Monday, November 28, 2011

52 Breakdown

I have been asked by a few people to go a bit into my thinking process on the recent paintings I have been doing, so this post is about some of the process and things I think about when painting this commuter series. Now the first thing is of course the spark, the inspiration that grabs me and makes me want to paint whatever it is that I am seeing. I think that is different for every person, every artist, and I don't think there is anyway to exactly break that down. Even if I break down my taste into a play list, it won't be anyone else's exact play list--though we might like many of the same artists.

However, I do know that dramatic light events interest me very much as a painter. I love light raking across a zone, and area, be it a city block, grove of trees or still life, what have you. That morning I drove into the city on the way to school the light was so great that I just had to whip out my camera while driving and started snapping a zillion shots on the way down Market Street. I also feel strongly the better the photo the easier it is to work with the photo as a source for a painting. If you start with a photo with a great composition that starts you on the good path no matter what you do later or how much you use or discard from the photo. I should also go on record here as saying I have no issue with working from photos, some artists do, but I don't. My thinking and my way is to use the photo as the start but not the end and I draw from it as I would from life, I also work from multiple pictures when I can. All my years in comics and commercial art have given me plenty of experience working with photos so I think I can avoid the pitfalls the can bring. I am working for what works as a painting.

Later I went through the pictures and selected the ones that I thought worked best for making a good composition and painting. The ones I shot at the corner of 52nd street and Market came out great and I thought the light event outside vs the underworld of the EL and the stores was great. Cool vs warm, light vs shadow and the riot of detail was seducing and would be a challenge. I also looked at the big shapes, the abstract shapes of the picture to see the strength of the composition and to see if I could push it, play with it and make it stronger, to not be a slave to the photo ref, but to use it as a reference but not an empirical source to slavishly copy. I had been studying artist like Rackshaw Downes and Richard Diebenkorn. Both men are great painters and have aspects to their work I admire, I admire Diebencorn's sense of design and composition and the fact he makes every corner and space vital and well considered. I enjoy his landscapes and the earlier the better, the later more abstract works don't interest me.

One of the weaknesses of a lot of painters is the bottom or edges of their paintings,sometimes they are just rushed off or not as considered-- they just trail off or suffer because the artist is so in love with just the center of interest that the outer realm of the paintings just doesn't get the love--- but a great painter makes every corner or edge as great or as considered as the primary interest of figure, etc., there is no lessening of the charge of a great painting from corner to corner.

This is one of the things my critics and I have discussed more this year as this is such an important part of painting. To consider everything. Everything is important. So I spent many hours in the past year studying my favorite painters and looking at the way they dealt with the corners and edges of their paintings. It did cause me to think about landscape painting in very different ways. Two of these artists were Richard Diebenkorn and Rackshaw Downes. The RD boys as I call them. Now I much more of a narrative realist than Diebenkorn, but maybe not as literal as Downes. I am searching and think I'd like some place in between where I can nail some things down and then allow some things to become more abstract and allow the viewer to participate, this of course is all a big flow, a big process that goes from one painting to the next as I explore these ideas in each work I do. I have learned one thing about myself as a painter--I have no desire to spend months on a single image like he does or years like Lopez Garcia or Downes. I think that would drive me bonkers and I'd just lose all interest.

Now while I don't think you can break something as complex and highly personal as painting down to a formula, there are little 'check lists" I think I can make, a series of questions I should ask myself as a painter when working on any painting. Somethings as simple as, "Are all four corners of the painting the same?" "Are there more than 4 values in this paintings?" "Can I simplify something--is that detail really vital, or that, value can it be pushed closer to another value, and does that work?" "Am I being too literal?"

So with those ideas in my head my process was to break down the painting into the abstract design you see in my illo. I pasted the Diebenkorns in to show how I was trying to use his way of considering shape in the design and entire space. Even if i don't love everything about these paintings I do love how he uses shapes, and my thinking is i can take something froma painter who's work I don't love if I feel it works for me.
This overlay is to show the eye flow of how I hope the painting works. On top of this I am always thinking about color, paint handling, trying to use more paint in some areas and thinner paint in others to vary the textures, to not get too seduced by details too fast and often will paint over things if I get too busy or picky too fast. Sometimes these thoughts are very conscious and sometimes I am cooking and the ideas are all part of the flow.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

1000th POST! Judge Parker

The Derek-Sophie guitar lesson fallout continues...and its my 1000th post on my blog. Seems like only yesterday I started this blog, and my, how its grown!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Fall Semester-Week 14-Thanksgiving Break

As the paint is drying on this painting as it hangs on my studio wall from my life painting class with Peter Van Dyck the oven in my kitchen is warming up for annual cooking event known as Thanksgiving. Today as I finished this painting up you could hear, see and literally feel people rushing about and getting out of town for the holiday break. I know I am looking forward to at least one or two days of just eating and sleeping like a big bear! The painting above grew out of my quandary and boredom of painting the typical classroom painting where the model is sitting on a box or chair and you nibble away at the painting as best you can with the amount of time you get per session or pose. For me the academic paintings or drawings can be beautiful, but too often I felt I didn't like the pose or lighting or both and didn't have enough time to get the painting to the point I wanted. Being in my 4th year and having produced these types of paintings from my first year I just found them boring to to and mostly unsatisfactory and frustrating in completion. Having been so excited about doing my commuter and landscape paintings I wanted to find a way to feel the same way about these classroom works. So what I did was wait until everybody set up and then looked around until I found a bigger image that captured my interest the same way I do a landscape and went for that. We now have just two more weeks till the semester is done and the winter break starts--I don't look forward to shoveling snow, but I will look forward to some more pure painting time and some downtime at home and the studio. Well it's time to get Tom Turkey ready for the oven--happy Thanks Giving!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Judge Parker

Sometimes lessons are learned the hard way...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Fall Semester Week 13 Mash-up

The last week has been really busy. i know i say that every week, but the last week was the reception of my show along with my buddy David Golas at Home Fine Art in Mount Holly, NJ. Then Saturday I hit the Brandywine River Museum to see the exhibit of the Treasure Island paintings by NC Wyeth and the exhibit on Howard Pyle as a teacher. I realized while driving out there with my DPC buddies Will Sentman and Lexi Thomas that I have visited the museum almost to the same week for the last three years. This I believe was the second trip this year alone. I just love going there, it's my Mecca. It's the root of just about everything I love as an artist and painter and the place that holds the heart of what I find great in American Illustration and painting. NC Wyeth made me want to be a painter and seeing those works is akin to a religious experience for me. Every year I grow as a painter and every year going back I see more and can learn more by looking at the great works in the museum's collection.
Here is a picture of several of the students working away in the after-school illustration class. Meanwhile back in the home studio I keep chugging along with Judge Parker while I still have to keep the front end of my week loaded with teaching the Illustration Class at PAFA and the Storyboarding class at Uarts. We are coming down to the last few weeks of both classes and the high school students in the Illustration class are starting to get close to finishing up their comics and illustrations they have been working on this fall. It's a good class and there are some really talented students here. I'll post some of the final works when they are done. At Uarts the class is on to the final project which is their animatic for the junior piece which they will be animating next semester. In the studio at school I am trying to get back to working in the last few weeks of the semester. Everything except for the class work is in a gallery at the moment.
I started this small still life last night to just get the juices flowing. I want to gear up for some heavy lifting in my final 3 weeks after the Thanksgiving break. It will actually be easier once classes are all done and I can put my head down and go over the winter break.
Here is a quick figure study done one week in class with Van Dyck.
Here is a pic of me along with the whole crew who came out to support Dave and myself at our opening.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Judge Parker

Sometimes phone calls come at exactly the wrong time!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

James Gurney Uarts Lecture and Demo

Thanks to one of my students at Uarts, I found out that James Gurney of Dinotopia fame was coming to the school to do a lecture and a demo in the Illustration Dept. So after burning an all-nighter to get the Judge Parker Dalies in, I grabbed a bit of shut-eye and shot down to the school, arriving just in time to see a great talk by Gurney and a demo as well. I missed Gurney's talk the last time he came to the school and would not be able to make the talk he is doing down at the Delaware Museum of Art on Howard Plye as I have the reception of my show in New Jersey on this Saturday as well.
Gurney started off with a great talk about color which ties in with his book Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter. It was a great power point and he really dug into the subject well for illustrators and painters. Gurney is a great speaker and has his Rap down. He should, as he seems to always be traveling and visiting art schools and places all over the world as you can see on his blog. I have been following Gurney's blogs for a long time and visit several times a week, its a great resource for illustrators,painters and students of all levels and always fun read to see what he's up to and where in the world is James Gurney.
After the first talk he took questions from the students and then set up for his demo portrait of Mark Tocchet the head of the illustration dept using Niji water pens which he filled with various inks and watercolor pencils. Gurney also brought along a few sketchbooks and a few originals to show the students. They were all quite handsome and it was great to hear him talking about the same things I talk about to the storyboading class, including one of the assignments I have which is the reverse storyboard, where you pic a film and storyboard out the film to study the compositions, camera moves etc.
Gurney working on portrait of Mark the head of the illustration dept using caran d'ache watercolor pencils and Niji water brushes filled with different inks.
Here is the final portrait, it was great to listen to Gurney as he talked while he worked fielding question and keeping the audience informed and entertained at the same time,not an easy feat and something many artists can't do--talk and work and explain their process!
Gurney was a dynamo,after the demo he gave another great talk on composition with another great power point. I have to say along with the talk by Robh Ruppel at Illux Con this last week a lot of students are really getting the "Golden Nuggets of Wisdom"of painting,film and illustration. I'll be giving my report on Illux Con 4 this weekend.
It was great to see and meet James and I hope we can get him to come down to PAFA and do the same thing.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Judge Parker

A little father, daughter heart-to-heart.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Fall Semester Week 11--deploy the Heat Shield

Another whirl wind week flew by, culminating tomorrow with my annual trip to the Illux Con with the DPC. Its our 4th trip to the con and we all look forward to seeing a ton of great illustrations and meeting a lot of cool people. We also had our 4th Floor Open Studio yesterday at school. Each floor will be having their own open studio and then next semester in Feb there will a the big one which will be open to the public. But yesterday it was just us 4th floor kids and it was cool to tool about and see peoples work in progress. I've seen a fair share of people's work as I am the floor monitor, but some people I haven't seen a lot or any of what they are up to. The 4th floor is a mix too, we have undergrads like me as well as MFA1 and Post Bac students, so its a real mix of all levels of the school's student body. Of course the easiest way to lure fellow students is with food, especially salty or sugary food, so we set up a snack table and it seems within minutes the floor was swarming with artists looking for free munchies and cool art.
The Halloween costume contest
Home Fine Art Gallery
I also dropped off 6 of my paintings to the Home Fine Art gallery along with my buddy Dave Golas, for our show which opened today and will run till the end of November, the reception is next Saturday, so if you are in the area drop by! But that's not all, I also had the latest painting juried into the newest gallery 128 student show, which opens tomorrow and runs till the end of the month as well.
So, between all the painting and dropping off and running about and teaching and keeping up with good old Judge Parker I could use the Illux Con break just to catch my wind a bit. there are really only 4 weeks left till the semester is out, 5 if you include the crit week, which I won't have with having just the one class. Peter will probably just have us paint that day. It seems strange that good old Tom Turkey is only a few short weeks away, but I am sort of looking forward to the X-mas break and my final semester as an undergrad.