The Bennington Flag

It’s been a little while since I’ve been able to post progress pictures of a painting. Unfortunately, I’ve been pretty busy with my job. I’ve only been able to work on sketches. But this week I received some time off and I was able to complete a new painting. I’m not sure what to title it, but I’m leading towards “Hammer to Fall.” Which is a reference to the Queen song, of course. The idea for this setup came to me when I was rummaging around the garage looking for objects for a different still life. I found our Bennington Flag and knew I needed to put it in a still life of its own. 20140327-192853.jpg This painting was truthfully a collection of objects I have always wanted to include in my setups. I think I have tried to squeeze the hammer into all my still life arrangements. I just couldn’t make it work until now. And the column? Well that’s been hiding out in the crawl space next to my studio. I saw it every time I went in there to look at old paintings or search for art supplies. And I always thought, “Damn that thing is nice. But I dunno how I’d ever weasel it into my work.” In the end, all three objects happened to work well together. 20140327-192905.jpg   This painting went relatively quick. I spent four sessions on it, but one session was just the quick drawing and another session was just 90 minutes of final tweaking. Basically, I only put two full days into it. Which makes me happy. I’m definitely picking up speed. 20140327-192913.jpg   My technique has been developing gradually, and I’ve found myself using the knife to scrape down the paint and keep the edges soft. It allows me to come in at the end and really choose what I want sharp and in focus. 20140327-192921.jpg   I wound up using heavy line to really give my painting a graphic quality. You can see the dark blue and red around the flag and the dark grey on the hammer head. This wasn’t something I intentionally did though. Well, I guess it sort of was. I’ve had the words of Mr. Pulido stuck in my head the last few days. He said (and this is summarized), “To make an object turn in space, make it darker towards the edges.” Now that’s a gross simplification of what he taught us, but that’s the basic concept. Thinking about that advice, I’ve gone back and looked at painters that focus on bringing that aspect into their painting. I’ve specifically focused on Cezanne. He uses line to achieve that effect. So I’ve tried to channel some Cezanne into my work and it wound up making me use more line. IMG_0007-2

  The final result gives me mixed feelings. While I’m happy with the painting and I definitely think I’ve made major improvements in my technique and skill, these improvements are bringing me in a direction I’m not sure I want to go. I don’t know how I feel about the graphic quality. Part of me likes of it, part of me doesn’t. I suppose I’ll just have to keep painting and see how everything develops. The good thing is I don’t feel like I’m regressing or standing still.

And to close, here are some more Facebook sketches:

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Boots and Snow

After painting several teapots, I wanted to move in a different direction. So I went in the garage and grabbed whatever I found interesting. For the next ninety minutes I added and subtracted objects to my still life until I had an arrangement I was satisfied with.

Because there were more than three objects, I started with a line drawing. It helped keep things organized later on.


Next I went in with blocks of color.

As I was working, I occasionally scraped down the canvas. The paint kept building up rapidly and I didn’t want the colors to get too muddied.


Once the objects were defined, I worked left to right.

The right side boot was tricky to get correct. The perspective threw me for a bit of a loop and I had to adjust its size several times.

20140214-172717.jpgAfterwards, I went back and tinkered with some shadows. But I was mostly done.


As I was finishing, I was struck with an idea for another still life.20140214-172740.jpgPlane. Camera. Suitcase. I found these three things up in my mother’s photography studio and knew they needed to be combined into a still life.


The antique camera proved to be difficult to paint. Its rounded edges made it appear rectangular at one glance and more cylindrical at the next glance.

20140214-172756.jpgI went a little sloppy with my color blocks in order to give myself breathing room later on.


Once again I worked left to right.


For some reason I did not find myself as interested in this still life as I was the first one. I  enjoyed it, but I think my mind was already moved on to thinking about more still life paintings.


I am going to be submitting these two paintings to a new artist show at the New Hampshire Art Association gallery in Portsmouth. I feel I have a good chance to get in, and I am excited to submit.

I did not have as much free time in the evenings as I did the last two weeks, and so I only got three digital pieces done. This one was based on reddit user julio1990’s photo.


Referenced user cluisart’s photo.


User scrambledramble once again offered chihuahua pictures for reference. I found myself on a bit of a dog kick and spent most of my time perusing the animal photos in search of more pets to draw. Unfortunately, I was only able to get two dogs drawn.

I’m finally getting in a rhythm with photoshop. It’s getting easier and easier to compose my drawings. That being said, I am positive there are hundreds of techniques out there that I still need to learn. I’m sure I’ll be watching lots of video tutorials in the next couple of weeks.


At Their Place

This week I spent a lot of time thinking about the still life paintings I have been making. I want to eventually start submitting them to galleries, and I need some way to bring them together into a cohesive group. Eventually, I decided on the project title of “At Their Place.” Because I currently live with my parents, all the items I have been using in my still life paintings have been things I found around their house. My paintings give an inside look into the objects my parents collect, use daily, and hold dear.

For the first painting of the week, I used a vase of flowers my father bought for my mother.


Instead of doing a sketch and an underpainting, I went straight into blocking out colors.


I attacked the watering can first, wanting to establish the bright pinks.


Then I added the darks in the leaves.


With my first go through of the flowers I wound up keeping everything gently subdued. I liked the way it turned out and debated keeping it that way. In the end, I gave it two more painting sessions.


Almost done at this point.



And here is my studio setup. I’ve enjoyed painting in this manner the most so far.


After the flower still life, I got to work on another teapot painting.


Once again, I skipped a drawing and just blocked out colors. I’m trying to improve my speed.


To contrast the yellow of the pot, I built up the rest of the painting with white objects. This wound up challenging my mixing skills.


I tried to use larger blocks of color for the teapot.


The differences in warms and cools was very slight and I had to focus on exaggerating them in order to give the painting the necessary depth.


As I gathered speed in the painting, I found myself laying down thicker slabs of paint. I’ve been moving away from this style in my other paintings, but it was refreshing to step sideways and do that again. I’m still developing my technique as a painter, and I’m figuring out when to go heavy and when to go thin and light.

My final session was a quick one. I defined the objects more precisely and refined loose areas.

I’m really enjoying the direction I’m taking my oil paintings. Still life paintings give me an opportunity to explore techniques while still developing a body of work that is artful and marketable. The 9″ x 12″ canvas size has helped me work on speed and step away from detail and work more towards general shapes. With these two done, I’ve already set up my next still life and I’m looking forward to getting into it.

So, just like last week, I was also working digitally every night. I spent no more than two hours on each piece and pushed to get them as complete as possible in the time limit.


My first drawing was the quickest. I just wanted to get something out before going to bed. I used user RHINOHORNINMYBUMHOLE’s photo for reference.


Because I am still new to painting digitally, I have been trying different styles and techniques. I also downloaded several sets of brushes. I used user Part_Time_Terrorist’s photo for reference here.


Last year I did a couple self-portraits in a cubist-like style. I tried to replicate that with photoshop while using user Darksideofmycat’s photo for reference.


Then because I was tired of drawing people, I searched through the pet photos to find one I liked. I settled on user chocojuice’s photo. It was during this piece that I found several brushes I liked. I wound up using them for the next two paintings as well.


Because there are so many users on reddit, I often have to sift through many mediocre photo submissions. Once in a while I find a picture that really strikes me. That was how I felt when I saw user ckxcore’s photo.


Finally, I finished with user haminacann’s photo.

With only two hours to do each digital piece, I often struggled to get an exact likeness. However, I limit myself with time in order to increase my speed. I figure I can only get better by forcing myself through restraints.

Now it’s time to get back to working on my next still life.


The Doctor

A month and a half ago I began my most ambitious painting yet: a full body portrait of my father. And it’s now complete. Kind of. The only thing left is to let it dry and then varnish it. But that takes months and I don’t want to wait that long to share some pics.

The painting was commissioned by my dad after he saw the small sketch I did of his head. He liked that painting and asked me to paint a new one for his dental office. And then he gave me free reign. Size. Pose. Clothing. Everything was up to me.

But knowing that the painting would be on public display made me think very carefully about what I was doing. People look deeply into portraits, whether it’s consciously or not. Therefore, I did not want my dad to come off as imposing or threatening to any viewer. I scoured the internet and flipped through art books in search of inspiration. Eventually I came upon Paul-Jacques-Aimé Baudry’s painting of French architect Charles Garnier.


Paul-Jacques-Aimé Baudry. Charles Garnier, 1868. Oil on canvas, 40 1/2 x 31 7/8. Musée d’Orsay. (http://stephengjertsongalleries.com/?p=834)

That was it. That was the inspiration I needed. I found the painting a bit too moody, but the pose was perfect and befitting a doctor. So with Baudry as my muse, I put paint to canvas.


Actually, first I had to photograph my father. There was no way our schedules were going to coincide in a manner that would allow me to paint from life. So with some help from my mom, I picked out some clothes for him, sat him up on a desk, posed him, and snapped a picture. Then I started on the painting.


As usual, I did a quick sketch, outlined it, and then put a wash of color over the whole canvas. However, instead of doing an underpainting, I went directly into color.


My first priority was getting the canvas covered with paint. I used a decent amount of medium (Liquin) and painted out thin coats. I was only looking for a general direction, not the exact color. The fluidity and freedom of the early stages are aspects I enjoy and I always have to remind myself to maintain those characteristics later on in my paintings.


Once the initial color blocking was down, I began putting more focus into my painting. I started with the face, wanting to work towards a likeness as quickly as possible. At this stage of the painting you can see I had his eyes too close together.


I worked clockwise around the piece, dropping down from the head, into the pant legs, and onto the desk.


My arrival at the suit coat was the beginning of a long journey. The side in light gave me plenty of headaches. I couldn’t decide if it was brown or green. And I thought I figured it out at one point. I realized it seemed to turn brown in the shadows and green in the light. But when I painted it like that, I was horrified at the result. So then I repainted it and repainted it, and after each revision of the coat I always wound up returning to some variation of green. I even brought the coat out of my dad’s closet and used it as a reference. But it did not help. Though my eye saw the fluctuations between brown and green, I had to generalize towards green on my canvas. That was the only way I found satisfaction.


After doing one complete paint through of the piece, I turned my focus onto the background. I needed to establish value there so I could have something to compare and contrast with the figure.


Bit by bit I worked my way through the painting, taking a multi-day break from the face in order to focus on building up everything else.


When I returned to the face, I found out I had problems. The eyes were too close and I’d grown the nose too big. It was time for my secret weapon: upside down painting. I flipped the canvas over, let my mind relax, and went to work.

Turning a painting over tricks my brain into seeing shapes instead of pre-conceived objects. Basically, when viewing the painting right-side up, my brain says, “Hey! That’s a face!” But when I turn it upside down, my brain sees the bits and pieces of the face as separate and simple shapes. Most brains are like this.

With that trick I was able to pound out a better likeness.


Above you can see I was half-way through one of my battles with the suit coat. I had painted it a brighter green to try to bring in more light, but it had made my dad look like a leprechaun. So I had to go back and subdue it.


Another major thing I struggled with was my use of white. Now, I don’t use white straight from the tube. My teacher Mr. Pulido taught me to mix my white with some yellow ochre and make a butter-like color. That’s what I use for my white. The yellow ochre keeps the white warmer and unifies the painting. Even still, I found myself washing out the painting. I was using white too much in my mixing and creating pale colors that didn’t hold any vibrancy. You can see through the progress pictures that this happens significantly in the suit coat. It was a by-product of me trying to bring in more light. But it wasn’t acceptable. Towards the end of the painting I had to go in and fight to put truer color back in the piece.


The largest surprise of the painting came in the pant legs. I painted them early on with raw umber and this led to the creation of an accidental grisaille underpainting. When I returned to the pants later on, I went over the raw umber with a glaze of burnt umber and burnt sienna. This gave the pants the exact brown I was looking for. Although, I did have to go over the glaze with a few areas of thick mixed color in order to prevent the pants from appearing too uniform brown. But my lucky accident there made me want to try painting out an entire piece in raw umber and glaze it. I’ll have to look further into grisaille methods.


As I got to the end, I discovered my painting was becoming too intricate. I needed more generalization and larger blocks of color. So I redid the background in earth tones and attacked the suit coat.

And oh. I guess here’s where I’ll mention that I began adding a new technique. While painting the patterns on the tie, I found that scraping away the paint with my palette knife helped to blur the patterns and give suggestions of color, rather than outright statements. I don’t usually combine my palette knife with my brush paintings, but I believe I’ll be doing more of it in the future.


My last several sessions were spent touching up the head, the hands, and the suit coat. I wanted to push the painting and get that likeness.


The final painting is something I’m definitely proud of. Though it’s tough to decide when to declare something finished. When I look at anything I’ve completed, I see the minor flaws as glaring mistakes and I have to remind myself to let go. I need to take what I learned and address it in the next painting. That’s the only healthy attitude for me. Obsessing over a painting would bring me nowhere.

Additionally, I have a few progress shots of the face:







And finally, I have been trying to find ways to make my blog more entertaining. So I’ve created a couple animated GIFs of the progress shots. Hopefully in the future I’ll be able to add videos of me actually painting.






Christmas Portrait

 Last night I saw the Boston Pops and then got dumped with a foot of snow. It’s definitely the Holidays. So to honor this magical time of year, I have done a small Christmas themed self-portrait.


It has been a while since I’ve done a self-portrait. I used to do them all the time for school, but now that I have more control over my subject matter I just don’t have the urge to set up a mirror and paint myself too much. That being said, that’s exactly what I did for this. I unhooked a mirror from its wall, set it up on a large easel, and popped open a smaller travel easel to hold my canvas.


Originally, I started off the painting with line. But that didn’t work for me. So I wiped it out and blocked in shapes with a mix of raw sienna and burnt sienna. Then I painted the hat. I figured it would help me decide on a scale and prevent my head from growing off the page as I painted.

IMG_0776I worked my way around the head, using the background color of raw umber to whittle down the shape. After establishing the lips and the general nose area I became a little perturbed with myself. I couldn’t seem to get a proper likeness. So I started on the left side of the face and worked on establishing small relations of color and value. I usually use an approach like this when I’m frustrated. Concentrating on a small section alleviates the pressure of an entire painting. Eventually, I got to where I was happy with the painting again.

IMG_0777Because I started painting at 3 in the afternoon and it gets dark at 4, I wound up running out of daylight. Now, I had planned ahead for that and set up my easel so my light source was an artificial ceiling light, but that didn’t prevent me from having to work in dim lighting. The lights in my house don’t get very bright in general and I often find myself wishing I could crank them up a few notches. The dim lighting tends to make the paints appear a different color than they are. On this painting I found myself mixing the colors lighter than they needed to be. I had to go back multiple times and darken them in order to get what I wanted.

IMG_0789Despite my trials and struggles, I wound up liking the painting in the end. I got the likeness where I wanted and managed to hold myself to only 4 hours of painting. Hopefully these weekly paintings will help me develop speed.

And oh!

Happy Holidays!


A Portrait of my Father

I spent my entire summer working on still life paintings and it got to a point where I needed a change of pace. So, I turned to portraiture. Which was a large step in a different direction. To me, portrait painting is more of a challenge than still life painting and incredibly different than even full figure painting. The major difference being that portraiture involves capturing the likeness of the model. A portrait can be off by just a little bit, be it a nose length, lip width, or cheek bone height, or anything, and that minor difference can cause the portrait to not resemble the model. When I sat down to paint my father, I made sure to constantly check measurements and relationships so that I was getting a solid resemblance.


I knew I wasn’t going to be able to have my dad sit down for me whenever I wanted to paint, so I had to take a photo of him and use that as reference. I had him bring home his prescription magnifying goggles/glasses from his dental office and wear them around his neck. Then I had him wear a white dress shirt. My dad wore the dress shirt loose and I liked the contrast that had. It felt professional, but also relaxed.

dadportrait-2The preliminary drawing stages went well and I was excited to get some color on there.


I blocked in the drawing with some general color ideas instead of doing an underpainting. I wanted to get into the actual painting as quickly as possible.

dadportrait-4During the early stages of the painting I constantly fidgeted with the right side of my dad’s face. I saw that as the defining element of the portrait. People can be recognized by their silhouettes, and I needed to get his silhouette as close to the reference as possible.


After covering the entire canvas with one good paint-through, I felt pretty good. Except for one thing. I had misjudged the figure size. As I painted, I adjusted the head and fiddled with the proportions and wound up losing the top of the head off the canvas. At that point I had two options. 1. Shrink everything down. 2. Deal with it. I contemplated the first option, but I was painting small as it was (11×14) and I did not want to have to go down in brush size. So I dealt with it and chalked it up to the learning process. Besides, it didn’t look that bad and it helped me decide that my next portrait will be larger. That way I won’t feel constrained.


Every painting session was a give and take. One shoulder needed to be dipped and the other raised. The ear needed to be raised and the head widened. Back and forth, back and forth. I spent most of my time making constant adjustments.

Once I had the head mostly where I wanted it, I went into the shirt. I relished the simplicity of the whites and grays. It was an entirely different world than the flesh tones. I sailed right through it, leaving it loose in order to keep the focus on the face.

dadportrait-finalAt the end of the day I felt like the painting was a success. I was able to capture a likeness and complete my first portrait painting ever. I think I’ll be doing a couple more in the coming weeks.


My Muse, My Chicken

So, it’s been a little while since my last post. I’m sorry. The delay was caused by two reasons:

1. I’ve been working a lot.

2. I was developing my latest painting.

But I’ve finished the painting and now I’m ready to show it off to y’all.


My parents have a ceramic chicken that has been kicking around our house for quite a few years. I’ve always thought it was an interesting object and last spring I put it in a painting of my parents. I lost interest in that painting and never finished it, but I still wanted to paint the chicken. It took me several months, but I finally got around to it.

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When I started arranging the still life I realized that I had no idea what else to put along with the chicken. My mother, who is also an artist, always tells me to vary the textures. This helps prevent monotony. Keeping her advice in mind, I scoured my house for suitable objects. I wound up deciding on a fake plant and a small wooden cow. These three objects are all different textures but they maintain the theme of “fake renditions of living things.”

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After setting the still life up I did a preliminary sketch. I then traced the sketch in Sharpie and executed the underpainting. I’ve developed a process through my last few paintings and usually take no longer than a couple hours to finish the sketch and underpainting. I like to get into the actual painting as quick as possible.

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During the first go-through of the painting I always block out shapes of color. I tend to think of painting as a series of steps where with each progressive step you break the blocks of color down into smaller blocks of color. This helps me stay focused on color relationships instead of details.

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For this painting I used very little white. And the white I did use was a mixture of permalba white and yellow ochre pale. My palette mainly consisted of burnt sienna, alizarin crimson, yellow ochre pale, and cadmium orange. Those colors built up the majority of the painting, and when I found I needed something extra I also used cadmium yellow, raw sienna, venetian red, cadmium red, raw umber, sap green, viridian, french ultramarine, and ivory black. For the most part these were accessory colors necessary in the development of specific areas of the painting. I used the greens and cadmium yellow in the plant and the darker colors in the cow.

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As I painted, I found that the chicken was divided into five color areas. The head was red, the neck was tan, the body and breast were orange, the tail was brown, and the base was yellow. There were variations within those areas, but those colors were the general feel. This realization helped me to focus my color selections.

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Making the feathers of the chicken feel full and rounded was a long process. I would play with the shadows and lights until I felt it was right, and then realize the color was off.

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After working on the chicken for so long, it was a nice change of pace to work on the chicks. The yellows were warmer and tended to lean towards oranges and reds. I also found the greens on the base created a nice contrast with the chicks.

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While I enjoyed working on the chicks, I found myself annoyed by the red bottom of the base. Instead of getting hung up on it, I moved along through the table and over into the cow. I immediately jived with my painting. I busted out the cow in a short amount of time and felt great while I did it. I believe the limited amount of color I had to use was what helped me to get in the groove.

Chicken Still Life High Quality

In my last couple sessions I finished off the plant and worked on harmonizing the objects. With such a dark backdrop, it was necessary to make sure the objects didn’t appear to pop and separate from their surroundings. I made sure to keep this in mind through the entire painting process, but I went back over everything just to be safe.

I feel satisfied with the end result of the painting. My theme worked out and I feel there is a solid unity to the piece. However, I doubt I will be painting the chicken again. I found the cow much more enjoyable to paint.

With this piece done, I am now returning to the figure. I’ll be keeping the paintings relatively small, so the next update should be just around the corner.