Monday, December 8, 2014

Fun at Joseph McGurl's workshop

 Time seems to have slipped away.... and I realized it had been a long time since I had posted so let me tell you about one of the neatest one-day workshops I have ever attended. It was with Joseph Mc Gurl. if you are not familiar with his work definitely look him up. His work though classical has a lot of atmosphere and feeling which is what attracts me to the landscape in the first place.

Since he does not work from photographs, he asked us to bring a plein air piece to redesign and repaint on a 9 x 12 canvas so I brought a piece i had done at lake Higgins this summer. Parts of this painting bothered me. I didn't like the way it was composed for one thing, and my canoe paddler looks as though he is paddling up rather than in the lake.

Here is my first painting.
This second painting is better, I did warm up the light and unfortunately for photography you can't notice all the subtle clouds I put in the sky. My paddler finally looks like he is paddling in the water so I am happier with it

It was a very interesting exercise to do this so I have begun to redesign some of my other pieces and I will write another post very soon on a piece I am doing for a demonstration coming up in january

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

the joy of figure Drawing

Figure drawing for me is a lot of fun. Sure it is difficult but it is so interesting to study the forms and movements of the human body. Besides it has so many benefits and not just for figure and portrait painters. If you are a landscape painter, it will help you see all the twists and turns of trees and if you like still-life- it will enhance your knowledge of relationships and forms.
 Artists have been drawing the figure for centuries. Michelangelo, Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci all did tremendous studies of the body. It is thanks to those artists  that we have our knowledge of bone and muscles since they risked their lives to dissect the body.

  One of my favorites of the old masters to study is Pierre Paul Prud"hon, an artists of the 19th century who is mostly remembered for his fabulous life drawings. I love to study how he drew people especially when I have had some trouble drawing. I have quite a collection of copies of his drawings that I have gotten from magazines. Since the return of  classical education, articles have been written about him and his drawings several times. here is a lovely example of one of his figures:

Another of my favorites is my own teacher Ann Didusch Schuler who did wonderful life studies. In fact when I was in art school, man of us would vie with each other to be able to sit near her to see how she handled drawing the figure. Her favorite way was on toned paper with white chalk. She was especially fond of drawing with conte pastel pencils.

I have sessions in my studio on sunday afternoons- at least I did but many of my fellow artists became too busy so I had to look elsewhere to do some drawing. I found a good session at the Sawtooth Art center in Winston-Salem. For the past couple of months I have gone there to do figure drawing and it has been a 'relearning experience" mostly because they only do shorter poses. One minute, two and three minutes followed by five and ten minute poses. One is lucky to have a fifteen or a twenty minute pose during their 2 hours. Therefore I started to do small drawings with my favorite sanguine chalk. 

Here are a couple of my drawings:

Monday, August 11, 2014

compositional woes

The summer is slipping by fast and it seems I do not have a lot of finished pieces to show for it. I have gone plein air painting a few times but have not been pleased with the compositions. I am trying to work on stronger composition and for me that's hard as it smacks of math with its geometric configurations. I am normally a painter of the senses and, except for making sure I have a center of interest, I am more  influenced by light on a subject which is tricky when its gray outside.

Above is a painting I did of Lake Higgins - I actually am pretty pleased with it except it lacks another element to lead you to the background. I am actually planning to go back with this painting and see what I can work out.
    Another painting I was working on is the ocean below- Its carolina Beach of a nice evening after the big storm since I was visiting my son at the time. This is a pastel and I prefer this one but then its all about the light- much more in my comfort zone.

I will keep working on it and will keep you posted on my compositional progress.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

         Plein Air Painting, for me, is a lot of fun besides giving me ideas for larger paintings. I like to impart this joy to others, so from time to time I teach a Plein Air  Workshop. On the last weekend of June I had 4 participants in a beginner Plein air Workshop.
    It spanned the whole weekend. On friday, we worked in the studio on composition, color mixing and looking at Master's work- both Old and New. I also had students try it from a slide because i wanted them to be prepared for the small size with which we would be working.

Saturday and Sunday, we went to a wonderful farm in Summerfield where we had to decide what to paint- I had made several small mats that students could hold up to decide how little or how much to put in their paintings. We were working in small format 8x 10 and 9 x 12, which is my preferred format since it is longer. I think Everyone agreed with that one.  Students did some very nice pieces and I myself was able to do a couple. below is the first- as you can see we had a cloudy day on saturday.
The cloudy day helped the students with their first piece since there was more time before the light changed but sunday was lovely although the sun kept coming in and out.

Here is the group - Unfortunately I forgot to have them hold one of their paintings but we all had fun.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Painting peonies

         I love to paint flowers from life and peonies are one of my favorites. Not only do they smell nice but they are so lovely- delicate and complicated at the same time. For the past 2 or 3 years I have been painting paintings of these lovely flowers because they are such a challenge. I had decided that every year I would paint at least one painting of peonies.

if you paint them in full bloom- there are many petals with which to involve oneself as well as their delicate coloring. The pink ones especially have petals that are such a light pink they are almost grey in some places but they are a deeper color in the centers. The next decision is how precise to paint them- do you paint every petal or do you leave some to the imagination which this year I have decided to do.

this is this year's attempt- also in pastel but decided to handle it in a looser style
i am happy with the way this one is turning out- it has the looser feel i was looking for
this is my attempt 2 years ago - as you can see more formal 
My First attempt is really rather formal. I rather like those  The Old Masters paintings spilling out of niches and besides I wanted to paint my Mother's vase. It is rather a formal gilded french vase. This is a pastel on pastel mat paper- a lovely french paper that  feels like suede but is really tough.

Monday, May 12, 2014


  For the past four days I have been in Baltimore soaking up all kinds of wonderful art. I went to the Walter's art Gallery and saw a wonderful exhibition of artists drawing or painting on their travels. There were two rather wonderful ink wash drawings that I am going to try. They were done in black ink rather than the brown ink washes one normally sees. I went around and looked at all the wonderful artwork that that museum houses.

I also went to visit the Zoll Studio since it was close to where i was staying. The work was wonderful and one of the teachers John Sills did a landscape in oil that was a vignette- very interesting. They seem to have some wonderful workshops there as I saw some demonstration pieces by Robert Liberace who is one of my favorites

this is one of the wonderful paintings I saw at the Walter's  and below is one of their landscapes. They have just catalogued their whole collection so you should spend some time and go through it- wonderful

This lovely painting by Constant Troyon is one of my favorites.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Weddings and drawings

     My Assistant Thomas and his wife of one year will finally get their wedding present from me.
We all decided on a painting of the building where they were married with them in it though not dominant. I usually like to do some studies on the spot but the people who own the building were somehow uncomfortable with that, so I had to rely on my pictures as well as a pencil study I was able to do.

Speaking of pencil studies,  a friend contacted me about whether I did sanguine chalk drawings of the landscape since they had seen a study of a head on my website. Actually I used to do many of them but have not in recent years. I did finally find one to show them. It is done in red chalk and pencil but i think I want to go back to those kinds of drawing studies since it is more complete than just a pencil drawing as it gives you another value with which to work.

I had forgotten how much I liked this technique. I actually use this a lot when I do figure studies.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Small pastel studies

 Have you ever been blocked and don't have an idea what to paint? I am sure you have- most creative people go through this from time to time. When I go through, this I either do drawings or small paintings.  I seem to have been a little blocked since the termination of my big  commission so I decided to do a few small pastels. I have not worked that much in pastels recently so I thought a few smallish ones would start the flow of ideas.
    The first one I did was " lemons". One of my students brought them in to paint and I thought they were so colorful and textured. I had a piece of rough textured paper I had prepared and wanted to try it
it was fun doing the lemons but the napkin was more challenging since it had to be smoother and that was more difficult on very textured paper.

My next small piece was an embrasure from a castle in Scotland. i did this one on wallis paper- not usually my favorite but it worked out here.
I have always loved this place and finally decided to do it. I used broad strokes when I did this one, and I was pleased with the result.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

I have been very busy the last few months and have not been able to post for a while. I have been working on a large double portrait which is nearly done and about which i will speak in another post.
I have also been doing some interesting art restorations which might be of interest.

The first is a 16th century painting which seems to describe a battle that was a massacre but which also shows allegorical leanings to the crucifixion. The design of the figures is in the shape of a cross and the nude figures seem to be similar to Christ and the two criminals who were crucified with him. There are also figures in armour with a red cloak which signifies someone high up. Red was a very expensive color and very hard to get so it was only used to denote a nobleman or king or possibly someone very well-to-do. Its a very interesting piece because in the distance there are what looks like fighting skeletons- It could be figures that have been cleaned off in previous cleanings.
 This painting was really dirty and had a lot of smoke- type residue The sky has a lot of damage so  I will have to do a bit of patching there. I have not finished cleaning it yet which is why it looks a little smoky in places, but it is a very interesting painting. Besides it's really exciting to have a 16th Century painting in my studio!

The second painting I had to clean was an 18th century scene of an Austrian or German town. it has some lovely things in it. I had to patch some terrible scrapes and fix the edges. it was painted on Cardboard and is in remarkable shape considering what the surface is. it has some cute details like laundry fluttering in the breeze and smoke coming out of Chimneys so one gets an idea of a peaceful unremarkable day- pretty nice feeling in this piece. it was a lot of fun to work on.

I really enjoy art restoration because you can learn so much about different techniques of painting especially if the work was well executed.