Monday, March 14, 2016

"Gardenias in Her Braided Hair": First Prize at Portrait Artists of Arizona 6th Annual Exhibition, Phoenix

"Gardenias in Her Braided Hair", oil 20" x 16"
Currently at the University Club, Phoenix, AZ
6th Annual Exhibition and Sale, Portrait Artists of Arizona

I went to the opening of the PAOA's Exhibition in Phoenix on Friday night and saw that I'd received a First Prize ribbon for my painting. I've been experimenting with different ideas and techniques lately and I'm so happy and flattered that it received a ribbon. Thanks so much to the amazing artist Romel de la Torre who judged the show. There are a lot of good paintings there!

I've been trying to include many layers and textures in my work. It's one of the things that pulls you in closer to a painting, it's not the only thing (detail is also a big pull) but it's one of the things.

I've also been doing a lot of thinking about something my teacher Max Ginsberg said to me, which is that you're not just painting your subject, you're painting the atmosphere between you and your subject.  He may have just been saying this in a scientific sense, i.e., dust, smoke, humidity factors (and whatever), but I think that emotional factors are at play as well.  What is the nature of the atmosphere?

You know how some people suck the air right out of the room? A beautiful woman - plus flowers, plus vegetation - is supposed to inject the air back into the room at the same time she takes your breath away, I guess.   If you have ever smelled a gardenia you'll know they're exotic and primal. It's all supposed to lure you in, of course. Maybe that is the purpose of beauty and the nature of attraction, that paradoxical sharpening and stupefying quality actually creates more of what we need to survive.

Anyway, here's the painting when it's not at an angle:

The multi-layered background was tremendous fun. I used a variety of tools to make the marks in the background, including a rubber squeegee, a wine cork and the cap from a bottle of some chia drink. The drink was a wildly overpriced impulse purchase. I recommend you make it yourself from a tablespoon of chia seeds and whatever fruity sludge you have in your refrigerator.  The metallic gold tube oil paint is made by Gamblin. I took the purple/green vine cutting (with permission from the intrepid and remarkable Sheila at the front desk) from the outdoor planter at Scottsdale Artists' School. I held the stem up in my left hand while I painted it and I decided to stylize it to some degree, rather than model it.

Here's a detail below of some of the flowers. I've painted the petals thickly and with a lot of attention to the edges, which are soft in comparison to the leaves. Then I glazed over the petals with an oil gel medium to help lose them into the shadow. I placed a darker glaze over the white and let bits of the dark glaze nestle in the ridges.  The pattern of the petals, flowers and spaces between them is a lyrical, dancing arabesque. I tried to keep the fugitive, frail quality of gardenia blooms in this painting, how they keep changing and fading.

As usual, I tried not to use a single hard line to separate the lips. Here I used at least three different shades of red and reddish-brown, trying to pay attention to subtle plane changes, with blurred and lost edges and glazed-over sections.

My model is the smart and beautiful Emily Wilson, a photographer based in Phoenix. I predict that she has a brilliant career ahead of her.