Sunday, July 22, 2012

Portrait of a Man of the Sea

Portrait Commission
18 x 28
I recently sent off this painting to Norway, the furthest that any of my work has travelled so far.  It was commissioned by someone that I've never met in person but have had the pleasure to get to know through that world-shrinking tool: Facebook.

The painting was done from several candid photos that the client had taken of her husband over the years.  They showed him at different ages, in both casual and formal clothing, and under many different lighting conditions.  But there was one common thread that really helped me decide on a composition for this painting: in the majority of the photos, the man was on or beside the sea.  I proposed to portray him in his boat and, happily, his wife agreed to the plan.

Then I merged several photos to come up with this pose and lighting.  I didn't use Photoshop, just sketches.  The triangular composition is a stable one and that seemed right for a person who is, according to his wife, a very strong person.  I liked the natural leading line of the side of the boat; it points the viewer directly up to the man's face.  This effect was repeated with the horizon line which I placed at eye level, leading the viewer to his keen gaze.

The painting arrived safely and will be a surprise for my friend's husband.  I enjoyed working on it and I hope that he likes the result.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Painting People Outdoors

The Painter
12 x 9
Back in the spring I painted out with a couple of friends in my favourite local park.  When we set up at a spot that I've painted many times, I thought it might be more fun to paint my companions than the same little tributary.  Dale Kirschenman modelled for this while painting a quick sketch of the scene.

I struggled to separate his earth-toned, middle-value jacket from the surrounding earth-toned, middle-value landscape - a bit like trying to paint a camo-clad figure in the woods - and finally succeeded by making the shadows on his back a warm blue (touched with red) and making the water next to this a cool (green-toned) blue.  Leaving some of the brown underpainting to delineate his form also helped sort that area out.  

There was much more land around him in the actual set up: a piece of the bank jutted out over his head on the left, but I found that it made him feel enclosed and oppressed when I painted it in and it was just too busy.  By removing it, I could develop the reflections, incorporating interesting, abstract shapes and textures, and still keep a sense of open, airy lightness.  This detail shows it better than I can tell it.
There's a lot of palette knife work in this one!

It was a challenge to capture a figure in the landscape, but it was worth the work.  The painting reminds me not only of the place, but also of the company and conversations of that good day.  

Thursday, July 5, 2012


Queen Bee
12 x 9
When the snow finally leaves in the spring, the thing that I look forward to is the emergence of the bees.  I'm always thrilled when they come out because I know they'll make my apple blossoms become apples and the tomato plants bear fruit.  More than 60% of all the food that we eat is the result of the work of bees.

I've been wanting to paint a series about bees for quite a while but it wasn't until I met the gorgeous model for this painting that I found a direction that I liked.  Sian is expecting a baby in 12 weeks and the presence of her burgeoning belly made me think of the fertility that I associate with bees and especially their queens.  

The painting began with the bees, in both gold leaf and paint, and when they were dry, I painted the portrait around and over them.  I particularly liked using linen as a support because the paint stands up nicely on it, allowing me to create texture and unusual layering effects as I integrated the bees into the portrait.

There are more bee paintings planned and one on the easel.  I just hope that Sian doesn't deliver early.

This piece was purchased by a fellow painter: there is no greater compliment!

And for those of you who are wondering why the middle paragraph of this blog is highlighted, don't ask me.  I'm as baffled as you are.  I'm working on it...