Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Watercolor Wednesdays

A few months ago I felt the need for a change of pace in my Wednesday night drawing sessions so I shifted from creating large, detailed pencil or charcoal drawings to small watercolors. It engages different skills and brain functions--and delivers some very different results. I was in a rut and now I'm not. In the studio, we have the benefit of a large mirror behind the model stand and, if the curtains are opened, we can create compositions of some depth--including all of the artists working on the other side of the room. The image of "Debbie" at the top of the page was particularly juicy--the lavendar chair was a wonderful foil for the black and white stripes of her garments accented with red lipstick and watch.

"Susan" was painted in Joyce U's garden before we all sat down to the sumptuous annual "linguini supper."

All of these works are painted in a small (6X10") watercolor pad with my miniature Windsor & Newtown travel set. The paintbox measures only 3 X 4 inches. I spent about 1-1/2 hours on each, accounting for breaks. The works were small enough to scan -- you can see the fairly rough tooth of the paper.

Finally, here are two images of "Bernadine" painted about 1 month apart. One relied more heavily on the pencil drawing than the other. I have found it so freeing to work in an unfamiliar medium in which I have no particular skill or experience. The immediacy provides a welcome relief from the rigor of the egg tempera works that occupy the rest of my time.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Homage to Tooker

September already and still I haven't covered all I saw and felt in my little jaunt to DC--the most important part. But now the tale would be stale so I'm on to the next thing--a new painting. Another portrait of my son Tom that is also a salute to a major influence on the last 25 yeaars of my work--and to my decision to delve into a completely new medium these past few years. Here is a link to an on-line image of George Tooker's self portrait in egg tempera. It was painted very early in his career when he was probably about the same age as Tom is now - 23. In my piece, I have incorporated the young man and the nautilus shell (although a different species)but stopped short of the tondo format.

I took a series of photos of Tom in variations of the desired pose and combined the best elements. As usual, my skill as a photographer doesn't give me the level of detail I really require so I resort to memory and surreptitiously staring at him. Tom's rather severe expression is his valiant attempts not to laugh. I'm working to soften that in the painting.

Still wedded to the terra cotta Prismacolor pencils for the detail and warmth that suits my human subjects, this drawing is 14" wide by 18" high--the same as the painting.

Working at this reduced scale remains a struggle for me--both the need to spend so much time on so small a piece (even though I know art is not like real estate) and my increasing problems with eyesight. Spending long days in front of a computer and then painting for 2 - 3 hours at night is taking its toll.

As you can see from the ghostly image in this early state of the painting, the forms develop very slowly. I am using a lighter touch in this painting--as I have done with each successive piece. Each one gets closer to the result I'm seeking--but not quite. I don't really keep track but I would say I have put in about 30 hours on the painting at this stage.

I'm painting the flesh tones with a verdaccio underpainting using terra verte and ivory black. The background already has 3 successive layers of ultramarine blue and burnt sienna with a little yellow ochre. Alternating layers of complementary colors will utlimately give me a gray that resonates.

How ironic that this is exactly how I created some very luminous grays back in the 70s and 80s when I was creating large 3-dimensional wall pieces of balsa wood, handmade Japanese woodcut paper, and water color--layer upon layer upon layer of pale washes of pure color--dried with the hair dryer in between. I find this concrete evidence that no knowledge or experience is wasted comforting.