Monthly Archives: March 2011

Technical Insights from “Not Far from Home” #4

This is the fourth  installment from the series of posts that will describe my thoughts and  technical insights from selected works included in our newly released book, “Not Far from Home”….Enjoy!

Photographs…

Some have asked if I use photographs when painting. The short answer is, sometimes yes.  However, it is extremely critical to work with the subject as much as possible from life.  If I must use photographs because the small children are too restless to sit still or an animal is involved, I will always do a color study from life to gather the necessary information that is missing from the photo.  The subtleties and variations in tone, value, and color are simply too intricate to guess at.  To paraphrase the great landscape painter Edgar Payne who commented on the subject, “Our brains are way too small to invent such infinite variation”.  In my experience with painting, I would completely agree with his words.

Again, if I must use photographs, I have found the best case scenario is to meet with the model to arrange the composition, photograph them, then, to go back to the studio to draw or map out the composition on the canvas. I will also print out a black and white photo and tape it to the canvas and meet the models back on location to begin the painting. Now I have all I need… the models bathed in the beautiful light, and the photo which will give me the information I will need to accurately draw the subject.  This does take a bit more time, but is well worth the effort.

I have read that William Bouguereau had somewhat the same approach when he painted small children, only he used carefully drawn pencil studies created from marble sculptures instead of photos.  He had the study for the drawing, and would have the “children running around the studio” for the color and value.

The following images show a finished painting and the study from life that corresponds. The degree of finish in the studies will vary based on the amount of time I had with the subject from life.   Often this plan of attack is necessary in very early or late light, when you are only given a few minutes of a certain light quality. As you can see, little attention was given to the drawing in the study, and because the time with the model was short, all of my energies went into accurately capturing the value and color relationships.

book cover new web

Other examples of the varying quality in the studies and the intricate relationships between the field sketch and finished work can be seen on pages 28,52,62,96,112 and136 in our recently released book, “Not Far from Home”.

Enjoy!


Technical Insights from “Not Far from Home” #3

This is the third  installment from the series of posts that will describe my thoughts and  technical insights from selected works included in our newly released book, “Not Far from Home”….Enjoy!

Squinting…….bring on the Botox, or not.

Through the 25 years I have been painting, there is one recurrent problem that will hinder my efforts to produce an effective representation of what I am seeing.  That problem is not properly squinting at the subject to simplify the information enough to solidify the masses and amplify the essentials.  I have “Squint” signs up all around my studio, because even after years of doing this, I still want to open wide to see every little thing.  The whole idea seems counter intuitive.  You ask, “We are trying to see the subject aren’t we, wouldn’t that work best with our eyes wide open?!?!?”  It seems like the answer should be yes, but, most of what we need to lock into is best observed with the non-essentials obscured or simplified.  As I have described squinting in previous posts, I would like to address the technique here.

As I tried to figure out the squint in the early days, I had an approach that looked something like this, minus the gray hair.

Not only did I have a splitting head ache in about 10 minutes, but Botox wouldn’t touch these wrinkles.

Another not so excellent approach is the “Cheat Squint”.

I see this a lot as I teach. As I am harping to “Squint Down”, I have seen some in a stealthy half squint, gathering all the info they can with the open eye.  I, too, have been guilty of this.  😦

The best approach is to gently close your eyes until the lights and darks become more separate or value patterns simplify and the sharpest edges emerge. The key is to keep this up through the process, only opening your eyes to more easily identify the color temperature shifts within the simple shapes.

What might a good squint accomplish?  As is seen in the detail of “Yellow Rose”, (page 83), with the squint I was able to more easily differentiate between the light and darks of the roses and organize the warm and cool lights on her head to accentuate the forms.  When I would look at the subject open-eyed, the simple forms were almost hidden beneath the complexity of light.  Simply put, I was able to wrap my head around the problem and break it down more easily.

Keep smiling and SQUINT DOWN!

book cover new web


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