Friday, July 22, 2011

Almost Done

I have two pieces in the upcoming group show at Jonathan LeVine Gallery next month.  And surprise surprise I'm still scrambling to wrap up my second piece.  I've been making good progress and for the last week or so I've been telling myself "ok, should be able to wrap this up in the next day or two".  But this time, seriously, I think in the next day or two I should have this done.

Below are some details of where I'm at with the piece.  I need to add a little more value and depth to the drapery around the figure.  The shaping of the drapery from the neck up was vaguely meandering a bit and didn't quite flow right.  So I've been deciding where the fabric should fold, flap, open up, or fade into the background etc.  Can be a little tricky when painting transparently.  I think it's pretty much nailed down at this point.  I've been making a lot of lateral changes.  That is to say, depending on who you ask it may be better or not or just different.  Of course I feel the changes are worthy but sometimes I wonder if it's worth the time being so nit picky.  Drifting from my reference too much can be a challenge to maintain a sense of realism and cohesiveness.  However, it's probably some of the more enjoyable(What!?  Painting isn't always enjoyable???) parts of painting as well.  Not knowing exactly what's going to happen and then finding your way...most of the time.

I also plan on adding some gray aqua greenish algae on the branches which should make for nice accents of color.  That application will have to be a little more opaque.  Perhaps I could soften the edges of some of the outermost branches to provide more of a focal point in the center, darken the edge of the fabric where it meets the background, detail the hands, a subtle shift in color as the figure moves from shadow to light, add a little more cow bell...  Yeah, definitely one or two more days.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


I was wondering if I could ask you some questions regarding technique. I have no experience with watercolor (I use mostly graphite), and I was wondering how exactly you get such smooth gradations on faces and skin. I notice this prominently in your work, and also the work of James Jean and Sam Weber. Every time I try to render in acrylics or watercolor, the layers do not remain smooth - the edges can be seen, and my edge control leaves something to be desired. Do you use wet-into wet, or just noodle endlessly at an edge until it is a smooth transition?

I think most of us are comfortable with graphite as we use it almost everyday. As you can see I try to figure out most of the tricky value structure in pencil prior to laying paint down. It can help smooth out transitions. At the same time it can be a crutch of sorts if you spend a ridiculous amount of time rendering everything in graphite instead of letting the paint do some of the work for you. For example I know the branches are going to be rather dark. Using graphite on them in the beginning for value would not be necessary as it would get completely lost under the paint.

When it comes to a finished painting keep in mind that what one doesn't see in a final is all the time it took to get to that point. Even when one becomes a proficient painter things take a lot of time. Practice Practice Practice. Take however long it takes to finish the piece as best you can. Technically, I do whatever it takes to finish a painting or to try and get the look I want. That's includes wet on wet, dry brushing, more opaque subtle cross hatching, large wet washes and pulling out highlights with a paper towel etc. Remember to always experiment and try to learn new techniques to add to your arsenal. Sometimes mixing your mediums will also give great results.

Concerning painterly edges. If we look at Sam, James and many other artists out there, within the work there is a certain amount of embracing the medium and what it does naturally whether it's a wet dripping to paint dragged across the paper. I like to show some some of this as well. The balance depends on the artist's own sensibilities. So I'm not sure I would necessarily see this as a bad thing. Creating art and solving problems will always have it's challenges. Here are a few shots of what I'm currently struggling with.

I've also posted a new time lapse video of this piece for you viewing pleasure