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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.

fortyounce - 1 (1)

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.

fortyounce - 2

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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.

7

From the Bathroom to the Canvas

I was in the bathroom last weekend watering the lettuce I’m growing in the window when I got to looking at the way the light fell on the wall sconce. The glass body diffused the light while the golden base reflected it sharply. It was a nice contrast. And since I haven’t done an oil painting in a while I thought the lamp would make a good subject for a new painting. Plus I have a lot of 16″x 20″ canvases that need to be used up. I grabbed one and got to work immediately.

Lamp 1 Final

Last time I tried drawing in the bathroom I ran into a space issue with my easel. There was no reason to deal with that again so I just took a picture and worked from that. I kept the painting simple at the start to prevent it from becoming a replica of the photograph. After that I started every session by reminding myself not to get too focused about details. Keep the painting painterly. That was my motto.

Lamp 2 Final

Recently I have been watching videos of how other artists paint and I’ve also spent a good amount of time looking over paintings at museums and galleries. Analyzing the work of other artists has helped me pick up a few tricks. One revelation came while I was visiting the Museum of Art at UNH. It was the end of the semester show where the professors present their recent works. I stopped in front of a landscape painting by Brian Chu and checked out how he dealt with the background. The majority of the painting was clouds and sky and though the clouds were the focus, Brian Chu put an immense amount of effort into the empty sky. It really made me realize the importance of backgrounds. Keeping that in mind, I worked heavily into my background, making sure it helped my lamp pop forward.

Lamp 3 Final

Like usual, I began the painting with large shapes of color and then broke them down. You can see how I distinctly divided the reflections in the gold base.

Lamp 4 Final

Once I got the lamp base to a point I liked, I scraped it down. This prevented me from overworking it. I then left the painting to dry.

Lamp 5 Final

Here you can see I focused on the background, smoothing out the large shadow shape and working in some overall darker tones. I realized I was painting the wall too light and it needed to be darker in order for the lamp to appear as though it was jutting from the wall.

Lamp 6 Final

The body of the lamp was difficult to paint. I struggled to make it “turn” in space and appear rounded. The most difficult part was painting the crenelated top. The edges were a balance between darks and highlights and I fought to keep the shadows from getting too dark. I used my palette knife to scrape it down a lot.

Lamp 7 Final

Throughout the painting I went back and forth between slapping on decisive strokes of paint and smoothing out the transitions between tones. If you compare the above picture with the previous one you can see this seesawing battle take place on the lamp body.

Lamp 8 Final

By now you’ve probably notice the little winged dot below the lamp. That’s a hole in the wall with flaps of sheetrock. It wasn’t the easiest thing to paint, but I think I got it down okay. It pulls together towards the end. But I included the hole because it gives the painting an extra bit of character. It helps prevent the lamp from just being a lamp. The hole gives the viewer a little more information about where the lamp could possibly be and the physical state of that location.

Lamp 9 Final

To give the painting more depth I darkened the lamp shadow considerably.

Lamp 10 Final

While the lamp base gives off the overall appearance of being gold, I used mostly green and brown to paint it. I would mix the green with a decent amount of white until it was quite light and then I would mix in some brown to give it the yellow color it needed. Of course, I used cadmium yellow when this combination could not get me the proper color.

Lamp 11 Final

Painting the base demanded that I measure and remeasure. The slightest inconsistency or straight edge ruined its roundness and threw the painting askew. I stepped back often to see where I was going wrong and where I needed to make adjustments.

Lamp 12 Final

Here you can see I added white to the right side of the hole and that helped sell the idea that the sheetrock was being pulled off and away. Also, I’d like to mention here how much I like the reflected yellow light right above the hole. For some reason I got so happy when my eye caught that detail and I joyfully included it in the painting. It does a good job of demonstrating the reflectivity of the lamp base.

Lamp 13 Final

And done! I think. While writing this post I noticed a few things I’d like to fix, but I probably won’t go back and adjust them. I’m ready to move on. And now as I stare at it, it’s starting to look wobbly and funny. Oh dear.

I don’t often name my paintings, but I thought of one for this painting while I was working on it. I think I’ll call it View from the Toilet. Cause after all, that’s what it really is.

Below you can see an animated GIF of the progress photos:
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