Thursday, June 29, 2017

Recent Drawings

 Untitled, 2017, charcoal on paper, 14 1/2 x 6 inches

Drawing continues. I have found a new love and respect for it that keeps me coming back.  I'm still trying to teach myself how to work with charcoal, a medium I decided many years ago was not the right fit for me.  Too messy, blows off the page, can't control the gradations of shades unless you are using some sort of blending tool which can then also kill the texture of the paper.  All this made me rule it out when I was in college, but recently I have come across the work of contemporary landscape artists who work with charcoal and the effects they achieve are beautiful.  So I decided that if they can do it then so can I.  There is no staying away form all the different types of blending tools if you want to get some soft atmospheric effects.  Brushes, stomps, paper towels, fingers; I even saw a video of this guy in Europe who sprays his drawing with water in between layers to help him move the charcoal around.  So what do we think about this one?  I say I need more work but not a bad start.    
 Untitled, 2017, graphite on paper, 14 1/2 x 6 inches 

After charcoal I needed to go back to my comfort zone which is graphite pencils.  I love the softness I can achieve as well as deep tones.  Pencil will never get old for me. 
 Untitled, 2017, graphite, oil sanguine pencil, pen on paper, 14 1/2 x 6 inches 

I do enjoy working with oil based sanguine pencils, they are similar to a color pencil but with less wax/oil content.  One thing I have noticed about modern day sanguine pencils, either dry or oil based, is that they are all a cool red.  I prefer a warmer red, pushing towards a rust orange.  Think Renaissance drawings...if anyone knows of a sanguine pencil that has this sort of hue please let me know, I would love to get my hands on some. 
Untitled, 2017, graphite and pastel on paper, 14 1/2 x 6 inches 

Pastel pencil has been okay to work with, it tends to get a little difficult like charcoal but the end results are a little better.  I'm really digging this vintage feel I get with ochre and brown, throw in a little graphite pencil and you get a nice drawing.  I think I may explore it some more.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Plein Air Sundays

Sunday painting at the park continues, and every time I'm there it's hard to believe how peaceful it is by the lake. 
Our painting excursions are starting to attract other painters.  Recently Kyle joined us, and on that day he made a really nice watercolor and gouache sketch.  
Charles continued working on a canvas he started on a previous session, his goal is to paint bigger and to keep going back to the same spot to see  how far he can take one painting. 
Another Sunday and a different area of the lake.  This section of a bridge could barely be made out due to the density of the foliage, but through the magic of painting you can change that and omit things that get in your way.  Wish I had that power in real life.  
Charles brought out a larger canvas that day...boy he's really making my little dinky canvases look bad!  But you try to navigate the NYC subway system in the weekend when everybody is out and about and tell me you prefer a large canvas?
I look so intense when I paint!  Maybe this is why people tend to leave me alone when they encounter me painting, to be honest I prefer it that way.
If only the mosquitoes and other bugs would leave me alone the way people do.  This little corner by the lake was hot zone for all the little critters and I was their feast.  Can't forget to bring bug spray next time! 

Friday, June 16, 2017

Seeing Nature

This is a little late but I just came across this group of videos about the recent traveling exhibition Seeing Nature: Landscape Masterworks from the Paul G. Allen Family Collection. The last stop of this exhibition was the Seattle Art Museum (February 16 - May 21, 2017), and previous venues included the Portland Art Museum, The Phillips Collection, Minneapolis Institute of Art, and the New Orlean Museum of Art. Thirty nine works spanning five hundred years were the focus of this exhibition, and the roster of artists was a list of the most famous artists in Western Art. The exhibition may have come to a close but these short videos are interesting and informative, especially the video that deals with the conservation of the works. Keep an eye out for the Thomas Cole painting, I geeked out when they showed the back of his painting!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Christmas in June!

Preliminary sketch submitted, this one got me the gig

Last week I received a commission with a reputable advertising/branding/publishing company here in NYC.  The task at hand is to create a Christmas card for their clients with the theme of Cape Town and included in the design there must be a Christmas tree.   
Did I forget to mention the image must be executed in watercolor?  The clients are keeping with the tradition that every year they have an artist come up with a watercolor design for their cards, in the last couple of years the images have become more complex and they feature their love of travel.  Each year is a new place and a new obsession. 
This gig is straight up my alley! I love to travel, I paint, and I love let's do this thing!
It didn't take long after receiving word that I was chosen out of four finalists for me to take out most of my watercolor boxes and begin playing.  I have to be honest, it felt good to have all my paints laid out on my kitchen counter ready to work hard.  
Work hard we did!  On the first night I went to bed a little after 1am, but it didn't matter, I was on a roll with the first sketch.  
On the second night I finished the first sketch and began the second one (pictured above), on this night I went to bed at 3am.  Talk about being obsessed. 
Day three and work continues on the second sketch.  This time I'm starting to get into the groove again. It's been so long since I've worked with watercolor, I forget how beautiful of a medium it can be. 
Day four and by now I have moved on to the third and final sketch to be presented.  Another 1 or 2am. session.  Long nights of hard work paid off, I am very happy with the designs, but as with any commission it is not your vision that matters most, it's the clients', so I'm crossing my fingers I don't have to make too many changes.
So much for crossing my fingers, before the clients could see the designs I was asked to make a revision on the first sketch.  Back to the drawing board, or my kitchen counter to be exact, and one more night of little sleep!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Recent Monotypes

Leaning Tree, 2017, monotype, image 6 x 8 inches, sheet 8 1/2 x 11 

On May 20, Salmagundi hosted an all day monotype party, and of course I could not miss it.
Leaning Tree, 2017, monotype (ghost print), image 6 x 8 inches, sheet 8 1/2 x 11 

As usual it's a race against the clock even though you have all day to print; it's amazing how quickly time flies, especially when you're having fun!
Siluetas, 2017, monotype, image 6 x 8 inches, sheet 8 1/2 x 11 inches

This year I have been approaching my monotypes a little differently.  I have been coming up with the compositions on the spot, making it up as I go.  But on this occasion I went back to my sketchbook for ideas.
Siluetas, 2017, monotype (ghost print), image 6 x 8 inches, sheet 8 1/2 x 11 inches 

I have not been sketching as much as I used to, after this monotype party I think I have run out of material…yikes!
Manzano, 2017, monotype, image 6 x 8 inches, sheet 8 1/2 x 11 inches 

Not to worry though, part of being a creative type is that I'm always ready for more challenges, and trying to come up with more sketches exploring different compositions is definitely one of them.
 Manzano, 2017, monotype (ghost print), image 6 x 8 inches, sheet 8 1/2 x 11 inches 

This ghost came out beautiful.  Sometimes it's surprising how a ghost  can read better than the original print.  The subtleties are more apparent while having that hazy atmospheric effect that can sometimes seem mysterious or mystical.
Al Borde de un Bosque, 2017, monotype, image 8 x 10 inches, sheet 11 x 13 inches 

I'm sad to say though that I will be missing Salmagundi's all day draw-a-thon / monotype party this coming weekend.  It's ok, I'll be in the Hudson Valley collecting more inspiration for more prints.  Stay tuned.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day Weekend Painting

Spent the long weekend in Connecticut, where I grew up.  Went to Goodwin Park and took my new palette out for a spin!  I love this New Wave Art palette, it's the most comfortable hand held palette I've worked with.  One more for my collection…time to let the paint build up!
Saturday turned out to be an excellent day for painting, was not hot, and after a cloudy start to the day the sky cleared up and I had beautiful crisp light through the afternoon.  
Not a bad view don't you think?  Sometimes I feel very lucky that I get to enjoy life this way, out in the sun at peace with the sound of the wind and birds.
Late afternoon and the light begins to change.  I prefer this light, things begin to glow and it almost seems like there's magic in the air.
Second day of painting was a bit colder than expected, but you have to deal with it, once I'm in the zone I tend to forget about the heat or the cold.  A few hours later though I'm reminded of how cold it is wen my hands start to numb and tingle for the chill in the air.  That's usually a good time to stop.  
Again, I'm left alone among the trees and if feels like the world stands still.  These are the moments when I feel the most alive and at peace.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Michelangelo Coming to New York!

Michelangelo Buonarroti, Archers Shooting at a Herm, ca. 1530, red chalk on paper, 21.9 cm x 32.3 cm, Royal Collection, UK

Earlier this month, the Metropolitan Museum of Art announce that it would present a historic exhibition on the work of Michelangelo Buonarroti, a titan of the Renaissance and of all of Western Art.  Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer is scheduled to open on November 13, 2017 and run through February 12, 2018.  This unprecedented blockbuster exhibition will no doubt bring art pilgrims from across state lines, if not international as well.  About 150 drawings, three marble sculptures, The Torment of Saint Anthony (Michelangelo's first known painting dating to the time when he was twelve or thirteen), and one of his wood architectural models for a chapel vault; will all give viewers an insight into the creative process of this Renaissance genius.
Michelangelo Buonarroti, Young Archer, ca. 1490, marble, H. 37, W. 13 1/4, D. 14 inches, lent by the French State, Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY 

Michelangelo's work holds a power and grandiosity that has captured the attention of people through the ages.  Many artists have used his imagery as inspiration and as a starting point for their own work.  Now in the twenty first century New York and it's visitors will understand why his contemporaries called him Il Divino (The Divine One).
Michelangelo Buonarroti, Studies for the Libyan Sibyl (recto), 1510-11, red and white chalk on paper, 11 3/8 x 8 7/16 inches

For this exhibition work has been pulled from fifty four public and private collections from the US and Europe.  One of the drawings that I anticipate will be on display is this study sheet of the Libyan Sibyl, an image that captured my admiration for Michelangelo, one that I obsessed over since the age of sixteen when I first came across it in an art book in my high school library.  This was the moment I realized that man can achieve greatness beyond the rational, that talent and vision will always live beyond time, and that artists are touched with a gift that can elevate art to the realm of the divine.      

Monday, May 22, 2017

April at the Grand Army

Our monthly printing get togethers at the Grand Army keep going strong, as a matter of fact we met twice in April…not bad at all!
I keep exploring the larger format, still some kinks to work out but there is some progress.  Above a 12x18 copper plate is placed neatly on the bed of the press and it's ready to roll under the drum.  
A second plate is ready for the press, sometimes I wish I could keep the ink on the plate and let it dry and treat it like a painting on copper.  I love the way light reflects on the red cold tone of the copper.  It adds some drama that gets lost on the paper.
Fresh off the press…I'm happy with the result, but still it lacks the luminosity of the copper.  
Giving a big plate another go on the second day.  I lucked out with this one and was able to attain a glow on the final print, one that I have not seen on my previous prints.  I guess it was one of those things that only happens once and you have to be happen that it did than for it to have happened at all.  
Another moon nocturne image, I think a new series is happening here…this would be the third moon themed landscape this year.  Let's see how far I can go with this.  
Two prints done and drying.  I have been enjoying the process of most of my recent prints, the images come about organically without the use of reference photos or sketches.  It can be challenging trying not come up with different compositions and trying not to repeat myself.  So far things have worked out nicely though.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Back to Prospect Park

The sun is shinning and summer is quickly approaching, and this can only mean one thing...plein air season is here.  Recently my friend Charles and I met up at Prospect Park to pick up right where we left off last summer, painting views of the lake. 
I love this area, given the right day and time, this little piece of land and water can make you feel like you are no longer in New York City.  Sometimes it feels like we are painting somewhere in France, standing in the same places that Daubigny had.  If only I had his talent can dream.  
It was a beautiful sunny day, a little windy at times but no big deal.  We knew that there was a chance of rain in the afternoon, but couldn't believe because it was too damn beautiful.  And about ten minutes before 3pm the clouds started moving in, and moving fast!
One smile for the camera before it was time to pack up and try to beat the rain.  It rained twice that afternoon.  We barely made it out of round one.  Luckily a few yards away from where we set up there's a burger place where we usually end our painting days and catch up on life and painting.  
Then round two came pouring down fast as we walked out of the park.  We thought we were done with the rain but I guess mother nature had something else planned for us.  Good thing I paint in oil and not watercolor, I can't imagine a day's work being washed away by the rain, can you?!  

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Landscape Drawings

Untitled, 2017, charcoal, graphite, pastel on paper, 14 1/2 x 6 inches 

There are times when painting comes to a stop.  It's become a pattern that after a successful year or two of painting I tend to hit a roadblock that causes me to stop painting for weeks.  I have not been able to figure out why this happens, I know I have written about it in past blog posts.  Not painting can affect my mood, I'm not the happiest person to be around during these periods which only I can pull myself out of when I have cleared my head enough to sit in front of the easel.
Untitled, 2017, graphite, pastel, sanguine oil pencil on paper, 14 1/2 x 6 inches 

Luckily this most recent painting drought has not been too bad and that's thanks to new interests in my studio practice.  Monotypes have become a major focus of my recent output, but what has been a welcome change is drawing, and I'm not talking about my little sketches in my sketchbook.  These are proper drawings which are closely related to my monotypes.  My interest in drawing was sparked by a drawing material's workshop I will be teaching in the near future.  In preparing myself for it I began dusting off my chalks and pencils, and began reading about the history of paper which has been very interesting.
Untitled, 2017, graphite and sanguine oil pencil on paper, 6 x 14 1/2 inches  

You can't teach about something if you don't feel comfortable about the subject, so I went to work and decided to have some fun and see what would come of it.  I know how precious I can get with my projects, and in painting sometimes it can hinder the final work.  Spontaneity is of importance to me when looking at art created by other artists and it is quality that I try to bring to my work.  This is why I picked a Stonehenge pad measuring 6 x 15 inches, a long format which would force me to think about composition differently than the standard rectangle I usually work with.  By the way, these beautiful pads of cream color Stonehenge spiral bound pads were discontinued this year,  so I had to grab as much as I could for future use.
Untitled, 2017, sanguine oil pencil, pastel, pen and ink on paper, 14 1/2 x 6 inches 

The second part of the challenge has been to use different dry media within each drawing to achieve different effects and colors.  I saw a beautiful Michelangelo drawing recently online made with charcoal, white and red chalk and ink, and the effects he achieved were incredible.  This specific drawing has been on my mind for a couple of months and I know this was the reason why I have been approaching these drawings the same way.  To clarify I am not saying I am as talented as Michelangelo, to insinuate that I would have to be delusional.  I am only inspired by his genius and I am only paying my respects.  Lastly, my approach on these has been very similar to my monotypes.  Instead of covering the plate and pulling out shapes according to patterns left by the brayer, I tend to cover the paper with the powder remains of either the sanguine, pastel, or charcoal pencils after I shape/sharpen them on a sandpaper block.  I rub on the powder and begin building on the random shapes created by my hand or stomp after spreading it.
Untitled, 2017, graphite and pastel on paper, 14 1/2 x 6 inches 

I am looking forward to see where these drawings take me, so far they exist on their own without any plans of using them for anything specific,  and for the record, these are not supposed to be "finished" pieces.  These are more exploratory than anything else.  More to come soon.