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  • Recent Paintings 2.0

    Yesterday I posted a group of recent still life paintings- today I thought I should put up all of the other work I have been up to over the past few months.  Though I do like painting still life I have been exploring some techniques in painting that are best suited to the landscape.  Some of these are sketches, and some took really quite a bit of time.  All of them are pushing my painting towards the more ‘broken brush’, impressionist-vein tradition I have been working at the past few years.

     

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    Blue Rocks Docks, Slack Tide 35×43″ oil on linen

     

    The above painting is from the fall but I had forgotten to get an image before it left the studio.  It’s a studio picture, done from one of my on-site paintings in Nova Scotia last August.  Painting it was done from below, for comparison’s sake:

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    Backlit Docks, Blue Rocks, 12×16″

     

    The below four are all from Vermont, though different trips.  The weather was particularly difficult both times, it was good to get out, but snow mixed with ice, rain, sleet and wind isn’t fun.  I spent a weekend painting alone, staying with friends that were snowboarding at Okemo, and another short trip up with Stapleton Kearns and TM Nicholas.

     

    Tunbridge Mill

    Tunbridge Mill 14×10″ 

     

    Wallingford Barn

    Grey Morning in Wallingford 12×16″ 

     

    Ludlow

    Ludlow 10×14″

     

    Tunbridge

    Melting Snow, Tunbridge 12×16″

     

     

    Angie by Window

    Angie by Window 20×12″

     

     

    The below two were longer projects, all done outside, only touched up occasionally in the studio, in between sessions.

     

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    Codman Farm 28×37″

    The above painting has been a long haul- I realized after finally finishing it that I started it way back in December 2013.  Photo metadata is a great way to pinpoint when you started a painting 😉

     

    Codman

     

     

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    Clearing skies at Drumlin Farm 22×28″

    I have done blog posts on the process of both the above and below paintings; click here for ‘Drumlin Farm’ which started out as a demo at my winter workshop in January, and click here for the previous post on the below painting, ‘Peters Hill’ which became more of a studio picture than a pure outdoor piece

     

    Peters Hill

    Peters Hill 20×24″

    below an iPhone closeup of some of the directional, opaque brushwork.

    broken color

     

     

    I have another couple of paintings I am finishing indoors from the winter season, but it will probably be some time before they’re ready.  If I get them done soon I will update this post.  Next blog post will be on recent drawings.

    Tinmouth Barn

    Unfinished painting in Tinmouth, VT

  • Still Life Paintings

    It’s time to post some work, show folks what I have been up to.  As usual, I spent some time painting outdoors this winter, though our snow left much to be desired this year.  In a way, that was a bit helpful, it encouraged me to stay in the studio and start doing some still life painting again.  It had been at least a few years since I painted still life in earnest, so it has been great to delve into it again- as one might expect, my approach is now quite different than it was back in 2006-2010 when I painted primarily still lives.  I have been enjoying them.

     

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    The batch of paintings below is part of a still life exhibition ‘Stillness‘ at Ann Long Fine Art in Charleston, SC.  The show opens this Thursday, and you can see whats in the exhibition by clicking here.  Unfortunately I won’t be able to make it down for the opening, Charleston is a really fun, beautiful town with great food and weather.

     

    Fennel

    Fennel and Spring Onion 12×10″

     

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    Honeydew and Grapes 10×12″

     

    pomegranate

    Single Pomegranate 10×8″

     

    halved_avocado

    Halved Avocado 10×12″

    bunch_of_asparagus

    Bunch of Asparagus 12×16″

     

    cauliflower_and_onion_in_warm_light

    Cauliflower and Onion, Warm Light 10×14″

     

    watermelon_slice

    Watermelon Slice 12×16″

     

     

    Then, the below four still lifes went off to the gallery I show with in Boston, Sloane Merrill Gallery.  They are not part of an big exhibition, but I was there the other day and most are currently hanging if you stop in at the gallery.  The below painting is my favorite painting from this year thus far.

     

     

    Pear-and-Pomegranate-25x35

    Pear and Pomegranate 11×14″

     

    Poggio-Antico-e-melograno-16x20

    Poggio Antico and Pomegranate 16×20″

     

    Artichoke_Tomato_Garlic_10x15

    Artichoke, Tomatoes and Garlic 10×15″

     

    Breakfast-12x16'

    Breakfast 12×16″

     

    The below batch has gone off to a variety of places, and a couple I still have.  The top picture with the three clementines is going to be part of a 2-Person show I’m participating in next month at Tree’s Place gallery in Orleans, MA, down in Cape Cod.  That show opens on May 21st, I’ll be at the opening, and the show runs through labor day weekend to June 3rd.

     

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    Spotlight 13×22″

     

    Turnip-9x16

    Single Turnip 9×16″

     

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    Watermelon Radishes 10×12″

     

    Sliced_Pear_25x35

    Sliced Pear 10×14″

     

    Satsuma-Mandarins-25x35-oil-on-linen-panel

    Satsuma Mandarins 10×14″

     

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    Pomegranates 7×10″

     

    As this post has become a bit long, I will do a separate one for recent landscape paintings.

     

  • Ben Fenske Figure Construction Class, March 2016

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    Ben Fenske taught an stunningly informative class earlier this month in my studio.  It wouldn’t be entirely accurate to call his courses ‘drawing classes’, although most of the time is spent drawing: either Ben demonstrating while lecturing, or the group drawing from the live model.  We advertise Ben’s courses as ‘construction’ courses, ways to study building the figure, with the goal being the ability to draw with or without the live model.  Perhaps more accurately, we could say that these are courses in theory and abstract conception of the figure through the memorization of specific anatomical points and surface references.  But it’s easier to say ‘Construction’.

     

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    Ben puts a huge amount of effort into these classes (see above two of Ben’s life-size sculpted examples for this class,  two different constructions of the core of the body, ribcage and pelvis, with anatomical references marked).  For those who don’t know Ben and his work, he is a painter who uses a fast and loose impressionistic technique, and as the history of representational painting has shown us, the best ‘loose’ painting requires a huge amount of theoretical and academic understanding.

    Each day Ben would lecture on anatomy and draw examples, the class drawing along with him and taking notes.

     

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    Below, see a few of Ben’s boards from his morning lectures.  The top image is on proportions of the figure and begins outlining Ben’s system of points which are to be mapped out on the figure.  This technique is an amalgam of what Fenske studied at the Russian school in Florence, and his own studies on artistic anatomy.

     

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    Then, each afternoon we had a model, male and female.  The students were all very ready to draw after spending the morning taking notes and drawing from Ben’s sculpted models.

     

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    Here’s one of the students, Vaijayanti Meweda at work, and below, her drawing.  I think it was a nice example of some of the concepts Ben was trying to trying to have the students work with, hatching and directional modeling rather than value-based modeling- especially since she had a backlit view of the model.

     

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    Additionally, Vaijayanti gets an extra-special shout-out for helping to organize our pot-luck lunch on the last day.  The food was great, and while everyone ate, Ben gave a lecture on the computer on some of the art that inspires him.  All in all, the class was amazing, just overflowing with practical information, and I’m glad to say Ben will be back to teach this August.

     

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    Ben’s Recommended Book List:

    Gottfried Bammes (in english, but not complete) http://amzn.to/1Um4hvp
    Gottfried Bammes Die Gestalt des Menshen (this is the more complete book, all images) http://amzn.to/1RoKWtc
    The other Bammes Figure book, also in German and excellent http://amzn.to/1UaJ4oQ
    Nikolai Li’s figure drawing book (in russian, great images) http://amzn.to/1Me4luK
    Nikolai Li book on the Portrait (in Russian, great price right now) http://amzn.to/1RqFEr2
    ‘Struttura Uomo’ Pozza book volume one http://amzn.to/1Me3r1n  (I can’t currently find easily volume two, ebb and flow of book availability)
    Richer’s Artistic Anatomy http://amzn.to/1Me3GcD
    Hatton’s Figure Drawing: A Complete Guide http://amzn.to/1RT84uj
    Russian Fundamentals of Drawing Textbook (in english, not as extensive as the Li books, but very good) http://amzn.to/258GMK9
    Russian Academy books on alumni and teachers, these are all paperback and in chinese:
  • More on Landscape Painting Process

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    Peters Hill, 20×24″ oil on canvas

    The above painting (just a quick raking light snapshot image to show some of the technique I’ve been using) is 95% done. As I’ve been talking about process a bit on the blog over the last year, I thought I would continue that here.   This is a link to my previous post where I tried to deconstruct the design of one of my favourite Isaak Levitan paintings.  Unlike some of my other work, this is a painting that was done 30% outside, 70% in the studio.

     

    Here is the above landscape as I started it outside, nearing the end of two days of work- about three hours the first day and 2 hours on the second day.  I spent a long time on the drawing and scale of each of the trees, arranging the design of the picture into a pleasing set of rhythms.  I worked to get the painting as true to what I saw in nature, while being somewhat interpretive with the color (the second day was overcast, but I held on to the blue sky and shadow patterns from the first day)

     

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    I knew at this point I wouldn’t be able to finish this picture outside.  The kids use my central hill as a sledding hill, and the snow was getting pockmarked with all their little footprints- and no more snow on the forecast, as it’s been really, really warm this winter.  What’s more, I wasn’t entirely pleased with the overall composition as I drew it outside.

     

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    After letting the picture rest for a few days, just to let it dry and to give myself a fresh mental perspective I spent an hour or so drawing on top of it with charcoal and white chalk.  I moved trees around, added a cloud, changed the foreground mass, started to turn the trees on the left into birches, and came up with a more unified pattern of light and shade on the snow.

     

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    Above was my first pass in oils on my newly studio-ized snowscape.  I’d filled in the center-left tree a bit, removed the one next to it, and adjusted a bunch of the big rhythms.  Most of the work took place getting me to this point– as you can see, the final image below is nearly identical in design.  I then spent many sessions arranging broken color, glazing, and applying short, stiff impastos.

    I will probably rework the painting a bit when I get the frame for it (I nearly always do), and will update the image at that point.

    Peters-Hill-20x24

     

  • Old, Dirty, Worn Out and Misshapen (Brushes)

    This blog post’s title is not self-referential, it’s about brushes.  I am getting older, but more than dirty, worn out, or misshapen, I am cheap and very particular about my materials.  I know other painters that use their new brushes only a few times before retiring them, preferring the clear square/round shape, and everyone from time to time wishes they could just throw their brushes out rather than cleaning them.

    So here’s a simple studio trick I have been using for the past couple of years to squeeze a little life out of an old brush, I was showing my group of students this morning and thought I should share them here as well.

     

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    Personally, I like my brushstrokes to have an irregular shape; I don’t like the same touch to repeat itself everywhere in my painting.  Typically, these days I paint with mostly flats, filberts and a few rounds, and once in a blue moon a rigger or egbert.  Mostly hog bristles with an occasional kolinsky sable or mongoose hair brush.  I don’t much like synthetics and use them rarely.

    Although I keep my brushes for a long time and don’t mind as they wear down, they have to keep a distinct calligraphic shape.  the brush you see above and below was one I typically would retire- throw in with all the other old brushes for scrubbing in the background or mixing colors.  You can see the belly of the brush has become swollen, and errant hairs have started to take over, and paint in the ferrule has fossilized the bottom of the hairs.

     

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    I grab a sharp knife, and basically sharpen the brush as you would a wooden pencil with a knife- slowing cutting from the front and back before sharpening the sides.  I only cut forward, away from my hand, and work slowly to not cut off more than necessary.

     

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    Just like sharpening a pencil with a knife, it takes a bit of practice, but I really like the end result, it definitely brings some clarity back to the shape of the brush.  Believe it or not, I had the gall to show this trick to Symi from Rosemary Brushes last time she was here in the studio.  I’m sure she found it slightly offensive, but did remark its a much better way of rejuvenating a brush than cutting the tips down to attempt to make a ‘flat’ out of an old brush.

     

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    Also, starting today Keith Linwood-Stover is featuring my work on his website, The Cyber Art Show.  First gallery of 12 pictures went up today, other 12 will be featured tomorrow.  The way it works is he picks all the paintings he likes and puts them up with an artists’ bio, straightforward.  Though I only just discovered his website he’s featured tons of artists and many impressive painters in his archives.  Check it out.

     

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  • Snow Painting at Drumlin Farm

    I really look forward to painting the snow each year.

     

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    Last weekend I ran my yearly snow painting course at Drumlin Farm in Lincoln- I almost always run it during the last week of January, a period during which New England typically has plenty of snow.  This year, the weather has been weird to say the least- yesterday was over 60 degrees, and currently there is up to 8 inches of snow coming down outside the studio window.   We have not had much snow yet to speak of this year, this is only the second small storm, so I am working on still life in the studio and taking my snow paintings very slow- trying to really make them count.

    I have been thinking a lot on process and am preparing another blog post on this topic: that when approaching nature, the obvious truth is that representing something exactly as it is in front of you, however ‘correct’ it may be, will at times make a boring painting.  You may find a view outside that composes perfectly from time to time but that’s the exception, not the rule: the truth is that typically some editing needs to happen to arrive at a strong design that pleases the eye.  Lately, I’ve started to edit more and more, to figure out what each individual picture needs to create a satisfying image, not just chase the tactile minutiae of the scene.

     

    Here’s a few shots from this weekend’s demo, with broad strokes of what we discussed- I painted much slower than usual, spending a lot of time working in monochrome, moving the drawing around and talking about why I made each choice:

     

     

    initial composition

     

    I approached this weekend’s class from a more advanced level- each of the students in my winter painting class had also done Stape’s marathon painting class back in November, and one of them had previously attended my landscape classes.   So, rather than talking about the basics I wanted to spend a lot of time discussing composition- since we didn’t have tons of snow to speak about the opalescent color shifts within it, I instead tried to paint simplified examples of both what would and would not work into my painting.  In the above image I am laying out the painting in a very simplified design, outlaying the big rhythms and proportions- notice on the left centre canvas I have started to place the very large horizontal barn that in nature competed with the barn in the center- potentially destroying my focal point, through the competing nature of its scale.

     

     

    Tree Line

     

    You can see in the above and below image I have scaled down the barn on the center left, sent it from foreground to middle ground/background, and reduced the pine tree line which meets the sky.  Both of these were moved to give proportional interest to the central barn- and especially the central tower.  Additionally, I painted examples of the road in incorrect perspective (so that it looked uphill) and moved the road’s design and fence around until it gave interesting lead in to the picture.

     

    sky brush

     

    So- now that we have plenty of fresh snow outside (it’s really coming down out there), I should be able to take this painting out again and finish it, as my intention is more of a winter view than autumn scene.  Below is the way the painting looked at the end of the workshop- still quite unresolved, with a lot of that cobalt violet underdrawing still coming through, but the scale of the barn and design of the sky are starting to work well.  There is still lots left to do in that foreground, though.  I’ll add it to this post whenever (and if) I finish it.

     

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    *edit April 26th 2016* finally did finish this piece

    Drumlin Farm 22x28%22

    Drumlin Farm 22×28″

  • More on Copying Paintings

    As an artist you should never really stop studying and learning.  Doing master copy was among the first things I attempted when I was learning- and I’ve continued to do them, every few years or so.  Copying a picture gives you an entirely different perspective, a view into the process that you just can’t get otherwise.  It continues to be a tool I use in the development of pictorial concepts, looking for new color and technical ideas.

    One thing I would mention is the importance of doing master copies in person- copying from a reproduction simply doesn’t cut it.  Particularly in oils, you’ll need to see yours next to the real thing so you can see the technique as well as the image.  Plus, reproductions really aren’t to be trusted when it comes to color.  You don’t necessarily need to finish the thing, or even copy it in the same medium, but spending a period of time analyzing a picture like that is invaluable.

    Over the years some of the things I’ve attempted copying: a Rembrandt (failed miserably, way above my pay grade at the time), an Edmund Tarbell, a silverpoint of Raffaello Sanzio’s around the time I was getting into metalpoint, a portrait of Antonio Mancini’s (that one came out great, hangs in my dining room), an Edgar Payne classic high sierra’s view… and this week, an interesting project.  I spent the past few days with Stapleton Kearns, studying a seascape by Frederick Judd Waugh.  I made a timelapse of the whole process, see video below.

     

     

    This is my first attempt at making a video of any kind, so excuse the excessive jitteriness- but it does convey the frantic nature of trying to copy a picture this size, full of impastos and glazes in just three days.

     

    Since the video is a bit shaky, here are a few snapshots of the copy’s process along the way:

     

    1-first-day-(lunch)

    2-end-first-day

    3-lunch-second-day

    4-end-second-day

     

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    24×36″

     

    I’d love to put some more time into the copy and really ‘perfect’ it.  Though I have a lot done here, there is much to be gained by continuing to bring something ever closer to the subject.  Maybe I’ll get some time to do that later this year- in the meantime I can study my copy in the studio.

     

    Click here for a link to Realist Art Resource‘s page on copying pictures- a (still under development) trove of information on which institutions allow copying.

    Click here for my previous post on one of my painting students copying at the MFA Boston

  • Robert Bodem Sculpture Class

    Last week I had the pleasure of having Robert Bodem, Director of The Florence Academy of Art’s sculpture program, come teach a week long portrait sculpting workshop out of my studio.  The class was a whirlwind, five short days in which my painting studio was transformed entirely into a sculpture studio.

     

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    I knew long before scheduling this class that it would be full, successful and dynamic- it’s just plain hard to find really solid information on figurative sculpture.  I’d wager that these days, you can find some version of atelier-styled traditional painting/drawing education in nearly every major city- the same is just not true for sculpture.  There are very few institutions, professionals and studios that teach figurative sculpture today at the level that Rob does.

    Besides the fact that the program Robert Bodem’s developed has a particularly good reputation, I know his teaching style- I taught with him in Florence and ran his drawing program for years while I as over there; and on top of that, our wives are first cousins.  We personally know each other very well, and I know the program he developed in Florence intimately.

     

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    This class was different than what Rob does at the FAA.  His program typically accepts people for three years, and once a year he hold a 4-week sculpture class- so a five-day, 20-hour portrait sculpture class is a fraction of the time he runs his courses for; this was a sort of ‘overview’.  Having seen the work he does with students in Italy over that period of time, I think this first short course was wildly successful.  Everyone did a great job (whether they had previous experience or this was their first sculpture), and by keeping the class size small everyone got a lot of individual attention.

    The first day, Rob gave a short talk and introduction and quickly started a demonstration illustrating his technique for building a portrait from the profile out, outlining the nine points in space he works from.  He worked on his demo intermittently throughout the week, though spent the bulk of his time working with the students individually on their portraits.

     

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    Above is Rob’s demo halfway through the week 

     

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    A few shots of the students at work

     

    Robert Bodem

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    And below, a few shots of the final sculptures:

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    In 2016 Rob will be back to teach at my studio again, and during the next course we run he’d like to focus on sculpting the full figure.  To find out first about that when I announce it, sign up for my mailing list on the classes tab above.  For those interested in Rob’s techniques, he has a manual he sells privately.  To order a copy, drop Bodem an email at [email protected]

    This will be my last post of 2015.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you.

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