Thursday, April 29, 2010

Self-portrait study 2

Burnt sienna toned ground, then a palette of burnt sienna, lead white, ultramarine blue, yellow ochre, and burnt umber. I really liked this palette (though it was strange to have burnt sienna as one's only "red"), and only barely began to discover all the different subtle combinations that can be created. Very happy with how this turned out. This was about 2 hours, alla prima with a mirror.

I have to figure out a better setup, though... I can't seem to manage a way, yet, to have the spotlight (and it's awfully hot under that thing; artists' models, I empathize!) on my face without it being either in my eyes or too bright on my canvas, or both.

Also, I'm a bit bummed that alla prima self-portraits are pretty much limited to the straight-on view. Unless I'm majorly misunderstanding something or there are some tricks using multiple mirrors, there's no way to paint one's own profile (for example) alla


In India. Traditional wooden block-print stamps for textiles.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Self-portrait study

I'm planning on experimenting with the different suggested palettes in Suzanne Brooker's Portrait Painting Atelier (book discussed in this post of mine). This is the first one: viridian toned, then a limited palette of viridian, alizarin, raw umber, and lead white. (Raw umber oil paint is very bizarre to me: it feels like painting with lumps of wet dirt...which I guess it is, actually.) It took until it was about halfway done for me to decide not to scrape it, and to keep going; at first, it seemed the palette was going to be impossible...then all of a sudden it began resolving and I'm pleased with it. The likeness is fairly close, though you can see I didn't sketch it out much first. This was about an hour and a half, alla prima with a mirror.

I may have the strangest cat in the world. (I once saw a bumper sticker that said My cat is weirder than yours.) I think he looks like a snake here (no ears).

Another great "found abstract": a wall in Jaipur.

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Untitled 51

This is pastel on the finest grade grit UArt. I find it a very strange surface...a swipe of the pastel stick over it sometimes takes off a previous layer of pastel instead of lying on top of it, and sometimes it does lie on top of it. This seems to be especially true when using Townsend pastels. Perhaps I should try the coarser grits, or is it something to do with UArt itself, or the Townsends?

From a couple of weeks ago, when we (and especially Rumi) were enjoying a lot of sun... It's done nothing but hail, sleet, rain, and snow--yes, it snowed a lot last night, for example, in spite of being almost May--for a while now. Bring back the sun!

Sometimes the iPhone can take some great pics... Since starting the sky series, I've become a real cloud-watcher.

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Sky study 20

As SamArtDog, my neighbor, said, there really is something very cool about fitting a whole sky into a little tiny strip of paper. This is 6.5" x 1.75".

Lynx would like you all to see what a big beautiful boy he's becoming.

Boulder is known for its rapidly-changing and extreme weather, especially in spring and fall, when it can literally drop forty degrees in an hour.
I was wearing sandals and short sleeves when I left the house...and when I arrived at the grocery store, it had done this (hail? giant sleet? not sure what to call it):

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Untitled 50

Is this a sky painting informed by previous abstracts, or a new abstract informed by previous sky paintings? (Chicken or the egg...?)

I was unable to get this color to reproduce well. It's a periwinkle kind of blue in person (has a bit more lavender in it), and the middle value is a more clear sea-blue-greenish color.

It's been an eventful couple of days. First of all, we're in the midst of a major deluge--it's been raining for two days almost nonstop, with more predicted. Secondly, the college where I teach had a bomb threat tonight while I was teaching. We all had to evacuate...before I could even give 'em their homework!

Cleo (our cat who gets the least screen know how difficult it is to get a good picture of a black cat) is happy it's spring. (These daffodils have been plastered down by the rain since this was taken a few days ago.)

And shh...don't tell anyone, but Cleo and Bonnie's handsome orange boy Chili Pepper have taken up a romantic email correspondence.

Road cut in Munnar. Looks like a great abstract painting to me.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Untitled 49

This is as dark as possible without any black. It's a variety of very very dark blues and grays. You probably can't see much variation on the computer screen, but there is some.

What do you compulsively sketch? What types of subject matter are you continually drawn to look at or draw, or just want to draw? I've realized that, for example, when I take my sketchbook along to a cafe, it's not bodies I want to draw, and it's not the furniture, nor the scene out the window, nor the fluffy dog tied to the outdoor table, nor even the still life of espresso products lined up on the counter... It's always faces. I'm so in love with human faces. I really miss the alla prima portrait class I was in so briefly. I do want to get back to portraiture, somehow. I suppose that leaves self-portrait studies, for now at least. I think it's time to figure out how the heck I can set everything up in my studio (lighting, placement of easel, mirror, and seat, palette within reach, etc.) to do some.

There's an amazing new book out there: Suzanne Brooker's Portrait Painting Atelier. I got it from our excellent public library and am going to buy a copy. It's for intermediate-level (e.g., you know most of the vocabulary but maybe haven't learned all the techniques) oil painters, dedicated about 80% (my guesstimate) to indirect painting (painting in layers, where you wait for each one to dry before proceeding--what I did in art school, and which leads to a "tight" look rather than loose) and perhaps only 20% to direct (alla prima). Even though I am almost wholly interested in alla prima style, nevertheless, the information is so good and thorough that I definitely want the book. If you do paint portraits in oils indirectly, this book will be your bible. Interestingly, although the book is vastly about indirect-style painting, there are tons of great reproductions of both indirect and direct-style contemporary portraits. Mouthwatering. Inspiring. My personal favorites in this book might just be the Robert Liberace alla prima portraits.


All alone and bored. Looking for a playmate...

Rumi heard from Garrett, SamArtDog's dog (who would like to eat Rumi, but never mind that right now), that buying these postage stamps currently can help feed shelter companion animals.

In Jaipur.

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Busy busy

I'm afraid I have no new painting to show you. I have been painting a lot...and scraping it. And repainting, and scraping. Etc. Very little of what I'm painting is satisfying me at the moment. Apparently I'm in one of those transition times when artistic things (perhaps interests, and hopefully abilities too) are changing. I have been working separately on some stuff with a totally new (for me) technique, and will share pics if I ever finish one of them (lots of layers, perhaps infinite layers, therefore perhaps a never-finished painting...?).

In the meantime, here's a lovely bit of a tree in the park where I walk my dogs. I see a little Kokopelli running in the middle of you?

Well, the results of the PastelMat-stretching business are in: it quickly became apparent that re-moistening the tape and trying to peel it off was going to require the patience of a saint. That I'm not. So I went the X-acto knife route. So here's what I'm left with: a permanent mess of stuck-on tape on my stretching board. Oh well. Live and learn...
(P.S. I shall order some blotting paper in the future and try that method. But the compressed-air blasting is probably not a good idea: visualize a pastel-dust explosion in your face...)

So, you see, I have been busy.

The animolecules have been busy too. I'm trying a new med with Rumi for his perpetual eye problem. It's an antibiotic in fish paste that they're supposed to love the taste of (HA!). Since The Husband is traveling, I have to wrap up Rumi as an angry little burrito baby (pic from previous post: click on this link and then scroll down--where his eyes were much worse than currently) and stick the "syringe" (no needle, of course) into the corner of his mouth and shoot 1 ml of the paste down his cute little gullet. Well, that's the theory, anyway. In practice, it's like wrestling a (small but shockingly strong) alligator, and you simply don't have enough hands. The first day of the med, he managed to froth at the mouth like a demon to the point that much of the med went everywhere but into him. It made a lovely chartreuse stain on the blanket he was wrapped in, though, and on his chest and face...he looked a bit glow-in-the-dark for a while afterward. Then today, I got most of the med down him, then he ran off and started eating his regular food really fast...and promptly threw it all up (no pics of that, I sort of thought you wouldn't want any). So, that was ten dollars' worth of meds in two days, right there. I thought I knew what it was like to give a difficult cat meds before, but Rumi? He's a little silky white gladiator.

...And then he goes off and falls asleep in a sunbeam and looks all smug and cherubic again.

Rumi and Lynx were also both quite industrious while I was gone this evening. I came home to this (note strangely ragged bottom edge of lampshade...and then look at what Rumi's chewing on: yep, that used to be the bottom of the lampshade).

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Friday, April 16, 2010

10th Street Spring

The trees on our street are looking so amazing...all the little leaves coming unfurled. Everything's so colorful and miraculous after the tough winter we had. Yes, I know, it happens every year, Spring...yet it really does feel like a miracle.

This mini (4" x 4") painting reflects some of that color: the acid greeney-yellows of willows, and the dark peach of new maples.


Stunned by the sun.

Okay, now a question for you watercolorists (and others) out there. I've been trying to figure out how to remove (almost) all the pastel from PastelMat when I want to get rid of a painting. PastelMat, like most specialty pastel papers, is very expensive, so it's desirable not to have to actually toss it in the trash when abandoning a painting effort.

If I use a paint brush, I can get most of the pastel off, but not enough to really start over.

So...I tried washing it all off with water. This seems pretty effective, but the PastelMat dries buckled. I tried damp PastelMat under heavy boxes...still somewhat buckled.

So...I decided to think like a watercolorist, and try some of this gummy-tape stuff I had sitting around meant for watercolor paper, and which I had never had occasion to try to use before (I have some watercolor supplies but virtually never use any of them). You get the gummed-paper-tape damp and then (messily) tape down your wet paper so it will dry flat overnight.

Voila, it seems to have dried quite flat. But...I can't figure out how to get it off! It is stuck to and holding on to that watercolor board like grim death. Without taking an X-acto knife to the whole thing and destroying the stretching board in the process, I'm stumped.


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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sky study 19

It was fun using some "old-fashioned" pastel paper (Ingres) for a change of pace. There's definitely, when using this sort of paper, a sweet spot where you have just enough pastel but not so much as to kill the sparkle.


My darling Fang.
But don't let his angelic sleeping demeanor fool you--he's a hellion when awake.

Jaipur roofs.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sky study 2 (oil)

Rumi, I suppose because he's deaf, is obsessed (even more than other cats I've known) by visual minutiae. After we take our showers, he always goes into the shower stall and watches water drops slide down the tiles. Drop after drop after drop. As long as it takes.

Today he really surprised me--came right in while I was showering. And stayed in there quite a lot longer than I thought any cat would. I had to be careful not to trip over this little white raggedy damp critter dashing around my ankles while I finished rinsing my hair.

Here he is afterwards:

The Husband decides to make a little vid of Rumi playing with a pencil:

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sky study 18

This one started out by my feeling bored with making blue-sky paintings and frustrated by a couple of skies that hadn't worked out. So I got that "screw it" attitude and decided just to put down some outrageous colors. Sometimes that attitude (the mentality of what have I got to lose, since it's all coming out bad anyway) creates good things. I ended up with a secondary-colors scheme, in spite of having given color harmony no thought. The darkest values are very dark green and purple. And then that final little touch of yellow-green--it was just crying out for it. Once I put it in, the painting resolved and I heaved a huge sigh of relief and was able to put the pastels away, turn off the lights, and leave the studio for the night.

Mojito looking bored...and scruffy.

In Jaipur. A historic cart wheel (not actually in use anymore).

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Sunday, April 11, 2010


It's been way too long since I did any sketching. So I went to my favorite cafe last night expressly (ha ha) to do that.

Someone once said that we fall in love with our models. I feel like it's true--regardless of what a person looks like, the incredibly focused attention we give them feels like love, the way our gaze travels so slowly and intimately across their every feature, their bone the time you've finished sketching or drawing someone, you do feel something for them. Even if it was just a five-minute sketch.

The only problem with this kind of focused attention on strangers is...they notice it. People are amazingly gifted at being able to sense when they're being stared at. Hence, when sketching strangers in public, the drawing often has to be hastily aborted, leading to quite unfinished sketches. But that's part of their charm.

This guy (above) had the most incredibly flat, narrow face...

(Above) Dreadlocked manga-maker.

Origami kitten.

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Sky study 17

That turbulent spring sky...


The other day I couldn't find Rumi for a while and had to go looking:

Che in Munnar!

(It seems we got about 90% of our interesting India photos from Munnar.)

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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Sky study (oil)

A little 4" x 6", oil on linen panel.

God help me, am I lurching my way towards plein-air painting? Landscape? Moi, with my bug phobias, irritation at too much wind, too much humidity, or too much heat, and inability to withstand cold for any decent interval? No...I think not. For now at least, my clouds will still come from my head and form only inside my studio.

The Husband's photo (I didn't go) from a couple of years ago: Mojito refuses to enter the tent because the wind (see? wind...plein air painting = bad) was whipping the nylon and creating loud flapping sounds. (One of Mojito's major dislikes.) Classic skeptical Mojito look here.

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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Sky study 16

Mellow. No particular place to go...


From the archives: Rumi as a baby, asleep between two couch cushions:

It seems others have clouds in mind these days too. Here's a particularly unusual example. (They say they're smiley faces. They look a bit more like a grimace to me, probably the best one can do when faced with real London skies day after day.)

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