Saturday, February 18, 2017

Right, or Wrong?

-By Petar Meseldzija

Is there a wrong way to tackle a painting? Do all roads lead to Rome, as they say? Can we really reach the same destination by different roads? I think the ultimate answer to the first question is NO, and YES is the answer to the second one. In other words, to get to the level of NO, one must pass through the level(s) of YES.

Yes, I believe that all roads lead to Rome, but only our own path will eventually bring us there. In order to find our own path, we must first walk the roads paved by others that came before us.

Another important question that addresses the same issue, only from another angle is – do we need to train our hand so that it can perform as we please; or, so to speak, do we have to learn to listen to that same hand and then act accordingly? This might sound like a silly, pretentious quasi-philosophical question, but it’s not. It refers to the following – at the beginning, one must learn in accordance to the existing set of rules and relevant insights, one must follow and obey them while passing through the various levels of skill and knowledge, and after having assimilated all that he requires, one begins to realize what it is that he needs to do in order to expresses himself genuinely, to live and work as one is destined to do, aligned with his innate character and sensibility.

In order to break the rules, or to let go of the guidelines that have helped and guided us on our developmental path and replace them with the new ones more true to our own character and our aspirations, we must get to know them first, we must live and work by them, at least for a certain period of time. Eventually it boils down to spending 20 years in hard work, learning and developing in accordance to the certain rules and criteria, just to find out that you must give up on them because you realize you don’t need them anymore, because they have become a restrictive burden, a stumbling block to your further growth. Of course, one can try to stick to the rules and guidelines, norms and values one grew up with, and live by them for the rest of one’s life in happiness and contentment - if one is lucky. But I am not talking to them, I am addressing those who are brave enough to walk “The road less traveled”.

The Sentinel: Homage to Paja Jovanović

Recently, I posted an image on Facebook of a painting in progress (The Sentinel: Homage to Paja Jovanović). Most of my Facebook friends, as it is called today, liked the presented image - some were intrigued, others puzzled by my way of working. A puzzled person asked why I paint like that? Another one was impressed by the “magic” of the process and suggested that I should go on television and present my skills to the kids to enjoy and be amazed by. There was a person who, quite genuinely and with best possible of intentions, advised me not to post such images online anymore because the “real” painters might think I am an amateur. A proper way of working on a painting, as he correctly pointed out, demands that the artist works simultaneously on different parts of the picture, gradually working his way toward the completion of the entire piece.

To make things clear, I did not feel insulted by any of these questions and comments, nor did I think they were silly, or mean. They were genuine and by the book…well, by a book. I perfectly understand that we, people, often have troubles understanding the dynamics and the logic of a level, or a stage, we are not familiar with, or the insights we are not yet up to.

What they did not know was that I spent decades working by the book, so to speak, following, as best as I could, clever and inspiring instructions and insights of those who preceded me on a similar kind of endeavor, and with which they paved and enlightened the path for me. Throughout my entire career, I spent countless hours preparing reference material, doing sketches and preliminaries, and making elaborate and complex underpaintings, some of which were in fact finished monochromatic pictures. But… but, about a year ago, I realized I did not need any of this anymore. And although I still spend much time on preparations, especially on creating a very detailed digital reference, I do not need the underpainting anymore. I might do a little bit of underpainting here and there when a specific under-color is needed, but generally I stopped working in this way – the thing that was previously very helpful, has become now restrictive and annoying. At the same time, the irresistible call of the virgin white painting surface and the freshness and vitality of the first, juicy brushstrokes became so attractive to me and delicious to work with, that some other aspects of my previous painting process did not matter anymore and were abandoned, or pushed to the background. The fear of paint, my faithful friend and companion, seems finally to have left me.

The Sentinel: Homage to Paja Jovanović, still in progress.

I realized that I have finally arrived - I finally “graduated” from my own school, my own art academy - I finally learned to paint (it’s funny to feel that way after more than 25 years of painting). Moreover, I understood what my hand - being a metaphor for the painter’s creative spirit – wants me to do, and how to do it. So, thus I entered a new level, a new stage of artistic development with new set of rules and challenges.

Nevertheless, I am not the first, nor the last one to have made this particular journey, this transition. Perhaps you are next…So, good luck!

Friday, February 17, 2017

A Portrait in Progress

by Howard Lyon

I thought I would share a work in progress today and then the final in two weeks for my next post.

I started the process by doing thumbnails and then a detailed sketch.  With that in hand I hired a model for a photoshoot and then did a couple color comps to nail things down.  I usually do my color work in Photoshop, but I have been falling deeper in love with oils and as much as I can these days they are my go to medium.

Here is the first color study I did:

The response to it was good, but I didn't think the color palette was quite right for the feel I wanted, so I did another study.  Both of these are 8"x10" oil on aluminum panels (OmegaBond is the brand).

Here is the second study with a different palette.

I felt that this more appropriate for the image.  It was a tough choice though.  If you happen to follow me on Instagram or Facebook, there was some strong opinion towards the purple palette and the blue palette.  I received some great input from friends too, thank you!  Ultimately, I had to go with my gut on it and went with the latter.

I shot a video of the study being painting.  It is 5 hours of painting time sped up to 30 minutes.

To get the reference for the fabric, I bought 5 yards of the lightest fabric I could find and set up a strong fan.  I set up my studio strobe and set my camera to take a photo every 5 seconds.  After some experimentation, I got a few shots that I think worked well.  Here are some outtakes. :)

Next up, I wanted to do a head study to workout the flesh tones and expression.  Even though I was painting from a photograph, doing the head study let me make changes to the face and experiment a little which helps me not be a slave to reference, but not experiment on the final paint surface.

With the color study, photography and head study finished, I was ready to move onto the final.

I transferred the drawing using a 2"x2" grid, and then inked the important lines.

Here is the color block-in, or ébauche stage:

This stage is done in a few hours and the goal isn't to do a lot of rendering, but to block in some of the key values and colors.  You can see things look a little strange and flat, but that is alright.  This stage just provides a foundation to paint into.  I find that I am more successful with a color block-in like this and it adds some depth to the final paint layer.  It also gives a good reference point for subsequent layers of the painting.  When you put a color down, onto something that is fairly close to the end result you immediately see if it is too warm or cool, too dark or light, and you can make simple adjustments.  So while this stage looks ugly, it is really useful.

I used a little drier for the ébauche (Galkyd Gel, I really don't like straight Galkyd, but the gel is quite nice), and by the next day it was dry enough to start the 1st pass of painting.

Check back in two weeks to see the final!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

A New Place to Work

-By Justin Coro Kaufman

I wanted to share a project we’ve been working on for almost a year now. It's not a painting, but more a space to paint in. A new BARN STUDIO!!!

When we moved our family out to the woods a couple years ago, one of the things I was the most excited about was the barn. It wasn't anything too special, a humble, empty outbuilding across the yard, BUT it had a water a sewage line running to it, lots of potential, and sits less than 100 feet from our place. Great opportunity for a studio conversion.

For pretty much the entire duration of my professional career, my home set up has been in the living room. Pre-kids, this set up made sense, as Ive always liked being in the center the house, where I could hang out with my better half, half-watch TV and work at the same time. This set up served me well for the better part of the past 16 years. Lately though, with two little dudes tearing through the house, its become more and more difficult to work like this. Don't get me wrong, LOVE the kids, but DON’T love it when they draw or paint on my stuff while I’m using the bathroom or grabbing something to drink. Want to encourage them to draw and paint (just maybe not on dad’s stuff). There’s now a real need for a space to keep things separate (and safe) now for everybody’s well-being.

Enter BARN! The possibility of fleshing an entire building out to accommodate all of my arting needs has been something I’ve fantasized about for years. Having no construction background whatsoever made it kind of a daunting task. There’s SO much that goes into a project like this. Being a complete amateur, I figured the best way to start would be to take measurements and fall back on my 3d skills to build out a 3d model that I could iterate proposed alterations into.

This proved to be valuable as we started the actual work, since we could refer back and also try things out virtually before committing to it physically. decided to make the downstairs the oil painting area, since the open bay and barn doors make it easy to bring large canvases in and out. the upstairs would be set up as the digital part of the operation, or MB north :) where I could put my computer stuff.

We started out with the plumbing, since the water and sewage came into the building at the opposite end from where we intended to put the bathroom. First step was to have a concrete cutter come in and basically cut almost the entire foundation in half. Once that was completed, the plumber came in and trenched the new lines. We also added in lines for a shop sink in the painting bay, as well as a sink for the upstairs office area as well.

The actual building began once the lines were all roughed in and in place. We’re fortunate that our neighbor is a contractor and custom home builder who agreed to take the barn on as a side project portfolio piece type thing. Im limited in terms of handiness, so it was nice to have an experienced hand to power through the more specialized tasks that required actual skill. I handled most of the low-skill grunt stuff like demolition, installing insulation, site cleaning, painting, grouting etc.

The entire downstairs was originally covered in cedar panels, which looked kind of cool, but wasn’t insulated and didn’t lend itself well for hanging stuff, so I tore it all out and stripped the walls down to the studs.

Then came the reframing and window replacement. the windows were initially single pane’s of glass nailed permanently into place. we kept most of the windows the same size, but replaced with them with double paned ones that open and close. we put in a couple of large picture windows toward the back of the building to introduce more light and create some better views of our yard :) The upstairs picture window as particularly difficult to put in since its about 300 pounds and had to be hoisted into position about 15 feet off the ground. It was a relief nobody was killed. Also added a couple of skylights and made the cupola operational to increase air flow upstairs.

We just finished grouting the bathroom, which ended up being a fairly involved task in and of itself. We tiled the whole room so its pretty much a gigantic shower that you can hose down. It'll be easy to keep clean and also to wash mastiffs in there :)

There's still a laundry list of stuff to finish up, but once some final electrical stuff is finished and the sinks/toilet/stove are installed I can move in and start making stuff. After about a year, we’re now weeks away. Its been a very education experience, but Im SO ready to get out there and get my hands dirty at this point. Beyond excited! Maybe now my next post can be about making actual art or something!!!