Archive for May, 2010

Paintings of Van

May 23, 2010
Mountain Man Necktie - oil painting

Mountain Man Necktie

Here is a portrait painting I completed just a couple of weeks ago, which I’ve named Mountain Man Necktie. I figure it’s time for me to get back to what I do, to what interested me in becoming a fine artist so long ago – painting people. I’ve been spending a lot of time working on the experimental: making pigments, making gouache paints, researching historical techniques and colors, playing with different illustration techniques, etc. Which is fine: I’m not going to give up on that stuff. I’ve got the kind of brain that just can’t leave things alone – if I’m going to make art, I’ve got to think about how I’m making it, and why. It was the same way when I was writing music. But I can’t lose sight of the aim of all this, which is just to make art.

The egg tempera, by the way, is probably out for now, for a number of reasons. First of all, I have bad tendons in my wrists, and I must maintain good relaxation while painting, or I injure myself and need recuperation time, sometimes for weeks. Egg tempera doesn’t exactly lend itself to a relaxed painting technique. Also, I tried painting oils over a tempera underpainting – which is the main way in which I wanted to use egg tempera – and it presented some more unexpected challenges. As intrigued as I am by this ancient medium, I don’t think it’s for me, unless I figure out a different way of using it.

Arizona - oil painting

Arizona Daybreak

So, back to oil painting – and it feels great to be producing something again. The above is a picture of Van, a great model I took some reference pics of a while back. This is the second painting I’ve made from that photo session, and I’m working on a third. The first is on the right there, and it’s going to be the first painting I put up on Ebay to see if it’ll sell. I’m not going to sign it, since it was worked on a bit by an instructor of mine. But I’ll get a feeling for selling my art online – or not, depending! The others will follow.

The current one, about halfway finished or so, is below. All the research and thoughts about using more natural, more local and less toxic materials is beginning to have an impact on my work. These are both done with limited palettes – specifically, I’ve excluded any synthetic organic pigments. In Mountain Man Necktie, the one at the top of the page, I used yellow and red ochre, raw sienna, cadmium red, ultramarine blue, ivory (bone) black and titanium white. The one below is the same except that I’ve excluded the cadmium red and raw sienna, and added cobalt blue for the coat and rose madder for a few of the skin tones. One industrial toxic color each: cadmium for the first, cobalt for the second. Doing without the cadmium on this latest painting has been a bit of a challenge, but I think it’s working out all right, and it’ll get better as I explore more earth color variations for skin tones, Indian red, Venetian red, etc. The cobalt blue I’ll actually be happy to let go – regardless of philosophy I just don’t care for it much as a color. It doesn’t seem to do any of the things I need it to do on the palette. Obviously it worked out all right for Monet…

Work in progress - oil painting

Work in progress

I’m sure I’ll keep using the cadmum colors from time to time. The point isn’t to be purist about pigment use – the point is to be aware of it, and to reduce the use of industrial toxic chemicals when possible and convenient. If I can use cadmium red only for the necktie, and replace it with a red earth color for the skin tones – rather than using the cadmium for all the reds in the painting – then I’ve made an improvement in my materials: earth pigments are unquestionably more ecologically friendly than cadmium pigments. In this latest case, I think I’ll be able to do without the cadmium altogether. I’ll post the painting again when it’s finished.

Pigment stuff: I’ve mixed up my homemade madder lake and carmine lake both into oil paints to accompany the weld lake oil paint I made earlier. They are both extremely transparent, and beautiful. I haven’t used them in a painting yet, but will certainly do so when I can. I’ve been studying drapery, from life, so I will probably try these paints out as glazes for drapery studies. Soon.

Kauai

May 3, 2010

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Kauai

Kauai

I’m now a married man, and enjoying it immensely.

We went to Kauai on our honeymoon – there’s something life-interrupting about a marriage, most of the things I would normally be doing this time of year simply didn’t get done, and still aren’t getting done. There’s the matter of this year’s seed order, which never wound up happening (good thing we have a long growing season here in San Diego county, I can still get a few things in the ground, even this late). Another thing is that I simply didn’t get around to researching the island of Kauai before we went, other than to find out that it has great hikes (it does) and lots of waterfalls (that too). But I didn’t find out about the stunning red ochre that is all over the island. The volcanic activity means that a good deal of the geologic makeup of the island is iron, and the iron oxide there in some places looks to be close to pure. It’s amazing.

Kauai red ochre

Kauai red ochre

I didn’t get a really good pic of it, because I was busy, well, being on my honeymoon. You can find plenty of pics by googling “Kauai dirt.” But it’s some of the best stuff I’ve seen. I brought back a (very) small amount after asking whatever spirits might be on the island for their permission. Hey, it can’t hurt, and I figure it’s only polite. My mom raised me right.

There were actually many wonderful sights on the island of which I didn’t get any pictures. I tend to do that – enjoy myself so much that I forget to record the experience. Overall that’s a good thing for me, I’d rather enjoy a place than spend my time taking pictures. But at times I think it would be nice to have more pics afterward, if only because my memory is so bad. I actually took more pictures this time than usual.

Kauai yellow ochre

Kauai yellow ochre

There isn’t much yellow on the island, or wasn’t until we got onto the drier west coast, where we found some on a hike. Here is a pic of me with yellow ochre on my fingers. (This is about where I shouted to my wife, “I found yellow!” She’s so good about humoring me. Check out the ring!)

In any case, at some point I will levigate this Kauai red ochre for what should be a very special natural earth color in my collection. Kauai is a special place. If you go there, be sure to notice the earth among the many other sights. Like much else there, it’s spectacular – and a gift to humanity.

Red and yellow ochre

Red and yellow ochre

It’s good to be back. Now I can try to get my poor garden in order! One more pic of Kauai:

Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon