In the Atelier forum on facebook they have been talking about the pros and cons of working from life vs. photos. It is pretty much agreed that working from life is required for any serious student of art. However some were of the viewpoint that working from photo reference was somehow not as valid as work done in front of a live model or still life. Well, that is very easy to say for someone that has access to *space*. Models can be found, still lives set up… life is everywhere, just paint from it, right? Easier said than done when there is no space between your easel, the wall in front of it and the wall behind you. When I one day have the luxury to have a nice little set up to my right or left that is appropriately eye level then that day I will work from life every day, day in and day out and love the hell out of it. When I one day have the gift of being able to place a model a reasonable distance away from my easel so I might use sight size I will have a personal renaissance of drawing and painting only from the life. Until then I will take advantage of the models at school WHEN I can and I will paint and draw from *whatever* I need to so that I can continue to work at home and fill that crazy need within to just “do it”.
Absurd to think that somehow there is less validity in the work of an artist that has no access to the luxury of studio space. It is thoughts like that that create a subtle and specific kind of elitism that can divide even something as free as making art into the “have’s” and the “have not’s”
Speaking of photo’s… I have been working on a few pastels lately. I thought I would show the the steps so far of one work in progress. The still life comes from a larger still life I set up and took multiple photo’s of creating different individual still lifes. I spent some time drawing from the still life before I had to take it down due to above mentioned space issues. Now I am working primarily from memory and photo reference. It still has a long way to go – I’ll post it again when it is finished.
I finally finished my pastel “Anchorage! You can see the progression in the below posts. It has come a long way, and it took me a long time to finish but I fell in love with the subject even more so than when I began. The light in Anchorage in the evening is the most amazing light I have ever seen. I have also finished a little drawing called “Irene”. I had some fun with this one adding abstractions and atmosphere to it. Now it’s time to start new work. that is always a little unnerving.
I am going to do a large drawing in the style of :Reverie” or another girl reading a book. I already prepared the drawing board and it is just waiting. It is going to be approx 18×24 in graphite, charcoal and Conte Noir. I am also starting two pastel still lives and an abstract snowy landscape of Anchorage again. And I am still working on my little grisaille still life. I want to start a new painting so bad I can taste it. In color even! Anyway, here is “Anchorage” and “Irene” . I really hope you like them!
Umber underpainting with open grisaille on the right.
I have decided to begin my oil painting re-introduction in Grisaille, or monochrome. I will be using a gray palette where I can focus on learning the feel of the paint in application and clearly communicate value. I am basically teaching myself painting using my drawing classes as a foundation and information I can find online from classical realists and different ateliers that openly share knowledge.
I applaud the ateliers that do this. They are making at least some portion of a classical education available to us who simply cannot afford the atelier classes. I know that without the critique of an experienced teacher it is an uphill battle with results that may never match those with a full house of classes and workshops but, what? Do I just not do it because I can’t pursue the curriculum full tilt boogie. Do I wallow in the discouragement or just get over it and paint. I seek to find the best sources of information and apply it to the best of my ability. I am very fortunate to be able to take figure drawing and classical drawing at the Neoteric Renaissance School of Art. Drawing is the backbone of my painting program. I have already seen a vast improvement in my painting from where I left off over ten years ago just through applying how I am starting to see and sticking with the spirit of classical art studies.
All that said I begin with two still lifes.
The first some eggs and the second some oranges. I will post some as I move forward in the work. Below are my under paintings and the “open grisaille” beginnings along with the reference material I am working from. I have no room in my very small apartment for a still life so I am relegated to working with photos of still lives I have put together. The drawings are done using a grid system and the techniques I am learning via the Bargue system of drawing. The under painting is a burnt umber. The grisaille palette is a value string made of a mixture of ivory black and burnt umber for the dark and titanium white for the light. I am using a nine value string. My lean medium for my open grisaille is turpenoid with a tad of liquin to assist drying time. My fat medium will have a little more of the liquin.
Other than that, in terms of application I feel like I am learning to drive for the first time and I am just a little out of control of the car.
I called it done on two studies today. The first is my first ever pastel portrait. This is where the classical drawing will help A LOT. I can’t wait until I can draw a realistic looking face! I was interested in color matching my pastels in this one and also to do a flesh tone in pastel. I think the palette lacks subtlety because it was my first time. I got as far as I cared to go with the study, learned what I wanted from it and all in all I am happy with the result of the study.
The second is just a fun expressionistic study of some fire and ice roses on a bright Mexican blanket. I really wanted to have some fun with the colors in this one. Loosen up, see how much pastel I could push onto the paper and how the pastel acted at heavier applications. I achieved my goals and I think it is a alright in a quirky kinda way.
You have to do to learn and do lots. I have found it is good to have a goal in a piece. It gives you a signpost as to when to stop if the whole is not working. Not every piece is a work of art, but if you can learn something and better yet – know what you learned from each piece then it is a success. Both are 9″ x 12″ soft and hard pastel on hand prepared pumice paper.
A lot of people have suggested I document my drawing instruction as it progresses… for this purpose I have created a blog to post work after each session and the revelations that go along with the work. We see and enjoy so much the work of realist artists living today. They all started somewhere and for some that somewhere may have looked a little like this. It is going to be a very long, very special journey.
On the easel today — a painting of a woman with roses. The reference for this is a cemetery statue. It is a umber under-painting. The detail in the eyes and flesh will be worked in at the color phase.
I am using a new medium – water soluble oil paints. I just started experimenting with them last Wednesday. I like them very much more than the acrylics I have been fighting with for so long. They are buttery and work into a nice consistency or glaze when using the thinner and mediums made for it. They are not quite as nice as regular oils but it is real oil paint with a real oil paint feel. This makes me very, very happy and is a solution to a quandry I have had for a very long time. Next challenge – how to do multiple oil paintings in a tiny studio environment.
Also is a pastel I just started today of the redwoods in Henry Cowell park. This one has a long way to go too!
New drawings for my final project. Bell Book and Candle Series, Pastel on prepared paper. I like these though not as much as some others I have done recently. I was trying to use use the marks to give a subdued, realistic still life energy and atmosphere. There is a symbolic story to the series drawing from the literary and mystical traditions of the object relationships.
In Christopher Marlowe’s play Doctor Faustus, the lead character is subjected to excommunication using this process: “Bell, book, and candle; candle, book and bell, / Forward and backward, to curse Faustus to hell.” (Scene 7, lines 83-84).
My title piece, Bell, Book and Candle (the three items) is the final piece and represents the closure of the excommunication, a renunciation and the final end/death. Like the Death card in the Tarot – it has a reverse significance. In death is a new beginning.
Of course, the paintings have to communicate this in some way, and in that I was not as successful and I would have liked to have been. Pastel is a new medium for me and it was fun to work with, through trixtie. Lost control of it a little, also the series went a little darker in value than I intended when all was said and done. Loved doing the realism of the still life, I think I lost it a little in the marks. All in all tons of lesson! And fortunatly, there is always more art to make!
Bell Book and Candle 15″x22″ pastel on prepared paper
Hard at work on my four pieces for my final project. A lot going on in a very little space… They will look very different when done than they way they look here. Things are flowing very well! I love pastels. The marks you can make are so amazing. I have however, devised a way to paint with oils in my little apartment. I will try it this summer. We shall see. I will always have a fondness and will probably always do pastels.
This is a color study I did of a broom I have on my door. The detail of the wood handle was surprising to me. It amazed me the detail I was able to get with pastel, being they feel like little rocks in your hands. (The whole piece photo is curved.)
I have been asked before about my studio space. I have also been asked why I do not work in oils anymore and also why I work so small. One image will answer those questions. I work in a little corner of the living area in my tiny flat. It is flat in an old Victorian that has been converted into apartments. I also have a big gas heater in the living room as well. All of this adds up to no strong smells out of respect for the other tenants and no fumes out of a healthy respect for combustion.
Though I am loving my pastels and learning so, so SO much. I am starting to literally pine for oils again. I just read about a ‘natural’ turpentine that has almost no odor and little to no fumes. I am skeptical. However if it is good enough to clean brushes I can use a little of the good spirits to paint with along with a medium. I will find away to make this work… I must be into oil painting by this summer. I love pastels but to my taste the surface is just so very vulnerable it leaves me uneasy. Also, if I do not start really practicing my representational work in oils now I may never achieve any real level of skill. Oils are harder to handle than pastels and take much more time to learn to simply maneuver in the medium. I have some experience with them but need much, much more. The pastels are exciting me so much and if it were not for them, I might not “make a way” to come back to oils after seven years away from them.
So here is a shot of my ‘studio’ space. Big things start in small forms!!
My first pastel drawing is done. I know it is really simple but it is my first use of the medium and was the most fun with a medium that I have had since I had to stop oil painting. The only thing about pastel that makes me cringe is the vulnerability of the surface but I am using a self prepared surface that has a lot of pumice tooth so your not supposed to have to worry about the permanence. Still….. In all other regards it a really fun medium. Pure, opaque pigment lets you layer easily and blend there on the paper. People call it drawing but it feels quite like painting to me. I do miss using my brushes though, and the smell of turp. As a alternative medium it is making really happy at the moment. I am working on two other pastels I will post the results when they are done.
Here is a gallery of my most recent drawing Reverie. I am finally starting to come into my own in class and get comfortable with the mediums. I have also been looking at a ton of great contemporary representational artists that both elevate my aspirations and inspire my learning. Looking at great art also keeps you humble, very, very humble! For the first time in a completed drawing I achieved the goals I had and found a few unexpected lessons along the way. I am now drawing almost every moment that I am not in class or asleep and I am loving it. I am also exploring pastels and will put up my first pastel eggs as soon as I get a picture of them.
I am so grateful to the circumstances that have made my study of art possible – though they are so – very – hard. At 46 years old you hear a lot of things in your mind that carry doubt and fear. To start over, to begin new where I should have begun years ago is a humbling moment of acknowledging big mistakes and embracing a future that you have no idea where it will lead. So many of the artist’s I look at with awe are younger than me and have already been doing their art 10-15 years, and I wonder if I can even achieve half of what they have achieved in terms of craft, I wonder if I should even be so bold as to try. The answer to that lay in my heart and is truth, and must be honored. One thing that my experiences and age has taught me is to appreciate the ride, enjoy the act of creating itself and don’t let competition and outcomes drive too much of your activity. It is the ego that wants to be a great artist. It is the Artist that simply wants to create. Be the artist, do your very best.
ReverieGraphite and Conte Pierre Noirre on Paper
15.5″ x 22″