Saturday, December 27, 2008

Study "5:01"

It's been harder to keep up on the Blogging through the holidays - mainly because I've been doing mostly housecleaning and not so much art ;D (If you really want to hear about the housecleaning just let me know).

The art work that I have done has been mostly technical and preparatory work - playing with still-life setups, priming newspaper (don't worry, that will come in a not-to-distant future blog post!), and things like that. Again - not so interesting to blog about.

But I'll post this little study for you - it's a practice piece for a larger still-life that I hope to complete this month (as it would be perfect to submit for an upcoming show). I didn't get any in-progress shots (the digital camera is recovering from all of my reference photo shooting yesterday!) but I'll be sure to take them when I do the big piece.

Textiles are so fascinating - cut glass, liquid, leather, metal - I am enjoying learning how to manipulate my pastel pencils further to get somewhat realistic renderings of these type of surfaces. Still life set-ups are tremendous fun as well - playing with objects and light, reflections and refractions.

The final painting will tell a bit of a story - I think this study will give you a sense of where the title came from. Enjoy!!

9x9" Pitt pastel pencil on Canson paper

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, or whatever midwinter event you celebrate!

I hope you're enjoying the holiday season as much as the dawgs enjoyed their Christmas presents this morning!!

(^^^ Very happy doggies!!)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Meet Morgan - This is a commission I did this month of Morgan, a beautiful golden retreiver who passed away very recently. Morgan was left at a clinic when he was 6 and was lucky enough to be found by a new family where he has lived with his dog-sisters for the past 4 years or so. Morgan was diagnosed with splenic cancer two years ago and with treatment he continued to enjoy going for walks and swimming in the pond. Sadly he developed more cancer which spread rapidly and took his life this year - but he is a beautiful reminder that illness does not need to consume us.

As people we have such a hard time overcoming the mental weight of our problems - illness, stress, money concerns. The problems are very real - but they only beat us when they keep us from enjoying every precious day of our lives. Dogs are so much smarter!

Reference photo:

Morgan's portrait was done in pastel using a modification of the Colorist technique that I have learned some from Charlie (a wonderful pastel painter who teaches on WetCanvas - check out her blog!). I wanted a realistic final portrait - but by using a colorist foundation (strong, bright colors mapping out the light and shadow areas of the painting) the final result will have greater depth and body than if I use layer upon layer of the same color families.

As all my paintings do - it stars with a sketch after careful selection of the crop and composition I wish to use. I am working on Wallis paper for this one (remember - the stuff that is like sandpaper). I grind the initial colors of pastel into the paper to give it a base color to work on and draw the undersketch in vine charcoal:

Next go the base colors - yellows, blues, oranges and purples predominate. I sent a copy at this point to the client who ordered this painting (it's a close friend of mine and, yes, I was having a bit of a joke). She wisely heeded my warning to 'wait until it develops, it will look better' - but I'm sure I scared the pants off her.

I start layering more 'normal' colors over the base - eventually all of the base will be covered up and you will only see it in micro-tiny bits that peek through the top layers of color. This is how it adds to the depth of the painting without actually being part of what you see in the end.

I always work the background first - it's generally my least favorite part but at the same time extremely important to get right. In this case I am doing a detailed background - it's always my preference to have the subject in a setting, but a detailed background comes close to doubling the painting time so it isn't always an option. In this case I had enough lead time and the reference photo was so perfect I had to take advantage of it!

As the painting progresses I hone in on the face. Although, truth be told, I flit back and forth throughout the painting process - mapping out the values, adjusting, layering, and tweaking the parts I'm not directly working on when I take breaks from the parts I am focusing on.

Many animal artists start with the eyes, I tend to leave them until the end. Most of us will agree that the eyes make or break a portrait. That is where you capture the life and emotion of your subject, and I guess that's the reason people will start with the eyes. For me - I put so much into the eyes (time-wise I probably spend more than twice as long per square inch on eyes than any other part of the painting). So if I start with the eyes, get them perfect, and then have anything be off on the rest of the painting it is a dismal proposition to go change those eyes. By leaving them until last I am sure that I'm happy with the rest of the proportions, values, and composition before I do that last little burst. Plus the painting doesn't really 'come to life' until the eyes are done - so near the end when I paint them it's like a grand unveiling - even for me who's been a foot away from the painting for hours to days at that point.

So here is the final version - Morgan in the back garden. I hope you like it. I hope Morgan approves!

And if you didn't see my previous blog entry on pets and loss please have a look here.

~~ Boots ~~

Monday, December 8, 2008

Word of the year - Discipline

Or as my niece used to say when she was 5, "Didiplus!".

Why is it that the simpler solution is so often the better one? I was introduced to the concept of choosing a 'word of the year' from the blog of a wonderful artist, Tina Mammoser. She in turn got the idea from Christine Kane's Blog. And I find myself sitting here a few days later thinking 'that's a really good idea, I want to share this'.

I urge you to check out both of their blogs - they are full of interesting material! But to summarize for those of you who's clicker-finger is broken.. the idea is to choose a single word that will be your 'guiding light' for the year. Rather than the typical list of New Year's resolutions (which everyone knows are forgotten by spring) this is a way to address all those 'I should's that seem to come up this time of year. But the approach is not to list what you should do on the surface - but try to get to the heart of it.

So what would my usual "New Years" list consist of this year?
- More regular exercise
- Less time frittered away on the internet
- Set and stick to a daily schedule
- Set and fulfil goals with my art
- Lose weight
- Keep up on the housecleaning

That's a reasonable list. I'm sure many people have some of those items on their list. I hold absolutely no illusions that I'll actually do these things any more than I already am - which is why I don't officially make a New Year's Resolution list.. what's the point?

So I read Christine's blog and no one word jumped out at me (I liked Tina's idea of 'Structure' but didn't want to be a copycat.. but also, although disorganization is is one of my issues it's not the heart of the problem - in some areas I'm extremely structured and organized). So I scrolled down to where she had the list - and I had read through maybe ten words before 'Discipline' popped into my head. I read further and sure enough it was in the list (not that your word has to be in the list - but it made me feel better about choosing it).

So why discipline?
First - positive reinforcement. I have been working very hard the past 3 months on developing business and marketing plans and really applying myself to my art. In short, being disciplined. And I feel great about it - I feel in control, and I can see the improvements in my art already.

Second - negative consequences. Look at my list above.

1. More regular exercise. Why don't I? I love getting outside, I feel great when I do, we live in the middle of the freakin' mountains! It's just that I need to respond to this post, and I'd rather be painting, and it's damp out there.... if I implemented a little discipline I'd get over all of those tiny impediments and go do what my body longs for. And you know what? I'd feel great!

2. Less time frittered away on the internet. (She says as she blogs). That is completely a choice. In fact when I pull myself away from the computer I not only get more 'real life' things done but I approach the internet with a bit of a plan... I need to do this, and this, and this.. and lolcats will just have to wait today (then invariably someone sends me the funniest lolcats so I have gotten more done *and* not had to slog through the cute-but-not-that-funny ones). It just makes sense.

3. Set and stick to a daily schedule. This seems great on the surface - with my current status of being a "budding entrepreneur" (nice spin on that eh?) that setting a schedule would be a good thing. But when I thought about this a little further I realized that on days that don't go 'as scheduled' but that I get a tonne of stuff done, I feel great. Some days I check everything off my list but I still feel at loose ends. It's not the lack of structure specifically that bothers me - it's when I reach the end of the day and think 'I could have gotten so much more done if I'd just not (insert time waster here)'. Apply discipline and *poof* - I don't dally on things that are really unimportant and I get off my butt and get done the things I need to do. I feel good at the end of the day.

I could go on, but I'm sure you see the point.

(er.. Discipline!)

I urge everyone reading this to read Christine's blog and think about your own Word for 2009.

I'd love to hear what word you choose! Leave it in the 'comments' section below!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Late Harvest

So it's getting a little late in the season for this theme - but it's technically still autumn, so here goes.... this is a little painting I did for a project on WetCanvas.

For any artsy folk out there I have to put in a plug for WetCanvas - it's a fabulous site and a great resource for just about any kind of art! Check it out!

Back to the corn - for this puzzle project I received a tiny little image, it's 1/16th of a larger image (which we have yet to see as I write this). Quite obviously some harvest corn. I decided to do it on a piece of terra cotta Canson paper I had around. I haven't worked on Canson in awhile - it's very different than the Wallis paper that Bells was done on. Not better or worse in my opinion, just different.

Here's the preliminary sketch in charcoal - I've marked off quarters around the margin, I'm trying to keep the proportions really exact in this as it has to line up with other people's pieces. The original image is exactly what you see above. My painting will be 6x6" (this sheet of paper is 8x8" to leave a margin for working):

And starting with color... first I block in the dark purple and red kernels. Because further layers of pastel will lighten I want the tone I use here to unfluence the final color - but it isn't what the final color will be:

Next I continue by working a bit more on the weird shapes in the background (upper left) and blocking in the lighter kernels:

Now to give these guys some depth - admirably avoiding the black pencil I used mostly blues for the darker kernels...

And purples for the yellow kernels, with blue-gray for the very pale kernels. I start to smooth out the red kernels:

Next I smooth out the dark purplish kernels. They get layers of the ruddy brown base color with blues in the deep shadows and a pale mulberry color for the highlights. A color shaper helps to smooth the color gradations together and just a light touch of white at the brightest highlights makes them really pop!

I continue, smoothing out the yellow and white kernels, deepening their shadows and brightening some of the highlights. The corn is really getting some depth. I've gone back and futzed with the background a little too - I have to admit, it's frustrating for me not knowing what it is... if I were working from a high resolution photo I could reproduce it, but since I'm blowing up a very tiny image I end up filling in the gaps with my imagination (a dangerous thing):

And there's the finished piece! (It looks little different because the last shot is always scanned and cropped (as opposed to taken under easel lighting with the digital camera - this is closer to the actual appearance of the painting in real life)

Hope you enjoyed this one! Although it started as a little project I quite like it, it will look lovely with a wide museum mat!

Next post I'm thinking we'll be back to the doggies, I've got a few good things cooking so stay tuned!