Monday, October 18, 2010

Painting Skulls

I've been reading a great book called Alla Prima by Richard Schmid which is having a tremendous effect on my work and working methods.  In essence, "alla prima" (which translates to "in the first") is a way of working directly with a subject in one setting.  I have been using this technique while doing my landscapes too.  It forces you to make decisions about everything from color to shape to drawing to edges.  It is not about just working quickly, but rather working smarter and more directly - to start with your first stroke being "perfect" and working out from there.  To put down a stroke that is the right color, value and shape and leave it alone.  It is a great book for any realist painter.

So I have been painting smaller canvases to improve my eye and to work with thicker paint.  Schmid says that most problems in painting are not color related, but drawing related.  I agree.  Sargent said a painter should feel as comfortable drawing with the brush as they do with a pencil.  Something to strive for.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Commission

Above is my first commissioned portrait.  This guy is great and I had a really wonderful time getting to know him.  We did this in my studio, so he got a chance to see some of my other work too. The majority of the portrait was done from life in a 5 hour period over the course of 3 evenings.  It was very fun and very stressful at the same time.  I am also in the process of experimenting with a "new" technique of painting with a loaded brush so there is much more paint on the surface.  As Sargent said "The thicker you paint, the more color flows." he also advocated using plenty of paint.  So I'm actively trying to do this. 

"Stressful" because I had someone sitting in front of me that I was painting - in my studio - where it is usually just me.  I definitely need to work on my set up/studio if I am going to do this again.  My light was not as good as it should have been...  I also was not as "free" as I usually am - meaning I was a bit self conscience at times.  I was completely discouraged after day 3, and actually stopped the session short because I was no longer making good decisions.  I thought the colors were off, the drawing/structure was off (a really bad sign) and I was making "mud".

I went back to the studio the next day determined to get it right, or at least move it in a better direction.   It was good to see it the next day with fresh eyes, because I realized that it actually had some good bones, and that the color was pretty good in the daylight.  I also had a chance to look and think about my decisions and what I needed to do to push it, without having the sitter present.  Bouncing the colors around the canvas, using the shadow colors in the skin in the background and vice-versa.  warm/cool. general paint mixing/handling etc...

I'm learning more and more with every piece.  I'm getting better handling now too.  I finally saw, mixed and laid down the green that I kept avoiding by adding too much blue.  it's the little things.