Wednesday, January 30, 2008



This is where I was at the end of last week; Sunday, to be exact. I worked both Saturday and Sunday hoping to finish this piece.

Usually I take Sundays off, but I love to paint on Saturdays. Last Saturday, Rossini's Barber of Seville was on the radio. I listened to the bright, skipping voice of Rosina while I painted the shimmering gold fabric; when the basses and baritones came on I found myself touching up the rich velvet...

I did not finish the painting but I did bring the piece to a good stopping point: gold cloth completely stated and just needing a final floating polish; pewter pitcher virtually finished, looking both crisp and subtle; pears, background, etc. going well; the only area that needs major construction is the front of the table. I wanted the surface nice and dry for the final assault so I let the painting marinate for two days while I caught up on computer work and played with the dog. Today I pick up my brushes again.

10 comments:

painterdog said...

This is looking real good.
I love how you handle cloth.
I saw Karen and you signed up at rational painting. What do you think?

I like that there is a lot of good information there, it does seem that there is this kind of divide, or at least I perceive one between how I think about realist painting and how the classical French academic based people do.

Drawing with a brush as Frank taught is seems much more intuitive
to me than doing highly finished drawing and then transferring it to the canvas.

I just can't get into Bouguereau.
I think he was good painter, but all those waifs and fawning about is to much for me.

Elizabeth Torak said...

Thanks Pd!

About rational painting - I am not sure yet: I haven't had time to read very much, just dipped in here and there - love your little painting of oranges BTW - I do think it is very nice and collegial of them to allow others into their site, especially because they clearly have their own, very specific, set of ideas. About those ideas...I am interested in reading about them because I love painting and thinking about painting;if some artists can express themselves using the Muncell color system and sight-size drawing power to 'em, I say. It just wouldn't be a good fit with my artistic personality - I like a fluid brush.

Bougereau did some wonderful things; I am particularly fond of the big one at the Clark with the satyrs and nymphs (not the subject matter, the design and the way it is painted) but he has never rocked my world like Vermeer's Girl in a Red Hat does; they inhabit a different conceptual universe.

painterdog said...

We are already using some version of a Munsell palette as it seems the DuMond palette is based on it.
Frank has developed his own version but they are almost identical.

Munsell has all the scales, just like Frank does, only the numbers are opposite. 10 is White and 1 is Black, kind of makes sense.

Munsell is not the same as site sizing which I have tried to learn, but its to confining and while I can see its merits I am not sure I want to become an academic painter in this late stage of the game.

Munsell is just a system of organizing color in three dimensions, hue, value, and chroma. I think most realist painters develop a sense of this anyway without knowing it, but I have been studying it is interesting to see it organized in color groups.
The cool thing about his color wheel is that there is no warm or cool, or primary or secondary, they just move around in degrees from hue to hue. I like it myself as it make sense to me visually. The only thing is you have to learn the system. He uses names such as 5YR for a certain hue of orange. Williamsburg Cad Orange is 5YR 6/14. I have the same color made by Old Holland and it's a whole step lower in value than that. I know this sounds a little bit much, but I find it fascinating.

I have rethought my flesh colors and I have found that Cadmium Red is way to high in chroma for flesh.
This always gave me so much trouble, controlling the cads.

I still use them, can't live without cad yellows and orange, but the reds are so intense. I use Terra Rosa and Indian Red, and Yellow Ochre for flesh tones.

Good luck with the show!

painterdog said...

I forgot to mention how it works:
In Munsell there are 5 major huse families, Red, Yellow, Green, Blue, and Purple.

Halfway between each of these are five minor hues:

Yellow-Red(orange), Green-Yellow, Blue-Green, Purple-Blue, and Red-Purple. Since Red-Purple is equally similar to the first major hue, Red, and the last one Purple, all the hues are arranged in a circle(color wheel).

Each of the ten hue families are subdivided into ten colors going from 1 to 10, with 5 being the center of the color family. 5R is a true red as it is not leaning towards yellow or blue.

Anyway that's a brief description of Munsell.

Elizabeth Torak said...

Thanks painterdog, that is a great description and very helpful. I think I knew (vaguely) that we use a system related to Muncell and as you describe it sounds very familiar and reasonable. In fact, as you point out I already use it, in some sense. The color wheel you describe sounds like the usual color wheel; I keep it in mind all the time to make prismatic progressions.

Personally, I always think of painting in terms of progressions whether of value, intensity (which I believe is what you are calling chroma) and hue. I mean, I would never just put something down without knowing where it fits into the tonal (and intensity, etc. etc.) structure of the painting.


When I start painting for the day I mix up a number of scales depending on the subject matter and my mood. I don't make a series of discrete values I make sliding progressions with my palette knife and work out of these progressions all day. I always know where I am and if I do get lost I know the value of my palette so I can always use that as a check. I play with different color combinations depending on my mood, what I am looking at, and what I want to express. For instance, sometimes I make grays from ultramarine blue and burnt umber, sometimes from Cad red light and thalo green, and on and on, the possibilites are almost limitless, even from a limited palette.

Karen Winslow said...

Hi Jeff & Lizzie...First, your painting is a gem, Lizzie! Just beautiful! Second, I tried signing up for rational painting, because I enjoyed the rational color blog, but I never received confirmation. All I really wanted to do was to read it. Oh well. So, I can only guess at what it is about. Clue me in.

Then, reading down the comments about mixing... I, too, mix scales depending on the subject and mood, and I have also gotten away from cadmiums for a while. I am using more earth colors. It is fun to try new approaches. It keeps the old brain ticking.

jeff f said...

Karen I saw your name as a member.
Did you create a user name and password?

I could go check the list.
There us some issues with the server.
Sometimes I get a error message and I wait a few seconds and do it again.

This thing for me and Elizabeth has already touched on this, that to much theory and not enough feeling and so on can make for very good paintings but also kind of boring.

I think there has to be a balance between seeing and know how to hit hue, value, and moving in and out of chroma in general.

That was what Frank was teaching, how to hit the right effect, and ot control what you wanted to do with it.

I recently read an article on Leffel and he said that if your rendering to much something is wrong, that he always tries to do it with less. The to many strokes can kill an idea.

Karen Winslow said...

Hi Jeff & Lizzie,
I never received an email from them, so I didn't think that I was accepted. Hmmm, now I have to try to figure how to get on.

Elizabeth Torak said...

Jeff, in response to your quote from Leffel.
I have something of an allergic reaction to most aphorisms about painting and, though I admire Leffel in many ways, this one bothers me. Van Gogh and Hals both use an awful lot of brush strokes and their work is glorious.

If what he means is, (to quote Byron)

"One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace..." etc., etc. I would completely agree: the essence of art is balance IMHO. To reduce this profound thought to "too many strokes" puts fear in a place where judgement and expression should sit.
Personally, I do not think it matters whether you use many strokes or few strokes, render a lot or render a little, what matters is whether or not the finish - be it strokes or polish -enhances the wholeness and harmony of the piece or is extraneous and distracting.

jeff f said...

I see what you mean, aphorisms are not something I use often, I don't know much about Leffel other than he studied with Frank in the 60's, which is when Frank was drinking a lot, and that he spent a huge amount of time in hospitals as a child. I like his work though and I like Gregg Kreutz's work as well.


I don't think he was meaning one should use less strokes, I think he meant that they should serve the painting, as you said to complete the idea as a whole.

Hals is one of my favorite painters I would point to him as the perfect example of how to draw with a brush. I think he used a lot of economy compared to a painter such a Gerard Dou. That's splitting hairs as they each did great work.

Dou was very tight compared to Hals though.

I recently saw a really nice Dou at the MFA. It was a very small painting on copper or wood.
It had this small dog in ti and I was amazed on how much detail went into this small 2 to 3 inch dog, talk about a one hair brush.

Across from this is a portrait by Hals and it is just so full of life and blows me away every time I see it.