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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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Still Sketching Figures

Every day I seem to get more requests for Facebook sketches. So I’ve been trying to focus on those in my free time. Here’s what I got accomplished this week:

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I try hard to contain myself to fifteen minutes per sketch. I really want to improve my speed. But often I feel the urge to put in a few extra minutes and make the drawing more complete. So while I aim for fifteen minutes, the actual time spent could be up to an hour.

While not sketching, I managed to get started on another painting. I’ve only done the preliminary drawing and the first wash of colors so far. Hopefully I can get it done in the next couple of days. I’ll be submitting to another NHAA show next weekend and I think this might be a good painting to include in my submission. But we’ll see how it turns out. Here’s the prelim drawing:

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And also, I think I might have my first non-family commission! More information on that to come.

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Facebook and Reddit

My girlfriend had this week off from school, so we spent a lot of time going on day trips. Because I didn’t have the huge amounts of time to commit to a painting, I used my hours to practice figure drawing. I took Facebook profile pictures from my friends and pictures posted to redditgetsdrawn and sketched them all out in my notebook. I tried to only spend fifteen minutes on each sketch, but sometimes it took longer. I have about forty more profile pictures to sketch before I’ve fulfilled all the requests.

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And as promised, here’s a photo of me at the art show:

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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.

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

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

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Then I added the darks in the leaves.

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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.

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Almost done at this point.

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

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

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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A Week of Art

This has been a great week. With work being slow, I’ve been able to spend a good deal of time on making art. On Sunday I finished coloring a two-page spread for my children’s book.

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I spent a lot of time working on this spread, but I think there are still a few things to be tweaked. I’m gonna let it sit for a little bit and come back to it once I’ve finished other pages.

With the pages done, on Monday I got started on a tea-themed still life.

20140202-112353.jpgInstead of roughing out the shapes with pencil, I used burnt umber and some medium to get a wash of my still life.

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Because I wanted the focus of the painting to be on the teapot, that is where I started. I spent quite a while mixing different greens to see how they would work.

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I don’t usually paint things with patterns, but I decided to mix things up and throw in a plaid table cloth and a plaid backdrop.

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My initial plan with this still life was to overwhelm the green pot with complementary reds. As I got to painting, I realized it is hard to mix so many different reds.

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One of my last tasks was to develop the contrast in the painting and hopefully unify the objects.

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Because it was meant to be a quick painting, I did not spend too much time developing the intricacies and details. But in the end, I’m satisfied with what I was able to accomplish

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Though I only worked on my still life for a little bit each day, I was also working on some digital drawings. I continued using RedditGetsDrawn to find interesting people for subjects. I did a drawing every day. Sunday’s drawing was in last week’s post, so I’ll start with Monday’s.

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Monday I started with user mcgroo‘s photo of his father.
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Then on Tuesday I worked on user toastehmonstah‘s portrait. (Step 1)reddit3

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(Step 3)

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On Wednesday, I was going to do my girlfriend’s submission, but I wound up frustrated with the colors. So I picked a different user and worked on that photo instead.

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User keiseroll‘s submission was the answer to my struggles.

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On Thursday, I did user planetaqua‘s portrait.

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On Friday, I found user Aniolla‘s portrait and I loved the lighting. So I did a quick drawing of Aniolla and then found a photo to work on for Saturday.

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The photo I found was scrambledramble‘s chihuahua.

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Drawing on Reddit

Today I went on reddit and used the reddit gets drawn subreddit to find a picture I liked. After searching around for a little bit, I settled on user goupile’s photo20140126-164354.jpgI spent a while working on the drawing in my 8×10 sketchbook and I’m not entirely happy with it. I exaggerated the angle of her neck a bit too much. In the end, I just finished it up because it’s just a sketch. Additionally, I’ve always found it harder drawing on a small scale.

Hopefully this week I’ll be able to finish a few still life paintings and get them posted.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

Head:

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Body:

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