Sunday, October 21, 2012

"Miniatures for upcoming miniature shows"

"Spanish Dancer", Detail

These are recent small paintings and sketches for miniature shows that are coming up soon.  I occasionally like doing small pieces like this, mostly as studies for larger works, but sometimes they stand on their own and are hard to duplicate as bigger pieces.  The problem I sometimes have is keeping the freshness of a quick study when scaling up.  I have discussed this with other artist friends, and it seems to be sort of a universal challenge for some.  It is something that a casual viewer probably would not pick up on.  The artist knows if he or she has made a successful transition to an enlarged version.  I sometimes end up with something a little different, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.  I think the goal should be to capture the essence of the small study....sort of like capturing the essence in a master copy.  It is not necessary to duplicate it verbatim.

"Spanish Dancer"7x5 oil on linen panel

"Lemons and Silver, Detail"

"Lemons and Silver", 5x7 oil on linen panel

"The White Robe", 7x5 oil on linen

"Swimming Hole, Detail"

"The Swimming hole", 7x5 oil on linen panel

"Moonlit pony huddle" 11x14 oil on linen panel

"Evening Gallop" 7x5 oil on linen panel

My favorite way to work is to just jump into a large painting, and develop the initial idea in the process, but that can be risky and perhaps less efficient in the long run.  Problems can be resolved with studies, like composition, color themes, etc.....but, it is fun to take a little risk now and then....after all it is a relative risk, and not exactly like walking a tight rope between two cliffs with gator infested waters below...or something of that nature.  As usual, these are my own observations, and though the accent is no longer evident, thanks for listening to my Cajun ramblings.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

"Narrative Paintings", works in progress.

A recent conversation brought up a favorite subject.....Narrative Paintings.  I guess the old illustrator in me can not resist paintings that have a narrative, or suggest some kind of a story.  The narrative could be a complex involved description, or a very simple subtle suggestion of something happening.  These types of images can be anything from sweet and sentimental, to very strong and powerful imagery that tells, or suggest some story line.....or leaves an opening to the viewer to imagine some kind of story taking place.  I have always appreciated and have been drawn to this type of work.  Most of my generation were brought up on Saturday Evening Post and the great illustrator/painter, Norman Rockwell.  He was one of the great story tellers.  His covers always wove some kind of a tale.  As a kid, the influence of this type of image had much to do with shaping my desire to want to create those kinds of pictures....hence the illustration career, and pursuit of representational painting.

I think illustrators who become fine artists are well equipped to do this.  The only difference is, as an illustrator, one is painting someone else's stories.  As a fine artist, one is painting his or her own story.  It is always more fun to do something that interest you personally.  The two works in progress that I am near finishing, and the "Lula Belle and the Preacher Fisherman" included here are what I would consider narrative type paintings.  Each has, or suggest some kind of a story....or leaves the viewer to create or imagine their own version of that story.  Without titles, the viewer could certainly come up with similar scenarios....or possibly different ones.

Paintings do not have to be narrative in nature to be great works.  Paintings can be about paint quality, about light, about sense of place, about things that have nothing to do with any story many landscapes.  I have heard mentioned the notion that figures in paintings automatically suggest a narrative.  I'm not sure that I totally agree with that .  A painting of the figure can be just a study of the human form and be absolutely beautiful, without the suggestion of any story attached to it.  That prevailing attitude may be because stories usually involve people, so if a person is in a painting, the chances that a story is occurring is more likely than one without people.  I think this an interesting topic....of which I obviously do not have the absolute answer to.....but, it comes up occasionally.  I usually don't think about this kind of stuff regularly unless the subject does come up in conversation, or as a class question.

These are my personal observations, and don't necessarily reflect any universal opinion or attitude towards this subject.  I will post the images of the paintings in progress again as they are finished.  Thanks again for listening to my ramblings!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

"Depicting the Noble Beast", A work in progress

"Winter Team", 12x16 oil on linen
I did a painting in 2005, "Winter Team", that received an award of excellence in the 2006 Oil Painters of America National Exhibition, at Dana Gallery in Missoula, Mt.  When I decided to enter that little painting, my wife was very skeptical of the chances of the back end of two work horses getting into the show, much less getting any kind of award.  She is usually right on point about these matters, but I got lucky on this occasion.  Anyway, six years later, here I am revisiting a subject that I feel close to for different reasons, and I always intended to do another larger piece.  "Winter Team" was actually a small study for what I thought was going to be a bigger painting.  Sometimes the larger ones do not get done.

I grew up around farm animals, and always had a horse.....and at times we had two.  The affection that I have for horses, and painting horses is related to those formative years....I'm sure!  The image above of the "Winter Team" is of poor quality, and I apologize for that.  I did not have a quality digital camera that I use today.  I included it because it is related to the work in progress (below) that I am presently near finishing.  I thought it might be interesting because of the possible difference, or maybe the kinship of the subject in both paintings....even though one is much smaller and a bit more sketchy in nature. 

"Moving the Big Boys", 18x24 oil on linen
The images that I am working from are from a photo shoot I did years ago when we lived in Ct. (early eighties).  The painting is being painted with a very limited palette, which I have been doing a bit more of lately.  I generally use a pretty limited palette anyway.  The title "Moving the Big Boys" is not set in first thought!

For me, the remaining work on this piece would be to finish the background....tree limbs and harness and gear on the horses without getting to fussy.  I'm planning to do something with the foreground also.....not sure what yet.  One good afternoon with no distractions, like chopping up fallen trees, etc., and I think it will be complete.  I will post the finished painting later.  Again, thank you for listening  to my ramblings.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

"Louisiana Brahma in the Shade", Experimenting with oil painting mediums.

I came across this image of a little sketch I painted quite a few years ago.  Unfortunately,
I don’t have quality images of  many of my early paintings.  This one is probably late eighties or early nineties.  I was still doing illustration work and had started dabbling in gallery painting with small works, like miniature shows….mostly with a local gallery in Ct.  The reason I’m posting this is because it was painted with an oil medium that I was experimenting with at the time.  It is a topic that recently came up, and seems to come up in classes and workshops occasionally.  I wish I had more of the images done with this medium to show in this post.

I became aware of the great still life artist, David Leffel, when I saw a one man show of his in New York.  He taught at the Art Students League in New York, and later moved to Taos, New Mexico.  I was doing quite a few small still life paintings back then and was interested in the medium that he used, and described in his wonderful first book, “Oil Painting Secrets from a Master“Maroger medium was formulated by a French curator of the Louvre, Jacques Maroger in the 1930’s, and is a now a commonly used medium by many still life and figure painters.…..many probably have studied with Mr. Leffel, or were influenced by his methods. The medium can be purchased on the internet, or made from scratch by cooking materials on a stove…..not a choice I would choose, or advise one to embrace.  I no longer use it on a regular basis.  I recently gave some old tubes that I had left over to one of my students who was interested in trying it.  It is a nice medium that gives paint a luminosity and duplicates, or mimics the effect of the glowing Rembrandt paintings… the hands of an accomplished artist of course.  I struggled with it with mixed results, having some really satisfying results and like many other mediums, not so good results.

There were a couple of reasons why I moved on to other medium choices…. of which there were many.  One was the lead product used in the mixture.  The medium is a formula of Linseed oil saturated with Litharge (white lead).  That was a concern for me….not being neat and tidy in handling of materials, it concerned me that I might ingest or absorb it somehow.  I don‘t know if another formula has been created that does not use the lead product.  The use of lead has been going by the wayside in many paint products. 

The main reason I quit using it…. especially with still life subjects, was because I was not clever enough to be able to separate myself from the look it produced that was so distinctive.  This might not be discernable by anyone else but me, but I felt it was an issue.  The difference with the use of this medium is that some of the medium is mixed into each color on the palette, so the paint has a consistency of mayonnaise.  I did not seem to have that same difficulty with other subjects, like the “Louisiana Brahma in the Shade”, 9x12 oil on linen.  That sketch looks pretty much like the work I do currently with a completely different type of medium approach.  I use the Ralph Mayer formula, and have used it now for many years.  It is one part stand oil, one part dammar varnish, and five parts odorless mineral spirits.  I have tried, or experimented with every medium I could get my hands on at one time or another.  Artist are always looking for the magic in a tube that will solve all their painting issues….and I think that search and experimentation is a good thing, but there is not such magic….at least, I have yet to find it.  I find myself using less and less medium in my painting as time goes on….it seems.  I read somewhere that the best consistency of paint is as it comes from the tube.  Medium is mostly for thinning darks and to minimize the oxidation effect of darks drying lighter in value.  In my opinion, it is not necessary to use a medium in opaque paint…. unless it is very stiff and needs some kind of vehicle in it to facilitate brushwork.

I did do the master copy above from a Leffel still life years ago.  In my opinion, master copies are easier to paint than original works, because all the decisions have been made for you by the Master artist.  Master copies are a whole other blog subject, but I think what is important in master copies is capturing  the essence of the work….not necessarily  copying stroke for stroke.  That is what I tried to do here.  I got as close as I felt  I needed to learn something from the this artist whose work I admired.  I was not interested in my paintings being poor copies of a style that Mr. Leffel is known for.   One takes what is useful from a master copy learning experience, and moves on to the next learning experience.  I think students should experiment with everything and do a process of elimination in picking materials and manners of working.  It is a never ending learning process and even accomplished, experienced artists should remain open to the possibilities.  One never knows what new thing can be learned tomorrow, next week, or next year.  Use your medium judiciously.

These are my personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect any universal ideas on this subject.  Thanks for listening to my ramblings.