Yesterday, I had the pleasure of painting at the Southern Atelier, Sarasota. A few artists were comparing notes about the Steven Assael workshop which was held there last week and I was all ears and eyes observing his influence on their work.
Artists were using black, so I cranked open my rarely used tube and painted it into the background. There's a lot of glare on this photo because of the wet paint, but you can get the idea of how it makes the figure pop by contrast of dark and light. The light from an overhead skylight on a cloudy day was cool so the shadows needed to be warm. I may have overdone the cad orange a bit in my painting frenzy. Artists influenced by the workshop were welding fan brushes and mixing colors right on the canvas. Not the way I usually work and because I left my fan brushes at home, I didn't do too much blending. They also said, Assael stressed the "bones" of good drawing and structure. Learn how to draw with a paintbrush.
The artists glowed with inspiration and praised Steven Assael's workshop. Some traveled great distances, even from Canada and London, to repeat this workshop. I'm saving up for next year.
Steven Assael's show, Illusions of Reality is at the Naples Museum of Art until January 9, 2011.
This old dinghy must have been a pretty sight sailing around the harbor with the sun and wind in its sail. Like an outcast, it was anchored well outside a flock of spanking new fiberglass dinghies. Even though it had been patched and repainted, its classic lines were still elegant and graceful. By contrast the new dinghies looked like bloated plastic shoes.
These small, postcard size paintings are a good way to practice paint application techniques. I'm working on putting stokes down and leaving them. Also using thicker paint, straight from the tube with no thinners.
Thanks to my Facebook artist friend, Lawrence Chrapliwy for suggesting this: Set a timer for 20 minutes for composition, then 40 minutes for getting the rest down. Below is what I was able to do in an hour and above is the finish which took another hour. The technique really works to set a timer and work faster on location! The stained glass window, and the light on the door, first captured my attention. Took photos of this scene and can see why it's impossible to really "see" the true colors from a snapshot! I know my drawing is a little quirky, but it's a true impression of the moment. Below... the results of the timed first hour and a snapshot of the location setup.
A friend suggested I try cadmium scarlet, shown here in the highlights. Really sings! This was painted on top of an old landscape but not much shows through. Kept my colors to cadmium yellow light, ultramarine blue, cadmium scarlet and white. Also trying to use thicker strokes and less blending. Painted at the Venice Portrait Studio in about two hours.
Painted this while teaching a class. Students were given small, horrible, black and white copies of a sandy path that I shot at Venice Beach. The challenge was to create their own version, changing composition, elements, and design. Color had to be imagined... and painted using only red, yellow, blue and white. My demo was first sketched with red, then painted rapidly, leaving bits of red showing throughout the painting. The exercise also demonstrated the three main tonal areas of a landscape. Darkest tones, brightest colors in foreground, middle values and colors in mid-ground, and coolest colors, lightest tones in background. The sky tones reflect the lights on the ground and highlights on leaves. The sky also moves from dark to light towards the horizon, and cool to warm as it leans towards the sun. It was interesting to see how each student created a completely different painting from the same snapshot. Good practice for when they finally go outside and paint on location.
Just finished this portrait of my favorite model. While Rachael posed in this huge banyon tree in Punta Gorda, a flock of wild parrots chattered in the branches above her head. Hard and soft pastels and pastel pencils on Arches watercolor paper coated with raw sienna Colourfix Primer.
Sketch of woman posing at the Venice Portrait studio. Every sketch is good for practice. Have been doing a lot of little paintings that I haven't finished. They will be posted later. Finding teaching forces me to try different approaches and experiment a lot. Think I'm learning more than my students. If you think you know everything already... how boring would that be? Right now I'd rather be outside painting or tinkering in my studio, but instead, have to get things ready for Thanksgiving. Darn holidays just get in the way. But I'm thankful for my obsession with painting and teaching.
Sometimes, I feel like I've hit a wall with my paintings. I visualize what I want in my head but it's another thing to bring that vision to canvas. This painting was done to get myself to paint outside the box and push my technique. I wasn't interested in painting another pretty picture. This painting was done to explore technique, push style and skill level and practice for future paintings. I wanted to capture color values, use bigger brushes and not get bogged down in details. And work faster because light changes quickly when painting outside. I was attracted to the pinkish-orange color of the building and the dark shadow thrown by the wall. The soft shadow of a palm tree on the wall was actually just outside this paintings window. Moved it over to add interest to the wall... I can do that because I'm an artist! A plein air painting doesn't have to be a photographic snapshot of a place. It can be an impression, a collection of light patterns, colors, bits of architecture, wind blown wisps of trees, and moving shadows. A feeling of time well spent splashing paint on canvas. Something learned from this painting will enhance the next.
Sometimes, it's a pleasure to sit on a bench in the shade with a sketchbook and a tiny box of Nupastels and scribble. I like to feel inconspicuous when I'm working outside. If I were writing in a notebook, no one would come over and look over my shoulder. But start drawing and it attracts people like flies. One man commented, "Oh, you're just using chalk." I had to explain that pastel and chalk are not the same thing. Pastels are pigment with binder and chalk is well, chalk with dyes that fade. Next time, I need to find a better place to hide.
Here's a sharper, less blurry image of my winning painting from the Charlotte Harbor Art Sensations, Punta Gorda plein air paintout . Photo tip: After winning a prize... never photograph your work while dancing a jig! Hope this one looks better. Also removed it from the frame so more of the edges show.
Twenty minute pose, sketched quickly and completed in the studio from a snapshot. Soft pastels, Nupastels, and pastel pencils on Canson Mi-Teintes, smooth side. It's amazing how a few tiny dots of white can make eyes sparkle.
These fragile, antique sailboats are in Historic Spanish Point, Osprey, Florida. One boat is named Uncle Gabe, thus the title, Waiting for Uncle Gabe. The boats were tied to Cock's Bridge along the trail where small school children rattled past while I painted with some friends. A few even stopped to look at our paintings and said, "Wow, that's pretty good." The small, plein air painting I did that day was a reference for this large one.
Uncle Gabe (reference oil, 8" x 10")
Stage one: After a quick sketch in vine charcoal, a slap-dash underpainting with a big old brush and cadmium red acrylic (the gesso was acrylic, so a thin underpainting in acrylic paint is fine, and it dries fast). Values barely indicated by thinning the paint. This stage was just to fill the space and get a jump start on a large painting. After so many 8 x 10 inch paintings, 3 x 4 feet was intimidating.
Stage two: Painted fast, using a small plein air sketch and photo reference on the computer. The dog was mostly imagination. Just wanted to get a thin layer of oils down to see how the colors would work. My goal with this painting: keep the spontaneity of a small plein air in a large painting format. If it were an 8" x 10" painting, it would be almost finished except for the dog's reflection.
Stage three: Worked all over the painting with thicker strokes on water and added dog's reflection. Refined masts and boat details.
Stage four: Detailed background boat. Changed water reflections. Added details to lines on mast. Added lines connecting both boats to moorings. Reworked dog. And that's it. Don't want to overwork it. Time to move on to next painting.
Had the pleasure of visiting the Southern Atelier in Sarasota yesterday.
Open studios are several days a week, and they have wonderful workshops. Check out the schedule on their website: http://www.thesouthernatelier.org
John Ebersberger gave a lecture about the Cape Cod school of color and the mud heads. I'm so inspired, can't wait to start painting today and try out some of these methods. I'll write more about this lecture and John Ebersberger's beautiful paintings later.
Sometimes, they just work. Really pleased with this one. Used smooth side of Canson Pastel paper. Roughed in the sketch and blended for underpainting, then scribbled away. This drawing was done using only NuPastels, which are hard pastels. Had a small, clear plastic fishing tackle box filled with broken pieces from the 96 color set and a small sketch pad of paper. Sat in a chair on the sidewalk in the shade. Squinted to see darks and lights and noted them before the sun changed the shadows. Liked the cool green weeds in the foreground and dark tree with sky holes in background. Fence slats were mostly imagination, letting building and background show through. Wish they were all this easy.
Discovered endless shady spots perfect for sketching. Will be going back here often. Used wrong side ( Canson Pastel paper claims it's the right side) which caused the "screen-door" texture. Almost like the way it looks on the wall in foreground. But really prefer the smoother side of this paper. Yellow buildings are as difficult as white ones when it comes to darkening values without the colors getting muddy. Used a little purple and blue in the yellow, also yellow ochre and burnt sienna. Some palm tree trunks really do look purple.
Had been talking about gesture drawing with another artist, Sally Christiansen, right before the "singer" posed. We talked about drawing two minute poses and then how long time seemed to stretch for five minute poses. Sally told me that in art school (Parsons) she had to draw models that moved in slow motion! While we waited for the above model to arrive, we had the janitor pose for fifteen minutes. Sally knocked out a super pastel drawing, signed it and gave it to the very impressed and beaming janitor. Sally's drawings are fast and sure, what talent!
The Janitor (15 minute pastel sketch)
about 15" x 20"
When the "Singer" posed, he strummed his guitar and sang with such feeling he couldn't stop moving. The music was lovely, we didn't dare to ask him to hold still. I shredded my hour and a half drawing because I just couldn't "get" it. Finally, we told him to hold still so we could draw the details. My pastel, "The Singer," above, is from the last twenty minute pose (touched up back in studio!). Maybe we should just draw faster?
Meanwhile, I'm still working on my "Janitor" pastel from a photo. I'll post it in a day or so. Just taking my time...
My inspiration for this study was the slice of bright light in the background. The problem was to make the foreground darker. Another struggle with a white building. Cast in shadow, the front was darker than the sky. Took many layers of color. Liked playing with all the curved shapes, the door, royal palm bases, flower pots, window. Also liked using the strong verticals as "slices" of composition. The diagonal of the stair railing echos the roof angle in the background, and the diagonal slashes of sunlight on the foreground palm. I didn't think about all of these comparisons while sketching, realized some after I finished. Getting a design to work like this one does, hitting all the right notes, makes it worth while. Composition is visual music, created first by letting go. Don't think, just see.
Started on location and finished in studio. Pastels on Pastel Card. White buildings are a challenge! What color are those shadows? Think I threw every color in the box at this one. Sometimes, it's a struggle. Kept thinking warm or cool? Darker or lighter? Squinted a lot. Had to remind myself that I'm not making a photo. It's an interpretation. Going to go look at my Wolf Kahn book again and absorb his simplicity and stunning palette.
This completes the four sketches from one day last week, including lunch break. Started at 8 am and finished at 2. Sketched on location with no tinkering back in the studio. It was an interesting experiment to draw one subject from many angles. At first, I didn't see much that I wanted to draw, but when I looked long and hard enough, lots of promising compositions appeared. Sketched all four sides of this church, full circle. For folks not familiar with Florida palms, this is the bottom of a traveler's palm. Pastels on Pastel Card.
Moved around the building and found this view in front. Purple bougainvillea and red hibiscus blooming in hedges. Sun splashed gravel with lacy palm shadows. Charming cottage across the street. Almost noon and the town's unusually quiet. Folks still up north looking at leaves, but we have this to look at all year around. Not bad.
Original sketch with no tinkering later, pastels on Pastel Card.
Second sketch from a sunny and fruitful morning. I feel blessed! Happy with the way I caught the light as it moved over the traveler's palm base. Left it without tinkering back in the studio. Right before posting this, I came across a quote by Charles Hawthorne (credit to the artist who mentioned it later).
A sketch has charm because of its truth - not because it is unfinished.
A serendipitous piece of information! I always feel compelled to finish and polish my work. Serendipity that I came across this quote minutes before writing about the same subject. A sketch can be a study for future work, it can be practice, a visual journal, a snapshot of a moment in time. And a sketch can exist as a piece of art in its own right. Thinking that you're "only" sketching... takes the pressure off. No need to create that masterpiece. If it happens, fine. If not, no big deal. Sketches can be crumpled and tossed, stacked in a drawer, or maybe even make it into a frame.
A morning sketching in a favorite place. This is the first of four, left it in its original sketchy condition without any retouching in the studio. Started at 8am and finished at 2pm, including a break for bag lunch and thermos of tea. Sometimes, the conditions are perfect. Quiet. A lull before season starts, folks still up north looking at leaves. High season here's only between Christmas and Easter. Leaves the rest of the year for perfect painting conditions.
Venice portrait studio was fortunate last week to have this beautiful woman pose. Fabulous features, great eyes, lips, strong personality, and she sang softly along with music we had playing. What a treat! Pastel on Canson pastel paper.
Still life setup for the Artists Bootcamp. Started in class as a sketch while demonstrating "how to start a drawing." The students first played spin-the-iron while in a circle around it, doing short sketches and holding them up after each iron spin. The iron is an antique that used some sort of gas to heat it. Wonder how many blew up. Some poor soul's finger marks have worn the paint off on the handle. Found it in a shop in Maine, couldn't resist the colors. Used now as a door-stop or still-life object. This pastel is on gray Canson with Nupastels and black pastel pencil for lettering.
An artist friend (featured in my Man and Manatee pastel a few days ago) told me he paints acrylic on an office supply copy paper which is acid-free. Roaming around Office Depot recently, I discovered a heavy weight, acid-free vellum bristol. Also comes in 110 weight but could only find smooth. The reason for using the vellum bristol is that the texture is better for pencil drawing than smooth. The experiment above proves that it's also good for pastel. I used Nupastels and so far don't know how it would hold up for soft pastels. More experiments will follow. At about fourteen dollars for 250 sheets, this paper is perfect for using in my Artist Bootcamp for quick sketches. And if a masterpiece is created, the acid-free paper should last for awhile. Some of the sanded pastel papers on the market are so expensive that it's inhibiting to use as a learning/practice surface. So this vellum paper is quite a deal!
Found a shady spot to sketch under the banyon trees with a view of the Intercoastal near the Ringling Museum. Don't think it's legal to plant banyons in Florida anymore, too bad. The roots can travel great distances in search of water and may find it in your neighbors swimming pool, cracking concrete and foundations along the way. This pastel is on sanded Pastel Card using Nupastels and pastel pencils.
While taking reference photos in Sarasota's Ringling Art Museum's Secret Garden, this woman dashed by like a butterfly. I've changed her image to protect her privacy, but what a lucky accident. I'm planning on doing some large oils of this garden and she will be featured in a future painting. Below is a demo of the acrylic study. These demos are designed to go along with my Artist Bootcamp as student's reference. I really hate working with acrylics but had a deadline for a show.
Step 1: Vine charcoal sketch on canvas.
Step 2: Red roughed in for darks.
Step 3: Background roughed in with #10, ratty bristle brush.
Step 4: Figure roughed.
Step 5: Finished with smaller brushes and a little fussing. Kept it loose because this is only a study for a future painting. Total time, day and a half. Currently on display at the Visual Arts Center, Punta Gorda.
This is an artist friend reaching out and touching a manatee. He said it came over and looked at him while it passed by. The drawing is from a snapshot on Pastel Card, black sanded. The water caused me lots of grief. If I followed the photo too closely, it didn't look right. Brushed it off twice with a bristle brush and finally painted it from memory and imagination. Yes, the water is that color here in SW Florida and on this day crystal clear. Below is another snapshot that shows the manatee's dark form. One woman on the beach jumped up to warn that it might be a shark. We have lots of those around too.
First sketch at water's edge in new canopy chair. Just pop that baby up and it's an instant tent with shade and privacy. Now I don't have to search for shady spots. Nupastels, Canson pastel paper taped to foam core board, suntan lotion, bathing suit for taking dips during breaks. Fabulous! This was the day I watched a manatee swim up to an artist friend. I managed to jump up and capture great shots with my zoom digital camera. Did a drawing from the reference which I'll post later. With the drawing above, there was a wild, watercolor toned paper for underpainting. Some blue and rose color shows along the bottom, yellow under the sky. It's fun to start with an underpainting that has nothing to do with the scene, had painted it weeks before. Just let accidents happen and hope for the best.
Another sketch from a nearby park at the edge of a cricket field. Yes, Englewood has a cricket field. Drove by last weekend and players were dressed in white, swinging bats. Will have to do some paintings of them soon. Beautiful sight. But the morning of this sketch the park was empty. My friend and I sat in the shade and did more chatting and laughing than work, but it was all fun and worthwhile. A car drove up and two young men got out and sat nearby, blasting their radio... I guess in hopes of driving us away. We didn't budge and they finally gave up and left. But still it was a little creepy. My friend had a personal protection device, similar to an electric cattle prod in her purse, just in case. Too bad we have to think about these things.
There's something vibrant that happens with pastel on black, sanded Pastel Card. It's my least favorite color to work on, maybe because it reminds me of those black velvet Elvis paintings, but I've been impressed with the color results. Gull Landing was started by drawing the background first.
Step 1: Covered entire area of black Pastel Card with Nupastels. These pastels are quickly becoming my favorites for underpainting, blending, and detail work. I also used a piece of my handy, dandy Home Depot pipe insulation to rub in the color. Not one finger was used to blend in this painting. The sanded surface is too rough anyway. I always use Gloves in a Bottle to protect myself from pigments... safety first!
Step 2: Worked in gull after rubbing off an area with stiff, old bristle brush. Used pastel pencils for small details. Added shadows to forground. Continued adding darks and lights with Nupastels and pastel pencils with a touch of soft pastels here and there until the finished version... here again below.