Friday, December 19, 2008

Pictures from the end-of-the-semester group critique/pizza.

Results of the hard work during the past semester.

Having Tom talk during the critique allowed me plenty of time to take pictures (and eat more pizza).

Several staff members dropped in to participate.

Some serious discussions went on during the session…

…and, of course, we had a lot of fun talking about our paintings.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sarah, 18"x14" oil on linen

Sarah is one of the admissions representatives at the Academy who approached us to pose for the club.

What was curiously interesting was the way she kept her mouth slightly open throughout the session. I liked it because the expression in her mouth and eyes added something more to an otherwise simple head study, as if she is actively engaged in a conversation, with or without spoken words from her—an element of storytelling. At the same time, the way she “posed” her mouth could easily be interpreted as a mildly angry expression. As I look at the finished painting, I could read both sides of the story.

Her long, dark hair (so intensely dark it almost looked blue) provided a strong frame for her face as well as high contrast against her skin tone.
Lisette, 18"x14" oil on linen

Lisette teaches various communications classes at the Academy.

This was her second time posing for the club. As she had already experienced the difficulties of posing in the previous session (and this was a Friday evening after a long day's work), she became fatigued rather quickly midway through the session. Rather than keep asking her to hold her head straight, I decided to just paint her appearance the way I remembered it from the beginning of the session.

I think that approach might have sacrificed the exact likeness in the superficial sense of the painting. On the other hand, I was pleased to see the result, which showed a structurally solid appearance while capturing the essence of Lisette with subtle color variations on her face.

Alexis, 18"x14" oil on linen

Alexis is the career services coordinator at the Academy, working to help the students find employment.

A few days before the session, I asked her if she would like to bring any kind of simple prop for the session: hat, scarf, jewelry, etc. She brought a handsome blue scarf that she dyed herself. After seeing her put the blue scarf on her head, I hung a comparably intense red drapery for the background.

I started the painting with thin wash of abstract color pattern that would suggest the red background and balance against the blue in the foreground. It would also serve to "anchor" her head on the canvas. Unlike the painting of Ellen the previous week, I decided to keep the background to the minimum; I didn't alter or add much to the initial wash pattern. During the final few minutes of the session, I simply suggested the contour of her shoulders by carefully shaping the negative space created by the red background above and the white of the bare canvas.
Ellen, 18"x14" oil on linen

Ellen teaches various art history classes at the Academy.

What was both interesting and challenging in painting her was her prominent and clear-cut, bold features, especially her large eyes. I didn't want her features to overly dominate or give a harsh feel to the painting. But at the same time, I had to be careful not to soften her appearance too much.

I liked the way her hair flowed forward in front of her right shoulder while the other side disappeared behind her left shoulder, which added the sense of depth to the painting.

After the session was over, I added a pattern of background color from the red-violet drapery behind her.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Spiro II, 16"x16", Oil on linen

As Spiro sat to pose for the group, I asked him if he could pose like this:
but we thought he would have a hard time holding the pose, so we settled with a more conventional pose.

Unlike the last painting of him, this painting shows the less serious and more lively appearance of the Spiro that we know.

Tom II, 16"x12" oil on linen

Tom arrived in the classroom about 20 minutes late, with a half-eaten pizza still in his mouth. I was concerned that the shortened session would make it difficult for the students to finish the painting. Becoming frustrated by waiting for him, one student packed up her painting set and went home just before Tom took the pose.

We all agreed that any club member who is in his class should be excused for turning in their mid-term project late.

For this painting, I used a mixture of terra rosa and viridian to pre-tone the Belgian linen that I prepared with rabbit skin glue and three coats of lead-white ground.

My intention was to finish the painting with a vignette around his neck with a thin wash of color that would faintly suggest the extension of neck and shoulder. At the end of the session, Tom lingered about and kept asking me if I would paint his neck. I obliged. He sat back in the chair for two more minutes after the session so that I could finish blocking in his neck.

While the last painting of him had a bit of a serious look in the face, he looks pensive, even melancholy, in this painting. Also, he turned out to be looking younger and more trim, with a couple of pounds missing from his face. He didn't complain.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Natalie, 18"x14" oil on canvas

I started this painting with a watercolor-like wash of green, just enough to suggest the background color. Because of the massive and free-flowing hair that hid much of the contour of her head, I decided the painting was best approached with a mass block-in rather than a precise line drawing. So, first, I laid down the large shape of her dark hair, then I moved on with other large shapes of light and dark.

The painting seems to reflect her expression of awkwardness from posing for the first time in front of an attentive crowd of painters.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Tom Herzberg teaches illustration and watercolor classes, and sits on a Chair for the fine arts department.

I set the blue drapery before Tom arrived in the classroom. When I saw him walking into the classroom in his blue jean shirt, I thought about changing the drapery to a different color. But with the warm pre-tone of the canvas,
I thought it might be interesting to have the similar colors on the background and in his shirt. Also, I liked the accentuated contrast between the cool red on his face and the surrounding blue.

As soon as the pose was set, Tom tilted his head slightly to his right. In the beginning, I asked him to bring his head back to straight position, but he kept sliding back to the previous position. Soon I realized that it actually presented a more interesting look of engagement rather than a posed appearance. So I just painted the way his head was tilted.

The biggest challenge in painting Tom turned out to be, as I mildly expected, for the group not to be drawn into his constant chatter. (The man wouldn't shut up!)
We will have to do something about that next time he poses for the group. I don't know how, but I managed to bring out some degree of a serious appearance in the painting.

Tom, 20"x16" oil on linen

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

For the Fall term, I have decided, after reviewing a brief survey of the members, to hold our sessions on Wednesday evenings rather than Friday afternoons. This is because of the new General Education class schedule that now meets twice a week instead of once a week. Trying to schedule our session around the new robust Gen-Ed schedule was a challenge, but it worked out in the end, I think. With the exception of those who have a class on Wednesday evening, most of the students who wished to participate were able to set aside Wednesday evenings to continue our gathering, at least for now. This means, as the session ends at 8:30, students commuting by train have to dash to the train station to catch once-an-hour night train.

I pointed out to the students that once they graduate from the school and have to work 9 to 5 daily, the only time they will be able to keep up with their painting experience will be evenings and weekends. That has been the story for painters for decades, if not centuries, so they might as well get used to it sooner than later.

Despite the late evening schedule, 23 students signed up for the club, and 13 participated on the first evening to paint Will McGraw. On one hand, I would like to see as many students as they can come to paint, but on the other hand, the classroom can not accommodate more than 15 or so.

Will II, 16"x12" oil on canvas

I chose a smaller size canvas to paint Will because there were a couple of new members who had never painted in oil and needed help to get started.

We used a warm, orange-ish light that was carried over from this week's class set-up. It turned out to be a little too strong in close proximity. During the pose, Will kept his eyes wide open and sideways the whole time, making the whites of the eyes brightly lit. I should've kept them calm to avoid the deer-in-the headlights appearance.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Scenes from the end of the term group critique and pizza party.

3 guest models, Tony Thomas, Peter Scott, and Aron Gagliardo, joined the group for the critique and pizza...

... and to listen to Spiro make an argument.

Katie talks about her paintings.

OJ speaks about her painting of Lou Ann.

Joey's turn to make a point about her paintings…

…in front of the eager listeners.

Peter, 16"x12" oil on linen

There was a mild debate in the beginning of the session about whether Peter should pose with his glasses on or not.
Some students were hesitant and even afraid to paint the glasses. I decided that since we see Peter with his glasses on most of the time, we should paint him the way he generally appears everyday.

The strongest characteristics of Peter's face are the rugged and broad planes of the head. I feel I didn't emphasize them enough, at least to the degree that I felt about them, in this painting. I suspect that it had something to do with my having difficulty focusing because of many distractions that were going on, both internal and external.

Peter mentioned at the end of the session that he had a look of dignity in the painting. Well, though not intentional, it never hurts to flatter the sitter in portraiture.
Tony, 20"x16", oil on board

Tony just came back from his Summer trip to Europe, and while he was traveling, he let his hair grow long and wild;
an appearance that I am not familiar with. That presented a certain challenge in the beginning. It was as though, had I not known his "usual" appearance, I would've had an easier time interpreting solely what I saw. But having certain ideas about his face made me second-guess the progress of the painting by searching for superficial likenesses.

It wasn't until the second half of the session that I was able to compose myself and paint what I saw rather than what Tony looked like in my mind.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Kristin, 18"x14", oil on board

At the beginning of the session when I surveyed the pose, I was drawn to the strong diagonal line of Kristin's hair across the forehead. After establishing the hairline and the simple boundaries of the head, I moved on to colors without much of drawing. To go in tandem with the heavy texture and the brush strokes of the board I prepared and pre-toned, I began the painting by laying down generous chunks of various colors in a very direct manner, almost like putting together a mosaic. Only at the last stage, did I smooth the transitions of the planes of the head, being careful not to blend excessively.