Thursday, October 31, 2013

Drawing the Active Body: "Force"

There are a lot of ways you can draw the human body. One way is to take your time and carefully observe, measure, study and draw each beautiful form and aspect, preferably over several days or weeks. Another way is to draw a body in a more dynamic pose, one which is (usually) difficult or impossible to hold for a long time. This second type of drawing, usually termed "gesture drawing", is approached a little differently, and illustrators and cartoonists often train to draw the figure this way. Sam Prokopenko (see link on the right side of page) has been posting videos recently about gesture drawing.

A good book about capturing the energy around this type of dynamic drawing is Force: Dynamic Life Drawing for Animators by Michael D. Mattesi.

Cover of the book, Force (my scan of the book cover; see link above for the Amazon link.)

One of the things I like about this book is the author's emphasis on remaining open to the richness and intensity of the human experience. It's important to remember that it's not all about anatomical accuracy when you draw, there is something else that's important taking place - your drawing is an expression of yours and the model's humanity:

"When drawing the model, stay present and in utter awe! When he or she takes the stand, it is as if they are a god or godess presented to us. They represent you and the rest of humanity. Become amazed and stay open to this fantastic occurrence. Your experience with the model is your drawing. Therefore, the more rich, incredible, and dramatic your experience, the more rich, incredible, and dramatic your drawing. You are the vehicle to this journey so if you are closed and fearful, so is your work. Use the idea of having the richest and most stimulationg experience drawing the model's humanity while using your very own as the purpose to drawing. All of the technique throught the rest of this book is to serve that higher purpose." Mattesi, Ibid, p ix

In addition to discussions about forceful lines, rhythms, forms and shapes, the discussions about perspective are very useful. One of the objectives of expressive drawing is to slightly exaggerate perspective to make the drawn forms seem more alive. One way to exaggerate perspective is to be clear as to what recedes in space and what comes forward. Establishing which forms are in front of others is what's known as "overlap." What you don't want to do is create tangents, where forms seem to be touching one another:




My scan. Mattesi, Ibid., p.82

Another way to establish the spatial relationship of forms is through varying the thickness of lines. In the example below, the artist has thickened the lines which are closest to the viewer:



My scan. Mattesi, Ibid., p.85

Mattesi also talks about drawing animals and people in public as they go about their business, paying attention to mood, character and interaction. His chapters on these topics are excellent.

All of this is making me want to post some of my own sketches here. I'm rarely without a sketchbook when I travel and I usually indulge in this covert activity in airports; I think I'll do a separate blog post about this later on. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

"Sir Duncan Campbell" by Sir Henry Raeburn

I get over to San Francisco pretty frequently and when I do, I try to get to the Legion of Honor Museum and visit "Sir Duncan Campbell" by artist Sir Henry Raeburn (1756 - 1823) . The painting is usually hung at eye level, gazing down benignly into your own eyes, since Campbell was clearly painted on a somewhat elevated model stand.



"Sir Duncan Campbell"  Image taken from this site.

I have tremendous respect and admiration for Raeburn. Born in Edinburgh, Scotland and orphaned, he taught himself how to paint by working with a jeweler, painting miniatures. After deciding to pursue portrait painting as a career, he married well, met the famous English painter Joshua Reynolds and then went to Italy to study art for two years. Raeburn returned to Edinburgh and started his very successful career in commissioned portraiture.



  "Charles Hay, Lord Newton",   by Sir Henry Raeburn, image from this site.


Raeburn's painting technique is characterized by bold brushwork, dramatic lighting and a sensitivity to the characteristics of the individuals he painted. His paint handling is fluid and expressive, with remarkable control of tonal relationships. Sitters would come to his studio and be entertained by his wit and good nature as the painter worked on capturing the likeness. He seemed to have an immediate and fresh response to his sitters; he had "... an unpremeditated view of the outcome, which meant a minimum of planning and little preliminary 'drawing' on the canvas in the sense that [English painter Sir Thomas Lawrence] would have understood the term." Duncan Thomson, Raeburn: The Art of Sir Henry Raeburn, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh 1997. This meant that some of his paintings evidence signs of overpainting and changes as the painting progressed. It also means he employed a variety of paint techniques throughout his life. Many of his paintings are broadly worked in the manner of Velasquez, but he also painted portraits which are subtle and nuanced.

Raeburn worked sight-size, meaning that he set up his easel next to the podium for his sitters. His studio was lit by a large north-facing window which he had built for his use, and also installed a complex series of shutters to control the flow of light into the room.


Thomson, Ibid., page 24. My scan, which is a little fuzzy, sorry.

Darren Rousar has written a wonderful post on Raeburn and his sight-size technique on his Studio Rousar site here.  Rousar's site is a terrific source of information about painters working in the realist tradition, I highly recommend it to artists.

My books and my research online indicates that Raeburn apparently left very few drawings or preparatory sketches. However, around ten years ago, in the early days of Ebay, my husband found this online, "Portrait Drawing of a Lady, by Sir Henry Raeburn." He paid around $200 for it. It has no particular provenance except that it came from Canada. Is it a fake? I suppose so, but well, here it is anyway. If anybody reading this is a Raeburn expert I hope you'll email me. A few years ago, I did get to go to Scotland and briefly thought I would take this with me to show the experts up in Edinburgh, but then I thought I might not be able to get back out of the country with it.


"Portrait of Lady" by...... ?...

Meanwhile, I try to sketch Raeburns whenever I'm in museums. I often don't have much time; it depends who I'm with, but I do stand and draw them whenever I can. Raeburn was amazingly prolific in his career and his paintings are widely distributed. One of my best experiences was in the sparsely-attended museum in Dublin. The museum guards wanted to bring me a chair and were extremely nice to me, especially after I told them I had distant Irish roots. This is what I did with Sir Duncan Campbell in San Francisco:



My little sketch.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Narrative Art, Part Three - More About Sequencing

Let's return for a minute to Will Eisner's classic book,  Comics and Sequential Art. (This links to the Amazon page for the book.)

If you're a figurative painter with a desire to produce a narrative painting, then obviously you're going to need to consider what your figures will be doing in your painting. A key consideration is selecting a gesture and a posture to convey whatever information you're trying to get across. These considerations are broadly thought of as "body language", which are particularly important in the case of a "traditional" painting where you wouldn't have text or any particular verbal clue as to what the artist intends (unless you have a fairly obvious title for your painting, perhaps).

Eisner starts first by discussing gestures. These drawings below are very broad, theatrical gestures, caricatured for comic purposes, of course. You might want to tone gestures down in a painting, or even make a gesture as neutral as possible, but you'll understand what he means here:



Will Eisner, Comics and Sequential Art, p. 104 (my scan)


You're going to have to put your figure in some kind of posture, too. Broadly speaking, a posture is an visually recognizable attitude or position manifested by a figure, such as resting or digging a hole with a shovel. Your figures can be in an infinite variety of postures and you'll have to select one which best expresses your plan for your artwork. Your selected pose is then "frozen in time" on your canvas, so you'll want to select a position which most accurately describes the action or situation you want to convey:


Will Eisner, Comics and Sequential Art, p. 107 (my scan)

How do you feel about each of these figures in the two rectangles above? Which one looks more aggressive to you, the one with the arm reaching toward you, or the one with the shield up? They're the same figure, of course, but do you see how simply selecting a different pose changes the focus of our attitude toward the figure? It's the same figure, but (and this is important, I think) at different points in time.

Remember also that even a figure at complete rest, with a sleeping, neutral expression, is in a posture, and it's a living posture, not the attitude of a dead body (see yesterday's blogpost).

Making artwork come alive, with movement and, a little later in history, sound, is of course the province of the animated film. More on this later on.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Narrative Art, Part Two: "The Raft of the Medusa"

"The Raft of the Medusa" by Theodore Gericault. Photo from Wikipedia. One of my favorite paintings, hanging at the Louve.

First, a little background: in 1816 the French frigate Medusa ran aground off the coast of what is now Mauritania. The lifeboats could not carry everyone, so 147 passengers and crew were left to drift on a hastily constructed liferaft, which they endured for 13 days, suffering terrible hardships. Only 15 of the 147 survived the ordeal. The incident became an international scandal.

Gericault was a young painter (he was only 27 when he painted this) and the story of the tragedy fascinated him. He created this large, non-commissioned work by doing a lot of intense research, including interviewing two of the survivors, and went to morgues to learn about how he could best depict dead flesh. This painting caused an immediate sensation and helped launch his too-brief career.  Gericault died young at 32 but his reputation far outlasted him and he became one of the leading lights of French Romanticism.

Gericault went through many preparatory oil sketches in the design of this massive painting, as you can imagine - he wanted to get the design right and spent much time in the planning stages of this piece. But after he decided on a composition, he seems to have painted directly on the canvas without preparatory sketches:

[GĂ©ricault's method] astonished me as much as his intense industry. He painted directly on the white canvas, without rough sketch or any preparation of any sort, except for the firmly traced contours, and yet the solidity of the work was none the worse for it. I was struck by the keen attention with which he examined the model before touching brush to canvas. He seemed to proceed slowly, when in reality he executed very rapidly, placing one touch after the other in its place, rarely having to go over his work more than once. There was very little perceptible movement of his body or arms. His expression was perfectly calm ... 
Quote from Wikipedia.

One of the problems with this painting, by the way, is that Gericault used bitumen as one of his colors, which degrades over time to a kind of treacle, eventually destroying much of the painting. I've also heard that there is a problem with Gericault's white in this piece.

I'm including this painting in my narrative art series for many reasons, but first I want to point out that it segues from what I was talking about the other day. It's an example of changing the viewer's perspective to maximize impact for narrative purposes. When I talk about the viewer's perspective, I mean that this scene is painted as if the artist were standing on a boat just a little to the back and off to the right of the raft. This is not quite a bird's eye view, but it is a broad, omniscient view, and it might be interesting to contemplate how the artist could have swiveled this around a bit to portray this scene while facing the waving figure, for example, or perhaps a dying-person point of view from the raft. Both options would have changed the way we interpret this piece, though possibly in a subtle and hard to describe way. The way it is depicted here seems as if Gericault is not only making a statement about the horrors of this incident and the dramatic rescue of the few survivors, but that he is also making a statement about the perennial hope of mankind for some kind of rescue. You don't have to know a thing about the historical background of this massive work to be moved by it. It has a broader and more universal appeal.

I think that this painting also shows an internal, left to right sequencing, from the death and desolation on the left, through life and hope climaxing at the the top of the composition as the crewman frantically waves to the passing ship for help.

Gericault spent 18 months on this painting, working intensely. It obviously took over his life for a while, as you can imagine working on a painting this size (193.3 in. x 282.3 in., or, 16 feet x 23.5 feet). He was consumed by this painting. Gericault is one of my heros.

If you get to the Louve, there is a big bench in front of this painting where you can sit and gaze up at it, imagining yourself part of the raft, or maybe you can imagine yourself becoming Gericault for a time, trying to get this all down on this massive canvas.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Narrative Art, Part One: Sequencing

The concept of  narrative and sequencing in art is important (to me, anyway) and I'm going to have to break it down into several blog posts, so please bear with me, this is going to be... well, sequential.


Photo of Will Eisner, taken from Amazon's site about him.

Will Eisner (1917 -2005) was the author of the seminal book Comics and Sequential Art (that's the Amazon link to the book). Eisner was a genius and he broke new ground in trying to take a serious, scholarly look at the process of  telling a story that unfolds over time. Mr. Eisner taught for many years at New York's School of Visual Arts and  is famous among comic fans for his groundbreaking role in the comic industry, inventing The Spirit, Sheena, and other characters. Incidentally, one of my favorite novels, Michael Chaboun's The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, is reported to be based partially on the life of Will Eisner.

I'm primarily an easel painter but I'm fascinated by the concept of narrative in painting and the implications of the passage of time. Sequential art has prehistoric roots, encompassing such forms of expression as petroglyphs, Egyptian hieroglyphics and ancient friezes from many cultures. To a large degree, easel painting has evolved into an art form which depicts one moment selected from a long chain of potential moments. The unspoken assumption about easel painting is that the painted image is basically a moment in time, frozen so that we can go back and revisit that moment, if we chose to. Artists talk about the "timelessness" of certain moments, usually involving beauty. But comics and other forms of visual sequential art (the classic illustrated children's book is one form; movies are another) aren't about "timeless moments", because they function within time. They must not only build interesting visual patterns in a single frame but link each frame in a convincing fashion so that we are taken from image to image in the narrative.

Eisner wrote some interesting things about the concept of time and "framing time":

"Albert Einstein in his Special Theory (Relativity) states that time is not absolute but relative to the position of the observer. In essence the panel (or box) makes that postulate a reality for the comic book reader. The act of paneling or boxing the action not only defines its perimeters but establishes the position of the reader in relation to the scene and indicates the duration of the event." - Eiser, Comics and Sequential Art, p. 28

Eisner is thinking cinematically, not necessarily like an easel painter, who in a traditional sense sets up objects or people and works near them and tries to "capture" some element of reality. Eisner's not thinking, "how accurately can I paint this passage?", he's thinking, "is this what I want to portray in order to advance my narrative?"

He is, however, thinking about how to compose within the frame:

Eisner, Comics and Sequential Art, p. 88 (my scan)

He's thinking, how can I compose this panel to convey the emotion I'm trying to describe?

Eisner is also thinking in terms of perspective, but not really in the sense that easel painters think about perspective. He's trying to manipulate the viewer's orientation for a specific purpose:

Eisner, Comics and Sequential Art, p. 89 (my scan)

Even if you're not interested in narration or content in particular, simply by adjusting your point of view to another location in space changes everything you might want to convey to the viewer. As in everything else in life, what you see as an artist depends upon where you stand.

More on this later.

Friday, October 18, 2013

A Limbo Room for Artwork

Do you ever wonder where your paintings go when you are stumped about what to do next with them and they're not quite ready for exhibition or sale? They sneak out of your room at night and start living under the radar in my Limbo Room.

You'll never guess what I found Googling for "Limbo", a painting by a follower of my old friend, Hieronymous Bosch :






"Christ in Limbo" by Follower of Hieronymous Bosch, image taken from this Wikipedia source.

"Limbo" is a term used in the Roman Catholic Church for a place where one's soul goes if it isn't quite qualified for Heaven but isn't quite disqualified, either. You'll need to search around the internet for more information on the Church's position since frankly, I don't know it, and besides, I've already been told that my posts are too long and boring and all artists actually want to know is this: how did you mix that color? closely followed by the question,  how can I get into a good gallery?

By the way, getting into a good gallery is not actually the equivalent of your painting getting into Heaven. Getting your painting sold is the equivalent of getting your painting into Heaven.

Anyway, so there's your painting with something that makes it not quite ready for sale. Take a good hard look at your work in Limbo for a minute. What, in general, is going wrong there? Is the drawing off, the color garish, are there hopeless technical issues, is the concept too boring, or is the design weak or uninteresting? A lot of my own problem paintings are the result of insufficient planning before I start working on a painting. Sometimes parts of a painting can be salvaged, a portion isolated and restretched and saved.

 If you're a professional artist, you have to keep up your quality in a competitive economy, but you cannot afford to have too many paintings end up in Limbo. You'll run out of room, for one thing, and you'll go broke.

I was going to include a photo of my Limbo area but I've decided not to, it's too embarrassing. Meanwhile, I go into Limbo every few months and throw my weight around, throwing out hopeless paintings by pushing them into a funnel and making them swim in a foul black liquid (see above). It's a bad feeling to do that, especially if you've worked a long time on a piece, but it's necessary.

You might enjoy the version of Limbo Rock below, with a still-spry 72-yr. old Chubby Checker. (I couldn't find a decent video of him performing this song from the 60s.) You could play it as upbeat background music while you go and throw out a few paintings.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Project Board for Your Studio

Hope you can read the little signs above, it's a section of my Project Board. You're supposed to read the captions from left to right and then drop down a line, that's the sequencing of any given project, reading like a cartoon strip.

An artist is a business owner in the business of making some art. Unless you have a dedicated team or devoted supporters, you'll have to be the one to manage your paperwork and business matters. Things can easily get out of hand and you can quickly be swamped and disorganized, or you can do forgetful things like send out a painting before you photograph it. Worse, good ideas can get lost or forgotten.

Never lose track of the financial aspects of these things, you won't keep working full-time in the art world for very long if you do.

I'm a portrait painter as well as a gallery painter and teacher, so at times there are a lot of my different projects all up in the air at once, in various stages of completion. I can forget where I am with any given matter when things get really busy. I have a family that I'm supposed to keep track of, too, so believe me when I say that this project board has really helped me. This project board is a big bulletin board where I can see everything I'm supposed to be doing with my art life at a glance.

Right next to this block of little notes is another block for 'Portrait Projects' so there is a parallel universe taking place there, too. The portrait project board is a little more complicated because there are phone calls, sittings, etc.

On top of the two project boards, along the top of the board, I have a chronological chart with dates, showing the deadlines, guidelines and rules for shows I'm supposed to be in and contests I might want to enter. I also pin up flight information for shows I want to fly out to, or for portrait sittings.

When I write this all out sitting here at 5:00 am it sounds like my life is wildly exciting, doesn't it? That's pretty funny.

So let's say I have an idea about a painting... I give it a working title (or maybe I'll just describe the visual ) and pin it under the "concept" tag.



Projects move from left to right, so from here things go to "sketches, references, sizing" (where I will sketch out my idea, or maybe I might already have a sketch of that idea, it depends) and on down through the categories. Sometimes (that is to say, pretty often) ideas get stalled,  thrown out or derailed altogether. Projects can get stuck here for a long, long time. They also can get stuck in the "Work On Painting" slot.

See the label up there in the top photo titled "Upload Image to Artwork Archive"? I mentioned Artwork Archive a few months ago; it's a great way to check up on prices, sizes of paintings and where your painting is currently located. Don't laugh, if you do this for a long time, you'll need a system.

When my project board system is working properly, my dedicated production staff coordinates seamlessly with the Varnishing Department, the Photography Unit and the Shipping Division, all the way up to the asleep-at-the-switch Marketing Department, so that there is supposed to be a steady flow of paintings from mind to market, so to speak.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Keeping a Still Life Alive - "Gardenia on Her Side"



This is a small tip for you, but it might help. When painting flowers or vegetation, consider tubing up the flower to keep it blooming for an extra day or so. This is especially important if you have a flower sitting on a shelf or otherwise in limbo. Otherwise, you'll watch it die of thirst before your very eyes, often in a matter of hours, especially in the case of a fragile flower like the gardenia, above. It doesn't last very long even in the best of circumstances, though. You can get these tubes at any florists shop, I think.



"Gardenia on Her Side", oil, 6" x 18"


I had a couple of tubes on this painting above and took them off to paint the stems when the rest of the branches were fairly dead. Every so often these gardenias defeat me, though, and I have to finish the paintings off via photos. I had to do the petals on the white flower that way; I can usually replace the flower with others from my gardenia bush, but I was flat out of flowers for a while and was strapped. For about a month, my flowers on my gardenia bush either browned within minutes after picking or fell off before blooming.

The thing I like about working this way, though, is that there was never a moment when the scene in front of me looked exactly like this, using these exact plants. It's a kind of analog - it shares motifs with other similar plants, but never quite looks like what was there at any given point. It's a synthesis of similar stems and flowers at different time periods on my shelf in front of me. Maybe it's a distillation, a condensation, of gardenia-ish-ness.

This painting is on it's way up to Abend Gallery for the 2013 Holiday Miniatures Show.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Alumalite Panels, Option One: Preparing with Gesso and Acrylic


Quality Control Inspector, Alumalite Panel Production Unit (Gesso Division, Desert Sector) of Linda Tracey Brandon, PC, LLC, PLC.

I just completed my second large painting on an Alumalite panel and since I'm starting my third one, I thought I'd share my process of making them, using gesso and acrylic paint. You can always mount linen to Alumalite instead; I'll post later on about how to affix linen.

Alumalite is a product (like Dibond) in which two thin sheets of aluminum are bonded to a plastic core. Both are proprietary names and there are other brands and variations of this (such as Econolite, etc.) Dibond is sturdier, somewhat heavier and somewhat more expensive. Alumalite has a corregated plastic core and comes in various thickness. The sheets I order come in 4' x 8' sizes which I don't cut myself. Alumalite is just like its name, liteweight and can be dented, so watch out. It's not as fragile as something like foamcore but you can still damage it if you kneel on it or bash something against it. It's also hard to cut (so I'm told) so either find yourself somebody who can handle this for you (for all I know, that could be you, showoff) or ask the company that supplies it for you to make the cuts while you are also asking them to deliver it to you. Also, ask them to have their resident finicky neurosurgeon make the cuts so nobody will scratch it or make gouges in it. Don't make a huge order with anybody until you determine they are fussy enough for your taste.

Alumalite is very firm and will not flex, at least in the thickness I've been using, 1/4" (you can get other thicknesses). You won't need to brace it when you frame it. I haven't gone whole-hog and made the 4' x 8' size for a painting, though, so if you do that let me know if it will need bracing.

Alumalite comes with both sides coated with vinyl for delivery purposes. Remove the vinyl by stripping it off, that's pretty obvious.

Rough up the business side of the panel gently with sandpaper. Carefully sand any rough or sharp cut edges of  your panel. You probably don't need a power sander, just use sandpaper and a sanding block. I wipe off the panel afterward with an old wet towel.

Apply the gesso. I use Daniel Smith's stone gray acrylic gesso.




It's nice gesso, but I hate gesso. It's awful stuff, a hostile alien life form which wants to invade every orifice. If you drip it anywhere it will dry almost instantly, especially if you live in a desert environment, ruining everything since it will never wash out....! Wear plastic gloves, headgear, eye, mouth and ear protection too, if you have it!

Don't answer phone texts while working with gesso!

If possible, have one of your many lower-tier employees apply the gesso.



These big sponge brushes are fine for this part of it but they are badly made and always fall apart in the middle of a big job. Let this dry overnight, sand lightly the next day, wipe down with another old towel and repeat.

Man up, artist, because you are going to do the whole thing again but this time, you're going to apply coats of Golden's white acrylic paint. I decided to thin this a little with water and apply with a foam roller. I guess I could have used the foam roller with the gesso coats also, I just don't like to thin down the gesso very much, but you could do it. I'll probably skip the sponge with the gesso and just roll with the roller next time, it's just that my gesso dries so fast I wasn't sure I could do the whole panel, and I thought I might get a soft light spraying of gesso spatter on every possible surface, including me. I bought a super-soft roller so the coat was even with few ridges. After the coat with the foam roller, I sanded again very lightly by hand.

I wrapped up the foam roller in case I wanted to use it again for the next coat... but...


...I ended up using little makeup sponges for the last, final coat.  I wet the sponge with a little bit of water and it goes on nicely, but the sponges end up feeling like wet marshmallows, disintegrate  with use and need to be replaced often, so you'll go through several of them.

By this time your hourly employees have gone on strike and you're having to cross picket lines of angry masked protesters screaming and wielding broken beer bottles, nervously held back by riot police. So, by now you are doing it all by yourself. You should send this whole operation offshore! All this, for one lousy panel! You'll feel like drowning your sorrows with this sponge water by the time it's over, but don't do it.


The final thing to do is a light wet sanding. I used a block wrapped in wet/dry sandpaper for this.

My gesso/acrylic preparation process is basically what David Kassan does with his aluminum panels, unless he's changed his process. The Stone/Gluck team over on Painting Stuff to Look Like Stuff are also painting on aluminum substrates and have recently described their process as well - both links are on the right side of this page, be sure to click over there on both sites for more info.




Monday, October 14, 2013

Paul Foxton on "Learning to See" and "Creative Triggers"

For a few years now, my artist friend Paul Foxton has had a site (and now he has two sites) devoted to helping artists learn to teach themselves traditional representational art techniques. His first site, "Learning to See", (see link below)  is about his own journey; his second site, Creative Triggers is his own web course on drawing, designed to teach and support other artists around the world.

Paul is an excellent, patient, calm and articulate teacher and delivers a ton of useful information, encouragement and guidance. Creative Triggers is a membership website encouraging people to become skilled in traditional drawing techniques by practicing in a lively internet community of artists.

Yesterday, Paul posted a moving commentary on the state of art education, particularly in Great Britian. He shares his journey with us about how he has had to teach himself basic methods, the road to getting where he is now and why he has created Creative Triggers. I have enormous respect for him and what he's doing on the internet.

You can catch up on what he has to say (and wish him a happy belated birthday, too) through this link on "Learning to See".




Saturday, October 12, 2013

"Phoenix in the Distance"

"Phoenix in the Distance", 8" x 14"

Painted on site at Echo Canyon, before they closed it off. What is going on there these days, anyway? The trail has gotten too busy, I guess. It's a shame.

One of the extraordinary things about Phoenix is the collection of city mountain trail parks. When I first moved here I hiked the Echo Canyon trail several times a week (yes, to the top, or usually to the top, you scoffers) and developed a massive superhero physique. (Something like that doesn't stand out in Phoenix, though, since there seem to be thousands of people with superhero physiques here, I think they are all drifting over from California or something.) I've had to cut this mountain training stuff out, though and I don't have these superpowers anymore, but I can still make it up to some of these rocky outcroppings with my painting gear.

This painting will be at the Scottsdale Artists' School annual fundraising Beaux Arts Bash, held this year on Nov. 9th, 2013. The bash is a wonderful way to help out the school and purchase work from contributing artists. Many of the artists who teach in Scottsdale donate art to the school for the fundraiser and so you'll have the chance to buy work from many of your favorite workshop and weekly teachers. Information about the sale is at the school website.

The party is fun and the sale is exciting. There's also the kind of friendly glee that can only come from a city populated by Midwesterners from places like Chicago, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota or Michigan, people who are still dazed with happiness and gratitude over the splendid Valley fall weather and by no longer rolling their cars in midnight icestorms on the I-94.


Friday, October 11, 2013

"The Garden of Earthly Delights"


"The Garden of Earthly Delights," Hieronymous Bosch, triptych on oak panels. Created sometime between 1490 and 1510.

A hi-res version of the above is available on this link to the Prado Museum.

Remember when...
...You were a teenager and you decided to take the Third Class Radiotelegraph Operator's License, which was required by the FCC to turn radio stations on in the mornings and off at night, because you figured this would increase the chances of being hired in broadcasting so you could someday have a job other than being a waitress, so you learned enough math to take the test and - quite incredibly - pass it, and years later you wondered why you ever let the License lapse because it would add a certain panache and possible suggestion of math skills to your current resume, but meanwhile, you had to get to somewhere in inner-city Detroit to take this test, so you got up at three or four o'clock in the achingly bleak cold to be driven there to be at the test on time, and you took the brain-shattering test, one of many such brain-blasting efforts you would make in your lifetime, by the way, only to muse much later that the acidity and quantity of brain-eating tests are probably the reasons you love to write periodic run-on blog sentences even though you know it is not funny to most readers and very wrong in a grammatical sense, not to mention a bad example to other writers, and after the FCC test you decided that, it being around 9:00 a.m. and you were too revved-up to eat anything, you would go and reward yourself by seeing a first-run movie in a big-city theater, so you happily settled into the 8th row center in front of the massive, pre-multiplex cinema movie screen because there was, excitingly, practically nobody else there and, in the dark, freezing, hollow, desolate vastness of the cavernous echoing theater, in a city that was in its own slow slide into despairing, decaying ruin...  you got to see the brand- new movie.... The Exorcist. 



ATTENTION to scary-movie avoiders: you can just skip this. You don't have to watch anything just because it's there.

If you weren't around when this movie first came out, you can't grasp the sensation this movie made on a surprised public. To see a young girl suffering on screen was itself enormously shocking, not to mention all that Hell and demonic possession business.

And by the way, while I'm on the subject of this movie, am I the only one who thought that the little weird orange statue of the creepy bird monster moved around mysteriously in the movie all by itself and nobody noticed or commented on it? Was that a set continuity glitch or was it part of the plot? If you've seen this movie recently let me know what you think, because I'm not watching it again.

To further the line of thought in the above paragraph, the concept that all matter is alive is called Hylozoism.  Tell me you didn't consider this possibility as a child. Now, there's a scary concept to explore! Stop chewing on the end of your pencil, your pencil hates that!

I'm writing all this because I'm trying to set you up psychologically for Heironymous Bosch's "The Garden of Earthly Delights". I first encountered the third panel in an art book in my youth and so for years I thought the whole piece consisted of the single panel, Hell. (This was back when you couldn't get information about anything on the internet and so one would stumble innocently upon something strange and wonder to yourself, what the heck....?) I'm embarrassed to say that it was many years before I figured out there were two other panels to this iconic work.  The first panel depicts Paradise, the center panel represents the Garden of life's pleasures, and the third panel, as I said, is Hell.

Please note that even in Paradise, animals are gleefully eating other animals and tearing them to pieces, so in Bosch's mind, death and eating animals was always part of God's master plan. If I ran the cosmic Zoo, that is not really what I would do, but that's another blog post.

But Hell! That's where Bosch has let his imagination soar, or sink, or however you want to call it.


Detail of right panel, "Hell", of "The Garden of Earthly Delights", taken from this Wikipedia discussion of the painting.  Maybe it's not such a good idea to look at these images too closely right before you go to bed.

One interesting thing about this imagery is that Bosch has kept the scale of the fantastic in proper proportions so that it seems more visually credible. For example, the musical instruments are gigantic in Hell, but they are painted in detailed accuracy and in correct scale with one another.





This is the particular closeup of Hell (again, taken from the Wiki link for the discussion of this painting) that has stayed in my own mind all these years.It may have been that ghastly face that pulled me in,  perhaps that gaze is a magnet that pulls us into the painting, that makes us take a closer look.

There has been lots of analysis by scholars on this haunting painting and of course, modern eyes see this painting very differently than the medieval mind.(If you're interested in medieval theology and Netherlandish art, be sure to read about the subject more fully in online sources, it's interesting.) This work still possesses the power to appeal to our emotions, though, and I'm pretty sure there are an awful lot of people today that don't react to this panel on a purely scholarly level. They are thinking more along the lines of... please God, have mercy, spare me this end.

I don't want to want to delve too deeply about religious belief and the power of fear on this blog, although it's an interesting topic, isn't it? The point that I want to make today is that art can contain the power to shake us up, to make us stop and think about our own lives, to possibly even change our ways. Movies have supplanted the stationary visual image in their power to shape public culture. Where does this leave painting?

I think that painting still has the capacity for being more than a color coordinated decoration for the walls, an object for intellectual examination or an investment that we may someday recoup or leave to our heirs. It can inspire us, or make us quake in fear. There is an intellectual aspect and an aesthetic aspect to artwork but the key is the emotional impact, which resonates differently in each of us.

A great painting is a memorable painting, an tenacious image that gets placed in your brain.  The key to great artwork is that you can revisit it again and again to look and think about it, according to your own personal time frame and desires. It's a synergistic combination of content, technique, and viewer participation and understanding. (By the way, did you know that there is a theological doctrine of synergism? It involves the idea that salvation involves some sort of mutual cooperation between human freedom and the divine. I suppose that's what the concept of "grace" might be about. Perhaps it's as if someone throws you a ladder to salvation but you are the one who climbs up, or not, as you choose. Hmmm.)

A great painting is a silent portal with the thinnest of membranes. It's a portal that you can move in and out of, or not at all, as you wish. You can linger for a moment, for hours, or not at all. Time is yours to control. In this Bosch painting, you are welcomed to get a glimpse of an artist's idea of Hell. The good news is that you don't have to spend eternity there - you can take your eyes away any time you want to. I'll address this concept of imagery and frozen time later on in this blog. I think I need to think this through more fully.






Thursday, October 10, 2013

Gluing Linen to Panels

Sometimes I paint on linen taped to boards. I often do this when I'm sketching or going to an open studio where I might not want to spend my time and money stretching linen or using a good panel in case my work ends up being something I might not want to save. You could tape your linen to foamcore to lighten the weight of panels when you head out to paint the landscape (thank you, Alex Tyng).

Another reason to do alla prima work on a taped-down piece of linen is that I don't always get the composition exactly the way I want it. For example, if I'm painting a profile, I'll want to put the head on the canvas so that there is plenty of "looking space" in the direction where the sitter is looking. It's annoying to be two hours into a portrait head study and find out you should have moved the head an inch or so to the right. This kind of thing drives me crazy. I hate not getting the design right on the canvas! I often start the whole thing over if that happens.

So, let's say you have a painting on a piece of linen and you want to glue it to a panel. Measure out the dimensions on the linen and then cut around the piece - give yourself an inch or so for the final cut, don't cut the piece exactly to the size of the board and then try to glue it down so the edges match, it will drive you insane.


 Piece of masonite (I think this might be Ampersand board) on the left, linen on the right, on top of a scrap board so I don't carve into my nice table.

I put matte acrylic medium on a sponge and I wipe it on both the board and the back of the linen. Then I put the jelly side of the board to the jelly side of the linen. I push down with my hands and then I flip the jelly sandwich over.

My skull is stolen from the novel Lord of the Flies, by William Golding. Not to be confused with the novel (and movie) The Lord of the Rings  by J. R. Tolkien, which is another thing entirely. This is not my own skull, either, I have more of an overbite.


I flip the painting over and put tissue paper on top of the paint. Then I roll the painting with a rubber brayer, being careful around any impasto areas. 

Then I flip the whole thing over again and put heavy books on top to weigh it all down overnight, so it's a little like salt-and-dill-cured gravlax, if you've ever made that. I always hope that some osmosis will take place and some art wisdom will seep down into my paintings. As you can see below, in this case I had a book about Sorolla and one by Vincent Desiderio. I recommend both of these books to read, not just for pressing.


Let your sandwich dry overnight and then you're ready for the final trim with a sharp x-acto blade. Be careful! 

Sometimes I wrap these boards like tidy packages, with neat little hospital corners, but it's much more sticky and fiddly. If you have had the foresight to see if the board fits into your frame properly, you may need to add the tiny bit of fabric afforded by the fold. Framemakers are maddeningly non-uniform in their ideas of what constitutes a proper size frame for, say, a 20 x 16 painting, one of my favorite sizes. One of the bad things that can happen is that the whole belabored board and linen sandwich is too big for your too-tight frame, and like Cinderella's evil stepsisters on confronting that ridiculous glass Barbie shoe, you'll be forced to make a Solomonic judgment on what to do about it.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Kickstarter Project: The Miira View Frame

I love the idea of a couple of determined artists getting together to create a product that is useful to artists and will create work for local people. If you haven't used Kickstarter before, I recommend you take a look to see all the dreams that are out there and see if you can do something to help projects you can wrap your head around.

I don't know these artists, but I think their idea - a plastic viewfinder with magnetic grids - would be an extremely useful tool. I would like to think that somewhere a covey of earnest, thoughtful children will be finding angles with magnets and squinting down.

This company is also developing an iphone app that does the same thing. I will probably get one of these too but I think it is a good idea to put the plastic grids into production. I think I'd rather use the plastic grid during the course of planning a painting.

A lot of artists begin their paintings by developing some kind of compositional gridding system to help them plan the design of the picture plane, in addition to a means to find angles, copy subjects to scale or drawings scaled up to transfer to the canvas. That's the subject of a later post, I guess.

If you think of Oklahoma as a vague fly-over state, it's a state filled with very nice people who have to put up with tornadoes, weather extremes and people bursting into that song "Ohhhk-lahoma" who only know the first line of the song.

Here's the video for the Miira View Frame (their website is here) - please fund this because I would really like to own one of these!




Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Clamps and Palettes


There's so much good technical information about oil painting on the internet right now that it's hard to come up with new or useful ideas to share with other artists, but I'll share a few things I do just in case it's new to anybody and might help. Also, I have stolen ideas from a lot of other artists, so apologies if I have stolen an idea from you and forget to credit you and besides, you probably stole it yourself from somebody, didn't you?

 I should clean this palette up a little before I post it, but here you have it as I used it yesterday. Usually I have a primitive painting string set up, with three to five values of a color per blob, so this palette is exceptionally messy, even for me.

Frequently I like to move a palette to the painting while I work on small passages, taking the mountain to Mohammed, so to speak. Clamping the palette to the easel works well for me. Here I'm using a double-hinged Manfrotto clamp, available at friendly internet mega photo stores everywhere.


You can also do this with a larger palette but you'll probably need a couple of clamps. The big benefit to this method is that you have your palette and your painting in the same light. It also helps the mind skip easily from the painting to the palette when you're trying to manage subtle passages in modelling, for example, and keeps the mind from skipping to other thoughts, such as, "peanut butter again for lunch?" . My paints are not usually very runny but if they are, you can put a piece of duct tape along the bottom ridge of the palette to keep paint from sliding onto your shoes or your floor. (Speaking of floors, I paint while standing on a rubber mat. It makes a big difference to do that when you are standing for several hours.)

(As while as I'm digressing, I might as well mention that I have a cuckoo clock that goes off, as they tend to do, every hour. This signals me that I should walk around, have some water, do some pushups, check Facebook - just kidding, don't check Facebook! -  use that noise as a signal to get away from your painting for a little bit and look at it afresh. If you're going down the wrong path it's better to know sooner rather than later. If you don't have a cuckoo clock, use a timer. I don't have a real cuckoo clock, it's a little plastic clock where a car comes out of a tunnel and beeps. I use timers for a lot of things since I tend to get too focused on working and then I forget to do all the other things I'm supposed to do.)

Clamping your palette keeps your left hand free-ish (I'm right handed so I have a brush in my right hand). I have a glove on my left hand and it's usually holding a scrap of towelling. I still bump into my palette when I lean over it to noodle around on the painting, but I'm getting better at this.

The shiny glob on the palette is Oleogel, a terrific medium by Natural Pigments and discussed at length by the wonderful Kate Stone at Painting Stuff to Look Like Stuff. I buy mine in a can and then tube it, it's cheaper that way. One of the good things about Oleogel is that it won't run down a tilted palette and stays happily in its glob shape until you need it.

Monday, October 7, 2013

"Vanishing Point", a Book on Perspective by Jason Cheeseman-Meyer


Front cover of  "Vanishing Point: Perspective for Comics From the Ground Up", by Jason Cheeseman-Meyer. The book from Amazon is available here.

This is a terrific book for all artists, not just the ones interested in comic book illustration or animation. Cheeseman-Meyer's instructions are clear and easy to follow for all artists, including ones like myself who need to be led kicking and screaming through subjects involving terms like "diagonal bisecting lines".

And by the way, I have a nice collection of animation and cartooning books in my art library, not as many as in my fine art book collection, but enough to make me opinionated about artists needing to know at least some of the elements of "illustration" in their art training. It all depends on what you will need to say in your art - you'll need to find the technical tools to help you say it.

Cheeseman-Meyer is conversational and excellent at explaining things like cone of vision, where to put the horizon line and vanishing points. He tackles many concepts, including the straightforward ones like ellipses.



I hope you can read these pages, they're from my scanner.

The artist moves on to include some dazzling concepts which one prays one will not be tested on, such as five-point perspective (don't worry, he builds up to this page in very convincing fashion):


Please go onto Amazon and read the reviews of this book. Many of the reviewers seem to be cartoonists and illustrators who use these concepts all the time and really know what they're talking about.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Are You the Artist or Are You the Muse?


This ad was in a magazine that landed in my mailbox. If you can't read the typeface, it says,

"Introducing
Modern Muse
Be an Inspiration".

I blocked out the name of the company because  I'll never forgive the company for creating Youth Dew. If somebody gets on an elevator I'm riding in with Youth Dew applied as her perfume, I have to get off at the next floor or I'm sick to my stomach. It's like an airborne ipecac syrup.  I think Youth Dew is an ingredient in chemical weapons.

I think that the intent of this ad is to imply to women that if they use Modern Muse perfume, they will appeal to an artist (maybe not visual artists, but some kind of creative person) and be remembered as the mesmerizing woman who inspired great art, music, a riveting reality TV series or maybe a new designer handbag.

I love to paint women and I love people who smell nice - and I'd like to smell nice, too -  but I think the women who are tempted by this ad into buying this perfume don't want to attract artists like me, they want to attract and inspire the male artist. Don't you think this ad implies that a beautiful, fragrant woman might inspire a male artist?

Let's look at this another way. Imagine another magazine ad, with a sexy man anointing himself with, oh, I don't know, say, Modern Macho Muse.  The copy says "Introducing Modern Macho Muse, Be an Inspiration". It's not going to fly. I'm a figurative painter, so is there a man out there trying to inspire women artists like me? Okay, let's not talk about me, let's say, women artists who are around 20 years old and look like supermodels? Maybe, but I think men are encouraged by society to be the creator, the mover and the shaker, the money-maker, not the muse.

Muses often don't end well, historically speaking. I think there are a few books about that subject out there. Of course, artists often don't end well, historically, either. Shhh! tell no one.

Of course, a woman can always just inspire herself. When I look around at the representational art world, more and more I'm seeing women artists using themselves as their own models and muses in their paintings. This saves a lot of money on model fees, for one thing. I also think it intrigues collectors, especially if the artist is attractive and intelligent. I think it is a terrific idea to do this, a talented woman artist should take control of her own image and explore the range of expression that she possesses.

It gets a little more complicated as the artist ages. Then you have something like this going on, in this self-portrait by Alice Neel:

"Self Portrait". Alice Neel, image from here.

I have some complicated feelings about the portrait above. It's a powerful painting, but as I said, I have complicated feelings about it.  I'll go into this and the subject of placing yourself in paintings in a later blogpost, I think.

Back to the perfume ad! What bothers me about this ad is that women in their fantasies are still being encouraged to be the passive thing that sits there looking pretty instead of the active, creative thing that paints her. Even worse, the marketing people at  The-Company-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named thinks this is "Modern". Surely we can do better than that.


Saturday, October 5, 2013

"Narrative and Fantasy in Imagined Spaces" - Article about Artist Julie Heffernan



"Self Portrait as Broken Dishes"  by Julie Heffernan  Oil, 74" x 68". Image from PPOW Gallery.


I'm finally getting around to posting my article on the brilliant artist Julie Heffernan. This was published in the Portrait Society of America Journal (Issue no. 56) a few months ago.

I've been a fan of Ms. Heffernan for many years and her work takes my breath away. The first time I saw one of her paintings was at the Armory Show in New York City a few years ago. It was a large painting and I stood before it with my mouth open for a while.

She is a wonderfully articulate artist and is fascinating to talk to. She has so many thought-provoking ideas about the mind of the artist, visual connection and communication. I encourage you to search out her various interviews on the internet if her work interests you.


 "Self-Portrait as Talking Stones" by Julie Heffernan. Oil, 72" x 68". Image from PPOW Gallery.



A photograph of Ms. Heffernan. Image from this site.

The artist has a new show opening soon at PPOW Gallery in New York; more information can be viewed here.


I'm reprinting the body of my PSA article below:


Julie Heffernan - Narrative and Fantasy in Imagined Spaces

By Linda Tracey Brandon

A woman stands in a forest in an extraordinary gown made of dead rabbits, deer and other game. A willowy young man climbs a tree consisting of limbs with sawed-off branches, visited by curious bird life. The world of Julie Heffernan is teeming - with life, with objects, with allegory and with mystery. Her world is simultaneously whimsical and troubling, surreal yet bizarrely and lushly stylized. Her work is original and personal with a distinctly individual viewpoint, and it brings to mind such masters as Brueghel and Bosch with strange beings in surreal spaces.

The Brooklyn, N.Y.-based artist was born in 1956 and received her MFA from Yale University. Heffernan is currently the program head of the BFA in Studio Art at Montclair State university in New Jersey and has received a number of awards in her career, including a Lila Acheson Wallace award, a New York Foundation for the Arts award, a grant from the national Endowment for the Arts, and the Fulbright-Hayes Grant.

Her work is in one sense a reaction against the Minimalism of the 1970's art world. The viewer sense that Heffernan is producing visual messages in a highly personal way, to be recieved on both personal and cultural levels. "I needed to re-engage the emotions in art, and eventually went my own way, going forward by looking  back to the long history of imagery that was still as ripe and potent as ever to me - the golden persimmons of Spanish Still Life Painting, the skirts of Ter Borch, the wigs of las Menihas. Seen through the lens of feminism those early paintings had an erotic charge that I mined for my own purposes," says Heffernan. She is interested in how artists communicate through time and space through imagery and she wanted to be one of those artists who engaged with viewers, intellectually and emotionally. "I really think it's an ongoing conversation across time and there are artists you want to talk to, who talk back to you, as opposed to those who don't."

The images, tokens and symbols in Heffernan's work are integral to the design of her work. They are not randomly placed. Yet, they are most often a product of what she describes as "image streaming", images seen in a half-wakeful state of mind. "These images are a breed unto themselves; not fantasies, or dreams, or daydreams, but like someone else's movie that you happen to be watching. I really don't know what these pictures have to do with my own psychology, but it's fun to watch them roll." Heffernan's process is narrative and cinematic in the sense that a drama unfolds as she is working on the painting.

Her work is representational (though not "realistic") and highly imaginative. Her working method consists of having an idea for a painting and then after an initial preliminary sketch, she starts painting on the canvas, letting her imagination take over. Heffernan calls this "Image Streaming":, which she first became aware of during her Fulbright year at Yale University School of Art. In image streaming, one starts with an image and allows the mind to open and let images flood in, in a waking sleep, following the story of the painting much as a novelist might allow a storyline to develop or an animator working from a storyboard. She doesn't plot out the theme before hand but since she works large, she gets lost in the created world as she works on the canvas.



 "Budding Boy" 78 x 56, image from PPOW Gallery

Heffernan says of her work "Budding Boy" (2010) , a young man in a tree holding a mysterious sphere: "I'll sketch in the first incarnation of 'guy in tree' and then it unspools over time - if I'm lucky - the reason he's in the tree, what he's doing in the tree, how he feels in the tree... Just everything that is the story then happens, and I do the thing like a writer does, the visual equivalent of listening for the voices." "Source follows the idea," says Heffernan. In other words, she isn't a slave to her source material and allows herself to transform images as she pleases and as the needs of her painting dictates. On the other hand, she regards structure - flat and spatial design - to be paramount to her work. Her figures inhabit landscapes that mirror the interior world of the subjects within them. Recent themes reflect her deep concern for the future of our planet and the welfare of the next generations of life.

"If I'm lucky," says Heffernan, "I'll unearth a deeper story in the process of painting than the one I started with, one that contains a secret within it, which takes me to a more complex level of understanding. Secrets occur in painting where imagery gives way to moments of felt touch, an odd detail, particularized nodal points that conjure up an awareness of a deeper level of intention. The experience reminds me of the ancient Greek theory of vision, conceived as a kind of effluvium emanating from the pupil that reaches out and touches the object of vision with "psychopodia", or mind fingers. This kind of felt touch happens with the recognition of a secret in a painting. We are, all of a sudden, touching inside ourselves, linked for an instant both to our own subconscious experience and to the mind of the artist through its painted corollary buried somewhere in the painting... It is an opening."

Friday, October 4, 2013

"Stocks and Butter Knife"

"Stocks and Butter Knife", 20" Tondo

This painting reflects my interest in William Nicholson's still life paintings and compositions.  I wrote a post or two about him a while ago, see here.

I paint a lot of still lifes (still lives? does anybody out there know the correct plural of this?) and I've put many of them on circular panels. To my mind, this format implies either of two things: 1. spiritualism and the timeless, or time-based and circular, universe, or 2. intense concentration or focus, such as using binoculars.

I'm interested in using shadows as devices in composition as well as making a statement about form moving in and out of the light. All those edges in the painting are compositional devices as well.

Just looking at this painting brings back the memory of having all those stocks in the room while I was painting them and being close to them for a long time. Those are big heavy blooms on those stalks. (Actually, those are called "panicles". I can't believe I still remember that from Botany 101. I like knowing the names of things, I should warn you about this if this is the first time you're reading this blog.)

The panicles seem to keep growing with time as flowers open up and start to weigh down the top part of the stem. This causes the shadows to shift and if you're not quick about it, the whole mass shifts and you'll have to re-do the painting. One of these panicles grew out toward my direction and so I've painted it with more texture and opaque paint, one of the technical ways to show closer relative distance in traditional painting techniques. I'm not sure you can see this in the photo, though.

The closest item to the viewer is the butter knife and this is where I've reserved my thickest paint. I really liked putting it a little off the edge of the shelf here - it's an often-used device in representational painting to show space and distance in the painting plane.

Have you ever smelled stocks? They're sweet and powerful, one of those smells that you either love or you hate. Somebody brought me a bundle of them long ago when I was home trying to recuperate from a hospital stay. I was in bad shape and couldn't leave the room much so that smell really stays in my memory. But oddly, I don't associate the smell with any bad feelings, I associate the smell with being cared for and special. Smell is an odd sense, isn't it? Primitive, really, you can try to educate it and tell it to behave itself, but it's the mysterious wild child of your senses.




Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Studio Mannequins

Every so often when I'm online I see wonderful old art studio mannequins. Here are three from an internet website for antiques and collectibles, www.susanwalter.com:




I don't own these, but I have two serviceable ones - Nelson and Caspar. Nelson's primary charm is that I made him myself.

Nelson is splint into two entities, Full Nelson and Half Nelson. I just have Half  Nelson set up at the moment, but you'll get the drift here:




Half Nelson is a pair of long underwear bottoms stuffed with old T-shirts. He's further supported by dowels to help him sit up straighter. He's what I use when I want to paint clothing like skirts or pants from life and the model or client has left for the day. Full Nelson is more of the same, wherein I stuff the top part of the long underwear with rags and dowels, bending the elbows as need be.

The benefit of these mannequins is that they are cheap to make and if you have a sudden reversal of fortune, you'll have a bonanza of old t-shirts to pull out and wear. There are lots of internet sites that show you how to cut up and rip t-shirts so they look more fashionable, too, though I'm not sure I personally could pull this off with panache.

Here's Caspar, my other (somewhat) posable mannequin. When I bought her she was one of the few affordable ones I could find, but a quick Google search has revealed a lot more of them out there now, with heads and more realism. Still, she does the job and hangs from a metal loop to give her some extra height. A pity that she can't sit. Caspar is dressed for my latest large painting which is nearly done.