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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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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.

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Portrait of a Disgusted Daughter

Only two weeks left until the school year and my internship. I’m trying to make the best of my time until then. That means paint, paint, paint.

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I found time for one more Reddit portrait, choosing user Hotnonsense’s photo of her grumpy daughter. Spent about forty-five minutes on the sketch before moving to gouache. This one’s 2.5″ x 4″.

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The face came together piece by piece and I never felt too lost. I think I created a good likeness. Unfortunately my success floundered as I moved into the hair. I got caught up in the individual strands. The solution? Simplify. I took off my glasses, pushed back in my seat, and there they were. The shapes. That’s all I needed. Shapes of color solved my problems. I feel as though it’s almost beneficial to be a painter that needs glasses. I don’t have to purposefully blur my eyes to simplify the subject. My eyes already naturally do that. In the past I’ve caught myself unconsciously with my glasses halfway down my nose so I can quickly glance back and forth between seeing the subject in-focus and out-of-focus. I look like an old man when I do that. But it makes things so much easier.

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Exploring Grays in Portraiture

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.

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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.

IMG_3304I 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″.

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Wagon Hill Farm

Grabbed an ice coffee this morning and met the NH Art Association at Wagon Hill Farm for a plein air session. The farm has a lot of land and I only saw a couple other artists before I set up. I imagine people were spread around the property.

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House at Wagon Hill Farm  7″ x 5″

I painted from 9 am until noon and got this small painting done. Now that I’m back home I can see that the colors are a little washed out. The roofs could use a little more color and a little less white. I probably should’ve spent more time on location, but I was out in a field, hot, and being attacked by horseflies. But it was a good day nonetheless. I will have to go back and do paintings from other perspectives. It’s a great place.

If you like House at Wagon Hill Farm, it’s for sale for $70. Let’s talk about it. Send me an email: thewritingmann@gmail.com.

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How to Paint a Wedding Gift

It’s Sunday, the clock has just passed 10pm, and my eyes are only open because I drank a little coffee with dinner. I’ve been trying to fill out this post since five, succumbing to short bouts of sleep along the way. The last four days have been long and tiring, but most importantly fun! Thursday night my girlfriend, Sarah, got out of work and we packed up our cars and drove down to her parents’ place in Massachusetts. Her sister was getting married! And she was co-maid of honor! She was meeting up with the bride and the other maid of honor for a relaxed night before the pre-wedding activities on Friday. I tagged along and gave the bride my wedding gift. More on that to come!

In the morning I got up and drove into Newburyport to do a 5″ x 7″ panel painting of historic downtown.

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Across Merrimac Street 5″ x 7″

It was a cloudless and blue sky day and the sun was tucked low by the water. The town was mostly empty. As I readied myself to cross a street, I looked up and found my subject: a modern street light superimposed on a town of centuries-old brick. Like in Portsmouth, I was drawn to the contrast between old and new.

The early stages of the painting were irritating and I was upset with my slow progress. Then I realized I just needed to go empty the bladder. I was able to stay relaxed with that issue out of the way.

By noon some clouds had drifted in and I decided to include them. But with the clouds came rain and I was forced to pack up. Needing a change of pace, I met up with the groom and one of his groomsman for some burritos and coffee.

I’m selling Across Merrimac Street for $70. If you’re interested, email me at: thewritingmann@gmail.com!

It’s now Monday morning and I’m back at work on this post, having failed to finish before losing my fight with sleep. But I’m awake and ready today. On to the next painting!

I wanted to contribute a unique gift to the pile of wedding goodies and it was an easy jump in logic to realize I should do a painting. I weighed the idea for several months and I was still undecided when Sarah told me I should go ahead and do it. Next step was to figure out how to make it meaningful. I did not want to go too symbolic, incorporating items that are traditionally associated with marriage. Being the younger sister, Sarah has a lot of the bride’s old stuff, and I searched around for something to use. I settled on a patterned vase.

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I stuck the vase full of flowers and propped it atop an Ionic column prop my mother had. It’s the same column that can be seen in Hammer to Fall.

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My main concern for most of the painting was getting it all straight and centered. My old apartment was full of dips in the floor and walls that met at odd angles, so I never had a good frame of reference. The low light didn’t help either. I relied heavily on a small level placed on top of the canvas.

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Initially the painting was to have a traditionally dark background. It was far too moody. I wanted something lighthearted. Weddings are supposed to be happy and it needed to reflect that.

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There was no easy way to approach the patterns on the vase. I generally sketched them out with simplified color forms. Detail could be added later.

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While working on this painting I was beginning to realize how import outlines can be. My former teacher Numael Pulido always talked about the transition from background to object, but it wasn’t until recently that I began to truly experiment. You can see my interest in outlines with the flowers. I used them heavily and in some places perhaps too heavily. I always tried to go back and paint over areas that didn’t work. With a dry brush and thick paint I could lightly blur the transitions with the background.

IMG_3070The highlights on the vase were tricky. I avoided the use of pure white and matched them with the local color. Still, I was unable to grasp the shine I was looking for. I will have to practice painting other glossy items.

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The Wedding Vase 12″ x 16″

I had the painting basically done a couple weeks before the wedding. However, when the frame arrived I tinkered with the background. I did not want it to be a static blue.

I’m very happy with the way the painting turned out and the bride and groom both like it as well! After the wedding, Sarah and I wound up coming home with a floral centerpiece that’s absolutely gorgeous and might just be my next still life painting. In fact, I might go arrange it now.