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!
Here is the latest from my work in progress of Anchorage. In the post below you can see the progression. It has a ways to go before it is done. I am really struggling with the path and I have not evens really started on defining the tree sky edges but I am starting to see it really emerge. I am working so hard on my classical drawing and on my value paintings that it is refreshing to work in color on this one.
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.
The biggest thing for me right now is going to drawing school and learning to draw the old school method. It will take a long time and change up everything. You can keep an eye on the whole “go backwards to move forwards” concept at the Atelier Student’s Blog which I just updated with today’s very humble marks. However, I can not just stop wanting make marks until I learn how to really draw so I have a few projects on the easel right now. The landscape is hard and soft a pastel on prepared pumice paper. The drawing is pencil from a photograph of a friends mother. The under painting here is the start of a re-do of a tiny acrylic I did a while back. I am using the water-soluable oils and am finding they do not perform as well for me on a smaller scale. I am not really sure where I am going with it, but I like the concept.
I know three things. 1) I am compelled to create 2) This is SUCH an exciting time to be learning and making art. 2) In the long run, my drawing study will make so much difference in what’s on my easel.
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!
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.
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.
Happy Easter and Happy Spring! In the spirit of the season, my very first use of pastels took the form of eggs! I am loving pastels. I can not paint in oils because of the restrictions of my small apartment. Pastels are the first medium that I have really, really enjoyed since leaving the oils behind. So for Easter, I colored eggs!
A sketch from a photo of my Mom (miss her!) and a copy of a Burne-Jones sketch – from my sketchbook this week. Both are Conte Graphite on Paper. I am loving being back in school! I was hesitant about going back after so many years away. Now I am like a duck in water! It is the best choice I have made in a long, long time.
It is really getting me in the discipline of drawing and writing every day. It is great to do what I really love every day. The more you do what you love, the better you get at it… and you get a very encouraging loop going on then. That loop is priceless.
I just finished a new piece. This is a 15″ x 11″ Acrylic on Arches 140 lb., cold press paper. I have a really small working area in my flat so am limited in size and to a certain extent gesture, but not imagination. I have found the challenges of working both small and in acrylic really interesting. I’ve become very aware of how external constraints manifest themselves both in the conceiving and the execution of a work. I am just starting to get used to the small size and re-discovering my voice all over again.