Summer is here. It doesn’t feel real. A couple weeks ago I graduated with my M.Ed. and now my internship will be done in a week. It’s hard to believe I’ll be teaching in a few months and being paid to do it. Really the reason it feels weird is because I’ve been so busy with work. I was able to get a little reading done in my free time, but my art progress slowed. Occasionally I got to paint. And because I wasn’t able to devote large blocks of time to making art, it to took me several months to finish one painting.
9″ x 12″
I started this painting right after I finished my Blue Winter Self-Portrait. I was inspired by the color variety I was able to explore in the shadows. Hopefully the pinecones are still readable as pinecones. Here are the progress photos:
And the final photo once again:
I’ve been finding and following a bunch of artists lately. Many of them have mentioned the difficulty of taking the energy present at the beginning of the painting and maintaining it until the end. I loved the looseness and playfulness of the self-portrait and wanted to replicate it. I did bring an energy into this still-life but I’m not sure I carried it through. I think I got caught up too much in the exactness of the sugar jar. Edges are my new focus. I have a feeling the movement and energy of a painting can die there.
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.
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.
Here are a few more of my pen and ink sketches. I’ll update with quality scans when I get a chance.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Grabbed another reference from RedditGetsDrawn and drew out a 4″ x 4″ sketch.
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.
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.
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.
Cooked some pasta for lunch, closed the kitchen windows to prevent the monsoon outside from coming in, and went back to working on RedditGetsDrawn portraits.
Since anyone can submit to reddit, the quality of photos is usually a mixed back. After a little search I found a self-portrait by user Shmoonify that I liked.
I already use a simple palette, but for this painting I basically only used sap green, ultramarine blue, phthalo blue, and alizarin crimson. There was a little flame red and yellow ochre in there as well. The muted colors forced me to explore the possible ranges of grays in gouache.
I kept the size small for this one so I can later squeeze more portraits on to the same page. It’s 2 3/8″ x 4″.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The portrait was primarily a practice in value and light. I first blocked in the darks with a wash of burnt umber.
Trying to keep it simple, I used a few lighter colors to establish the lights and mid-tones.
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.
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
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.
On the 26th I finished my last summer class and now I’m able to fully enjoy the weather. The next day we headed up north to visit my girlfriend’s sister in Kennebunk, Maine. She lives a few minutes from Parsons Beach, so we hopped on over there and spent the early afternoon soaking up the sun. I actually soaked up too much sun. The sunburns have been annoying. Time to get the season really started and buy some sunscreen.
We were there for about three hours and I probably got two hours of quality painting in. Spent a good thirty minutes at the start figuring out what to paint. Eventually I settled in and painted my girlfriend and her sister. It came out pretty decent for a sketch. Used a 5″ x 7″ panel.
On Sunday I squeezed in a couple sketches of mallard ducks for Sketch Daily’s summer prompt.
Down behind my apartment in Newmarket, New Hampshire is a boat launch that slides out into the Lamprey River. Any time of the year a flock of ducks can be seen waddling around the area. During the winter they lay across the pavement for warmth. During the summer they hangout in the adjacent park and beg for breadcrumbs. I park my car down there some days and they always shuffle on over to say hello and see if I have anything to share.
Guess they were my inspiration. Though I didn’t have any pictures of them, so I had to make do with what I found through a Google search.