Terry Miura • Studio Notes

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A Little Bit About Abstraction

I think I've mentioned before that my abstracted figures usually begin as fairly straightforward renderings. I pay attention to design, drawing, color relationships and value structure... all the basic things, but I'm not thinking too much about how it'll look abstracted.

Then slowly I start to look for ways to take out information, usually by finding opportunities to lose edges between adjacent shapes.

The two images are two stages of a same painting. On the first one, I've just started to lose edges after being satisfied with a straightforward description. You can see where I lost the edge between the sheet and her thigh, and again at her calf. Also the shadow areas on her lower leg is beginning to get a little nebulous.

Her left upper arm appears to have a section missing, where I just extended the dark background into the flesh.

The second image is the finished picture, much further into the abstraction process. There's almost no separation between the sheet and the leg. You can clearly see that my intend was not to separate flesh from fabric, but light from shadow. Since the flesh and the fabric were both in light, I grouped them together as one.

I went further and blurred the whole lower leg area, dragging the light value over the shadow. I just needed to indicated that the legs were there. I didn't need any other detail to tell my story.

Melting light into light and shadow into shadow happens elsewhere, too. In fact I try to do it where ever I can. But if I did it too much, all of a sudden I don't have anything recognizable. I don't want to end up with a completely non-representational abstract painting–nothing wrong with that, if that's your aim, but it's not mine–so when I start to lose too much, I redefine what I lost.

It's a lot of back and forth, really. And as I'm losing losing edges here and there, I'm also trying to decide where to have my sharp edges.

I try to use them very sparingly. Like exclamation points in a paragraph. If you use too many of them, nothing stands out as important. 

So the process is a pursuit of balance... or a purposeful imbalance between sharp edges and lost ones. Like tension and release. 

It's like jazz, man...

Thursday, January 14, 2016

A Seated Nude

Untitled, 16 x 12 inches, oil on linen

HAPPY NEW YEAR! It's not too late, is it? I'm just coming out of the Holiday stupor and trying to get my gears going. My gears are still very sluggish, but I'm resolved to keep doing something with brush and paint, until I know better which direction I need go.

I've been working on my series of small black and white figure studies. Almost all of the studies in this series were done using short (5 - 10 min) gesture drawings as reference, but with this particular one, the original was a longer pose drawing.

I say longer pose, but it's still no more than 25 minutes. I rarely do drawings from life which are longer than that. Still, as you can see, this one is more a rendering than a linear study, with some attention paid to value structure and all.

Charcoal is a very forgiving and immediate medium, ideal for exploring ideas like this. I can change my mind about which areas to go dark or light, which edges to lose or to define. Obliterate and redraw almost endlessly. At some point erasing becomes a struggle but good paper can take a lot of abuse. 

In the drawing, as is my habit, I made the bottom half of the figure too big. I always do this if I'm not mindful, and sometimes even if I am mindful. It's a good thing I'm not getting graded on this stuff.

 The monochromatic oil study. This was done at a later point without the model, using the drawing above as my only reference. Needless to say, the amount of information I included in the drawing makes a big difference in what I can do here.

I would rather not have to make up important gestural information, so I only tackle the oil study if I thought there was enough information in the reference drawing. This is true whether the drawing is rendered, like the one I'm showing here, or if the drawing is just a short pose linear drawing.

But I do end up making small stuff up all the time. I usually don't deviate from the overall gesture too much, but I might bend a limb a little more gracefully, or nudge a contour one way or another to get a nicer flow.

The figure in oil study ended up looking a little chunky, like those in some of the early Modernists' works. I like that kind of stylized expression, but I don't feel that's me. I'm looking for something more fluid, I think.

The chunky solidity is the result of 1) not paying attention to how the gesture flows throughout the composition, and 2) overemphasizing the form description.

I made a note of these things before I went in with more paint.

Painting right on top of the earlier b/w study. I decided to use warm colors. May be the drafty garage in which I'm working had me wishing for warmth? I dunno.

As I worked on the figure, I tried to give the gesture a more natural, graceful flow. 

The edge of the seat conforms and emphasizes this "flow" idea as they plunge into the lines of the lower legs. If you look at the original drawing, you'll notice the edge of the sofa (?) doesn't do this, so this is a design decision on my part. Good design trumps literal depiction, every time. Unless of course everything is painted realistically, in which case bending the edge of a piece of furniture makes it look like a mistake. 

I tried to keep the lit parts of the flesh very light. By using a full range of values, I can get more contrast where I need it, and the greater value range also means more wiggle room when I'm trying to modulate subtle value transitions. It's much easier to hit the middle point between values A and B, if they're farther apart.

When I'm working tonally with a limited palette, I find that pushing the value range really helps to compensate for the lack of color impact.

The dark areas are fairly thin. It's layered ( I painted on top of the b/w study) but each layer is thin and more or less transparent, as opposed to the lighter areas which are opaque and applied a little thicker. The thin, transparent treatment recede, further emphasizing the lit focal areas.

I'm starting to feel more confident about losing edges without a logical reason (like the edge between  two shapes with similar values) It's just a matter of trying it out everywhere, over and over, until something sticks. It's not a repeatable technique and certainly risky, but the rewards are worth it.

I'm starting to feel OK not being in control.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

How The Ballerina Evolved

Late Rehearsal, 16 x 12 inches, oil on linen

It has been a very busy couple of months, what with multiple shows and workshops, but finally I have some time to sit down and reflect on things. I thought it might be a good time to do another blog post (sorry for the infrequency!) as I am having a hell of a time getting motivated to lift a brush. I think I just got a little burnt out from too much packed into the last couple of months. This usually happens when I don't pace myself.

But anyway, let's move on~  I wanted to talk about the painting I did for the Waterhouse Gallery's anniversary show, which opened a couple of weeks ago. 

I was cleaning my studio (read: procrastinating) and found the original drawing which I used for reference. I also had taken a snapshot of the B/W study I did,  so I thought I'd post them together to show how it evolved. 

The drawing is from a short pose session with a model. The pose is a 5 minute pose. I think I like this length the best; long enough for me to get the gesture and the shadow pattern information, but not long enough to over do it. It forces me to really think about what is essential, and prioritize what information needs to be recorded. There's no time for details or rendering.

The shadow information in the drawing, you'll notice, is just an indication of pattern. There's no value information other than the fact that I filled it in. I didn't modulate the values, neither in the shadows nor in the light. 

Of course that's not to say that I didn't see any value variations on the model. It's just that I didn't put them in. Partially because 5 minutes isn't very long (the filling-in takes like 10 seconds, usually at the end.  The rest of the time is spent on the linear stuff)  and also because I don't need that information for my purposes. 

I do need to record, however, what type of edge borders a shadow shape; a form shadow edge, which is indicated by softer lines drawn with the pencil lead flat against the paper and moving side ways, and the cast shadow edge, which are drawn by moving the pencil lengthwise so that I may get a sharper edge. On the lit area of the hip, the top of that shape is a cast shadow edge (arm casting shadow onto torso) and the bottom part is a form shadow edge (the form turns away from the light source gradually, so that edge is softer)

Sometimes I get sloppy when time is running out and in my haste I don't differentiate the two shadow edges. Example of that is the sliver of light you see on her calf. The top edge of the lit area should be sharper to indicate that it's a cast shadow edge. 

Not a big deal in this particular drawing, since it's not so difficult to decipher which are form shadow edges and which are cast shadow edges even if I didn't indicate them differently, because the lighting is fairly simple. But sometimes I do want that information recorded because the shapes may be confusing.

And this is the B/W oil study I did from the drawing. I changed the front leg a little bit to add more movement. 

Notice that in this study, there is quite a bit of value modulation both in the lights and the shadows. As I didn't have that information in the original drawing, this stuff is made up, but not without logic. Essentially I'm imagining where the light source is, and making a plane darker or lighter depending on how it is angled. If a plane faces the light source more, it becomes lighter.

On the shadow side, no plane faces the light source, obviously, but there is still value modulation. The value of the planes depend on how much bounced or ambient light it is receiving. But I don't adhere to that logic strictly - I like to play around and bring in some randomness or intentionally go against logic here.  The planes in the shadow side are fairly forgiving because in an interior, conceivably, you can control the lighting so many situations are within believable parameters. 

Ultimately, design has to drive decisions on value structure, not literal logic of where the secondary lights are coming from. If it looks good and doesn't look unreasonable, that's better than a correct note that nevertheless looks out of place. 

And this is what I ended up with. I painted on top of the B/W study, as is my M.O. for this series of figure studies. The most obvious change, besides the fact that it's in color, is the gesture of the arms.

I originally painted them more or less as I had done in the B/W version, but I thought it looked too much like a posed figure model in a classroom situation. I tried several arm positions until I noticed she looked like she may be dancing or otherwise being very careful about stepping - there was some purpose in the gesture.

I liked the pose, so I went with it. Added the leotard, which I love for it's dark value that allowed me to lose edges into the dark background. (And it fits the narrative)

The background is simple, but it took much experimenting to arrive at this solution. I basically decided on values of certain areas based on whether I could get away with not showing the figure's edge or not. Some parts had to be visible to give the viewer gesture or anatomical information, or may be because the line there was simply too beautiful to obscure. Other parts didn't contribute to the overall gestural rhythm, and losing those edges didn't compromise the believability of the gesture or anatomy, so I could lose them by melting the shapes together.

To be sure, there's no rule that guides me in deciding which edges must be shown and which can go - I typically lose every edge at one point or another. It's just trial and error. In this way, the figure and the background become more and more integrated, and I often stumble onto an unexpectedly cool stroke here and there. I try to keep them when I can, as long as they don't disrupt the unity of the painting as a whole.

The blue I used in this painting is mostly Paynes Grey. I've been using that a lot lately.

That's about it. I hope you found the process and the reasons behind my decision-making interesting!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Cityscape Strategies

Racing Down Market Street, 18 x 36 inches, oil on linen 

All of October my friend Lori Putnam had many of her friends to be guest bloggers on her blog, and there are some really, really good articles that you'll find most interesting, insightful and instructional. Be sure to take a look at them when you get a chance. I picked up some great tips and ideas myself~

So this is my contribution to Lori's blog - I thought I'd post it on Studio Notes as well for your reading pleasure. 

. . . 

One of the reasons why cityscapes gives us so much trouble is that there’s just way too much information to deal with. If you started painting every window on every building, every tire on every car, it would take forever. I mean not only do you have to draw every little thing, you have to draw them in perspective, to begin with. If your drawing is off, it shows. 

Nope, cityscapes aren’t as forgiving as painting trees and boulders.  So at least for me, a lot of what makes cityscapes doable has to do with strategies in simplification. How to edit down the amount of stuff that gets described, how to suggest rather than describe, how to say more with less. How not to draw everything. The following are my strategies. Some are pretty basic, but I thought it might be interesting to see how they were applied in a specific painting, the picture you see at the top of this post. 

Use a limited palette. My basic color structure is near monochromatic. Except for the red of the brake lights and a little bit of the green foliage, I kept it very gray and tonal. I just had Ivory Black, Titanium White, Yellow Ochre, Transparent Oxide Red, and Asphaltum on my palette (again, except for the accent colors). Asphaltum is just a brown color made from black and red. I don’t really need it, but it’s convenient since it’s a versatile warm dark color that’s a little lighter than straight black. By using it as the darkest value to structure the painting, I can reserve the even darker straight black for accents and punctuation. It's also less intense than T.O.R., another reddish brown color that I love, but can wreak havoc on your colors if you rely on it too much.

I ignored all local colors, (again, except for the accent colors) but did make the lit areas a little warmer by adding Yellow Ochre. A little bit of temperature shift between light and shadow goes a long way when there’s hardly any color in the basic set up. 
And, a little bit of bright accent colors also go a long way toward making the painting not look monotonous even though most of the surface is just grays.

Here’s another example of this strategy in action: 

View from the Top, 7 x 14 inches, oil on linen

Backlighting. Because the sunlight has to travel through all that particulate matter in the atmosphere, the atmospheric effect is amplified. You can’t see much detail, so pretty much everything is reduced down to silhouettes. I didn’t even have to paint windows on the tall buildings! And my trees and pedestrians are mostly reduced to silhouettes, too. You really don’t need different colored pieces of clothing on every figure. 

As I said, backlighting amplifies the atmospheric effect which simplifies the visual elements. Other conditions can also do the same, like haze, fog, rain, and nocturne views. The basic idea is that silhouettes can be described with just one value, where as if the figure (or the building or the car) were directly lit, it requires at least two values–light and shadow–to describe it. One value is obviously much simpler than two. The trick is to make sure that the silhouette has a recognizable, if not strong and interesting, shape, either by itself or by context. 

Crosswalk Shadows, 12 x 19 inches, oil on linen

Spot focus. Actually, the buildings having no detail is not just because of the atmosphere in backlighting, it’s also because I’m being selective as to where I show detail and where I don’t. If you consider that only about 25% of our field of vision is in focus at any given moment, you can see how this spot-focus thing mimics how the eye sees (in terms of amount of detail). 

If you were painting from observation, try this: focus your sight on one spot. (that would be your focal point) and paint the periphery while you’re still focused on your focal point. If you can’t see detail, you can’t paint it, can you. 

Another good trick (not really a trick…technique?) is to squint. Yes we’re all nagged to squint to see values. But here I’m suggesting to squint specifically to limit your ability to see detail. Paint only what you can see while squinting. Then open your eyes to paint your focal area. 

If you’ve struggled to paint “loosely”, you may find it helpful to shift your thinking from trying to use “loose brush work” to painting with limited vision, as described above. 

To and Fro, 14.5 x 24 inches, oil on linen

Lower key. This one is pretty obvious. I made my shadows really dark, so I can lose a lot of information in the darkness. This works really well when working tonally, but not so well if you have a lot of color a la the Impressionists. Color-filled shadows still can be simplified so that it has very little detail, but if you’re going to push the color of secondary light in the shadows, (reflected and ambient) you are saying that the shadows are illuminated. If they’re illuminated, you can see stuff in the shadows, right? Dark shadows color-ful shadows can't really coexist too well.

Sure, you’ve seen paintings that has both bright colors and dark shadows in them. Next time you see one, you might ask yourself these questions; is the artist pushing the intensity of the color of the light (primary and/or secondary), or is he pushing local colors? and is the artist deviating from a naturalistic depiction by pushing these colors and having dark shadows? 

There’s nothing wrong with deviating from naturalistic depiction, as long as that’s your intention and you like the result. That’s expression. However, if your aim is to describe a more or less believable environment, it’s a good idea not to mix a tonal approach and an Impressionist one. 

Under the El, 12 x 18 inches, oil on linen

Connecting shapes. If you connect two shapes by losing the edge between them, you now have one shape. One shape is simpler than two shapes. So whenever there’s an opportunity–two adjacent shapes have similar values–lose the edge in between and connect them. 

This is pretty easy to do with dark shapes because as I mentioned above, we are already losing information, (including edge information) in the dark shadows. You can also lose edges between two light shapes, like between the brightly lit street surface and its reflection on the side of the bus. Or between one building and another. 

I do a considerable amount of experimentation in this area. I try to lose edges everywhere, and if I lose so much information that I can’t tell what I’m looking at, I can always redefine it. But I won’t know if losing an edge messes up my painting until I try it. 

It may be scary to lose an edge - after all, you may have an uncommonly beautiful passage there and are reluctant to lose it. But as they say, no risk, no glory. One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned over the years is that you have to be willing to lose it in order to move forward and grow. You’ll discover that indeed, sometimes you will ruin a passage, or the painting even. But in most cases, you’ll be able to redo an edge, or a passage, or the whole painting, and if you do it enough times you’ll start to trust your ability to redo it. At that point, losing a passage becomes not so scary, and when you've lost that fear,  you will start to see a big difference in your strokes. That difference? Confidence. If there’s one  thing that I see in all great painters’ works, it is that confidence in their strokes. (OK, so you can’t even see brushstrokes in some of those realist painters’ works. But you know what I mean.)

Dusk, Firenze, 20 x 16 inches, oil on linen

It looks like I’ve gone off on a tangent so I’d better wrap this up. Yes, cityscapes can be intimidating, but with some simplifying strategies, they’re doable. It takes a little practice, and a little patience, but I hope you now feel like you have the tools to tackle a complex city scene!

Thanks for reading! And thanks Lori for inviting me to contribute to your blog!

Oh by the way, the painting at the top, Racing Down Market Street, is on display at the Brattleboro Museum in Vermont as part of an exhibition curated by my friend Charlie Hunter.
Boxcars runs through March, 2016. Check it out if you're in the area!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A Head Study After Sargent

Charcoal drawing by John Singer Sargent

First, I want to thank everyone who came out to the opening of my exhibition last weekend at the Christopher Hill Gallery! The art looked really good all hanging together in the beautiful gallery space, and the reception was a lot of fun! It was great to see friends whom I hadn't seen in a long time, and to have met some new friends too~

OK so today, I'm going to share a recent head study I did as a demo. I took process shots along the way, but I found out afterward that my photos weren’t all that good - the white balance on my camera was set wrong.  But I thought I’d show you anyway - it may still be worthwhile.

I am using a charcoal drawing by J.S.Sargent as reference for this one. As I hadn’t painted heads in a while, I wanted to keep things simple. I decided to just use the Zorn palette - Titanium White, Ivory Black, Cad Red Light, and Yellow Ochre. 

I toned the canvas lightly with a mixture of black, red, ochre and Gambol. Mostly black with red and yellow to warm it up a bit.

I started my drawing with a small brush, using the same puddle. Just trying to get the shapes reasonably accurate. Paying particular attention to the distances between hairline, brow, and bottom of the nose. 

Then I started more careful measurements (eyeballing, but a more careful eyeballing) using the glabella area as my epicenter. This is a good place to start because it’s bony and has a lot of sharp edged shapes that don’t move around. 

I tried to get the overall shape of the head in the ball park, but I don't commit to a tight outline. Not that I could get it precisely anyway. Then I start getting placements of features by going to the glabella and working outward. In the end, the outer edges of the face / head is measured out from the middle out, and the adjustments are made to the initial drawing that way.

I placed the dark shapes of the brow, eye, and the shadow under the nose (which defines the bottom of the nose). I typically have a hard time judging distances between the brow and the eye, and between the eye and the nostril wing, so I tried to do this very carefully. 

The distance between the brow and the hairline, and the distance between the nose to the chin are easy to adjust later, so I’m not too worried at this point. As long as I have reasonably humanoid proportions, I'm OK with that. For now.

I then knocked in the shadow side with the same thin paint. I didn’t make it too wet - just lightly scrubbing in - but I could have made it washy like watercolour as well. I don’t think one method is better than the other, except that with the wash method, you have to let it dry a bit before moving on.

A little more work with the underpainting. Just blocking in the shadow pattern doesn’t give me the “big sculpt”, so I tried to emphasize the blockiness of the volume at this stage. I see now that I didn’t quite get the turn of the form on the temple area - that should have been addressed here as well.

Now I start in with colors. Before I started, I got several puddles going on my palette, primarily to make decisions on major color relationships between shadow, darker light, and lighter light areas. As I haven’t painted with the Zorn palette in a long time, I thought I needed to familiarize myself with the color range before I put paint on the canvas. 

I want to emphasize that my aim in premixing puddles is not so I can approach it like color by numbers. I'm just trying to get a feel for the major relationships. The puddles I mixed are not so big, so I do have to keep mixing and adjusting as I go forward from here. 

Then, I just blocked in the head, trying to maintain the big sculpt. The original drawing doesn’t give us any info on the shadow side - it’s very dark - so I just blocked it in very dark.  Later, I might be able to give it a little more information but I didn’t want to guess at it without the overall context, so I made the decision to leave that dark and simple for now.

Had I decided to block in the shadow side at a lighter value, I would have had to provide more information in there. Lighter value assumes it’s illuminated, which means information will become visible. If the information is not available, one would have to either make it up, or hide it somehow. 

Blocked in the hair and the mustache. Also gave a softer turning edge to his left temple.

Working around the eye socket and the nose, a little more modeling and adding some warmth to the skin in those areas, while cleaning up a few edges. 

With the Zorn palette, warming up means increasing the amount of red and /or yellow ochre in the mix. (That's all we got!) Obviously, because the original reference is in black and white, I'm making up the colors on this study. Certain areas being warmer or cooler are more or less generic tendencies of an average head. 

Integrating the skin with the hair to achieve a very soft edge at the hairline. 

Darkened the shadow side of the mustache as well. 

Cleaned up around the eye socket so he doesn’t look like he has a black eye.

Dropped the value around the chin area - I needed more overall vertical value change of the big sculpt, so that the front plane of the face has more of a curve from top to bottom, underneath all the features. It’s easy to lose sight of this.

A little bit of definition in the shadowy area under the mustache, and around his left eye (bag underneath, etc.)

Defined the hairline a little bit more by painting in darker areas between hair and skin, but still keeping them very soft. A few sharper (but not super sharp) edges are present where hair casts a shadow on to the skin. The original drawing has some dark, sharp lines but John is using the line as an expressive device here. If he were to paint the same head, he wouldn’t make those notes.

Made the plane changes a little subtler, a little softer. (forehead area and front-to-side plane change)

Decided the skin tone needed a little more variation, so added blue-leaning cool tone at the temple (lit side) and green-leaning one around the mandible. The nose became redder as well.

Subdued the eye detail in the shadow side, a little more paint in the lightest areas. Modeled his dome a little more. 

Background and clothes. I did the clothes first. When I painted the dark background, the lopsidedness of his hair became apparent. So I fixed that after I took this shot.

At this point, I’m just making minor adjustments. Making sure the big forms turn, and the little forms turn, and nothing jumps out. Softening and sharpening edges in strategic areas.

Here’s where I stopped. The hair is fixed, The highlights on the nose and the eyelid taken down a notch. 

Some of the dark notes within the shadow area were too harsh so I knocked those down too. 

On the forehead, I defined the transition plane from light to just before the core shadow more clearly - this isn’t in John’s drawing, but the painting seemed to need it. 

The sharp edge of the shoulder against the dark background would be a no-no in a traditional painting - that form, after all, has to turn away from us. I just like doing that as a nod to myself. 

I think that’s it. I hope you found this interesting!

Monday, October 5, 2015

A Start of a Cityscape Painting

Wash & Dry, 36 x 36 inches, oil on linen

I found some photos on my cell phone that I'd forgotten about. They are some of the early stages of the painting Wash & Dry, which is one of the pieces I did for the upcoming show at the Christopher Hill Gallery.

They're just cell phone snapshots so admittedly not the best quality, but I thought they may be of interest. As usual, I'll try and describe what I was thinking and doing with each shot.

The canvas is 36 x 36 inches. The composition is a variation on a smaller painting that I did several years ago. I made a grid on the canvas and transferred the main elements - just the big shapes, no detail. 

Then I went ahead and used a brown wash (Asphaltum + Gambol) to indicate the shadow areas. With sunny scenes with clear light / shadow patterns, the separation of light and shadow is what I look for. At this point I ignore local values - that is to say, it doesn't matter how light or dark the actual thing is. I'm only interested in describing where the shadows are.

You can see my "underpainting" isn't very tight or tidy. I don't get into details or precise values. Just indicating where the shadows are, is enough. I can move on to opaque colors from here.  I started with the pale yellow wall of the building on the left - I didn't have to start there, but it seemed easy enough and it was a big shape, so I thought, as good a place to start as any.

I moved on to block in –opaquely and thinly– other big shapes; the building next door, the awning, and the sign above the awning, and the sidewalk and the street surfaces. Although I'm still not precise with colors and values, I'm trying to get them in the ball park at this point. Some thought goes into which big shapes are lighter or darker than which other big shapes.

General hue directions for the shapes are decided here, too. But again, just in the ball park. Not yet precisely determined.

Getting the darker shapes darker - all part of establishing value relationships of the major shapes. I cleaned up the edges a little bit while I was at it.

Not the best photo but you can see that the dark window shapes are still very thinly painted. I like to paint everything opaque, except  the dark darks. Notice I didn't say except the shadows.  Some shadows aren't all that dark, and if I can see color or detail in those shadows, I paint them opaque.

Later when I paint sunlight on some parts of these windows, I'll paint those opaquely, because the values won't be as dark.

A little more paint on the surface - cleaning up some shapes and breaking up the awning into two values - top lighter than front. I'm also starting to define some smaller shapes as well.

Above shows the edge of the fire escape. The "balcony" part of the structure is essentially a rectangular box. I think I took this picture to show the importance of getting the perspective correctly.   It's a small shape, but the accuracy of drawing makes a huge difference. If it involves a vanishing point, you'll want to make sure it's done right. Otherwise the building will be a collection of wonky parts that won't look right. If you're lucky, it'll look intentionally expressive. In most cases, it just looks like a badly executed painting.

Simplified block in of the windows. Just the shadows on the window shades, and the dark shapes where the shades don't cover. Details such as trim,  panes, glass, cast shadows from the frames all come later, if at all. 

Sometimes I don't add any detail, if the painting looks good without them. If you put the details in too soon, you don't have that option. Sure, you can always take out detail later, but it takes some experience to recognize which details are unnecessary. 

Here I am trying to figure out the cast shadow from the fire escape. The ladder casts a long shadow across the building's surface, and I wanted to make sure they were believable. I used a straight edge (a $2 wooden yard stick from Lowes) to draw the lines with a sharp pencil. I laid the straight edge right on top of the wet paint to do this. You can see below that it kind a made a mess of things.

I actually do this on purpose now. I've come to realize that the mess is an integral part of the process. It adds to the visual texture (if not physical, tactile texture) of the surface, and though I may paint over it, while it's there it reminds me that the surfaces need some sort of visual activity. It reminds me not to smooth out every shape. Variation within a given shape can happen in many ways - value, color, thickness of paint, the type of brush strokes, etc - but if I'm not mindful, I tend to end up over rendering and end up with a boring color-by-numbers look. The presence of the mess forces me to treat these windows (or whatever I'm painting) as abstract shapes, and not render them literally.

After I got the lines drawn with the pencil, I blocked them in with darker, grayed down colors of what was already there. It's important that the color and value relationship of the original big-shape block-in be more or less established. Otherwise this tedious part of painting straight lines will have to be re-done later when I decide I had the big shapes all wrong. (Which is often the case, I admit) 

If there is one important lesson here, it's this; Work out the big relationships first, details later. Sorta like life, huh?

I'm sorry to say that after this point, I completely forgot to take any more pictures. As I get into the painting, and especially when I start getting more abstract, I really become immersed in the process and it's rare that I remember to take frequent breaks to take photos. 

One of these days, I'll do a proper process thing, I promise!

But for now, I hope you found at least the start of it interesting.

Wash & Dry , and many other new pieces will be on display at the Christopher Hill Gallery. Urban Light, a three-man show with James Kroner and Nobuhito Tanaka opens this Saturday, October 10th. If you're int he area, come on out and check out some great paintings and sip some wine with me!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Exhibition of New Works in Healdsburg, CA!

Sam's, 36 x 36 inches, oil on linen

Not that I need to explain myself for posting again so soon after the last one (I do feel a little guilty when I neglect this blog), but I want to let you know that I will be in an upcoming three-man exhibition at the Christopher Hill Gallery in Healdsburg, CA.

I am going to be showing with two very talented painters, James Kroner, and Nobuhito Tanaka - both of whom paint some great cityscapes. I think our styles will look awesome together. 

I have been working on pieces for this show for the past several months. I had some doubts along the way whether I'd be able to come up with enough worthy pieces by the deadline, but it looks like I'm going to make it (whew~). 

Pale Blue San Francisco, 16 x 12 inches, oil on linen

The show opens on Saturday, October 10th, and there will be a second-day reception on the 11th as well. If you're in Northern California, please come to the opening! I think this is going to be a really, really cool show!

Three for Lunch, 12 x 12 inches, oil on linen

I have both cityscapes and figurative works for this show.  With this group of paintings, I pushed further into abstraction and self expression, and I feel very good about the result. In fact I wouldn't mind keeping some of these for myself, but alas, I promised 15 pieces, so I'm going to deliver all of them.

Memories Return, 20 x 16 inches, oil on linen

Like this one, Memories Return. I freaking love this painting. I hope it goes to someone who loves it as much as I do and not buy it just because it matches their couch or something.  The title, Memories Return, is a reference to Thelonious Monk's timeless ballad, Round Midnight.  I was listening to it while painting this and I believe it really influenced the outcome of the painting. Listen to Miles' version and you tell me.

Blues for Cello, 16 x 12 inches, oil on linen

Healdsburg is a really quaint little town in the heart of Sonoma Wine Country, and the gallery is a beautiful space right in the middle of town. 

If you're in Northern California, and are looking for something to do on the weekend of October 10th, why not come out to Healdsburg and enjoy some art and wine? Make a weekend out of it!

Christopher Hill Gallery
326 Healdsburg Avenue
Healdsburg, CA


'Hope to see you there!!