Sunday, July 30, 2006

Panel Time!

I have been more of a canvas kind of guy. Canvas is easily available in a wide range of sizes at low cost, and if you're like me who likes to stretch his own canvas cost is even lower. Not to mention that you could make sizes suitable to your needs. But since last year I have been developing a new passion for panel. I used to think that panel was not for me because I loved the texture of the weave of a nice heavy canvas, but now I can't decide which one is best, at least for me. Panel is a complete different ball game. Paint doesn't grab on as quick as canvas. Aside from this little technical aspect panels are very expensive. The only way to make it cheap is if you buy birch wood from a lumber yard and cut it down to size. I don't have any power tools or the carpenter itch, so that has never been an option for me. I have been buying my panels already made with a cradle in back. These little guys cost me a big buck. I don't mind paying the price since I know that paintings look amazing on panels. For some reason colors look more intense. Everything becomes clear with panels. I was lucky enough though to cut my own panels out of left over birch plywood, from a new counter at Kremer Pigments, the other day. The image above shows the final cut pieces ready to be sized and primed. Can't wait to start working on that!
Today I spent a short time sanding down a number of panels I had already gessoed a couple months ago. I usually buy different panels and stretch many sizes of canvas at a time and get them all ready for paint. I like to have a good stock of painting supports because you never know what ideas might come and if you don't have the right support or size the idea might fade or loose it's intensity.
As you can see, I don't think I'll be running out of supports anytime soon. This is a microwave cart I've turned into my canvas/panel storage unit. I have to keep everything organized.
Sizes that are too large go in between this unit and another microwave cart I use as my painting table. I love using microwave carts because they have the right height and width, they are sturdy and I love the fact that they have little wheels at the bottom.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Portrait of Mama

Drawing of my Mother, 2006, pencil on paper, 8 x 10 inches (image size), 10 1/2 x 13 1/4 inches (paper size)

I've been wanting to paint my mother's portrait for a while but could never get the chance. I took a photo of hers and decided to draw it hoping to turn it into a painting. I had intended to do a full body pose but in the end what matters the most for me is her face. I just want to show her as she is without any distractions. I'm hoping to start this small portrait soon, since I have already prepared the panel for it.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Painting Process 10: The Finale

Red Cabbage, 2006, oil on canvas, 12 x 16 inches

I must say there were times I doubted myself and this painting, and came very close to leaving it unfinished. But I decided to keep working on it and not let it beat me. Finally, after posting so many stages of the process I can say "this painting is done." A year and a half ago I had painted the very same image in a smaller scale. I was pleased with the result but not happy. At that moment I accepted the painting as it was since I had just started painting representationally for the first time after three years of abstraction. I felt it turned out cramped and decided to repaint it in a larger scale and give it more air. What I didn't realize, or admit to myself, was that the composition was not good. Everything was huddled up together and having a potato in back of the cabbage did not do anything flattering to the painting. I needed the viewer to read the painting from left to right and the size and placement of the potato was more of a block. In the end I painted over the potato thus eliminating it from the composition forever.

After making the decision to paint out the potato I was left with the dilemma of placing something else in its place. This is when things got scary and work stopped for a while. I'm not one to sketch out compositions before hand, I usually work out the problems as I paint. But this time I needed all the help I could get. Two days ago on my way to work I decided to use the free time in my train ride to do a few sketches in my Moleskine and try to work out the problem. I thought I had come to the answer by adding a table cloth diagonally and placing a halved tomato in front left of the cabbage. Plans changed when I sat down to paint. Instead, I went with my original idea of painting a head of garlic. When I embarked on this "Painting Process" series I did not imagine that it would take ten postings. But with painting you never know what's going to happen. Some pieces are completed quickly, they flow out naturally; and some others, like this one, take their time and sweat. I hope I didn't bore any of you with this series. If I did you will be happy to know, as I am, that this is finished.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Workbook Pages

Warm Field, 2005, Kremer shellac ink on paper, 10 x 8 inches (image), 11 x 11 inches (paper)
After moving to New York I was forced to down size my work. Up until that point I had gone crazy with large canvases that resulted in what I think is my best work. The move to this city was a conflict with what I had gotten used to. The apartment was small and on top of that I shared it with another person who is not involved in the arts. Not trying to invade some of his personal space I started working on the small still lifes I have been showing here. But at the same time I didn't want to let go of my abstract past. I started keeping a sketchbook which I call my Workbook. When I get the chance and the itch for abstract work I go to it and put down what might be on my mind. These images are the first three serious entries to this workbook which is still in progress.

On the Sunny Side, 2005, Kremer shellac ink on paper, 9 1/4 x 9 inches (image), 11 x 11 inches (paper)

Under the Sea, 2005- 06, Kremer shellac ink and watercolor on paper, 7 3/4 x 9 inches (image), 11 x 11 inches (paper)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Watercolor Training

Two Limes, 2006, watercolor on paper, 5 x 8 inches

I decided some time ago that it was time for me to get reacquainted with watercolors. Have been trying to practice here in there for the past two or three months but no success. That is until last night when I picked up two limes and set to paint them. This time around I was not trying too hard to make art of it, I was just having fun and learning to deal with the looseness of the medium. The outcome of this session was very pleasing to me, maybe not a master piece or resolved composition but I like it.
It also seems to be a green month for me since not so long ago I made a little oil sketch of a lime. It feels good to have done both pieces back to back since I don't usually paint anything green. I love the color but I get afraid of it sometimes. Don't know why but I do.

Friday, July 14, 2006

A Painted Sketch

Lime, 2006, oil on canvas panel, 5 x 7 inches

OK, here it is; the second painting of the week completed in one session. I was not sure if to do one more of these tonight or to try to finish other work that needs completion. I'm having fun with these little painted sketches but I don't think I can keep producing them regularly. The main reason why I started these was to use them as quick exercises to learn how to be loose. Painting these little works requires a different mentality, it almost feels like I'm back in school and just learning how to paint. I commend all the artists out there doing a painting a day and posting them on their blogs. You are all an inspiration.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Painting Process 9

Red Cabbage (in progress)
After working for so long to get the right feel, I have finally come to a point where I'm comfortable with the painting. Everything from here on will be about fine tuning and tying loose ends. As you can see, I decided to delete the potato in back of the cabbage. Compositionally it was not doing anything dynamic in the painting. What will go in its place you may ask? You'll have to come back soon and see for your self as I reveal the final piece.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A Painting a Day

Orange, 2006, oil on canvas panel, 6 x 8 inches
About half a year ago, maybe more, I was introduced to Duane Keiser's work. Instantly I was amazed by it. His colors were very sensitive and his sense of honesty was present in each small painting. I could not believe that this guy was creating such great work everyday since 2004 and posting it on his blog. I've always asked myself "how does he do it?" I was jealous that there was some one out there not only working on his art everyday but that each day he would complete a piece. I started to curse my full time job, my bills, and every thing else that requires money. I felt all these things were getting in the way. But not any more. I decided to stop complaining and bought some inexpensive canvas panel. I was not planning on starting to paint on them until I finished the Red Cabbage painting I've been working on for so long. Tonight, after getting home from a nice dinner I decided to paint for a little while. Didn't feel like slaving away on Red Cabbage, so I went to the refrigerator and picked up a small orange. The rest is history. I was able to do a painting in one sitting. I'm not sure if I'm going to be doing this every day, but more often in between other projects.
I'm very happy with this painting, not because it was accomplished in one night but because I got to have fun with it, not being precious about my materials and because the treatment of paint is very loose. Becoming more painterly is my goal and it seems like the more I paint the more tight my work becomes. But after tonight I think I'm going to be more loose. Wish me luck!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Painting Process 8

I have resumed work on this painting and finally I think I'm getting somewhere. I had painted the background turquoise, which was a total mistake. After that it changed to a dark, earthy blue. I had used Blue Ochre, a very hard to find color. I found this pigment at SOHO Art Materials and according to them it is genuine. Blue Ochre is one of those colors that apparently doesn't exist anymore. If any one can get their hands on this pigment do so because it is a beautiful deep rich warm blue. Although a nice color it didn't seem to work for this painting. I tried to liven it up by adding Cobalt Blue but that also didn't seem to help. I followed by painting in a very pale blue, which is what you can see in the image. So far it seems to be better but not there yet. I guess we'll see what happens next.

Friday, July 07, 2006

My Daily Companion

For as long as I can remember I've had a sketchbook obsession. Always buying new ones without filling the previous one. I usually would lean towards leather or leather like books, but it wasn't until the summer of 2004 when my search for the perfect notebook/sketchbook was over. At this time I started working at Kremer Pigments and Moleskines were piled high on the center table of the store. I was given a Moleskine notebook to jot down notes on store operations as I was being trained. Soon after, the notebook became my daily companion. I'm not a writer, never have been but I couldn't help to start filling this book with what ever I could write. It became my museum companion, taking notes on works of art from the Met., Frick, MFA Boston, and Philadelphia Museum. It also became my research notebook, as I learned about techniques and applications of raw materials from old times. Since then my Moleskine companionship has grown to include the weekly planner and sketchbook along with the NYC subway map. I don't see myself without them, since today I brought home more Moleskines for me to fill!

Sketch of two views of an onion

Sketch of an onion from above

Sketches from Bathesda Fountain in Central Park

Sketch of Juan de Valdes Leal's Pieta at the Met

Oil medium recipies copied from Robert Massey's Formulas for Painters

Notes taken from the National Gallery Technical Bulleting vol.20

Moleskine heaven at Kremer Pigments NYC

Thursday, July 06, 2006


Juan de Valdes Leal (Spanish, 1622 - 1690)
Pieta, probably 1657-60
oil on canvas, 63 1/4 x 56 1/2 inches
Victor Wilbour Memorial Fund, 1954
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

I was very happy to see this painting on my last visit to the Met. It was my first encounter with it and I was floored immediately. This is one of the many amazing works of art the Met keeps in storage because they don't have enough exhibition space, so the only works to be displayed are by the biggest names in art history. Juan de Valdes Leal is a name I've never heard of, but I didn't care because I was so into the work. Maybe its my Hispanic heritage that responds to Spanish paintings, with their wonderful use of rich earth tones. What I like the most about this painting is seeing that the artist was not being precious about what he was doing. When looking at the canvas up close you can witness quick brush strokes piled on top of each other. That's why I love old master paintings because they are usually very expressionistic, sometimes blobs of paint can be found throughout a composition. Velazquez and Rembrandt are a good example of thick quick paint applications. These guys new what they were doing and they knew just how to drop the brush on the canvas. Juan de Valdes Leal was no exception.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

My Sanctuary

After moving to New York I made it a habit to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art at least once a month. I have kept that promise and after so many visits I still can't get enough. The Met is a huge museum, so I tend to stick to the European galleries on the second floor. The art of 16th and 17th century Europe is of great influence to my work, and seeing these paintings often is the fuel that keeps me going. After long weeks of work and other personal issues going to the Met is like a cleansing trip. It is here where I hide away from everyone and focus on the art. It is a learning place and my own personal cathedral.

The main stairs leading to the second floor from the main lobby.

The Tiepolo Gallery, here you see a recent purchase. The Penitent Magdalene by Corrado Giaquinto. When I walked into this gallery Guiaquinto's painting was the first thing I noticed because I knew I hadn't seen this painting hanging before. So many trips to this museum I already know which paintings always hang in what room and which might be knew or pulled out from storage.

Museum visitor standing in front of the Poussin wall.

View of the Rubens and Van Dyck gallery.

Spanish painting gallery with works by Velazquez, Murillo, and Ribera.

17th century Italian painting gallery

Rubens and Van Dyck gallery #2, this wall features Van Dyck.

17th century Italian painting gallery #2, what I call the Caravaggio room, with four works by this master.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Early Work

I was introduced to oil paints in the third year of high school. Since then I haven't stopped using oils and to tell the truth I don't think I ever will. I fell in love with the buttery feel and smell of oils and did not encounter any issues in my first paintings. It was a natural match I guess. Like most artists my first paintings were still lives, a genre most leave behind for bigger and more complicated styles. I on the other hand decided to stick to still life, especially after seeing Chardin's work. From that point on I realized that great painting could be accomplished with in this genre. Here is a small sample of my humble beginnings.
Still Life with Scallions, 1999, oil on canvas, 16 x 20 inches

Pan y Vino, 2001, oil on canvas, 23 x 18 inches

Onion Still Life, 2002, oil on canvas, 16 x 20 inches

Still Life with Tea Cup, 2002, oil on canvas, 11 x 14 inches

Still Life with Eggs, 2002, oil on canvas, 14 x 18 inches

Two Eggs and Potato, 2004, oil on canvas, 8 x 10 inches