Sunday, May 19, 2013

Looking at Artists: Robert Liberace

Since my last time in the studio, I've been re-reading my journals and painting books in order to get myself back up to speed on the painting process.  I brought along one of my prime reference books on this trip.  It's "Portrait Painting Atelier" by Suzanne Booker.  It is packed with a lot of technical information on painting in general and figures and portraits in particular, from preparing a canvas, to choosing brands and colors, to learning how colors work (hint: color charts are a good thing), to drawing and painting.  It includes portraits from a variety of artists and has several step-by-step examples at the end.  In all, a good reference book.

If you're familiar with me and my style of painting, you know that I like works that are loosely done, that clearly show the strokes and process, and that are done from direct observation rather than photographs.  Unfortunately for me, the examples in the book were all done from photographs, and were slowly built up through many layers.  Not exactly how I like to work.  One of the artists in the book, though, had a number of portraits that caught my eye.  He was Robert Liberace, and here's a sample from his website:

Oil on board, 12"x9"
© Robert Liberace

The image in the book more clearly showed the brushwork and beautiful color usage.  There were several more works of similar quality that really impressed me.  So I googled him and looked at loads of images, all of which were beautifully done.  And I found his website.  The more I looked, the more I was blown away.  This guy can paint a figure and a portrait.

Robert Liberace is a young guy who apparently lives in northern Virginia, near Washington, DC, and regularly teaches at the Art League in Alexandria.  He also does workshops around the country several times a year.  He's represented by several galleries, all of which you can find off his website.

What was really cool was finding videos of a figure painting demonstration on YouTube.  In a 3-part series recorded at the Art League, he painted a model in a Civil War outfit.  Robert started with a really loose application of paint, roughly blocked in the figure, and then gradually refined it.  Watching it develop from a mess of burnt umber to a strong image of a soldier was fascinating.  Here are the three parts:

Many years ago, when I was my late teens, I met an artist in Memphis, Tennessee.  He would set up on a sidewalk in a busy nightclub area on Friday and Saturday evenings and do portraits.  His style was visually somewhat similar to Robert's: he would put a bold slash of watercolor onto the paper, then work in pastels from the large shapes and gradually refine it into a really beautiful image.  When I say "really beautiful", I mean this guy was good.  Working the sidewalks was a way of having fun, meeting people, making a few bucks, and gathering clients.  Watching Robert's videos reminded me of those nights in Memphis, watching that guy work.  

I like finding artists who know how to paint.  Robert Liberace is my newest find.

1 comment:

Nameless Art said...

Hey, I found his work in the same book- and had nearly the same reaction as yours. The demos by and large were almost mechanical step by step (not to say it's not a helpful book...i still have it all folded & highlighted up.) I feel what you're saying. Anyhow- happy painting, from one to another.