron in the blood continued to oxidized it took on a colder greenish brown tone, similar to a raw umber.

After I finished the initial drawing in blood, I felt that it didn't quite capture what I wanted to with either face. So I layered some color pencil over both figures. The color pencil creates a sense of reality, but the flatness of the drawing is emphasized by the simplistic approach to the rest of the figures. As the figures move towards the bottom of the paper, the color pencil fades away. All in all, I have to say, this piece.... it means something.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Born to the Storm Progress III

Unfortunately, the house we are renting is being sold, so instead of painting I have to pack.  This is going to push back the progress on this painting by quite a bit.  But I wanted to post my progress anyway.  This will be the first time that we will move within the same time zone and will definitely be our first time moving within the same city, so maybe it won't be as bad as it has been in the past. Anyway, I got a good amount of painting done during my Spring Break and wanted to show my progress before I pack up my art supplies.
this is the last photo I posted.

this is what I accomplished in the last week of March.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Rapt from the Fickle to the Frail

This painting is pretty obviously a tip of the hat to Edgar Degas, the subject is my sister-in-law who has been dancing for most of her young life.  For Degas, the ballerinas may just have been a beautiful subject that allowed him to capture wonderful lines, dancing attire and movement in his pieces.  But a ballet is about the coordination of elements that must be synchronized harmoniously  in order for the piece to work.  The dancer acts as a visual element in the work of art that is developed by the director, and they play the same role in Degas' paintings.

On a formal level, this painting was about my role as a director of visual elements for all of my paintings, and if you look at the landscape of contemporary figurative painters, you see several that think of their work in cinematic terms, that have said if they didn't paint they would make films (notably Vincent Desiderio and Bo Bartlett).  For a narrative to emerge from a static image, the artist must imbue the scene with context, and part of that context is the history of painting itself.  That is why I find it fitting to reference artists that I revere or are more significant to society at large.  

I felt as if my paintings had become too busy and wanted to make something a little bit quieter, with a lot of resting space above the figures.  I also knew that I wanted to use the mirrors to distribute space in a more interesting way, so that most of the figure would be cut off at the shins, but the subject would not be.  I also like the fragmentation of the image that happens with the subtle shifts in the angles of the mirrors.  It was important to me that the photographer be visible, and I loved how distorted her figure appears, and it was also important that I appear, acting as a kind of director of the scene. Part of me wonders if this painting would have worked better as a simple composition with three figures, I essentially lost my confidence in it's simplicity and created a more complex digital collage, which marked the first time that I've really incorporated digital media into my process.

This was the original photograph, featuring (L to R) myself, my wife, and her sister.  Part of me wishes that I had just painted this scene, but I am happy with the final piece, so I don't question myself too much.  This painting took a really long time to paint, for several reasons, but mostly because I just wasn't confident in the simplicity.  I kept wanting to add more and more to it.  Having the completely blank wall from the top of the mirror to the beginning of the ceiling was very bizarre to me, but the funny thing is, having all of that blank space is part of the reason that I wanted to make this painting in the first place.  

This is basically the image that i worked from, changing much of the information to fit my aesthetic sensibilities.  This painting was started in November 2015 and not completed until January 2017.  In addition to the reasons stated above, I also had other projects that took importance to me, this eventually just became a fixture in my studio, which I had to work around.  Eventually I decided that I was relatively close to finishing it, and just needed to dive in and complete it.  I still feel like there are some things about it that I'd like to adjust, but for the most part i'm happy with it, either way I learned a lot while making it.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Self Portrait from Birthday Number Thirty

I took the photo for this drawing on my 30th birthday, two weeks before my son was born. I looked at the sink and countertop as a kind of metaphor for my life. At the time we didn't have a dishwasher in our kitchen and the sink was constantly filling with dishes, and it seemed like no matter how many dishes we cleaned there were always more.  This captured my wife and I because we had met and tied the knot, moved and had a baby in such rapid succession that it seemed like we couldn't catch up with our lives.  I also like the idea of my attributes being personified by the objects that I own and use, and the idea of illustrating a human presence without a human form.  I made the drawing with graphite and white colored pencil on toned paper, which is the same medium I used for my other drawing that illustrates human presence without form, "Mine Eyes are Homes of Silent Prayer".  I love creating drawings because I really get to push the relationship of flatness and form in a way that I wouldn't feel comfortable with in a painting.  Anyway, here is an example of my newest drawing "Self Portrait from Birthday Number Thirty", which I completed right on the cusp of birthday number thirty three.

 "Self Portrait from Birthday Number Thirty"
graphite and white colored pencil on toned paper
22" x 29"

"Mine Eyes Are Homes of Silent Prayer"
graphite and white colored pencil on toned paper
22" x 27"

Monday, January 30, 2017

Born to the Storm Progress II

I was extremely excited to begin this painting, but progress has been slower than I would like for a few reasons.  I was teaching a new lecture class which took an extraordinary amount of time, I went home for several weeks for the Christmas break, and I took a brief break to finish a different painting that I had started a year before.  Despite that I have made progress on the piece.

Essentially I have continued to block in colors, in several areas, while making adjustments for the color relationships as I move through the painting.  I have also began to paint in some of the toys in the foreground, and have decided that each of those toy tableau's, or toybleau's I guess, should be painted completely in one sitting.  But before i get too far into those I will need to figure out what i'm going to do for the floor.

Once I finished the other painting (Rapt from the Fickle to the Frail) I was able to use both of my easels to support the canvas.  This has been helpful in the process, and I am starting to hone areas to completion, the lower middle right side of the canvas for example.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Born to the Storm Progress Part I

I thought it would be a good idea to note my progress with this painting.  I've been wanting to begin this piece for such a long time that it was kind of surreal to actually start preparing the canvas.  I place a grid on the surface to help me place the drawing correctly.  I work from photographs and use a digital projector to transfer the drawing onto the canvas.  However, there is always some issues with lining up the photographic source with the canvas perfectly.  So I use grids like these to help place the imagery in the best possible manner.  Then I draw the contours and value information from the photograph onto the canvas.  

The next step involves blocking in the colors.  I really like beginning with a warm underpainting, with transparent iron oxide or burnt sienna.  Then I wipe away the light tones and establish the darks with burnt umber.  But for this painting, there is too much information to start that way, I am not able to spend enough time in one sitting to affect the entire painting effectively.  So I'm establishing some of the colors to establish the abstract color relationships that will help me balance the over all image.  This is where i'm at at this point, which is only a few hours into the painting process, but it feels so good to begin to see color emerge and the image start to make sense.