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.