Friday, August 26, 2016

A series

18 x14
Cherry blossom robe 7
16 x12
Cherry blossom robe 6
12 x 16
Cherry blossom robe 5
14 x 11
Cherry blossom robe 4
9 x 12
Cherry blossom robe 3
16 x 12
Cherry blossom robe 2
40 x 30
Cherry blossom robe and floral jug
My mother gave me a robe that I remember from my childhood.  How I remember it, I've no idea since she never wore it: it was much too long for her.  I think it was an exotic and irresistible impulse buy all those years ago and she never quite got around to having it altered to fit.

Covered with cherry blossoms, it's faux kimono style and as perfect as the day she bought it decades ago.  I love it!  And I'm inspired by it.  This garment has sparked a whole series, and I'm not sure that it's done yet.

Starting with the still life, I painted it on different scales in rapid succession, trying not to overthink anything, rather to just respond.  And I tried, each time, to do something a bit different.  Because it's the same garment over and over, I'm looking for each painting to mine something new, whether it's a technique, a mood, a movement... there are endless possibilities.

The figurative pieces are composed from video stills of myself wearing the robe and running about in the yard while my son filmed.  Me: "Make sure my feet are in it, too",  Son: "Got 'em".  Result: lots of headless footage but nicely framed feet.   Still, he managed to get some full figure footage, and it's rich with gestures and movements.  There are a lot of paintings there.

I wanted to work the whole series at once so that I could pick up and put down a piece as it called to me.  I don't usually have so many paintings on the go at one time, but I deliberately started all 6 figurative paintings in one day - sometimes with just a few marks and a notation to remind myself of which image it came from - and let them dry.  As soon as one was completely dry,  I'd pick it up and get another layer on it.   You can see that some are very direct (the still life and number 5) while the others are indirect and fragmented to various degrees.  I used many tools from brushes to scrapers, credit cards, and knives in order to achieve greater abstraction of form and the visual depth and complexity that I yearn for.

I'm at a natural break right now, having worked all the paintings to a degree of completion that don't suggest any new moves to me, and I may give it a few days to just rest the idea.  I'll let you know if the series still has legs as soon as it lets me know!

Happy painting!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

A variety of whites

11 x 14

the snotty white
I was watching Thomas Kitts' excellent video demo about using Flake White on Facebook the other day (actually, it's embedded on August 10th on his timeline if you want to spend a fascinating few hours) and it got me thinking about whites again.  Lazily, I've been mainly using titanium white, usually straight from the tube, but there are alternatives out there that can have a huge impact on your painting.  They're worth exploring.

First, a quick summary of the main whites out there:

Flake white:
made with lead, this white paint comes in a variety consistencies, some of which are very stringy and thick. This is a translucent, warm white which would have been used by everyone until the 1800's when zinc came along.  Rembrandt and Van Gogh used this one to its fullest capacity, creating impasto swirls and drizzles.  It's a lean white, and very strong.  I love its look, but am less enthusiastic about adding more lead to the world in the form of paint covered rags and paint sludge.

Zinc white:
A cool, translucent white that dries to a brittle film.  This one is not a good choice for canvas but can be used in a limited amount on rigid supports.  I don't use it because I use a lot of white in my work and need it to be as archival as possible.  Zinc isn't that.

Titanium white:
A cool, opaque white invented in the 1920's.  This is most commonly on palettes today because of its brightness and ability to cover anything underneath it.  That last feature is also a drawback because subtle effects like scumbles and velaturas are not easy to achieve without adding a lot of medium to titanium, and it can make colours chalky in a hurry.  A rule that I always follow when adding t. white is to never let white be the last colour I add to a mix.

There are other whites but they're all based on these 3.  Many titanium whites are mixed with some zinc in order to achieve certain paint film/drying qualities.   To read about these to a wonderfully geeky extent, check out Pigments Through the Ages.  It's satisfying and informative.

Then there are the fast drying whites (alkyds are added), and the whites that I used in the still life above: flake white mimics.  This little painting was done with Gamblin's Flake White Replacement. Inspired by Kitts, I used a largely historical range of pigments and a low tinting strength white.  My palette was mainly earth tones like Indian Red, Venetian red, yellow ochre, and ivory black, with the addition of Old Holland emerald green (a crazy indulgence in an art shop long ago).

The FW Replacement acted much as lead white does but without the toxicity.  It's been modified to give it the ropey consistency and has a warm translucence.  I've got some experience using lead white, and I don't find this too different for my purposes.  I've provided a detail of the paint surface so you can see the stringy effect that you can achieve.  

Winsor Newton makes a flake mimic as well: Flake White Hue, which is not as ropy, though it is translucent.  It's likely that other companies have mimics as well, but I haven't looked for them.

It was fun to paint a piece exclusively with FWR, but I don't often use it from start to finish in a painting; I like the brilliant punch of titanium to add finishing highlights.  However, I don't usually like titanium's smooth, buttery consistency straight out of the tube, so, when I'm not being extremely lazy, I squeeze out big blobs of it onto a piece of cardboard to absorb excess oil oil and make it a bit stiffer and more textural.   Because titanium dries very slowly, you can leave it overnight or longer to absorb a lot of excess oil.  It won't become ropey, but it will sit up on the surface much better.

To read more about whites, check out the technical information sections of manufacturer's sites.  Gamblin has a nice bit on whites here.

Happy painting!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

2-Day Figurative workshop, Kelowna, BC

2 - Day Figurative Workshop
September 17/18
Kelowna, BC

I'll be teaching in the gorgeous Okanagan Valley in September and it's my favourite genre: figurative! The workshop is hosted by Ellis Art Studios in Kelowna, BC; I hope you'll be able to join me.  

Following is an outline for the workshop:

I find it deeply moving to paint a person from life: to make a connection through careful observation and personal interpretation of the subject in front of me.  A painting of a person should reveal and celebrate both the model and the painter's unique vision, and it's this dual intention that I'll be focusing on during the workshop.  

Painters will learn techniques for capturing the amazing and powerful connections that link the body together in a graceful gesture, and discover the liberating fact that they can paint the most complex poses accurately, with only a brush and a squint.

Using group demonstrations and individual instruction, I'll help painters solve the mysteries of flesh tones, body proportion, and light temperature. Students will work on short studies and longer poses over the course of the workshop, developing confidence in both the layering technique that I use, and in their ability to render a figure with their brushes and their singular visions. 

This workshop is designed for artists with some experience though it need not be in the figurative genre.  It's suitable for both acrylic and oil painters. Demonstrations will be in oil.

I hope to see you there!