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The Energy in a Sugar Jar

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.

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Sugar Jar

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:

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And the final photo once again:

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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.

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Tulips and Portrait

Last weekend I was transitioning from April vacation into the last work-heavy week of my internship. I needed a breather. An unbelievable amount of my free time had already been spent doing projects. Though I suppose since the work needed to be done, it really wasn’t my free time to begin with. Anyway, I took the weekend to do a little gouache painting.

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Self-Portrait in Gouache, 8″x 5,” Gouache

On the 30th we were waiting to go for some beer tastings and I decided to paint a self-portrait. The end result came out pretty decent. Even though gouache is opaque compared to regular watercolors, it still does not have the ability to reclaim lights and highlights as well as oils. Therefore, I always struggle going too dark too early. Here I used the white liberally to dig into the tan tones and pull out some light. Despite those struggles, I think the portrait came out well. The forehead needs to be a little warmer, but it was only a 90 minute sketch.

The next day we went to a tulip farm down in Rhode Island.

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Wicked Tulips, 8″x 5,” Gouache

It was beautiful but gray that day. I set up on the far end of the pick-your-own field and painted the farm buildings and the flowers together. I only had forty-five minutes or so to work and I’d love to go back and paint with oils for several hours on a sunny day. The sketch was fun though and I like the contrast between the bold, saturated colors in the foreground and the grays and browns of the background.

Got all my internship work finished, so I should be able to turn my attention back to art again! Just gotta apply for some jobs first!

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Blue Winter Self-Portrait

 

Back before Thanksgiving I purchased two decorative gourds at the local Market Basket. They were a buck a piece and I thought their shapes would be interesting to explore in paints. I did a gouache painting of one and then put them both together to do an oil study. As I’d hoped, they were fun to work with. I then decided to include them in a larger still life.

I’ve been trying to improve several aspects of my art. First: my eye. I’ve been focusing on really visually understanding color and value, for example: not just assuming that a blue cloth is dark blue in its shadow. Second: technique. There are so many ways to work with oil paints and I’m still finding my niche. I’m trying to use more medium now to keep my paintings oily and alive. Third: color theory. Several recent visits to museums has made me realize how important color theory is. Van Gogh’s paintings really do sing in person because he understood what colors play off one another. So for the larger gourd still life I decided to focus on the secondary colors of purple, green, and orange.

The gourds served as my orange and I had a bed sheet that worked as my purple, but I was unsure of what to use for my green until I was once again walking through Market Basket. Pickles! They’re so strange and otherworldly, floating like museum specimens in a jar. It’s gross, weird, and despite all that, truthfully mundane. They’re only weird when you take a moment to think about it. I suppose that goes for most things.

Once I had my pickles I found that there was still something missing from my setup. It lacked balance. I don’t have a lot of orange things around my apartment, so I went with a NERF gun and bullets.

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  Harvest               9″ x 12″

I tried to balance the warm purples of the forefront with cool purples in the background. That may have worked better than the incorporation of the NERF gun. It seems too yellow and not enough orange. Overall, I’m happy, though I think the contrast between light and dark could’ve been stronger.

For a change of pace I turned the next day to self-portraiture.

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I used another 9″ x 12″ canvas washed in burnt umber and began with a blue gray underdrawing.

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Remembering to work in simple shapes, I kept my first paint through focused in one light, one medium, and one dark. Then I speckled in a few halftones.

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With the basic forms distinguished, I worked around trying to refine them by using warmer colors. Originally, I wanted to begin with cool blues and then paint over with warmer flesh tones, leaving the shadows cool, but as I worked I kept it generally cool all over.

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I managed to maintain the cool tones despite bringing in lots of warm colors. This flickering contrast really worked to sell the plane changes in the face.

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I don’t often paint the figure, but when I do I like to start at the nose when I’m refining shapes. Noses have so many wonderful plane changes and vary greatly in every manner, making them instrumental in creating a likeness.

 

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With the face mostly worked out, I turned to my shirt. I used green blues to separate the clothing from the blues in the skin.

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   Blue Winter Self-Portrait             9″ x 12″

You may recognize the background from my Patterns painting. I do like that fabric. This painting was mostly a sketch and color trial, but I like the way it turned out. One of my most successful paintings in a while. I learned a lot about color while working on it that has influenced my decisions in my upcoming still life.

And I would like to thank my lovely mother for taking the final pictures of my paintings. Thanks mom! And I would like to thank my lovely girlfriend for letting me use her belongings in my still life. Thanks Sarah!

Here’s an animated gif of the progress:

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Both paintings are for sale. Contact me at thewritingmann@gmail.com if you are interested!

Harvest – $600

Blue Winter Self-Portrait – $300

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Facebook Friends and a Small Self-Portrait

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.

Amanda Bronson

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.

Patrick Whearty

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.

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The portrait was primarily a practice in value and light. I first blocked in the darks with a wash of burnt umber.

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Trying to keep it simple, I used a few lighter colors to establish the lights and mid-tones.

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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.

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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

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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.

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Me and Egon Schiele

I go on many Wikipedia journeys. If I want to know more about a place, or I’m working on a project, or I hear someone mention a person I’ve never heard of, well then it’s off to Wikipedia. After browsing for a bit, I’ll often click the associated hyperlinks. This causes me to jump from topic to topic, and sometimes land very far from where I started. During one of my recent explorations, I stumbled upon Egon Schiele.

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Self-Portrait 1910

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Self-Portrait 1912

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Self-Portrait 1912

I love the raw, unadulterated, self-deprecating quality of his work. He didn’t try to pretty himself up in his paintings, and instead chose to accentuate his angular skinniness. It makes me wonder how he arrived at that style. How many hours did he put in before these paintings? When did he realize he had a style? And these questions are why I enjoy studying the evolution of painters. For example, Picasso started very traditional and then founded the non-traditional cubist movement. How does this evolution happen? Is it just a process of time and exploration? And I wonder when I’ll know I’ve found my style.

Though I spent this last week looking at Schiele’s work, I didn’t exactly attempt to duplicate his style through a self-portrait. Mostly I thought about his use of line to define the boundaries of the figure.
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I started with a pencil sketch before working in some pen, but I kept my line work loose. I didn’t want the pen to become a definitive and bold boundary.

Selfie 7Because of the harsh lighting, I applied heavy sections of white pastel, but I may have overdone it. I didn’t let the tone of the paper do most of the work. It was fun to do a playful expression though.

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Channeling R. Crumb

While in South Carolina my girlfriend’s uncle let me read several art books from his collection. I was working on creating a lesson plan for Maus at the time and he showed me a few comic artists for inspiration. The book I found the most interesting was The R. Crumb Coffee Table Art Book. I’d seen Crumb before in An Illustrated Life, but I really got to appreciate his style through the large colored pages. It’s gritty and visceral. He puts a lot of emotion into his mark making. So when I sat down to draw a self-portrait last night I wanted to study his style.

R. Crumb has drawn quite a few self-portraits and I pulled up several for inspiration. Here they are in chronological order:

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crumb-2005I mostly used the 1986 self-portrait as inspiration. I feel as though it shows a wide value range, which gave me a lot to reference and study. The 2005 portrait has a great range as well, but I was not doing a full body self-portrait.

As I worked, I flipped back through my browser tabs, constantly analyzing Crumb’s hatching technique.

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Since Crumb is a comics artist I tried to capture a comic book feel through an exaggerated expression. I had a lot of fun scrunching my face into different positions. And the squinted eyelids were much easier to draw than open eyes. The end result reminds me a little of Fight Club. My only complaint is that I made the mouth recede too much. I think this could be solved by darkening the shirt more and putting the majority of the drawing in shadow. Then the mouth would be on the same tone level as everything else.

While I spent a good part of the week looking at R. Crumb drawings, I also found inspiration in some other locations. I found this short painting tutorial which has made me think about how to deal with dark skin tones. And on deviantART I found the following two drawings:

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I love how this drawing by Derek Jones is both sketchy and round. The fullness of the form makes it appear almost lifelike.

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Then I found Mattias Adolfsson’s drawing among the Daily Deviations and it reminded me of Where’s Waldo. The level of detail keeps the viewer entertained for a long time. I also like the simple, muted colors. Though it’s a playful illustration, color theory is still very strong.

That’s it for today. If I can find the time to finish it, I’ll have a large drawing for next time.

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No Page Wasted

After doing my last self-portrait with the new markers, I noticed that I’d been a little careless and let the ink bleed through to the next page. Usually I avoid this by popping in a piece of scrap paper behind the drawing I’m working on. I thought about skipping to the next page so I would have a clean sheet, but then I realized the blotches didn’t really matter. They would probably get covered up anyway. And so I drew right over them. I guess I’m mentioning this because it’s important to work through mistakes and see situations like this one as opportunities. It made me think a little more about composition and how I could include the blotches so they would be less noticeable. Be adaptable.

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You can see a bit of the bleed-through next to my chin, though the rest of it is pretty unnoticeable. I’m starting to get a better idea of how to use the markers. They’re forcing me to think in strictly dark and light, which will help better my oil work as well. But because I spend the majority of the time sketching and working out the base drawing, I spend little time actually using the markers. It will be a while before they feel completely natural. They feel good so far though.

I’m a little behind on achieving a drawing a day. Been so busy. I’m not worried though. The goal was to get 365 drawings done in 365 days. Perhaps I’ll wind up with a day where I can crunch in a bunch. For now I’m focusing on two or three a week.