Thursday, June 20, 2013

Studio Developments

Things are still in the "spring training" mode in the studio.  I've been doing some painting, trying to work the rust out and re-learn all the painting motor skills and instincts.  Most of the paintings have been done from old sketches - some from Afghanistan, some from old life drawing sessions.  Most get wiped out as soon as they're done.  Here's one exception:

You may recognize this from one of the pastels that I did in Maiwand.  I thought it turned out a bit better than most of the others and gave it to an Afghan friend last week.  But this was the exception.  All the others wound up on paper towels in the trash can, where they belonged.

My painting skills are improving, though.  I can see that.  Now I'm getting antsy to start on real paintings.  For the moment, I'm resisting - I'm still in "spring training", and well aware that I'm very impatient, so there are still a few more training paintings to do and throw away.  

Meanwhile, my drawing skills are doing okay.  My last post mentioned that I'd stuck a group of figure drawings up on my studio wall.  Here's what they look like:

Some of these drawings were done as far back as 2000, and two were done earlier this month.  What's interesting to me is that you can't really tell which is which.  In other words, my style of drawing has been pretty constant over at least 13 years, even during a time when I was studying art full-time at UNC Asheville.  Guess I'm an old fart, stuck in my ways ... but I don't consider it a problem.

I had an idea yesterday about re-photographing a lot of my figure drawings and putting them together into a book.  I am going to do the same with the "Faces of Afghanistan" drawings.  Both would be for sale on my website, in the studio, and at any exhibitions there might be in the future.  The price point would be well below the price for a single original drawing.  What do you think?

I went to another life drawing session at Frank Lombardo's studio yesterday.  The model was a young woman with beautiful green eyes and a great head of hair.  Here's one of the drawings:

Charcoal on toned paper, 15"x11"

Today, though, is going to be an admin day.  I've got some consulting business to take care of and then work on some promotional efforts.  I'm trying to get the "Faces of Afghanistan" artworks out on gallery walls somewhere.  I've let that slide for too many months and it's time to get moving.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Making Progress

Things are slowly coming together for me in the studio.  The day after my last post, I went to a life drawing session at my friend Frank Lombardo's studio in Marshall.  The model was a lovely young lady with a very regal profile.  I did several charcoal studies of her, and here are two:
Bobbi 1
Charcoal on toned paper, 15"x11"

Bobbi 2
Charcoal on toned paper, 15"x11"

Both of these are pretty much up to spec with the figure drawings I've been making for the past 13 years in terms of quality, finish, approach, and composition.  I've got a bunch of these drawings tacked to my studio wall, and these two fit right in.  You can't really tell which ones were done in 2000, 2006, or now.  So I think my drawing skills are back up to snuff.

Last weekend, Janis and I headed up to Boone and Blowing Rock, NC.  It's not too far, about a 90 minute trip.  We do this occasionally and generally hit the outlet mall, our favorite British-pub restaurant, and Cheap Joe's Art Stuff.  I'm a kid in a candy store when I go into a good art supply place like Cheap Joe's.  Came out with several tubes of new paint, some new brushes, some Gamsol solvent (more on that in a minute), and the Big One: a new easel.

It's about time I got a new easel.  The one I've been using is the original Ugly Easel.  I built it out of scrap wood in 1984.  And some of the scrap wood came from (get this) a plant shelf that I built for our temporary home in 1980!  Quality wood and quality woodworking is NOT my specialty: all the holes were drilled with a handheld drill, and if you tighten down all the screws and bolts, it warps all out of shape.  But it's heavy and works and doesn't move around, and I'm a cheapskate, and so 29 years later I'm still using the Ugliest Easel in the World.  Until now.  Now I've got a really nice, well-made professional artist easel.

So here's my painting arrangement in the studio.  The new easel is in the center, my Sears rolling tool chest turned taboret on the right, and a catch-all table to the left.  In the background against the wall you can (sorta) see Ol' Ugly.

I mentioned Gamsol.  It's a special solvent for oil paints.  I've been using regular odorless mineral spirits (OMS) that you can get at any hardware store.  Very cheap and readily available.  In my old studio, which was about as air-tight as a sieve, it wasn't a problem.  My new studio, though, doesn't have good ventilation, and I quickly discovered that the OMS made me woozy.  Gamsol is advertised as a better and healthier alternative for artists, as it's based on the same petroleum distillates used in cosmetics.  So I got some, and the difference is huge.  I kept a clear head with no wooziness.  Okay, so I'm sorta woozy all the time, but this was no more than normal.

I was back in the studio today to try out Robert Liberace's approach to painting.  I pulled out one of my pastels from Afghanistan to work from, taped one of the gessoed and toned papers onto a board, and started painting.  First was a grisaille drawing in burnt umber.  I roughed it in quickly, then refined it about as far as it needed to go.  Then I started applying flesh tones in the lighter areas - again, roughly at first, then refined with color, value, and brushwork.  I brushed in a pale yellow over the background. Then I went around the whole thing for a while, gradually refining it until it was done.  At one point, I was about to wipe the whole thing out, but reconsidered it, made some changes, and it actually came alive after that.  Sometimes the best paintings are the ones that I want to destroy about halfway through.  This isn't one of the best, but it's certainly better than others I've done recently.  Of course, I didn't take a picture, so you can't see it.  So while my charcoal drawing skills seem to be about up to speed, my painting skills are still improving.

I started another painting after that.  It's an experiment with Odd Nerdrum's approach: a really dark grisaille underpainting in a cool dark blue (phthalo mixed with burnt umber to tone it down).  In a couple of weeks, once it's fully dry, I'll come back to it and build layers of lighter flesh tones over it.  It'll be interesting to see how it develops.