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Two Gourds

I tried a couple new things last week. First I attached my GoPro to a selfie rod, taped the rod to my easel, and videotaped myself painting.

I’m preparing for my next still life, which will focus on the secondary colors purple, green, and orange. This was a sketch to get a feel for gourd colors.

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In order to prevent my easel from shaking considerably and ruining the footage, I premixed the majority of the colors. The painting took three sessions, each around an hour, and I mixed a 24 color palette each time. This is a new technique I will be doing in the future. Premixing helps me concentrate on color and value differences. Early on in art school we spent time premixing, but it is a tactic that fell out of use for me personally. Time to bring it back.

By starting this next still life, I begin my third in a 10 painting series. At the point of conclusion I hope to have a consistent enough portfolio to submit to galleries.

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Forty Ounce

It’s been almost a full month since I posted the first few sketches of my forty-ounce painting. Though I’m disappointed I haven’t been able to post as often as I’d like, I understand my pace will have to fluctuate depending on the time of year. I’m in a teaching internship now, so my current time usage is probably similar to what it’ll be when I’m full-time. But I’ll have summers off! And I fully intend to capitalize on that. For now, I work with what time I can get.

I feel like I begin with that statement every other post.

For a few months after I took a class with Numael Pulido, I was painting using medium. First I used a mixture and then I switched to liquin. My paintings took a leap forward at this time. Then I began painting on smaller canvases, trying to get faster. I stopped using medium and went back to using oil straight from the tube. This was also partly because I’d read that the use of liquin can yellow a painting over time. But it seems from what I read now that most anything can yellow a painting over time. Recently I’ve been trying to improve my technique by addressing issues like canvas texture and varnishing, so naturally I decided to readopt the use of medium as well.

For my latest painting, 45 and Bulbs, I prepared the canvas with five or six watered down coats of gesso. I sanded the surface to give it a very slight, varied texture. I’ve grown to hate the uniform tooth of factory canvas. I did everything I could to counteract it. After the gesso dried, I toned it all in a medium blue-gray.

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I started off taking progress pictures but became frustrated with the lighting. The days are getting depressingly short and I struggled to get good pictures with the dying light. After three or four attempts, I gave up.

I sketched out the general shapes with burnt umber. I didn’t spend too much time on the preliminary drawing since I’d spent so much time sketching the setup already.

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40 and Bulbs

I wonder how other artists view the process of painting. To me, it’s like building a pyramid out of blocks. The largest blocks go on the bottom and every following layer uses slightly smaller blocks to build towards the pointed top. I lay out blocks of color in my paintings and then come back around searching for the next smallest blocks of color. Rinse and repeat.

Though I struggled with the reflections in the lightbulbs and the foreground shadows, the most difficult task was keeping everything level and straight. Even now it seems the angles are off.

The background and foreground are two different beach towels. I’m trying to use patterns in all my still life paintings. Soon I’ll be digging through the bed sheet piles at Goodwill.

45 and Bulbs is 12″ x 16″ and on sale for $500. If you’re interested in purchasing this painting contact me at thewritingmann@gmail.com.

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In the Spirit of Fall

Crash course in high school English: The Birthday Party – Brush, The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World – Marquez, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven – Alexie, The Dome – Millhauser, 1984 – Orwell, Brave New World – Huxley, and Feed – Anderson. I’ve been working with these titles for the first quarter of my internship. Some of the stories I’d read a while ago, but many were new. I’ve been busy reading and grading and researching and planning. In my free time I’ve been working on a new oil painting, but it’s not quite done yet. In order to keep this blog alive and prove I’m still interested in the arts, I took a snippet of free time on Saturday and painted out a gourd in gouache.

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Before heading north to Maine for a murder mystery party, my girlfriend spent an hour or so making an appetizer to bring and I plopped down at the kitchen table to hash out this 6″ x 3.5″ painting. Small gourds are wonderful to draw and paint because they have distinct angles and planes. I have a couple other gourds and pumpkins floating around the apartment. Hopefully they’ll feature in my next oil painting.

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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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Patterns

Several weeks ago I started at Exeter High School as an English intern and since then I’ve been swept up in the start of the school year. At the beginning I was spending most of my days mentally planning out what to say to the students. Since I teach the last class of the day there is plenty of time to build up some anxiety. But I’m relaxing now and don’t get too nervous until ten minutes before the class begins.

Though I’m teaching English, I’m still spending my afternoons painting. I set up a still life in the spare bedroom right before the school year began and I’ve been whittling away at it.

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In the past I used canvases straight from the factory. I’d tone them and then paint. The woven threads, or tooth, of the canvas often showed through my paintings. I didn’t like it. The tooth was too perfect, too symmetrical, and pulled attention away from the actual painting. To remedy this problem I gessoed my canvas several times, sanding between coats with 80 grit sandpaper. I didn’t create a perfectly smooth canvas, and nor did I want to. I left the brush strokes barely visible in the gesso so they would later show through a bit. This would make it appear as though I was applying my oils over other layers of paint. The imperfections would help create a more painterly finished product. After gessoing the canvas I toned it in a mid-tone of blue-gray.

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The idea for this still life stemmed from my acquisition of a black, metal teapot from my parents. They’re cleaning out their house and found it hidden in a cabinet. The hammer and vase were added as I developed a theme, which wound up being: black. It’s hard to paint the variations in the darks and I wanted that challenge.

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Since the canvas had been toned blue, I decided that I would use something orangey-red as contrast, allowing the blue to peek through in places and give the viewer’s eye some nice visual stimulation. I found my girlfriend’s old tapestry in a bag and used that for contrast. I stacked up a few boxes and draped the red cloth over them

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Much of my inspiration for this piece stems from the work of David Cheifetz. Particularly The Experiment. I also borrowed his technique of putting a two-way fold in the cloth to give the painting more depth. You can see an example of this technique in Prosperity. I used it in my painting to give the teapot more height so it would balance out with the vase.

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The most fun I had was putting in the rough patterns on both the vase and cloth. I did not try to get too exact or particular. It was a bit like sketching. I was trying to just figure out where everything needed to go.

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After one full paint through for each object the painting started to come together. I fell in love with the vase and spent many early sessions devoting attention to its gold patterns.

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Once I had everything mostly laid out I began tackling the background. Here I went with a flat brown and then realized it was too dark. Something need to be remedied. It needed more light.

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The setup was lit left to right so I decided I should echo that flow of light in the background. I spent an entire four hour session working it out. I pre-mixed dozens of colors in order to give the background a speckled, multi-colored effect.

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Next I had to lighten up the cloth. I explored different mixtures, seeing how cadmium red would develop when mixed with burnt sienna, cadmium yellow, and cadmium orange. I brightened the top right tremendously and slightly brightened the bottom right.

 

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Patterns 12″ x 16″

After adding the lights and highlights, I had to work on the darks. The left sides of the teapot and vase needed darkening to make them appear more round. My last session was mostly spent tinkering here and there to see what more I could do.

The final photo left the cloth appearing a little more orange than it is in life, but it’s a good representation besides that. I’m excited to start the next setup. I already have a plan.

If you’re interested in Patterns, it is on sale for $650. To purchase, send me a request at thewritingmann@gmail.com!

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Portrait of Pippa

Yesterday was a day without art. Or at least a day without visual art. I spent the majority of my time finishing up the last volume of James Thomas Flexner’s four-volume biography of George Washington. It was a long grind through fact-heavy prose. At last I’m finished. Today I got back to portrait painting.

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Looking through RedditGetsDrawn I found a nice photograph of a pitbull that seemed the best candidate for a portrait. It’s often hard to find photos with lighting I like. Not to mention photos that aren’t ridiculously small or grainy.

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After sketching out the dog I covered the drawing in thin washes of gouache.

I really wish I could find better gouache tutorials on YouTube. I’m certain there are little techniques that could simplify my process. From what I’ve experienced so far, I need a way to keep my paints from drying out so quickly. Additionally, I need a larger surface to mix paints on. The small travel palette I use is just too limiting.

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Next gouache painting I’m going to push myself to start off very dark and work in the lights. I’m still playing around with the way gouache mixes and dries.

This portrait is 2.5″ x 5″

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Portrait in Black and White

Had to get in one more portrait before the weekend. We’re going to be hiking Mount Monadnock and going to a birthday party, so there won’t be a lot of time to paint.

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Grabbed another reference from RedditGetsDrawn and drew out a 4″ x 4″ sketch.

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I’ve been putting in the backgrounds first to establish darks to work from. As I work I move back and forth between the background and the figure.

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Though the photo is in black and white, I did not stick strictly to a tonal painting. I brought in a few warms, though by the end I was using mostly cool colors.

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I’m in definite need of an actual black. It’s amazing how light the darks get when they dry. Thankfully I’m going back to my parents’ house this weekend and my mom has a tube of black she’s going to let me have.

The perspective on this drawing was surprisingly difficult. I kept having to address the height of the subject’s forehead. I had it too foreshortened at the beginning. My hands and neck are starting to cramp from working so small. Time to work bigger.