Sunday, November 18, 2007

French, 18"x14", oil on board

A few terms ago when I shared my classroom with another painting instructor, I found an abandoned gessoed board in the classroom painting rack. It appeared that a student who was taking oil painting as an elective class while majoring in Illustration had attempted an illustration project on the board but didn't finish it. The board had a small, unfinished painting of a mermaid on the lower right corner, but the rest of the surface was clean. So while I was cleaning up the classroom at the end of the term, I decided to save it and use it later for a painting study or something.

I painted this head study of Steve French on that board during a class early this term while having the students finish their paintings. Time was short (about 2 hours) in between instructing the students, so I decided to take on a simple profile. I am not sure what kind of primer was used to prepare the board, but it had a very unusual surface qualityムit was extremely absorbent. From the very beginning, as I laid down the wash, it dried almost immediately. In fact, it felt much like painting in gouache. Not quite a fan of fast-drying media, I quickly realized that my usual wet-on-wet method would not work on this surface. So I tried to lay the pigments with a more direct approach and little brush manipulation. Also, I relied more on dry brush technique than "mingling in" colors to emphasize the texture and alter the colors on the surface.

As far as color scheme is concerned, I exaggerated the color, or "pushed the color" a bit. When I was a student, my painting instructor, Ted Smuskiewicz, used to tell us, "Don't be afraid to use color boldly."

Overall, I am satisfied with the result that came out of the initial challenge of painting on an unexpected surface. Actually, at the end of it, I came to like working wet-on-dry, so I decided to find the same board at the art supply stores, but to no avail. After some experimentation, I discovered that Clayboard meant for watercolor painting comes close to it, but is not quite the same. I intend to look for it more or come up with it on my own.

As for the mermaid painting, when I finished the painting initially I left it untouched. It was where Steve's deltoid is on the painting. Steve being an ex-sailor, I contemplated for a moment leaving the mermaid on his arm as a tattoo, but I decided to cover it up.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Katie, 18"x14", oil on linen

My plan was to capture Katie's strong profile—her pale red skin against the deep blue-green background.

So I positioned myself in a perfect profile spot. But while I went upstairs for a minute just before the beginning of the session, some students in the group decided to turn her head slightly. In some ways, that little bit off the profile worked well to give just enough sense of the unseen side of her head. What turned out to be more interesting to me was a curiously slight lift of her chin forward as if she were engaged in intense listening.

John, 18"x14", oil on linen

John wore his 4-colored hat for the sitting—his trademark of sorts. But I didn't want the hat to overshadow his head, so I decided to vignette it and focus more on the expression behind his glasses. Looking back, I should have carried the vignette farther down to his left shoulder.
Spiro, 20"x16", Oil on board

I enjoyed painting Spiro on a heavily textured board that I prepared with oil primer. I thought that the underlying texture would work well with his character and appearance. I also added some very thick brush strokes on the areas of his beard as well as the background and the shirt.

The painting turned out to be a bit serious looking, unlike his actual demeanor.
Jeffrey, 18"x14", oil on linen

Jeffrey is the first painting of the club's meeting (actually, I turned out to be the first 'model' to pose for the club when we drew numbers from the cup the previous week—I have a strong suspicion that the students set me up).

The most striking thing when he sat to pose was how brilliant the light on his hair and the upper half of the face was, and how much pale blue gray I saw on the lower side of his face.

Jeffrey wore a multi-colored shirt under his vest, but I decided to paint him in a subdued shirt so as not to detract from the color of his face.