Sunday, April 24, 2011

O'Farrell workshop, day 3: 11x14

Acrylic on gallery-wrapped canvas, 11x14"

On the third and final day of the workshop, we had two tables set up in the middle of the room, and both models were on them. It's a different proposition to paint two figures. They relate to each other, and it adds a level of complexity.

However, the big thing for me was deciding to eschew realistic colors altogether. As you might predict, it made me focus much more on values. If the colors aren't right, the values have to be. Or much more so. Not sure I nailed it but I still rather like this. I also tried to pick up another effect, which was light coming around the edge. If the model is lit from the side away from you, you might see a bit of light around his or her edges. It's an interesting effect.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Ursula O'Farrell workshop, day 2: 16x20"

Acrylic on stretched canvas, 16x20x1.5"

This was a longer pose, done with a lot of palette knife; you can see on the lower right where I dragged paint down with it. The yellow and red background are the base coat (stormy!), and you can see by the shadows on the shoulders and the lower back that this was lit upwards.

Several people have seen defiance in this; sort of a feeling of standing up to something. It wasn't intentional, but might have been a natural part of the pose.

Now, when I painted this, I used colors approximating skin tones, and it came out too realistic, like an impressionistic portrait rather than an abstract work. So I changed the skin color to the blues and lavenders you see, with yellow for the brightest spots. I've been hearing for years that no matter what color the elements of a painting are, if you get the values right, you can still tell what the painting depicts. This might support that.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Ursula O'Farrell workshop, day 2: 12x16"

Acrylic on stretched canvas, 12x16x1.5"

The second day of the workshop, my side of the room had a wonderful elongated model with very curly red hair. The hair kept making its way into my paintings, and after the success of using scribbling to indicate the hair, I kept doing it. The red you see in this image is the base coating. As I mentioned, it's not flat base coating, but rough colors dragged through water, and possibly another color flung on top. It adds a lot of energy!

Also, I should mention that most of the serious paintings I'm showing followed gestural warm-ups, which were done in graphite (or whatever your felt like) in a sketchbook.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Ursula O'Farrell workshop, day 1: Paper

14x17", acrylic on paper

Ursula applies remarkable intelligence to her work process. She seems to have examined what slows us down, and figured out what needs to be done about it. I mention that in this context because she believes that it's good to have some stretched paper ready for doing studies. This piece is on a sheet of 14x17" paper that I'd base coated, and it was ready -- along with my paints -- when I wanted to get going.

Yes, it takes prep time. But, seriously, don't we all have down time that we've set aside for art, but we're not ready to paint? So we have a bit of bandwidth to devote to tasks. Well, maybe not always, but we do need to do that sometimes.

With this piece, again, I was painting loosely, using a palette knife, and using pencils, and getting honest, reactive effects I didn't know I could get. As in my last post, the surface was base coated. Also, as in my last piece, I used the background color to carve out the contours of the shape. I found that to be astonishingly effective.

I'm trying to bring this looseness home. It's difficult.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ursula O'Farrell workshop, day 1

Acrylic on gallery-wrapped canvas, 12x16x1.5"

On Sunday I finished a three-day workshop with the marvelous Ursula O'Farrell. She paints loosely, and creates emotion and mystery in her paintings. These are qualities I aspire to, so when her workshop came up I immediately signed up for it.  There were some twenty people in the class, and we were lucky enough to have a model for each half of the room.

On the first day, she explained how she works her palettes. She creates four values of paint: white, half light, half dark, and black. She then mixes a given color into these four values. So, for instance, if you mix in orange, you end up with 1.) a warm pale, 2.) a peach color, 3.) a warm dark, and 4.) a warm near-black. If you mix the same values with blue, you have the same sequence, but cool. She also basecoats her canvases with a rough, splashy layer.

Ursula also believes in using whatever tools or supplies will add interest or excitement to a painting. One is watercolor pencils. First she'll use dark ones, and to get the full pigment she might spray the canvas with water, or use soft gel (if she's painting in acrylics). But she might also use other colors.

So, in this piece, you can see the basecoat in the red at the bottom, the yellows throughout, and the white in a couple of places. You can also see palette I described (oranges and blues), and the watercolor pencil in the hair. I'm not sure this has mystery, or a lot of emotion, but it's interesting and has a lot of energy. I don't normally paint this way -- it's not accurate! -- so this was amazing.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


oil on canvas, 20x24x1.5"

What can I say? I just really like this one. It has a mood, and some complexity. In the last couple of weeks, a number of oil abstracts have come out of me. And I think it's that balance thing: I've been playing with the surface textured in acrylic, and after awhile I just wanted to put brush to canvas. So there are a few more coming, but this is my favorite.

Friday, April 15, 2011

"Input Circuit" redux

8x8", acrylic and mixed media on board

Off to a painting workshop today with Urusula O'Farrell. She paints wonderfully passionately and honestly, and does figurative abstracts, which I want to learn more about.

Meanwhile, this piece is a reworked version of an earlier painting. I took it to my textured abstract class and talked to the teacher, and she encouraged me to tone down the colors to emphasize the texture. I also added the two elements that go past the edges of the board (the gray on the left and bottom are background). I don't know what they are. I found them while I was hiking and loved their age and texture.

Friday, April 1, 2011

"Gourd on Purple"

6x6", oil on canvas board

The last of the gourd paintings. I think this gourd is still around, but all the colors have faded. It hasn't gone bad, though, and might be interesting to paint again. The challenge that this painting posed was that the colors were so different that I forgot to check for values, and, sure enough, they'd averaged out and gone muddy.

It's interesting to look at paintings that you think don't succeed and see if you can figure out why. Common reasons for me are values (as in this painting), drawing problems (where something doesn't look right), and having too many things of the same size without something else to add interest. Maybe that last thing is composition, but that word covers a lot. Of course, those are just a few of the key elements of visual imagery.