Advanced Painting Atelier – Week 1 -2

I was so excited for this class to begin, in fact, I think I was jumping up and down in my seat. The whole atelier experience has been a huge roller coaster for me by expanding my abilities and making me confront many of my own limitations. This class hasn’t been just about art for any of us. Whenever you push boundaries you’re bound to come face to face with deeply held negative beliefs about yourself and your abilities. This has been no less true for us, and it is a painful journey. As soon as you think you’re past whatever it was, something else looms up to take its place and you begin the process all over again. Painting as a metaphor for life. How interesting. No wonder I’m so passionate about it!

Much of the discussion was about the importance of having a narrative or a story intrinsic to what you’re painting; to think about why and how you are painting what you are. In addition, Rose talked to us about the fact that we will be working on a keystone painting for a series of paintings. We also talked about armatures and did a complementary cast painting.

Someday, I will do a blog post on armatures. Armatures can show you where the most harmonious places are for you to place your focus in a painting that you are constructing. In the painting above, you can see how many of the lines superimposed on the painting correspond with the lines of the painting itself. I love the lines of this painting all on its own in one color. When you look at it in full color, you can see what a masterful artist de Blaas truly was.

Suffice it to say that much of the great art that has ever been created was designed along the lines of an armature, and many books have been written on the subject. Until then, please check out this article: https://www.artistsnetwork.com/art-mediums/oil-painting/pech-harmonic-armature/

Complementary paintings occur when you use two colors across from each other on the color wheel such as red and green or violet and yellow. In this case, I ended up with a yellow-green and a violet. We were using gels in front of our spotlights to create different effects on the statues (or casts) that we were to paint. (Once I varnish the painting it will look much better!)

A Werewolf’s Prophylactic

For the technical types, this is called an analogous painting. All the colors used to create the garlic are lumped together in the same part of the color wheel. Because it’s October, and because I like to think I have a sense of humor, I titled this painting A Werewolf’s Prophylactic.

Pieces and parts of this class will be coming out of order, I’m afraid. I spent 2 weeks in France during the class and I’m still trying to catch up. I PROMISE I will post pictures and articles about the workshop and places I visited in Provence. I became ill while I was there and am now just beginning to feel like myself again. Sorry for being such a stranger!

Your State of Mind Determines Everything

I’ve been talking with Scott about some stuff (as always).  I don’t have the right words yet so this will take some work.  Sometimes, I get a clear picture of what life would be like without restrictions on possibilities.  It’s like creating a list of goals knowing you have all the time and money you need to make it happen.  I can wave a magic wand and remove all of my obstacles.  That is the space of infinite possibilities.

If you could do anything you wanted to, what would it be?  What would you learn?  Where would you go, live, work?

 What happens to the mind when it sees possibilities instead of obstacles?  Dreaming opens the mind to expansion instead of contraction.  It is an empowering process that employs creativity and enables us to look for ways to make things work.  It is a completely different mindset from what most of us maintain on a day to day basis.  Take the time to open up to this on at least a daily basis and change your basic mindset.  Many of our decisions are based on ego and judgment; decided out of fear.  Through the process of practicing expansion, thoughts based on “limiting beliefs” will become more obvious.  This enables us to make choices based on the type of response we choose to make rather than making an automatic choice out of fear.

If we want to be in charge of our lives, we MUST be aware of the criteria used for our decisions.

As an artist, this has huge ramifications as well.  If I fear a subject, I won’t paint it.  I’ll stall, dither, look at hundreds of images on the internet, anything I can to keep from beginning something I see as difficult.  (This shows up in self-talk as, “I’m not good enough to do that, I’ll make a mess of it, I don’t know how, that’s beyond me.”)  When I fall into this mindset, I limit my scope of work and my growth as an artist stalls or stagnates.  It is precisely working on these more challenging pieces that I learn the most from my efforts!

It is almost impossible to paint well from a place of judgment.  Critical thinking, as in problem-solving or actively working through issues is a very different place than judgment.  It is the difference between “this is bad” and “what will make this a better painting?”  It is the difference between focusing outward on your work, and inward at what you perceive as your own failings.

One more thing about judgment from a different angle, and then I’ll stop, for now.  The original paintings I have liked the least have sold, and I continue to sell prints of those paintings because they are so popular.  All I can do is shake my head and keep going.  I have a feeling that we are rarely the best judge of our own work.

2019 Holiday Painting Finished

October 9, 2019

It’s been a busy week/month/season!  Jan, the maker of our lovely gift baskets that are sold through Hawaii’s Local Buzz, reminded me that she needed this year’s holiday painting prints for her Christmas with Buzz giftbasket event by Friday, September 6, 2019 at our showroom in Honolulu, HI on Mokauea St.  There’s nothing like a deadline to get me moving.

Here are some pictures of the painting in process:

The underpainting is almost complete.

I’m beginning to get a feel for what the final painting will look like.

Here is the final painting.  Quite a few people have commented that they are happy to see something other than the basic red and green for a Holiday-themed painting.  I have to agree.

16″ x 20″ Oil on Canvas

Self-Portrait Complete

August 24, 2019

As always, the caveat is, it’s done for now.  I’m happy with it, in fact, I’m so happy with it I want it in MY ROOM.  I seem to have this belief that I can’t really paint people well, and then I’m surprised when I do.  Hell, I’m surprised when they are recognizable!  *Shakes my head…*  Sometimes the inside of my head is no place to be.

Have I been comparing my work to other artists’?  Yes.  Sigh.
Does my art continue to improve?  Yes!
Do people enjoy my work?  Yes!
Do I still love what I do?  Yes!
Then I’m on the right track!

One of my goals for this blog is to point out that becoming an artist, frankly becoming anything, isn’t a straight line.  I’ve seen so many blogs where everything is sweetness and light, and everything moves along swimmingly according to the “Master Plan.”  This certainly hasn’t been my experience, and it is how we handle these challenges that make us who we are.

Most of my paintings feel like ongoing problem-solving sessions.  The last thing I do each day is to create a punch list of what I want to accomplish the next time I sit down to work on it.  Creating this list gives me a good starting point.  This continues to happen until I near the end of the process and THAT is when I usually start to feel the energy of what a painting can become.  My teacher, Rose Adare, hits this point before she even puts a mark on the canvas.  (That’s why SHE’s the teacher!)  I’ve only managed that a few times so far, and each time resulted in a spectacular piece.

It is important to become aware of what your process is.  Everyone has rituals that they go through as they work on something.  Become aware of your self-talk and recognize what you are saying to yourself.  Find a way to check criticism, self-doubt, and judgment at the door.  All that negativity does is make the process take longer to accomplish something that was going to happen anyway.  This painting took at least twice as long as it should have because of all the negative self-talk I was dealing with.  In some ways, it is a reverse Dorian Gray.  All the angst, frustration and judgement went into this painting and came out as a sense of peace.  It was worth the journey!

How to Check Your Drawing

When you are aiming for realism or an accurate rendering of your subject, there are many ways to check the proportions in your drawing. Here’s a list of the ones I know (and I am sure that I’ve left out a few):

  1. Stand back and compare the subject to your drawing. The greater distance will make many errors visible quickly.
  2. Take a picture with your phone for comparison. Seeing a miniature version of your work usually makes things stand out.
  3. Look at your work in a mirror. Using a mirror converts your subject to shapes instead of things and it is easier to spot discrepancies.
  4. Turn both your subject and the painting/drawing upside down. (This really only works if you are using a photograph or a picture as your subject.)
  5. For subjects that are mirror-images on both sides such as a vase or a bowl, you can use a mirror or a piece of glass to check and make sure that both sides match.
  6. For the above, trace the outline of your drawing and fold it in half. This will show you where the drawing is out of balance.
  7. Look back and forth quickly between your subject and drawing. This technique blends the two together and shows you what needs to be corrected.
  8. Check your angles and the length of your lines. Using easily recognized points, determine key angles and make certain that these angles are accurate in your drawing.
  9. Use sight-sizing.
  10. Try using a proportional divider to check your measurements
  11. Rulers work too.
  12. As do skewers. Measure, measure, measure.
  13. Measure twice, draw once!
  14. Did I mention measure?
  15. Step outside and look at your work through the window. Somehow this puts it at a remove as if it was someone else’s work.
  16. If all else fails, and you can’t figure out what is wrong, take a tracing of your subject and place it over your drawing. This will immediately show you where your drawing is off. If you are drawing from life, take a picture of your subject and print it out. Yes, it has to be the same size. Is your subject too big? Print out your problem area only. There’s no need to do the whole thing.
  17. Walk away and look at something else for a few minutes and you will be able to look at your work with fresh eyes. Do this at least every 15 minutes.
  18. Don’t forget to look at your subject. You can become too familiar with your own work and mistakes will begin to look correct.

Remember, all these suggestions are to improve the accuracy of the drawing. If you are doing quick studies or gesture drawings, that’s a completely different thing. Those are about loosening up and finding the rhythm of a pose.

Painting Atelier Weeks 4 – 6

I know it seems like I’m cheating here, but we ended up working on the same pieces for three weeks in a row. Work in class was painting a cast using one color, Titanium White and Ivory Black.

I have to admit it, I was dreading this after the last cast I tried to draw. However, this turned out to be a much faster process for me. Instead of using a pencil, I did the whole initial drawing with paint and continued on from there.

In the drawing class I think all I managed was to complete the outline of the figure and one breast, so I’m definitely getting better, faster, and more accurate.

Homework for all three weeks was another nude. Once again, I feel that it needs more work and I will have to do that later if I can find the time. This time we were painting from a photograph instead of a painting. This adds a degree of difficulty because when you copy a painting, the shading and conversion of 3D to 2D has already been accomplished for you.

This was end of Week 5
Here is the end of Week 6. Once again more to do, and I’m still happy with it!

I’m starting to look for my lost and found edges. This photo had a LOT of edges! I still need to adjust much of the tone in this painting. One of the things I do when painting from a photograph is to laminate the picture so that I can put my paint right on the picture to check whether or not my values are correct. Many of the values in this painting still need to be corrected! I will talk about this in another blog post.

Painting Atelier Week 3

For this class, things got a little more complicated. We all chose a painting of a nude to work with and copy as a study. This time we were allowed to mix our paints. This was what I did in class:

And our homework was more of the same. I have to work on that definition of simple though because this was anything but. What I thought would be simple turned out to be 7 spheres, multi-toned greenery, and architecture. I still haven’t finished it, I ran out of time this week.

Painting Atelier Week 2

During Week 2 class we had to paint a sphere using umber, black, and white.

This was about learning how shadows work and the graduation of tone without having color confuse the issue. In fact, the first two-thirds of this class aren’t dealing with color at all! This is also about learning how to work with straight paint and solvent before we start adding mediums into the mix.

Homework was about applying this skill to a simple photograph.

Underpainting of a mouse.

Dreams of Inspiration – Part 3

Once I had a feeling for where everything was, I roughed in the figure. With this painting, I worked a little bit everywhere so that I could understand how all the colors were going to work together. At this point, I already know that there will be highlights on his face and hands, and that the bubbles of inspiration will be bright (somehow).

5 hours in
11 hours in

At this time, I need to work more on the background. I like where the figure is going. I’m looking at what I already have to see what will work as a sphere. I want to use what’s already there for part of this so that it feels like a cohesive piece of art rather than two separate concepts.

I’m using a combination of organic bubbles pulled out of the background and some highlighting in gold around others as incomplete thoughts or concepts. I will also darken the background more to get the bubbles to “pop.”

Here’s the final as it is now. I went back and spent another 5 – 6 hours on the figure. I’ll probably tweak it for another week. I find that I have to walk away and look at something else in order to see what doesn’t fit, or what doesn’t quite work yet. Even as I write this, I see two more places where I should probably put bubbles since the images are already there. In truth, paintings are never finished. There is always something else I could do. The important part is being able to walk away and leave it!