I have been taking some short trips which was impetus behind doing a smaller painting. Even with it being small, bad weather made me have to put it aside after only being quarter of the way done as I hit the road.
This smaller size had long been my preferred size until I found myself switching to 11×14. Trips longer than three day and I will paint. So, it is good to once again get back into smaller pieces as that is what I will do on the road.
Often I use myself as the subject of my work. If not my face, then my hands or some other bodily part. This is for convenience’s sake. It is nice to start a work when I want to or to stop as i mull a line over. Throwing someone else into the mix, this is not always as easy. There is a pleasure in that it also puts me in the grand tradition of painters showing themselves in their work.
I am not ashamed to portray myself as I am. There is no idealization. It’s almost a form of visual raw reportage. I take the same approach when conjuring up someone else. In one of the later Truffaut films from his The Adventures of Antoine Doinel cycle, one of the characters mentions in passing how an artist should never use their craft to settle scores. This has always been my outlook. Regardless of how a subject looks in comparison to the notion of desirability, for me, truth is always beauty.
This piece is 5×7. I am pleased with how the sort of goonyness of flesh comes across.
Compulsively, I read biographies on painters/artists and movements. I never restrict myself in regards to medium nor era. I notice that starting at about the time right before the impressionists, there was a common occurrence. A lot of artists had the same life trajectory with variations according to their personal temperaments and artistic voices.
There would be the years of learning followed by chrysalises period from which they would emerge with the base of what would become their distinct individual voice. Often, this would be followed by years of trudging forward while suffering through various slings and arrows of critics and the general public.
If lucky to still be alive, then once through this phase is the first blush of fame. Often times the fame would grow but it becomes sort of a trap. An artist starts to second guess themselves trying to hold onto all their hard fought for gains. This includes the temptation and pressure to merely repeat what had brought them their initial laurels.
From an artists point of view it becomes pandering where one pantomimes the familiar as to hear applause. Galleries don’t want to risk sales by the artist striking off in new direction. There is the danger that critics won’t understand or appreciate any deviation from what they like about an artist.
Even artists who mange to navigate all of this, when you read their biographies or “the letters of” type books they all comment on the same sweet spot of their careers.
It is when enough “fame” has finally happened so that they have met all of life’s basic needs (food, clothes, shelter et al) and can buy art supplies without having to think about the impact of any purchases on the rest of their lifestyle. The long gestated voice is recognized and appreciated but not to the degree that there can be no further evolution to it.
With no distractions from practical considerations towards daily living nor external pressures of audience, gallery or critics the artist is free to explore and follow their own North star.
This golden time is too often recognized only after it has passed.
In an attempt to buck the trend I try to take advantage of it as often as possible. Aside from a way of showing appreciation for my situation, it also fosters evolution.
Rarely do I do studies before doing a painting. This time I decided to, as to play around a little with compositional balance. Also, I decided to greatly increase the size of my work from the usual 11×14 inches to 25×30. when I paint it is usually flat upon my table. Because of the size, this time it was on an easel.
I have a great, heavy wood and brass easel which could be used for massive sized pieces. As I worked on lower sections of this piece, I sat on a stool with my feet on the bottom cross bar of the easel so that it looked like I was a windsurfer.
With my paints I always use half pan sets. I had been given a few tubes as a gift and decided to use those too. they required very much a different touch.
overall, I was very pleased with the results of this piece.
I used a toned tan paper for this painting. It requires a slightly different touch as it’ heavier than my usual paper. I am grateful for the trust put in me by my models (mostly friends & acquaintances) . This allows for a relaxed attitude in posing, the mien organic and revealing a truth.
I do not often paint large pieces. There’s a completely different physicality involved. The way I have always worked, when I see a piece in my head before starting out, included in this vision/conception is its size. If I envision it small, it’s not merely a matter of using larger paper to make it big. I can only make a thing as I saw it in my head.
With Victory I saw it big.
I enjoy the challenge of leaving my comfort zone. Most of my paintings are 11×17, this one would be 20×30. I have a large wooden easel. It has heavy brass machinery. I pull on a loop below the ledge upon which the canvas sits to raise or lower it on the wooden axis. There is a wooden crossbar on the bottom which connects the two front legs of the large tripod.
While painting the lower section of the piece, I sit on a stool leaning forward. My feet rest on the crossbar. It feels as if I am on a ship, brush in hand. Seas calm, seas stormy, call me Ishmael.
This season, I was really able to trim down the amount of equipment I brought with me. For painting, I had my custom cut 4×4 in both standard white watercolor paper & brown multi media paper. The plan was to buy a standard block once here.
I actually enjoyed challenge working small, and people liked the weird hanging chads too. So I decided to stick with it, forgoing other paper.
With smaller paper you have less space to create tension & release. The density I prefer in my compositions also trickier to achieve.
Here is my portrayal of flesh which I never tire of doing, a night scene trying to show shadow without blatantly showing darkness of a room and detail from a favorite statue in The Luxemburg gardens. All are 4×4
Finally able to get back to my Paris studio. In general I’m always tweeking my road gear. Post pandemic, I’ve done some shorter trips but nothing with logistics of returning to Europe. I had no idea what to expect of others in regards to behavior while en route. With this in mind the lighter I could make my bags the better.
I have a great new notebook. It’s refillable and utilizes the disc system. What’s different about it is that the discs are inside the cover, so I can put it in my pocket. I bought a cutter which allows me to refill it with any paper I choose. I saved space by creating good sized pad comprised of watercolor paper, regular sketch and tan multi media.
I have several great arts stores around me so I will eventually get normal sized paper too. This is my first painting. 4×4.
While getting here, there were times of great crowds of people but thats nothing new for international travel. I didn’t find the vibe any different than normal. Regardless of rules, many people masked up. As the tips of the plane’s wings sliced off the edges of Grey silver clouds, I mused to myself. Masks.For me,it’s not about political affiliations, what happened to the concept of sometimes having to do a thing you don’t want to. That’s called being an adult. Truly, your life has not been too bad if having to mask up is the worst thing that has ever happened to you.
“You made me beautiful” she said upon seeing the finished piece.
It was, but I just painted what I saw. With all my portraiture I go for a sort of raw reportage. If I see it, it appears in the piece. I never airbrush out (so to speak) any imperfections nor do i exaggerate any by way of settling scores. To me, all truth is beauty.
I always want people to be able to return to a piece and see new things. This is why traditional beauty has always bored me. The little quirks and imperfections make it real, make it interesting. The organics of a piece is often helped by only using people I know as subject matter. The trust allows for natural body language and facial expressions. There are some great yet unknown painters out there whose work’s power is diminished by coming across as overly academic or all the cheesy glam poses. I don’t worry about the beauty aspect, but rather the realness.
This piece is 11×14 inches. Watercolor on brown paper.
I draw every day, no matter where I am in the world. When on the road, at the very least I will do quick guerilla sketches and woodshedding in my ever present trusty pocket pad. Of late most of my formally done works switch off between Cinefield® and painting (during the execution of which I will still woodshed every night).
A new painting had been started but then it rained out every day with the forecast calling for the following week to be more of the same. I only use natural sunlight to paint by so this was not good for me. I put the painting aside and went on to start Cinefield® Where the Sauce is Deluxe. Between the weather and how labor intensive that piece was the painting sat untouched for four weeks, something I had never done before.
When I went back to work on it, it felt strange initially but I quickly found my rhythm. I am very pleased with the piece. Although I always end up over the course of working on a painting having to let it dry a day between coats. As matter of personal preference, I was not a fan of having a piece left untouched for that long a duration.