Monday, December 26, 2011

Color Temperature

This is a recently completed in-class demonstration of acrylics. It is a continuation of my newer habit of leaving my paintings less refined or over-worked. When I start a piece like this, I am mostly aware of the color temperature of the underpainting. Usually the dominant color of the main subject will determine this for me. In the case of this young red fox; the oranges and yellows of it's fur dictated a warm underpainting. I built up washes of burnt sienna and burnt umber. Eventually the paint gets thicker as I fine tune and add more color. Later in the painting process, I added bits of cool colors to the shadows and background which gives the piece a bit more balance in color temperature.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Young Frankenstein's Igor

I recently re-watched the Mel Brook's classic Young Frankenstein. I was inspired to create a portrait of Igor, played by Marty Feldman, as an in-class demo for one of my RIT Illustration courses. I used a grainy, B&W screen shot for my reference. This allowed me to discuss how to work with inferior reference material as well as inventing your own color palette for painting. I encourage students to gather the best reference available but also concede that it is not always possible. This piece is 11 x 14 and was completed with mixed-media.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Versatile Gouache

I have always loved gouache as a painting medium. It is underrated and often misused, strickly as a "poster paint" to be applied in a flat hard edged manner. Illustrators of the 1950's used it extensively and several of these masters (Bernie Fuchs, Harry Anderson) employed it in a very painterly fashion. Early in my career I was attracted to gouache based on the work of the west coast Illustrator, David Grove. He was very innovative with his compositions and fresh application of the medium.
I struggled for years to get the effects that I was searching for in my own experimentation with gouache. I would complete a few unsuccessful studies and then go back to my oils or mixed media. But, I would always return to try again. I am drawn to the color range and consistent matte surface. Above are a few 11x 14 gouache landscapes. The lake scene is re-worked from an earlier version and shows the possibilities of softer, more atmospheric effects.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Fall Colors

Despite the busiest Fall quarter that I have experienced at RIT since I started teaching here in 1990, a few faculty have still managed to gather on several Friday evenings to draw from the model. These are two of our best models and their stamina for holding poses is impressive. Each of these pastel drawings were completed in under two hours on a warm grey, 22" x 32" printmaking paper. The more that I draw from life, be it plein air landscape painting or figure drawing, the more I prefer it rather than working from photos. Direct observational drawing is the ultimate"blank canvas"! You translate the 3D real world to the 2D drawing/painting world and this observation must filter through your individual brain. No two artists will see it exactly the same way.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Pastel Figure Drawing

Fall Quarter at RIT is about to begin which means that faculty figure drawing is also upon us. Faculty figure drawing consists of a handful of faculty (4-6) who enjoy working from the model and the social aspect and camaraderie that is also connected to this activity. We meet weekly for a three hour session and no one critiques or comments about any one's individual direction. This is purely for us...the individual artist! We play good music and lose ourselves for a while. It is so cathartic and fun! This is a drawing from our last session where I started to use pastels. Prior to this I was working conservatively with only B&W media. That's part of the joy in this process...we get bored or confident and decide to push forward in a new direction. This piece is on a gray toned paper (22"x 32") and took about two hours to complete.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Chill Out

This is a recently completed 24"x 30" oil painting. Maybe I am trying to counter the extreme heat that we have experienced this summer in upstate NY. This is a scene from this past February in my neighborhood. Early morning with bright, clear sunshine, ice cold, snowing at least an inch or three every day and these dynamic shadow shapes grabbed my attention immediately. This is a continuation of my current direction with oil paint. I do not do any drawing on the canvas before I start right in with paint on my brush. Although many would think of this imagery as realism or even photo realism, I could not disagree more. This is a very direct, raw approach to painting that has no hint of over rendering or blending. I am influenced and inspired by the impressionists and the great Edward Hopper when it comes to this type of work. I put my brushes down to stop painting long before I could because I want it to feel like a painting. NOT a photograph. Once it feels right to me viscerally in light, atmosphere, mood and thought, I force myself to stop. A younger version of myself would have kept over working this piece to somehow show evidence or proof of technical facility.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Fathers Day

I usually avoid personal subject matter on this blog due to my private nature, but today I will make a slight exception. This was my last in-class oil demo of the year at RIT. I did it about two months ago and it is a portrait of my dad as a young man. The painting is 12"x 16"and was completed on one of my homemade canvas panels. I worked wet into wet and used a limited palette of Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber, Yellow Ochre, Paynes Gray, Naples Yellow, Permanent Rose, Black, and White. The portrait was based on an old B & W photograph from the late 1940's.
The photo was tiny, so I scanned it with my Epson 4490 Photo scanner and printed out an 8 x 10 reference photo (still B&W, of course). My dad has been gone for almost 26 years now and it felt good to create this portrait. He was a real gentleman with a great, Irish sense of humor. He was smart, kind, and caring. A great guy and great father. His positive influence stays with me to this day.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Open Road

This is a simple scene that I painted with gouache on an 11 x 14 cold press illustration board. It was used as the cover of a new music CD entitled Open Road. Whenever I complete a landscape like this I am reminded that any ordinary scene can be beautiful and fun to paint. Sometimes we search to paint something spectacular or visually inspirational but maybe that is the easy thing to do. It can be more challenging and eye opening to paint mundane subjects or forgettable scenes. This forces us to really see and invites embellishment and invention. I think we can waste a lot of valuable time waiting for inspiration.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Your Cheatin' Heart

This is another recent in-class oil painting demo. It's a portrait of one of America's greatest songwriters, Hank Williams. He was ahead of his time with original, innovative music and clever, unforgettable lyrics. Hank was before my time, but I've caught up with his entire song catalogue over the past few years and it is great stuff. He also is an interesting character to paint with his rail-thin physique and defined angular facial features along with his big smile and bigger hat. This was completed on a 16x20 home-made canvas board. I like working on a rigid surface but I dislike the low quality, cheap boards that the art supply stores carry. I make my own with Masonite hardboards, sprayment, Liquitex gesso, and high-quality cotton or linen canvas.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Vampire Classic

The popularity of vampires seems to be at an all time high in recent years. Vampire books, graphic novels, TV shows and movies seem to be everywhere. The vampire image here is a recent mixed media piece that I completed as an in-class demonstration for my Illustration 1 class at RIT. This was based on B&W movie stills from the classic Dracula film from 1931 starring Bela Lugosi. He is still the visual foundation for most vampire imagery. Modern versions seem to always take something from Lugosi...manicured looks, sophisticated demeanor, turned up collar.
These classic 1930's monster movies (which I watched on TV in the 60's) were terrifying! Even the music would send a chill up my spine.
I always tell my students that they must change and improve upon the photo references that they use and that is what I tried to do here. I eliminated the Hollywood lighting that was always used on these photo portraits. I subtly exaggerated his expression and of course I used my own sense of color. When I do an in-class demo, due to limited time, I rarely deal with a background, other than to suggest something loose or atmospheric. But I will eventually go back in on this one to add something appropriate. Bats? Blood? Spooky sky? Ominous interior space?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Tastes Like Chicken

Chickens are a lot of fun to draw and paint. They come in a variety of shapes and colors and they are great subjects for depicting form and gesture. They are also difficult to capture due to their odd features, quirky movements, and unsettled nature. Try sitting to sketch, or even photograph, these birds and you will end up with pages of 5 second gesture scribbles and blurry photos. Because of this, chickens are one of those subjects where it is usually necessary to work from multiple references. In the case of the top image in this post, I was forced to look at several different chicken photos to "fill in the details" of areas that were not clear in my main reference. This included referring to an actual Wild Turkey leg/foot that my brother had given me (he's a hunter). I know that there are probably differences between the turkey leg and a chicken leg...but it helped! If this was for a technical or scientific illustration I would have had to do more research, but for a painting where EVERY detail is not meticulously rendered, it works. The top piece (13 x 13) was painted three weeks ago as an acrylic demo in my RIT class. The bottom piece (acrylic, 9 x 12) was painted about three years ago in another class from a friend's great photo reference.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Happy Birthday Abraham Lincoln!

Today seems like the perfect time to show a few portraits of our 16th President that were completed as oil painting demonstrations. They also perfectly illustrate the drastic change of my personal color palette that I have mentioned on this blog before. The bottom image of a younger Lincoln, was completed in-class about six years ago. I was still using some pretty saturated colors at that time. The top image shows an older Abe and displays my newer palette which is more subdued and consists of a variety of grays and muted colors. The top painting was completed two years ago for my Illustration 1 class at RIT. Both paintings are 12 x 16, oil on canvas.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Acrylic Critters

Here are a few more paintings from my vast collection of wildlife subjects. They were all completed with acrylics. I use Golden Brand acrylics with a fluid viscosity which I prefer since I create these paintings by using many thin layers of paint. The paint is loaded with pigment and the quick drying times allow for the layered build-up. In my last post I mentioned that I referred to my favorite acrylic artists when I wanted to learn how to use this medium. I always try to get my students to find examples of art that appeals to them so that they have a standard to aim for. I don't want them to copy these artists but I want them to be influenced by their methods. It always amazes me when I ask some students to name their favorite artists and I get a blank stare. Ask a major musician to name some influences and you will get a massive list of names and albums. Visual artists should be able to do the same thing.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Wild Wild Life

Here are a few acrylic paintings that I have completed over the past few years. I did not paint with acrylics until the early 90's. Up to that point I was using mostly oils, gouache, and mixed media techniques for all of my commercial and personal work. When I decided to teach myself how to use acrylics, I turned to other artists who worked with this medium. The acrylic painters that I admired the most, at that time, were wildlife artists. I loved the work of Robert Bateman and especially Bob Kuhn. They were internationally known and I was fascinated by the range of effects that they could achieve with acrylic paint. I bought books that reproduced their art and tried to visually dissect their methods. I went out of my way to visit museums and galleries that collected their work. I spent hours studying these wildlife master's work. I also spent hours in my own studio practicing and experimenting with acrylics. It also helped me at that time to work with wildlife subjects as I had enjoyed drawing and painting animals since my childhood. I have quite a collection of these small paintings (8 x 10 to 12 x 16) , and I will post more of them over the next few weeks.

Monday, January 3, 2011

More Sculpted Weirdos!

I had planned to post a few more Christmas images, but I'm feeling "done" with the holidays, so I'll save them for next year. Here are a few more of my whimsical sculptures. I'm posting these because I've had the urge recently to create more of these. They are so much fun and every result feels like a surprise to me. Good or bad, they just emerge and reveal themselves as I am making them. No sketches. No plans. They are constructed of wood, sculpey, foam, and found objects. They come together quickly and I enjoy the spontaneity.