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A Year Gone By

It’s been basically a year since I last posted. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been painting or drawing though. I managed to squeeze in a few things. So here, let me walk you quickly through everything that’s happened since last summer.

If you follow my Facebook page then you probably saw me post some progress shots of a self-portrait. Well, I finally finished it.
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I wanted to create a portrait that was earthy and gave me practice with my reds and skin tones.

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I took a reference photo and made my life a little difficult with the angle of my head. It’s slightly cocked and it was difficult making sure everything worked to properly show that angle.

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You can see in these early shots how my glasses are ridiculously askew.

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I went too detailed with the face from the beginning and should’ve spent more time focusing on proportions before worrying about tone variations.

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I enjoyed painting the checkered shirt and mixing up the differences in values between the lit and the dark sides.

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The hat was the thing that gave me the most trouble at the end. It’s a straw hat but I didn’t want to put too much detail into it and take away from the focus of the face.

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Here’s the final version. I’m gonna have to retake this photo due to glare.

It took me a few months to finish the portrait working on it off and on when I got a little time. While I was working on that at home I was out doing plein air painting as well. When my friend invited a bunch of us to Star Island for his proposal to his girlfriend I went early and spent the morning painting the buildings on the island.

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The annual plein air competition hosted by the New Hampshire Art Association came up shortly after and I spent the whole weekend running around Portsmouth painting buildings.

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This first painting is of the main downtown area. I got halfway through it and wasn’t happy with the way it was turning out. I used it as a learning experience and moved on to a different location.

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I moved down one of the side streets and decided to paint the cars parked in front of all the old buildings.

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I painted it over the course of two mornings and I feel like I did a good job of capturing that early light. My favorite part of the painting is the right side where I experimented with different greens for two trees leaning out over the sidewalk.

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For my last painting of the competition, I went to the residential area and painted a house. While I was working the owners came out and were kind enough to talk to me about their house and even offered me the opportunity to come and paint their backyard garden whenever I wanted.

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I finished the house up and had just a few minutes to spare before the deadline. There is one more painting I haven’t included here, because almost a year later I sold it and forgot to photograph it first. It was the painting I won an honorable mention for. I’ll see if I can get a photo from the owners.

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After the competition I continued painting outside and spent one weekday in Newburyport painting a junk heap.

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There it is in the background in all its glory.

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I particularly enjoyed the jumble of this painting and having to pick out what shapes to paint.

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Later that summer I joined a plein air group to paint the tall ship that had docked in Portsmouth.

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I was playing around with a new canvas board and the painting came out very soft. Again, I will try to get a better quality photo.

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There she is!

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At the tail end of last summer I joined my friends for a beach trip and painted the coastline of Hampton. Just a quick sketch and study of the rocks. I was trying to be as simple as possible with my shapes.

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During the winter I went with my girlfriend to Boston and while she went to the Museum of Science with a friend I went over to the Museum of Fine Arts and found a sculpture to draw. It was Nydia, the Blind Girl of Pompeii by Randolph Rogers.

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In the spring I had a booth at an art show in Exeter alongside my girlfriend’s brother. We both wound up selling a good amount! It was a positive experience though a lot of work. While at the show I painted a small rose bush I’d bought.

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Finally, last Wednesday I returned to joining the plein air group. I met them at Strawberry Banke in Portsmouth and painted an old boat lying beside a house. I really focused on composition in this painting. I attempted to use the darks of the foreground to frame the lights of the background. I think it was decently successful.

That’s all for now. I have a couple other things to share from my sketchbooks, but I’m pressed for time. Tonight I’m going down to Lowell for an open figure drawing session. Hopefully now that my first year of teaching is out of the way I can be more consistent with this blog.

Oh! I’ve also made some more cheese recently. I’ll have to post about that. And my trips to Paris and NYC. Guess I still have a lot more to write about. Stay tuned.

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Beards, Mustaches, and Mr. Smooth-Face McKinley

I recently had a relaxing weekend at home and was able to get a good amount of work done. The final projects for my M. Ed. are due in a couple weeks, so I spent most of my time on those, but when I needed a break I did some reading and worked on my presidential sketches. I finally finished Harry Ammon’s James Monroe: The Quest for National Identity, after picking through it for two months. Perhaps it’s time to turn back to fiction for a little while. I think I’ll dive into Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. Somehow I’ve never read that classic.

For my sketches, I worked my way from Chester A. Arthur to Theodore Roosevelt. Looks like our presidents used to sport some awesome facial hair. I had too much fun rendering President Arthur’s mutton chops.presidentialportraits - 9

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I included Grover Cleveland twice because he came before and after Benjamin Harrison, even though only the first portrait is official. But the second was painted by Anders Zorn and I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to study one of his paintings. My goal is to finish all the sketches and then paint over them in Photoshop. This’ll give me an opportunity to experiment with the digital medium, but also a chance to study the color and brush work of the original artists.

Perhaps when I’m done I’ll upload all the portraits in a single collage or poster.

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Presidential Portrait Sketches

 

Way back at the start of the summer I vowed to read the best rated biography of each president. Why? Well, we kept getting stumped on presidential questions at bar trivia and I was tired of ignorance. I used bestpresidentialbios.com as my guide and started with James Thomas Flexner’s four-volume exploration of George Washington’s life. I read two of the four on a road trip to New Orleans and once I’d finished the series I decided to adjust my plan. I would read the best ONE-VOLUME biographies. Flexner’s work was amazingly comprehensive, but the sheer word count almost drove me to insanity. But I finished and moved on to John Adams: A Life by John Ferling, and then Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham, and then James Madison: A Biography by Ralph Ketcham. I’ve taken a break since Ketcham’s work to read a bunch of fiction, but when I resume I’ll be turning through the pages of James Monroe: The Quest For National Identity by Harry Ammon. Basically, I’ve been president obsessed this last year.

The other night I was listening to The Washington Post’s great podcast Presidential and decided to do sketches from the official presidential portraits. I used a brush pen in my moleskin sketchbook, spending about ten minutes on each portrait. Look for more to come! And if you like founding fathers and also happen to like musicals, check out Hamilton.

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Forty and Lightbulb Sketches

Yesterday I dropped a couple paintings off at the New Hampshire Art Association for next weekend’s The Art of the Landscape show. While I was there I picked up a prospectus for next month’s 16th Annual Joan L. Dunfey Open Juried Exhibition. I’ll probably submit my most recently finished painting and the one I just started today.

Here are a few sketches from the development process:

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I wanted to see how the lightbulbs and the forty ounce would work together. After a trial and error period of arrangement I finally decided on a setup that clicked.

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With graphite and charcoal I sketched out the still life. I think this process will greatly help my painting. I learned a few things about the way lightbulbs are shaped. Now time to paint.

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Studying Composition

Though it’s been many months since I last worked on my children’s book, my desire to finish it has not dissipated. On Monday I sat down and reviewed my old pages and made the decision to start over. Several changes were necessary. A minor point of the story needed to be brought forward, the whole story needed to be trimmed down, the art style needed to be changed, and most importantly I needed to focus more on composition. If I want this book to stand out, it must be more than simple characters on a page.

To begin this revision I went online and searched for compositionally strong paintings to study.

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Since I will be participating in a plein air competition this coming weekend, I thought to use the time to also study landscapes. I found Looking Down Yosemite Valley by Albert Bierstadt and spent a quick thirty minutes doing a half-page sketch. When I finished, I began designing the new page layouts for my books, using for inspiration and reference: The Art of Walt Disney by Christopher Finch, The Illusion of Life by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, and Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Layout & Background.

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The next day I loaded up Still Life with Apples and Fruit Bowl by Paul Cezanne and continued practicing. Again, I kept the study short and sweet.

With the plein air competition in Portsmouth almost here I’ve begun hand making business cards to hand out to the curious. I’m sure there will be lots of people coaxed out of their homes by the warm weather. It’s going to be an exciting weekend. I even went this morning and walked around for two hours to find possible painting locations. I may have to go again on Thursday. For those interested in the event, check out the New Hampshire Art Association website.

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Facebook Friends and a Small Self-Portrait

This week was dedicated to painting. It was my first full week to get back in the swing of things. I have a painting I’m working on that should be done in the next couple of weeks. I’ve had a lot of fun with it, so stay tuned.

When I wasn’t painting I did a couple drawings of friends on Facebook.

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It’s been over a year since I posted a status offering to draw profile pictures and I’m still working through the backlog of requests.

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When I posted these two drawings, it brought my status back into the newsfeed and I received a couple more requests. I’m keeping a list of everyone. Bit by bit I’m crossing off names.

On July 1st I found myself with a bit of extra time and decided to whip out a quick self-portrait. Since I didn’t want to spend too much time on it, I used one of my 5″ x 7″ canvas boards.

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The portrait was primarily a practice in value and light. I first blocked in the darks with a wash of burnt umber.

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Trying to keep it simple, I used a few lighter colors to establish the lights and mid-tones.

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With everything blocked in, I threw in some background color to provide more clarity in the portrait. With the blue there I could gauge how dark I needed the face to be.

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Originally I had only planned on working on the portrait for one day, but I came back the next and figured it needed a little polishing. The eyes had to be filled, the hair adjusted, and the nose widened

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I focused on getting my features correct and turning up the intensity of the lights. At this point the background had dried into a nice greenish-blue. I kept it that way. The end result is a rather fair portrait. I think I did a decent job of capturing my likeness, with my only complaint being that in hindsight the distance between my upper lip and the bottom of my nose may be too great. I’ll have to do a couple more portraits this size over the summer. They’re great practice.