Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

This is a delayed post. I last worked on the dancer November 17th and then I caught a virus and I've been sick ever since. This is the first day I've been able to sit in front of the computer; I hope I can get back to sitting in front of the easel soon as I am anxious to finsh the piece.

I did finally finish the winter scene that I was working on when I started this blog and although I think it is too subtle and high in pitch to come across well in digital format I am happy with it. One day last week when I thought I was recovered I popped it in a frame and took it to the gallery - then I went home and was sicker than ever for another week.

Friday, November 11, 2005

This is two days' work. It is amazing to look at these: who would guess how many hours of work went into the barely discernable difference between these two states? Well, for one thing I spent a long time working on the head: putting it down and then wiping it out, over and over. I have always found it particularly difficult to draw this view of the head, a sort of 3/4 back view and I have never found it easy to twist the neck. It is a little discouraging that I have been at this for so many years and still find myself struggling with these problems. I shouldn't get down on myself too much though. A lot of painting and drawing problems which I used to find completely daunting I now execute with ease and confidence: drapery, for example. But the head twisted slightly on the neck seen from behind still throws me. I also spent time working on the shadow side of the torso and I think it is coming to life and looks more human and less like an anatomy cast.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

This is about a week's work, with the most recent state at the top. I finally decided to quit working on the drawing, even though it is not finished, and just start painting. I was getting too wrapped up in making a beautiful drawing. Looking at my last post, I saw that the last time I worked on the drawing I destroyed the delicately modeled surface in order to dig into the action again. Looking at the the two states side by side I saw what I had lost and was furious with myself. But, but, but I also saw why I did it: the more delicately modeled version had started to look frozen, it had stopped moving. The truth is I'm not happy with either state and I want to go back and put in the delicate surface without losing the life. The question is: how to do this? Maybe the problem is I don't know what I want to do with the surface other than polish it. I have a clear vision of the big dynamic elements and the blocking and anatomy, but I don't know what to do with the surface. Now that I'm working on the painting I have the same struggle: I keep going back and forth between a painterly broken color surface and a smooth sense of skin and flesh; as soon as I've achieved one effect I'm dissatisfied and go in the other direction. Writing this I realize what it is I want: I want both in exquisite, heart-rending balance with each other. I went to a wedding once where very expensive chocolates were placed at each guest's place at table. I had never eaten such a chocolate: the outer coating was so delicate and fine that it broke against my tougue and melted in an instant; like a fleeting dream it was gone before I could grasp it. I think I want something analogous for my surfaces: an illusion of flesh and reality so delicate that as soon as the eye touches it it dissolves into color, light, and movement. Oh, that should be easy to paint!.

Monday, October 31, 2005

I've been working on a finished drawing of the pose for the last two weeks. Here are a couple shots of the piece as it progresses. I'm working very slowly: this pose is so complicated and fascinating. I find I have to take my knowledge of anatomy to another level to grasp it. The articulation of the action depends on particular bundles of muscle fibers within a given muscle. For example the center of the middle section of the deltoid. I'm learning a lot, but it is going very slowly. I think I have reworked the left shoulder twenty times and I'm still not happy with it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

This is two days work. The one onthe bottom shows what I did yesterday. I had a difficult day that day: a lot of interruptions to my work and not enough time to paint. I got frustrated at the end of the day and just started throwing paint, working instinctively rather than thoughtfully. I was tempted to wipe out, but Tom thought it looked great so I kept it. Today I had plenty of time to paint and the light in the studio was good. I worked for hours modeling subtle flesh tones and articulating the amazing dynamics of the shoulder girdle. I was able to think in a calm and organized way about what I was doing and at the end of the day I thought I had done pretty well. But when I see what I did today next to what I did yesterday I feel that what I gained in drawing and subtlety I lost in movement and light. I realize that what I want for my work is to have it all: the freedom and passion of my irrational gut feelings and the elegant subtlety of my ordered and rational side. I swing from one approach to the other trying to find the perfect balance.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

I love the action of the female figure: it looks like something from Greek sculpture. I wanted to do a more finished drawing , but I got impatient and jumped into the painting. Now that I'm working on the painting I wish I had spent more time drawing: the pose is so complicated and has so many subtle dynamics that I am spending an inordinate amount of time fiddling with the drawing.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

A few images from last night's figure drawing session. Most of the work I'm doing these days is on The Feast of Venus my current figurative project. I have another blog, Creative Process, devoted solely to that project; to see it click on "Creative Process" on the Links list.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

These are sketches from the life drawing session I went to last night.

I did this little drawing from a (gasp!) photograph. I intended it as a preparatory drawing for an etching, but I like it so much I may use it as the basis of a little figure painting.

I've always been against working from photographs. All the figure work I've done has been from life or from imagination (for that matter, all the landscape and still life work as well). I could go on at some length detailing all the arguments against working from photographs; and actually I did exactly that in an article I wrote for American Artist last fall. So it is humbling, amusing, and embarrassing to find myself making use of photographs now. But I live in a rural area with a limited selection of models and I can't afford to hire the ones I do know. And as for my imagination, I guess it is tired. I do worry that my work will deteriorate now that I have tasted the forbidden fruit.

Yes! I have finally finished this and I actually rather like it. Usually I love a piece most when it is 90% finished: complete enough to satisfy but with just a little bit left to the imagination; and with that little bit of territory I imagine a masterpiece. I am always disappointed. When it is finished it is just a picture.

My grandfather used to say "Children are incredible - and when they grow up, they're just people!" What is it about potential that is so much more exciting than fulfillment?

Friday, September 02, 2005

I worked on this for about three hours yesterday. I am always amazed how long it takes (sometimes) to do what seems like so little. Mostly I worked on the foot and the light in the lower left-hand corner. On the lower left I worked on the passage from direct light to cast shadow/reflected light on the model stand: substantial to insubstantial. Everything we perceive is light but what is the difference in texture (both in a tactile sense and emotionally) between light that bounces right back to you off a hard surface and light that floats, intermingles, dazzles while meandering back to the eye. How to paint the transition from direct to indirect light so that the viewer experiences that transition as a melting from one state of consciousness to another?

I started this at an art colony I went to last year. I had a couple of hours with a shared model in terrible light and what I brought home looked nothing like this. Earlier this year I completely repainted it: set up pillows and drapery of my own to replace the uninteresting ones that were in the original and spent a couple of weeks painting the drapery and pillows from life and the nude out of my head. I added the easel on the right to fill out the composition and also to explain the subject. I've been working very slowly on this piece trying to make the light, atmosphere and flesh tones dazzle. The tilt of the head and the flood of reflected light on the face were very difficult; I think I spent three days on the head alone.

This little landscape is in progress. I started it plein air years ago (well actually I was sitting in the car painting out the window with the engine turned off, but it was still pretty cold) When it was finished I lent it to my grandmother to fill an empty spot on her wall. Grandma was an artist: she went to art school in her youth, but gave it up when she married. She couldn't bear the thought of being an amateur lady painter and never touched a brush again, but she kept her cool, elegant, aesthetic and her love of art. We were very close. When she died this summer at 102, I lost my best and oldest ally in life, one of my closest friends, and I got the painting back.

I had been pleased when I painted it, and had seen it on my grandmother's wall with some frustration there hangs a good sale if I could only get it back somehow but when I finally brought it home I realized that it was, in reality, quite weak: too pale, even for a snow scene and too thinly painted. I decided to try to bring it back to life. I've worked on it a few times now and although it has gained considerably in color, breadth and vitality it is not yet what I want it to be.