Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Days 6-7 Discouraged

(Day 6)

(Day 7)

I WANT TO BURN MY PANEL! How did this all happen. How did this painting get away from me -- again! Ugh, it was all going so well, you saw it didn't you?!

It's been two days and my painting has been butchered. A villain has come in for the past two fuckin days and laid waste to my once ok painting.

The scoundrel was me!

Two days ago MCK told me to shorten the nose a bit and rework the ear completely. Look at the first piece of shit picture. Looks like the model got hacked in a nose job, and her lips have been turned into a duck.

How can I recover from that! Today I tried my best to get it back. I got to class on time and spent the ENTIRE time working solely in the nose and ear -- but wait I also found a way to fuck up the shadows on her cheek.

The more I worked the more it got away. You cannot imagine the manner in which emotions start to fuckin affect the painting when it's really getting a way from you. It's a total fucking snowball effect.

I couldn't even mix the right colors, I was like a plodding idiot -- "Duh, um, how do I mix red and blues, duh!" So towards the end I focused on the ear, redrawing it with black lines, and then painting accordingly, trying to trust me eyes again.

I think the ear looks better than any previous version in the painting. I tried to make the nose/mouth work better in a very general manner, so that I can attack it tomorrow. Only two more days to finish -- I want semblance of a completed painting.

I can only hope that MCK can help somehow in this colossal fuck up.

The best part of yesterday was, of all things, cleaning up! I've been introduced to THE BEST fuckin brush cleaner of all time, Jack's Linseed Studio Soap (the commercial sux but the product is kickass). It cleaned my brushed like I had always expected them to be cleaned by a soap product. I was doubtful when the guys at the store suggested it, but they were sooooo right.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Day 5 - MCKs Critique

Tired from Porcu's class, I managed to get to class two poses late, but wasn't going to miss it -- MCK comes in today. She was already critiquing other people when I set up and I knew I had work to do before she came over to me. I needed to get to work on the lighter part of the face and the shawl.

I tackled that first, mixing up the lower part of the shawl and applying it directly with the palette knife. The lady next to me kinda gave a look like "uh-oh he mighta fucked it up" but I knew where I was going with this. I had done the top part and this wasn't going to be a problem. So I set all the lower shawl colors in, and then mixed up some flake white and applied highlights.

It's true what I've heard/read/seen about palette knifes, you get all these "happy accidents" (oh man, is that a Bob Ross reference?) that otherwise wouldn't be possible. Now the shawl looks like it has a lil' flower pattern to it. It read so nicely that I chose to do all the clothing like that.

I then set out to add more variation to the lighter parts of the face. I looked and looked at her closely and could see that the truly white highlights did not cover as much area as I had on my painting. Mixed cadmium orange, white, cad red, and light red to get a really light skin tone to add to the forehead, nose, mouth etc. Didn't want to overwork what I had because that usually leads me to trouble, so just a few touch ups and on to...

The background. The highlights and the newly painted shawl made it apparent to me that the background color was off -- it was too light. I've been used to painting the background color as a light grey based on lockers inside the room so I convinced myself that it was the same as the darker grey of the walls which are actually behind her. So I set to making a darker grey with white, viridian, and ultramarine. Once the more accurate, darker background color was in it made, as I suspected, the figure just popped right out :)

The darker background made the highlight immediately work better, which left me with less work to do on them. And then there was MCK.

"Have I gotten to you yet," she asked. "Nope" I said.

She looked for a bit and then said, "this area here is good" motioning below the neck and to the chest. "I think you're long in the nose." (Right before she came over I had started to reshape it). But the problem in the nose lead to her other comment -- the ear. It's to high on her head and should be more at an angle. I couldnt really see it, but I think if I had used a mirror like she ALWAYS suggests then perhaps I would. This was the first time I wish I used one, so perhaps soon I will.

Anyway, because the nose was off it also made the ear off because a person's ear ideally goes from the top of the eye to the bottom of the nose. I'm afraid to completely redo the ear, but it's the worst part of the painting so something has to be done about it. I also remember that towards the end of "Blane" the ear had me troubled but I somehow managed to sorta get away with it.

Today was the first day that a few people said something about my painting:
"Power, that's power"
"I like it, it's real dramatic"
"I was just admiring you're painting, and I didn't know it was yours" (that one was cool)

Renee talked to me about it and said that she thought it was really coming along, also mentioning the drama part. (I think that's a funny comment because I'm just tryin to paint what's in front of me.) But having seen all my previous attempts at painting I like that she said that though the style is changing it's still retaining an abstract quality and structure. "It's good that you haven't lost that," she said.

Tomorrow I attack the nose and the ear.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Porcu's Écorché Class - Constructing the Armature

Im exhausted. Got to class at 8:30 am for my second class, ready to finish my armature drawing to get ready to bend the wire to begin the écorché. The drawing became a bit tedious with people finishing it with varying degrees of precision. As for me, I wasn't the most technical (some folks had a compass for drawing the head) but I just wanted to make sure the drawing would serve as a guideline so that I can bend the wire.

Porcu shows up and is ready to go! He checks all our drawings and then begins to show us how to use a vice grip to straighten the wire, bend the wire using pliers, and mark of sections for bends using the drawing as a template. His demonstration was great, and you can tell how much experience he has, making it look so easy and efficient.

The rest of the time was spent cutting and bending our one piece of wire into 3 pieces, and mounting them into the base. This took 3 hours! The time flew by, next thing I know it's 5pm! I kept checking my bends against the drawing, with the class monitors, and once with Porcu. In between, during the "down times" I helped out people -- we were all in the same boat with confusion at times.

Well below is the completed armature :) It looks great doesn't it -- happy, right -- like Charlie Chaplin. The most difficult parts were the bends in the hip socket to the greater trochanter. Hurt my hands doing it but hey it's done.

We have homework -- to make a cube of clay with very specific dimensions (from a bigger cube) for next week so that we can finally start sculpting the skull. Porcu said that when he was learning how to carve stone his teacher made him carve cubes, spheres, and cones for 6 months. That's it -- nothing else. "How can you think you're going to carve a human, if you can't even carve a simple cube?" was the rational. And so we are now tasked with making a simple cube for next week. Exciting!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Day 4 - Simplifying and Slight Detail

I had taken MCKs words into close counsel but was sort of stumped as to how best to proceed with the painting. More than anything I needed to simplify the darker masses and put more accurate colors in her facial highlights.

I went back to the violet colors for her shadows, seems to work better overall as a painting. Then I did a bit of redrawing with her ear and hairline. It was then when I knew that the darkest parts of her hair needed to be emphasized, so I mixed ultramarine and alizarin to get a real dark blue/violet and painted those in. I also fixed the angle of her back like MCK suggested.

I kept checking my painting by employing the squinting technique and worked it that way. The patterns are more true to the subject. I noticed the her neck area sort of looked "blended" and smooth like I normally hate, but I wasn't worried here. Enough of the painting was working that I didn't panic. This one area was ok blended because so much else wasnt. I spent the rest of the time working out the details of her face, the blue/white highlights needed to be toned down, and I needed to distinguish the patterns better from the subject.

I mixed flake white with the slightest touch of cadmium orange to start distinguishing the pattern on her forehead and eyes more, which lead me to putting in the eye. That small move gave her life I think.

Here and there I did some touch up work (like near her clavicles). The next big move will be to put in her shawl, and I've decided to do that all with the palette knife.

Don't want to spend too much more time on her, I think it should be done by Wednesday next week. Of course MCK critiques on Monday and that will inform my direction. Now to get ready for écorché class on Sunday...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Day 3 - Squinting My Way Through

MCK was in today and I was basically waiting for her critique, but I felt like I had to push the painting forward enough so that she could really get in there and let me have it. I kept trying to get the colors a certain way and had been vacillating between two mixtures all morning (mentioned in earlier blogs). At one point the shoulder looked violet and the neck/cheek looked green. I decided to leave it like that so I could ask her how to (a) see the color properly and (b) mix it.

In the meantime I painted in the parts that were made obvious to me by yesterday's redrawing. Also, this model moves A LOT. Within the same pose she'll rotate her body which just makes it frustrating. So I needed to make a decision with her shawl and tackled the top fold by using my palette knife. I had done an entire painting just with the knife over the summer, but this is the first time I had thought of using the technique along with brushstroke. I thought if I could just get the impression of the shawl and worry more about the details of the face/chest area that would suffice.

So when MCK comes over I start by showing her how "Blane" turned out. She looks at is and says, "Im confused by this part," and was gesturing in the area of his right shoulder/chest/clavicle. "It seems like you spent more time here" (indicating the face). "Anytime you have a part of you're painting that's confusing it's bad."

I liked it! I wasn't dejected or angry like for real. I mean I was totally surprised by her comment but wtf that's why Im in her class -- to learn! So I took her comment and fuckin loved it because Im going to make nothing else "confusing" again. This past summer I wouldve been fuckin crushed! But this time it was totally different. It was a great observation that I kinda sort saw but not really. On to this painting...

Off the bat she wanted a bit of a sharper angle on her left shoulder (which I had noticed but was real hesitant to try and fix myself but will do tmrw). She then basically said that the cheek/neck area had too much going on. I asked her about colors and she said that the funny thing about painting is that you can see almost any color on anything. What concerned her though was that the area was too busy, it needed to be simplified -- "to be more flat" she said.

She took the brush, quick mixed some dark greenish tan colors with whatever was on my palette and just brushed the area away. I had thought of this initially but was torn with getting all the nuance of light on the model correct. I thought she would think the one big dark-shaped block would by too elementary. Then she said:

"Try squinting and looking at the model. When you squint you get a good sense of the major shapes in the figure...Now squint and look at your painting. Are you getting the same shapes?"

Fucking wonderful! I had heard or read or been told this last year at some point but it never really clicked. I've noticed that there are tons of little art lessons that are like lil' sage Yoda sayings but, like Luke, how the fuck am I supposed to know which one is real. But this time the squinting worked! It got me to simplify the face area and some of the neck and the painting is working better.

Cool thing is that she didnt do much drawing on my work. Hardly any. Almost none. I thought that was a good sign, especially since I felt good about the work I put in on the redraw (though I'm still willing to let it go if it so warrants). Some lady asked if MCK put in all those lines, and I said "nope I did them."

Also, I kept looking at her shoulder and highlight and I could hear the voice of Cenedella saying, "If something's working DONT TOUCH IT" Thanks, Bob, I didnt :)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Day 2 - Redrawing the Painting

I exercised yesterday so I woke up late today, and arrived just in time for the long break. My fault, totally, so I had to make up for lost time. (I make waking up MUCH harder than it has to be!)

Well, I started mixing colors right away, trying to get the shadows right. I started out with Alizarin, Ultramarine, Veridian, and lead White like last time, but it wasn't happening. Her skin seems peach to me today with green/greys and I was mixing like a hue of mauve or something. I tried some on and it kept getting muddier. I noticed that when I got the color mixed so-so I hadn't mixed enough quantity of paint. Since I'm not using a medium for now, I was out of luck. I tried to extend my brushstrokes and the paint but it gave it an elementary, "paint by numbers" sort of feel. By the time I was done with my first pose I was getting a bit down. It was muddy, and had every sense of getting muddier.

After the next break I took a step back; Somewhere in between looking at the beautiful works coming along around me I had to somehow make something happen with mine. So when I stepped to the canvas, I just took my trusty #4 bright signet brush, and with Ivory Black I started redrawing the painting.

It soon started to come to life :) I noticed that I could shape her features more, and I was forced to notice where my painting was deviating from the subject. I remember learning last year with my Swiss buddy Mark that the smallest line can make the biggest difference. Once I saw this rule in effect again my painting started coming back to me.

With that simple idea of going back to the drawing I got her likeness a lot truer to life. And guess what, that's what MCK says she always does -- "I always go back to the drawing every time I start the painting again." Well I'm happy to see that I found my way into getting this lesson into my understanding of painting.

In the picture above the "drawing" is indicated by the black lines. It helps define areas and make clear what needs work. After all that, the highlights on her shoulder look ok, she looks a bit more in proportion, and I think you can tell she's crossing her arms more.

Once I get the lights on her skin I think that'll help me with the shadows, perhaps I'll start there tomorrow. On the elevator ride down I was talking to one of my classmates and we agreed that from one pose to the next you can be ready to push your painting forward or be ready to set it on fire.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

MCK fall model2, Day 1 - The Wash

So here we are at the close of my first day of painting the new model. This was done using turpenoid as a medium. I guess they call this a "wash" and usually I would just do this in a sepia tone - sort of put in the darks etc with yellow ochre, black, and white. Last time, however, MCK said that she would try putting in the right colours even at this stage so I tried to do that. I felt good at the end of the whole session, and know how Im going to attack this tomorrow.

Again, getting the colours accurately will be my goal and then spreading them on, this time with no medium, straight paint to canvas (or 16 x 20 canvas panel I should say).

Her skin is tough for me to figure out because of the shadows but I am seeing colours that I never had. I got the darkest shadow area by mixing Alizarin Permanent, French Ultramarine, Flake White, and this time I added Veridian because I could actually see the greens in her skin! -- especially in the arm/shoulder area. I was trying to think in terms of warm/cool colours and (a) finding them in the subject and (b) applying ideas of them to this painting, but who knows how that will go. The lighter areas are a lot lighter, but it was starting to get muddyish so I stopped at this point.

Tomorrow the brush is going to get loaded up with paint, brush strokes may start to be seen. Its difficult to keep it going sometimes because I look around the studio and people are starting to pull together their masterpieces but hey, what can you do. I do see this as having at least as good an ending as mckfall1 model. If nothing else, it'll be my first figurative painting with the subject in the shadows.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Painting from Life, Portraiture, Composition, Color

A friend from class asked me the other day who my favourite painters are. The first five names were all abstract/modern painters. When it came to figurative work I could name only a few -- Vermeer, Van Gogh (but his figurative work isnt classical) and Mary Beth McKenzie. (MCK)

I took her class over the summer and had to relearn anything I knew about painting. Being in Cenedella's class allowed me to gain the confidence to sign up for MCK, but I signed up wanting to learn from her. I admire her work -- it's unparalleled in current figurative work. It evokes feeling, emotion, sadness. Her paintings are active. I am a viewer of her paintings but I can hear them speak -- they are talking, speaking their own language, and I get to listen in.

So we finished the first pose last week and I came up with the first painting that I think finally incorporated some of the qualities over which I have been agonizing (below).
From Portraits & Still Lifes (Updated Sept. 2010)
(You can see the agony in its entirety by looking at the "in progress" albums in my picasa public gallery)

In her last critique MCK said "this is better for you" and aside from sounding great, I believed and realized it was true. I didn't show her the final version today, don't know why, but probably will on Thursday.

Anyway, today was the first day of the new pose/model. She is dressed in a long dress that looks like something from 19th century Mexico, and her pose, to me, seems like she is some woman "waiteengs for Zorro to com and rezcue me plees." Know what I'm sayin?

No painting today, just some thumbnail sketches and the charcoal drawing you see above. Was just trying to figure out what exactly to paint for tomorrow. "That's exactly what you should be doing," said MCK. Today was the first day that "making a simple color study" made sense (I've heard her say that to people). I probably wont - probably just start the painting.

Lot's of shadows and stark highlights on her as you can see. I chose this angle purposefully, to contrast with the previous model which was flushed with light. Was so discouraged at first, just wasn't getting it to work at all. Little by little I started chipping away at it, using the charcoal and kneaded eraser to sculpt the image. I could hear my teacher from last year, Robert Cenedella, telling me "separate darks from lights -- the only reason we think that this area is lighter is because what's right next to it is darker." The best practical example in the drawing above is in her neck, breast and bra line. We shall see how it all develops tomorrow.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Anatomy for Artists, Special Écorché Class

Frank Porcu is doing exactly what he should be doing. If he were doing ANYTHING else in life we would all, as a society, be suffering for it. Such is my brief intro into the most amazing class I've been to since my time at Brown.

I missed the first class but my friend tells me that people had purchased the wrong materials so Porcu just lectured, and after having seen him lecture today, I'm sorry I missed it.

People have told me (friends, artists, and teachers) that if I ever really want to get serious about painting I need to take a sculpture class. More specifically it was Dan that put me on to anatomy with Porcu. I avoided it because it was something out of my element, seemed difficult and technical, and was on Sundays.

Within 3 minutes I knew that Porcu was something special. His energy for teaching about something he loves and respects shined through. He was able to instill in us the importance of artists to learn anatomy by tying us into the history of human anatomy and art.

He talked about the Ancient Greeks, Romans (Galen), and then Renaissance artists. He pointed out how it was artists that began to investigate the medical knowledge of the human body so that they could more accurately render the human form in their commissioned work (Da Vinci etc.) But what got me was that he knew all sorts of legal history about dissections in England and the U.S. (Laws had to be made because medical students and artists were purchasing black market, freshly-dug cadavers for educational purposes.)

Note about Porcu -- he was drawing, in 60 seconds, various scaled renderings of the human body fully depicting skeletal and muscular structure. He would show us the human thigh, then show the same portion rotated in a different way -- then show us a cross section depicting the femur in different parts of the muscles etc. He's an anatomical encyclopedia. His brain should be indexed and searchable -- www.porcunet.anat or something. He knew exactly what textbooks incorrectly depicted the human form and why. He teaches med professionals on human anatomy and DOES HIS OWN DISSECTIONS. Fuckin wow.

It seems that this class is providing me with the base knowledge that (a) I knew that I lacked and (b) have always wanted in spending time in art school. Today I learned that the general human body is 7 1/2 heads long and from this one measurement we can draw, to scale, a good representation of the body. I have heard and seen this before over the past year but I just didn't see the point. It wasn't explained to me. It was just a fact with no context. Porcu made it come to life in a practical manner.

OK so this class is going to produce a scale écorché model of the male human body. We didn't break out the clay today but spent the rest of the time drawing our armature for use in the next class. It is highly technical and you can see the beginning of my drawing in this post. Next week we start to bend the wire and construct the armature for the model. I'm exhausted. 10am - 4pm straight. No break. No bathroom. "I don't wanna stop cuz Im on a roll," said Porcu. Next week is gonna be great =)