Sunday, April 28, 2013

A Successful Portrait Workshop

Rhymes with Ian
20 x 16
The portrait demo and workshop went off without a hitch - to my great relief.

This is the piece that I did in the 3 hour demo on Friday.  I confess to tweaking the background and adjusting a few edges when I got it home, but I was happy with the level of completion that I managed to get.  Also nice was the fact that I got some really luscious paint on the canvas.  My goal was to demonstrate wet-in-wet layering, something that requires that you put ever-thicker layers on top of each other and which can certainly get out of control if you're not on your toes.

The audience was knowledgeable and had some great questions about the process and materials and I think seeing the full portrait evolve was really helpful for the workshop the next day.  It was nice for the students to have the full 6 hours to paint and I enjoyed the low-key start to the day.  All that I had to do was remind the group about the way to start and stop them for short tutorials throughout the day.  It was a far cry from the usual frenetic pace.

The title: my model's name is Rhean.  She told me to pronounce it as "rhymes with Ian" and I couldn't get that out of my head for the rest of the workshop.  She was an excellent, patient model and was the inspiration for some very good pieces on Saturday.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Finding Still Life Objects

Pickle Jar
24 x 28
This composition came about because I bought the low sodium pickles instead of regular.  For the first time ever, my pickles got mouldy in the fridge, turning them into painting subjects, not food.

Knowing that one of my largest objects would be green, I chose a complimentary piece of red fabric to place behind it and linked this dark fabric to the foreground by sprinkling in some red pearl onions.  This created a nice circular composition and broke up the expanse of white tablecloth.  I find small, nondescript objects really useful in still life set ups and put dried leaves, petals, onions and other little things in wherever I need to link the major elements, break up space, or create a path for the eye.  They're versatile little workers.

Sliced bread is something that I've been wanting to use for a long time.  I love its value range from the dark, warm crust to the near-white interior.  Its silhouette is wonderfully interesting as well, full of irregular bumps and crevices. 

The chopsticks in the foreground serve as both a lead in to the circular rhythm of the set up and to punctuate it so that it didn't become repetitive.  They are an edgy, rigid element in an otherwise organic, rounded group of objects.

Altogether, they'd make a strange meal for the stomach but a nice one for the eyes.

Happy painting!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Correcting a Bad Composition

Miniature Eggplants
18 x 28
What was I thinking?
These are two views of the same painting.  The top one is the final version, and the bottom one shows something that happens all too often: perfect alignment.  Like placing your focal point in the dead center of your painting, aligning shapes and lines is not a brilliant idea, and yet I inadvertently do it all the time.

Setting up this still life took about an hour.  The eggplants had to be placed to look random and multi-directional; the little blue bowls couldn't be on the same plane as any of the eggplants; the patterned shawl's dark and light areas had to set off the values of the objects that overlapped them; negative shapes had to be varied and interesting, colour harmony had to be established; and the objects had to create a pleasing rhythm and balance each other well.

In all of that careful planning, I somehow didn't notice that the line of the shawl was a perfect continuation of the reflection in the water bowl. And then I painted what I saw.  It wasn't until I had photographed the "finished" work that I saw the problem - clearly - in the thumbnail version of the photo.

Luckily, the fix was quick and easy.  By repainting the shawl and white table cloth under the bowl of water, I could adjust the shape to something more dynamic and interesting and eliminate that uncomfortable alignment.  It's a small change, but it made all the difference.

I'll keep the camera handy for the next painting!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Weaving Colour

Mexican Handicraft
30 x 30
A painting is a bit like a weaving: the same colours appear and reappear across the surface, creating a pattern and a unified effect.  If you have a red object and a green object on the canvas, they should always contain bits of each other's colour within them or risk appearing disconnected like a poorly-Photoshopped image.

In this still life of some handicrafts that I bought in Mexico after the retreat last month, the earthy green stood out as a dominant colour note, and the red-breasted, ceramic bird was my focal point.  Green, the compliment of red, helped me to set off the bird as the most important object.  I used a variety of greens throughout the painting: sometimes making a yellowish green, other times adding more blue or a touch of red.

In fact, every colour in this set up is repeated somewhere else.  Like the threads of the small weaving within the painting, they lock the objects firmly together.