Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Opening this Friday, Nov. 14th at NYC's Salamagundi Club: "Today's Portraits"

I'm delighted to say that my painting "Maddie" will be displayed at a show opening this week at the historic Salamagundi Club in New York.

"Today's Portraits: Emerging Artists & Leading Masters" is presented by Portraits Inc. - the opening reception is this Friday, Nov. 14th, 6:00 - 8:00pm. A portrait roundtable discussion will be held Nov. 20th from 6:00 to 8:00 and the show closes that same evening. For more information, please visit the Portraits Inc. website.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

3-Day Workshop at Scottsdale Artists' School: Painting the Portrait Figure

Portrait of Theodore Roosevelt, John Singer Sargent, 1903. Image from here.

Even if you had no idea who the man in this painting was (and for all I know, you might not) you'd have some opinions about him based on how the artist has composed this painting.  The hand on the hip, the other hand gripping the finial, the bold stance - all this indicates determination and a powerful  personality. Sargent is remembered not only for his virtuoso technique, but also for his ability to indicate personality in his portrait and figurative work through gesture and setting.

Knowing how to use body language to artistic advantage in a painting is important to any figurative artist, whether or not one intends to paint portraits.

I'm teaching a 3-day workshop in October which will explore aspects of constructing a figurative painting or portrait to reflect the subject's characteristics through the use of body language and composition. We'll work on a fairly large canvas so that we can include the subject's posture and at least the hands, which can incredibly expressive of character. We'll be working with the same model throughout the workshop, so we'll have plenty of time to discuss subjects such as lighting, pose and clothing.  I taught this class a few years ago and it was great fun.

"Character Reveals Itself: Painting the Portrait Figure"
October 17th - October 19th, 2014
Friday, Saturday, Sunday
9:00 - 4:00

There are still some openings for the workshop - please contact Scottsdale Artists' School for more information.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Two Shows Opening at Principle Galleries this Weekend: WPW in Charleston and Pay It Forward in Alexandria

I've got paintings in two shows out East that open this Friday, September 7th. The shows are held at Principle Gallery's two locations - thank you to the good people at Principle Gallery for setting this up!

I've shown with many members of the Women Painting Women group before and you'll find references to that group in a quick search of this blog. It is always so interesting and it's terrific to meet so many wonderfully gifted artists. Both show openings should be great fun. Clicking on the Galleries' sites will give you more information about the basis for the shows, the times of the openings and the artists who are included.

The first show is "Women Painting Women" at Principle Gallery Charleston. My painting "Whispering" (oil, 16" x 12") is shown below:

Here's a video (which includes this painting) featuring gallery director Carri Schwab talking about the show, recently aired by the ABC TV affiliate in Charleston:


The second show is "Pay It Forward" at Principle Gallery Alexandria. My painting "Mixed Bouquet" (oil, 12" x 12") is pictured below:

If you're like me and you can't make it to the shows (which is depressing me tonight, since I'd love to be there) please think about buying the catalogs for the shows, available at Matter Deep Publishing.

Here's the link to the Women Painting Women catalog ... and here's the link to the Pay It Forward catalog.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

A blog post by Michael Gormley and Portraits Inc. about "Maddie in the Act of Painting"

I was really lucky this week to be interviewed by Michael Gormley for this Portraits Inc. blogpost about my recent First Place award at the Butler Institute of American Art's 2014 Midyear Exhibition. Thanks so much, Michael and also Julia Baughman at Portraits Inc.!

Here's the link to the Portrait's Inc. blog:


I've got some photos of the exhibition at the Butler museum on my blog here.

Monday, July 28, 2014

First Place Award, 2014 Butler Institute of American Art's 78th Midyear Exhibition - "Maddie in the Act of Painting"

I'm very proud to post that yesterday my painting "Maddie in the Act of Painting" was awarded First Place at the 2014 Butler Institute of American Art's 78th Midyear Exhibition in Youngstown, Ohio. I really regret not being able to make it there for the awards ceremony on July 27th. The wonderful Leslie Adams, who also won an award at the Midyear this year, took six of the photos included below and generously called my studio phone in Arizona on Sunday afternoon to tell me the good news. Thank you again, Leslie!

"Maddie" is 12" x 12", oil on linen mounted to panel.

My painting on the right side of the doorway.

Shot of the hallway showing the light that comes from above.

Leslie's fantastic drawing that won the Honorable Mention.

My friend Alex Tyng had this wonderful painting, "The Unseen Aspect", in the show.

This is a beautiful museum! So many beautiful paintings in this show! So many artists creating such remarkable work, I'm proud to be included in this show.

And this is what the Butler Institute of Fine Arts looks like from the outside (I found this photo online). Lucky Ohioans!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

My Fountain Pens

I don't really use fountain pens in the course of my oil painting day, but I'm a compulsive sketcher and note-taker and I'm a fountain pen nerd. Yep, a fountain pen is archaic and it's really pretty silly to collect them, but I wish I had more of these pens. Writing with a fountain pen is a sensual experience, like drinking tea from a real bone china tea cup instead of a stained, chipped mug, not that I don't drink out of stained, chipped mugs all the time. I believe in maximizing small pleasures in life, if at all possible. At least I'm not a snob about expensive pens, as you'll see when you read this.

By the way, there are hundreds of fountain pen/ pencil fan websites and blogs on the internet. If you do a quick blog search you'll come up with a lot of people who are passionate about writing instruments. I guess there are niches for all the myriad obsessions you can imagine, from live-bearing tropical fish to stiletto shoes.  I'm sure I would have a wider readership if I were a stiletto shoe blogger.

Anyway, here are the fountain pens I own at the moment:

Noodler's Ink is a wonderful American company. They make tons of different inks, mostly with weird names and their boxes and labels have arty and fun, funky artwork. Some of the inks from this "boutique" company have come under fire for various reasons, but I'm enjoying the inks so far. They also make terrific pens. I own two - the first is the Ahab Flex Nib (loaded with an apricot ink, either Sailor  or J. Herbin "Orange Indien", I can't remember, sorry. ) I was a little grumpy about the flex nib when I first got it since I thought it was scratchy and slow, but I like it much better now that I've used it a bit. The Ahab Flex pen is made of resin and isn't very expensive at $20.00. I want another one for Christmas.

My second Noodler's Ink pen is free with the purchase of a big bottle of "Heart of Darkness" Eternal Black Noodler's Ink. I'm going to buy ink from Noodler's in part because of the names of the inks. Don't you just love being able to say, "I'll have some of that Heart of Darkness, please!" And definitely a bargain; I got it from Amazon, I think. It doesn't have a plunge mechanism since you're supposed to fill it up with the eyedropper contained in the ink bottle. This pen writes well but it has a bump (an O-ring here?) where you hold it, which I don't like. The bump seems to be common in the fountain pen universe when the cap clicks onto the pen to close it, so if you are essentially anti-bump, see if you can find pens with twist-on-and-off caps. The pen comes with a ballpoint nib which I haven't yet tried out.

Edit: I've destroyed this pen by tinkering with the rubber O-ring. It leaks and makes a huge mess.  It probably not the pen's fault, but there you have it. It's put away until I can figure out what to do with it next.

This is the TWSBI Diamond 580 with an EF nib. I love this TWSBI - and yes, it's more expensive than the Noodler Ahab. It might have been around $50 or $60 and is made in Japan, a country that truly does seem to be crazy about pens and pencils. It feels wonderful and elegant in your hand; I feel like an adult when I hold it. I have a real fondness for these "demonstrator" fountain pens. Since they have clear bodies, you can tell what color ink is in there and how much you have left. It has a very elegant red design on the end of the cap and writes like the Dickens. I have a Noodler's Ink brown ink in there right now.

The Pelican Pura is probably the most expensive fountain pen I own. I bought it during a visit to Montreal for the Waterhouse show at the Montreal art museum a few winters ago. I spent a long time lingering in an underground pen store and ended up buying this. It's a really nice, elegant pen and writes well. I usually use a syringe to fill it up with ink in it's original cartridge. It has a ridge (no O-ring, just a ridge) where the cap clips onto the grip that bothers the callous on my right middle finger. Such a whiny fussbudget. Also, the metal of the pen is cold and feels... well, metallic.

This is another great deal of a fountain pen, costing around $12 or $15, the Pelikano Junior. I've read that it's made for schoolchildren in Europe who are learning to write so that they will learn to appreciate the feel of a elegant writing instrument while learning fine motor skills. What are the chances something encouraging like that will happen in the USA? Let's not even speculate. Think about getting one of these for a budding writer. I love the chubby rubbery grip and the sturdy feel of the design. Look, Mom, no clip!

Update: I accidentally stepped on the blue cap and cracked it. I tried gluing the crack but it still didn't make an airtight seal so the nib was always dried out. This pen is now in the Retired Pens Home for Assisted Living. If you have an extra Pelikano Junior cap, email me, because I really like this pen and don't want to toss it.

This pen is a terrific buy on Amazon, the Nemosine, which I've filled with a waterproof black Noodler's Ink. Two things I like about this are the shape of the grip and the screw-on cap mechanism instead of the clicked on cap.  And as I mentioned before, I like the clear demonstrator ink chamber. The nib is elegant and beautiful.

The Lamy Safari is a German entry-level fountain pen.  I own a pen which is a slight step up from the Safari, but similar to it, the Lami Joy, with a long tapered body and an italic nib. I decided to change out the nib to a regular Fine nib, though. The Lamy is a nice pen with great flow, but to me feels a little industrial and hard to grip. I love the big red clip though, it has a certain industrial vibe.

These are old, battered relics from my past. The white pen is my Osmiroid 65. I don't think the company is in existence now. I used this pen to ink drawings back in the 1970s and it was very precious to me. Same with the Pelikan black and green pens. If I were truly a nice person, or maybe just a person with a lot of income to throw around on pens, I'd send these to a fountain pen hospital and see if I could get them to function, but for one thing, the Osmiroid fills with an odd pump bladder mechanism which was neglected over the years and now looks pretty decayed to me. The other two just look generally wrecked. I think I filled these pens with india ink or possibly a Higgins ink.  The topic of ink uses up a lot of ink and I should write a separate post about inks, I guess, though clearly I'm no expert. Incidentally, I've read that you can now get nanoparticle ink, which contains pigments so fine that Brownian motion keeps the particles from gumming up the works in your fountain pen.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

In the Deep Midsummer: July - August Painting Class in Scottsdale, AZ

Drought-crazed, overheated Phoenix residents line up to board the new terminal tram at Skyharbor Airport in a doomed attempt to flee... but it doesn't appear to be working yet.

(Image* from this site. )

There are still a few spots left in my painting class for the hardy souls who will be in the Phoenix area this summer.

"Painting the Head in Oil"

Monday afternoons
July 7 to  August 4, 2014
1:00 - 4:00

For more information please contact Scottsdale Artists School.

Here's a recent oil sketch from open studio (2 1/2 hours). It's on Mylar, which I managed to accidentally crumple up a little before painting on it.

"Diane", oil on Mylar, around 14" x 14"

I continue my love/hate relationship with oil on Mylar. I find myself muttering a lot when I'm working, but I like the quality of the paint in the finished product. I really missed not using a solvent on this one; it's just paint and a little Oleogel medium. By the way, the color of the Mylar shows up as the gray in the lower left corner.

* okay, so it's not really a photo of some Phoenix residents. This is a shot from the movie "The Man Who Fell to Earth" which starred David Bowie.

Friday, May 30, 2014

2013/2014 ARC Salon Finalist: "Daniel Jabari"

I'm really happy to say that my painting "Daniel Jabari" has received a Finalist award in the 2013/2014 Art Renewal Center's Salon International contest.  There are a lot of wonderful representational works in this year's contest and I'm honored to be in the company of so many gifted, talented artists.

"Daniel Jabari", oil on panel, 24" x 24"

Yes, I know I've posted this painting on my blog a few times this year already but I hope you'll forgive me for putting it up here again.

Meanwhile, I'm working very hard, trying to complete three or four paintings at the same time. (Which is not what I usually do. I don't know what's gotten into me.) Work goes v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y toward the end of a painting. And I always seem to have urgent, fugitive, transitory subjects entering my jurisdiction which demand to be painted from life, so I work those into my day also. My paintings are as much a record of my existence as they are anything else, a kind of nonverbal public diary, or at least that's how I think of them.

And thirdly, I've been tidying up my studio and rediscovered a trainload of art supplies that I haven't played with in years. More fun than a candy store!

A complete list of the current Art Renewal Center winners can be found at the ARC website.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

"Maddie in the Act of Painting" at the Butler Institute of American Art's Midyear Show

I'm really excited to report that my little piece "Maddie in the Act of Painting" (12" x 12") has been accepted into The Butler Institute of American Art's 78th Annual Midyear Exhibition in Youngstown, Ohio. The show opens July 27th and runs until Sept. 7th, 2014.

The Butler Institute is a wonderful museum with a long history of promoting and encouraging contemporary American artists.  There are always a lot of fantastic paintings in the show - if you're interested in coming to the opening, more information is available at the Butler website.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Haynes Galleries Show: "Celebrating the Portrait as Art", opening Friday, April 18 at 5:00pm

"Compline", Oil on panel 64" x 48"

"Compline", Oil on panel 64" x 48" (detail)

I'm really happy to say that my painting "Compline" will be part of an upcoming show at Haynes Galleries in Nashville, TN.

"Celebrating the Portrait as Art"

Haynes Galleries, Nashville, TN

April 18th to May 24th, 2014

Opening reception is Friday April 18th, 5:00 to 7:30

I'm particularly happy that this painting will be in the show because this is part of a series of paintings  that's been the focus of much of my current work. I'm exploring parenthood and the joys, responsibilities and sorrows that come with nurturing another life. Some of these paintings involve the loss of children; some involve the point where one becomes a parent; some involve nurturing your own parents; and some focus on the happiness and freedom of being a child.

About the title: "Compline" is the term used for an ancient liturgical service which comes before bedtime. Basically, the service consists of your nightly prayers. I've read that it's the custom in many monasteries to begin the "great silence" after Compline; you can't speak to anyone until morning. Compline, therefore, is your last chance to speak before the darkness.

If the darkness is coming and this is your last chance to speak, what will you say? I hope it will involve gratitude.

The rest of this concept... well, I suppose that's up to your interpretation of this painting.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Teaching at Scottsdale Artists' School - Summer Schedule

2 1/2 hour oil sketch (above)

Just a quick note to let you know that I'll be teaching a weekly class at Scottsdale Artists' School in Scottsdale, AZ this summer:

"Painting the Head in Oil"

Mondays, 7/7/2014 to 8/4/2014

1:00pm to 4:00pm

All skill levels

$225 plus $35 model fee. I'd love for you to join us. Email me if you need more info.

Sign up now on the SAS website.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Colors on My Palette, Part 2: Painting Dark Skin Tones

"Daniel Jabari", oil on panel, 24" x 24". I wrote about this painting last year on my blog here.  Since that time, the painting was selected as a Semifinalist at the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition 2016, Smithsonian Institution and was exhibited at the Butler Museum in Ohio.

Talking about it on Facebook led to an artist friend of mine asking me what colors I used to paint DJ's skin color. Since I often introduce new colors or simply switch brands of a color (which can make a big difference sometimes), I try to keep a record of colors on my palette, along with the medium I used, for each painting I do. I talked about this earlier on my blog.
The 'V' next to a color is Vasari; MH is Michael Harding, OH is Old Holland and 'Williams" is Williamsburg. My colors here are: Titanium White,  Brilliant Yellow Light, Rosebud, Nickel Lemon, Yellow Ochre, Vermillion, Capucine Red Light,  Alizarin, Ultramariane,  Dioxazine Mauve, Viridian, Courbet Green, Transparent Oxide Red, Burnt Umber and Ivory Black. (Where is the Ivory black paint smear? I have no idea.)  I also used a Flake White on this painting. The kidney shape to the far right is probably a tea stain.

I based most of the skin tones in this painting on a Capucine Red Light/ Dioxazine Mauve mix. Capucine Red Light is a rich, mid-value opaque red that works well in many face tones. I don't like many of the opaque brick reds that I see, but I do like this one. Like all of the Vasari paints that I've tried, it is fully loaded (i.e., strong tinting strength and highly pigmented). Old Holland is the same way. I don't always use these paints - I like to also include paint brands that are looser and flow easier, such as Gamblin, Rembrandt and Richeson - but this was a rather tightly painted painting with intense colors and these denser brands suited it well.

I approached this figurative painting the same way I approach most, maybe all, of my figurative work; before I start modelling the forms, I decide whether the lit side of the figure will be cool or warm. I often work with cool artificial light or daylight filtered through skylight or window (cool light). This makes the lit side to be the cooler side and the shadow side warmer. These are subtle temperature changes, or at least I try to make them so.

Basically, I'm modelling the forms with warm and cool versions of Capucine Red and Dioxazine Mauve. I'm darkening forms with either another strong color (like Viridian or Ultramarine) or a more neutral paint like Burnt Umber or Black. I saw a lot of wonderful blue/purple and blue/greens in his skin tones. I use orange, but I like to mix my oranges, with various mixes of my reds and yellows.

Does this look alla prima to you? It isn't. I paint most of my work in many layers, so I play around with building up opaque layers, glazing with transparent layers, scumbling cools over warms or vice versa, etc. I love the complexity and depth that comes with working in layers of paint. My goal in this painting was to make the figure seem alive. I don't always go for that effect, but with respect to paintings that are of specific people, that is usually my goal. To me, this means something other than accuracy, it means (among other things) a suggestion of movement and a spatial depth involving texture and impasto. The goal is to include accuracy but to add a certain vivacious aspect which involves judicious paint handling and technique.

You might notice that I lit the figure with a light that is to the east and slightly in front of my subject, which had the effect of lighting up the hands and legs more than if the light were coming from a skylight or overhead light. I liked the drama of this lighting. Besides, I don't like to use the same lighting in all my work.

This painted head is quite small, by the way - 5 inches - I don't much like working this small and whenever I do I vow to never do it again!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

"Always Within Never" - Works by Una Pett

A belated Happy New Year to you. My absence from the blogosphere is due to a superstorm convergence of end of the year holidays, travelling, portrait commission activities, houseguests and (very happily indeed) a wedding in the family.  This week I swept up the pine needles, ate the last gingerbread cookie and started a new painting, so the world has settled back onto its familiar axis.

One of the nicest things about being an artist is getting to know other artists. I've met so many talented and interesting artists through the various art organizations I've been interacting with over the years. One of these groups, The Portrait Society of America, has a program ("The Cecelia Beaux Society") which matches professional artists with other artists in a mentor/mentee relationship. I'm delighted to say that one of my mentees, the painter Una Pett is currently having a solo show entitled "Always Within Never" at The City Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Una is a bold, thoughtful and adventurous painter. After earning her BA in Studio Art from Smith College, Una attended the New York Academy of Art's Graduate School of Figurative Art, where she earned her MFA in Painting. She teaches at the Visual Art Institute in Salt Lake City and has taught at several other schools, including the School of Visual Arts in New York. I first met Una a few years ago while she was a figurative artist painting portraits and her work has evolved into new artistic territories for this show.

A solo exhibit is a major achievement for every artist and I congratulate Una for developing her unique vision into a strong and cohesive body of work. Here are a few of her pieces, taken from her website:

Una writes of her new show: "With this group [of small works] I nervously and excitedly depart from portraiture and the figure, my most familiar subject matter, to explore media, texture, layering and line."

Please do take the time to read her honest and open blog.

The show opened last Saturday, January 11 and runs until February 23, 2014. Congratulations, Una!

For more information about the show and library hours, please visit Una's website or the Salt Lake City Library at slcpl.org