Monday, October 19, 2009

Breck Girls

This morning at the easel I was thinking about my grandmother, whose birthday was last week. (She would have been 104.) I have a few tools from her paintbox: a ground-down scalpel that I use constantly--for scraping paint off the canvas, digging out hard paint from a tube, cleaning my nails--a sweet little yellow pocket knife, a couple of magnifying lenses. When I was ten I spent a summer with her in Louisville, a thousand miles from home. One of the things we did together was copy the pictures from the Breck ads in pastel. The exercise probably left me with a peculiar idea of feminine beauty and lasting insecurity about my hair, but I did learn a lot about handling pastel and the proportions of the head, and most important, how to be serious about making a piece of art. Thanks Gram.

(The image is from 1963 and I'm certain it's one we copied. I found it in the Smithsonian archives, here.)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Another Drawing

Trying to organize and figure out storage for artwork, I came across this one from an unexpectedly productive session three years ago. Although the foreshortening always throws me a curve, it's an angle on a reclining pose that I've chosen over and over again. I think it was about 30 minutes.

"How can you tell she's not dead?"

Not really the question I wanted to hear about a painting in progress.

I hope I haven't simply put makeup on the corpse.

New Photos of Work in Progress

Last night Chris set up and photographed everything I've been working on lately. It's amazingly easy to let a pro do it, though we still need to work out some issues of glare and reflections, especially on wet paintings.

This one above (Meeting Street is the working title) has been my problem painting for months and as you can see its troubles are still not solved. It's 16" x 18" on linen.

I posted earlier stages of Martha and Sarah in July, but Sarah's face wasn't right, not a good likeness, not elderly enough, so I worked on it several times without improvement and then on Monday decided her whole head was out of proportion and painted it out. Not dry enough yesterday to work over, so here it is, in progress.

Second version of Nap continues. For me a 24" x 28" painting takes more thought, requires more energy, and, well, uses more paint. I have trouble with that estimate: I put out too much for small pictures and never enough for larger ones. And though I hate to be wasteful (I hear my mother's voice), I really hate not having enough of a mixture. Were I a more rational painter, it would be less of a problem.

I'm still finding things to interest me in this series of images. This one is currently called "Coy Nude with Bedsheets (and Cat)," but only because that's making me laugh this week.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Last pose

Figure drawing last night was some of the best fun you can have with a pencil--yet very tiring too. (This was the final pose, so difficult, but still the best of my efforts--20 minutes, pencil on Ingres.) Lots of new people, very focused and serious but apparently all enjoying themselves as well. The model was lovely, and though the room was crowded it seemed to work pretty well for everyone. A buncha one-minute poses, some 10-minute, a couple of 20-minute. I'd probably prefer longer poses once I felt I was up to speed, but they're harder on the model and need to be more well-thought--if you've got a bad start, or a bad spot in a crowded room, you can't just hope for better in a few minutes. I look forward to the next session.

Like taking vitamins and exercising, drawing is a habit I should develop. Pencil--line--has become foreign; I kept wishing for a brush. I could barely consider composition, line weight and fluidity in the rush to get the figure down and fairly correct (the far leg above is obviously--now--too long). Practice will help. Being in a group puts me on my toes, but I also become a little conservative, not wanting to fail in public.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


This is a second--and larger--version of the earlier Nap, about 24" x 28", oil on linen. Working on chroma, value, texture. I've a long way to go, but I hope that at least the photographs will soon be better. Here's the rough beginning of this this painting, burnt sienna and ultramarine blue.

And this evening will be my first time with a new figure drawing group. I'm eager to meet some new artists and hope to get something useful from the drawing, though after dinner has never been particularly creative--or even active--for me. It should be fun.

Martha and Sarah WIP

This is from an old photo (I guess that's obvious, eh). In this and the other current WIP (to come) I'm trying to work a controlled low-chroma palette with fairly compressed values. This one started with a burnt umber wipeout, still visible in places, and continued with a monochrome underpainting to establish the drawing and composition. For the underpainting I laid out a string of raw umber and white, values 5 through 8, to keep the painting fairly high-key, though I later added some darker (v. 4) accents. It's 16" x 18" oil on linen.