Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Working Out Ideas

I have been enjoying working on my Moleskine sketchbook and getting down new ideas for potential paintings. Some ideas have been coming to mind, and instead of going to the kitchen and setting up a still life, I sit down to put what I'm thinking on paper. As I have said before, I am not the type of artist who draws and plans for paintings, but in the recent past I have started to enjoy the process of drawing and its use towards painting. Even if a final piece does not come of it, it is still a great exercise for the brain. It keeps me aware of possibilities and brings new found energy to painting. I would love to see these drawings come alive on canvas or panel and color, but I also like the spontaneous look of them that I just want to keep them as they are. I guess if I do decide to make paintings out of these sketches I will have to work loosely to capture the moment of the drawing.
I would love to make a painting of this drawing, this much I can admit. This still life will have a festive feel with the reds of the tomatoes and the golden tones of the onions I will be using. What will add a punch of color to this composition is the kitchen towel in witch the pan sits on. This towel has stripes of blue, green and yellow running horizontally. These cool colors will be great compliments to the warm hues of the tomatoes and onions. I'm also excited about this future painting because it was an idea taken from a previous one I did in 2005, Onion on Bowl.
I love the use of drapery in still life painting. It adds a different dimension and movement; and activates the area of the painting where the ledge of a table sits without any visual interest. The best example of a painter using this device is Chardin!
This sketch was made recently after the painting was finished; at least that's what I thought. I had to make this diagram and point out the things I needed to fix in the painting after a critique with Miss Gillot. All I can say guys...She's a tough one! Small changes have been made since then but I think I can fine tune it a bit more.
This is a quick sketch of two California Peaches I'm planning on using in a larger still life. I'm excited about this one because it will be an ode to Chardin. I'm not sure when I'm going to have the guts to do it since by making such a work I am almost comparing myself to him, and I have a long way to go before I or any one can do that.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Fruit of the Past

Cherimoya, 2006, oil on canvas panel, 6 x 8 inches

Last night I had make a late night trip to the grocery store across the street to buy tooth paste. Had run out that morning and didn't get a chance to buy some. As I was standing in line to pay for my stuff I look over to my right and see this green fruit. I saw it and paused....it looked very familiar and I knew what it was but thought "it's impossible that this is here." I picked it up and the little sticker said Cherimoya. I wanted to jump for joy. This is a Peruvian fruit, at least to my knowledge it is, that I used to eat when I was a little boy growing up there. It's been close to twenty years since I had some of this and I couldn't pass on the chance on getting one. My mother has looked for this fruit in markets in Connecticut, but no luck. I was lucky last night! I brought it home cut it open and set it down to paint. After painting was done I ate half the thing. Saving some for later tonight!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

At the Farmers Market Again

After doing some volunteer work at a gallery today, I took a short walk to Union Square...It was on my way home anyway since that's where I catch my train home. I had my camera and thought, "why not?" I'm glad I did. I walked around and enjoyed what I saw. I took so many pictures I was forced to open a Flickr account since I can't show all of them here!
Don't know if it looks crowded but it was. It was a mad house, people constantly walking into each other and not noticing. Every one was busy and distracted with all the produce on display. I know I collided with a few as I took my pictures. This image is the west side of Union Square.
And this one is the north side. This area is more open but it still didn't help much since it was here where I ran into people.
The peaches looked so good, just wanted to take them all home....Especially since I just got done painting one the night before. I love the leaves still attached to the ones in the center.
Immediately I thought of Van Gogh when I came across these sunflowers. This is my first time seeing this type of flower in person and I was amazed at their hot intense golden radiance.
I love the way the farmers set their tables with rows and rows of veggies. All this bounty hits you hard and makes you go wow! I know I did.
Heirloom tomato was the word of the day today. The first time I visited the Farmers Market a few months ago I didn't see any of these. But today everybody and their mama had heirloom tomatoes and they were all amazing. The shapes, colors and intensity of all of them in groups were too much for me to take. Wanted to buy a few but they were $4 a pound, and these are huge tomatoes. 1 lbs. would have been one tomato, I just didn't have the money for that. I had to settle on taking pictures.
I thought these little yellow tomatoes were so cute! They were like little kitties trying to get adopted at a pet store! Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but what can I say, I'm still very excited about the things I saw today.
More tomatoes!!! I'm telling you, they were every where. I didn't mind because I love tomatoes, they are firm and yet juicy....the sexiest veggie of all.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Second One in a Row!

California Peach in Bowl, 2006, oil on canvas panel, 6 x 8 inches

What can I say, the painting a day bug bit me good! I have been wanting to paint a pair of peaches I bought last week but never gave my time to it. I was hopping to do one of my regular still lifes using the peach as an homage to Chardin. After my success with Vermilion I decided to do another small painting. This took me all night, started around 9:30 PM on Friday night and it is now 1:41 AM on Saturday morning. I didn't think I was going to pull this one off tonight, but here I am posting my peach. I'm hopping to put this up for sale on eBay later tonight if I'm able to figure out how to link it to the eBay page. Mick McGinty is helping me with this....Thanks Mick, you're the best. It has been a long night but I'm a happy painter and can now go to bed and have sweet dreams!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

I'm on a Roll!

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

In July I had decided to try to do at least two of the one painting a day pieces twice a week. I bought canvas panel and thought I was ready for it. I only managed to paint two small ones that month, and a few days ago I completed the third one. But today I was truly inspired by the other artist who are doing this day in day out. USA Today published an article about this new phenomena of artists using blogs to get their work to the masses. Artists Take Paintings to Masses was what triggered this new painting today. I'm don't think I can pull this off everyday, but I will try to get done as many as I can during the week. This little painting of the day is about one of my oil treasures. Yes, it is a tube of genuine Vermilion hand ground in washed linseed oil. Genuine Vermilion along with Genuine Naples Yellow are hard colors to come by, but some oil paint companies are catching on to the demand for the real stuff.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Egg Tempera Painting

In the fall of 2001 I enrolled in an egg tempera class. It had been recommended to me by my drawing teacher since at that time I was very into traditional painting and drawing. Fred Wessel became my teacher and the man taught me so much. During his class I was only able to complete one small painting out three projects he had assigned, but it was enough for me to learn the technique. Two years ago I decided to see if I still had it in me and painted my second egg tempera painting. Now I'm coming back for more.
Egg Tempera is one of the oldest forms of painting known to man. A method highly used during the Renaissance before the introduction of oil paint. This method consists of mixing pigments (powder colors) and pure egg as a binder. Much different than oil, this technique requires patience, and if you are working along traditional lines, a high degree of rendering. Although using a small brush for crosshatching the color may seem pain staking and long, a lot can be done in one session. Oils take some time to dry, and if you are the kind of artist who likes to glaze you would probably have to paint for a while to add layer upon layer. With egg tempera the paint dries to the touch within a minute, allowing you to keep adding as many layers as possible. The only trick is not to keep working on the same area because at some point the paint reactivates and all layers come right off with the brush, exposing the gesso ground underneath. Another good thing about this paint is that pigments are less affected by the binding medium. Colors retain their natural radiance as found in the dry form.
The support for egg tempera is a wood panel. Over time the paint film becomes brittle and a stiff painting support assures the longevity of the work. After the preparation of the panel I start by making a quick drawing for the subject. This is the beginning of the underpainting.
The underpainting is achieved by going over the drawing with ink. This is mainly to establish all the values. As you can see form my underpainting it is not too developed, you don't have to take it that far. It's just to give you an idea. In this underpainting I've used India Ink. This is the building block of the painting; from here on end everything will be about glazing and building up the colors by crosshatching.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Painting of the Day

Tomato II, 2006, oil on canvas panel, 6 x 8 inches

It has been a lazy weekend for me. I thought I was going to get started on two paintings. One in oil and one in egg tempera. Don't know why I've been so distracted but I forced myself to get some work done. I decided to try to do one of these one session paintings. So I ran to my fridge and picked up a tomato. Nothing special about the tomato, I just needed something to get me going. I guess it worked because I completed this little one tonight. Was not into it at first but it grew on me and followed through until I was happy with it. I got satisfaction from this tomato not only by painting it but as soon as I was done with it I chopped it and used it in my chicken soup!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Finito!

Three Lemons, Two Tomatoes, 2006, oil on panel, 6 x 12 inches

This painting is finished! I was not expecting to be done tonight but I was on a roll with this one. This is different for me since the painting surface is more horizontal than what I'm used to working with. I enjoyed this new format so much that I'm going to be using it more often. This is also my first time painting lemons and I like how they came out. This has reestablished yellow as my favorite color. When I was a little boy yellow was my it color. I remember picking up a plastic toy mini van at a department store and it was a golden bright yellow. Very much like a cadmium yellow deep. My mother looked at it and with a sense of disapproval said "yellow?" I said, "it's my favorite color!" Right now I'm feeling just like I did then.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Biltmore House and Estate

This was the high light of my Asheville trip. I didn't know that America's largest home was in this town, and when I found out that it was I could not miss it for the world. Anticipation grew as we drove in trough the entrance. We passed through a beautiful arched stone gate and drove for about two miles in before reaching the visitor center. Just the drive had turned out to be more than I expected.
After purchasing the $38 ticket to get in we had to drive another 4 miles to the parking lot near the Biltmore mansion. I could not believe the vastness of the land and that one family owned this. It was way too much to take. Winding roads lead to forest areas, meadows, and small bridges. Anticipation was growing even more. After leaving the car in the parking lot we had to walk through this path to the house. It seemed like a never ending thing to get to this house.
After less than five minutes of walking through trees you come to the side of the road and as you take a peak through the plants you can see the iron gates open for cars to go in. This was it, I was finally going to see it.
And there it was, the Biltmore House in all its grandeur. This was the creation of George Vanderbilt more than 100 years ago. He was the youngest son of Cornelius Vanderbilt "The Commodore," who made his wealth with a line of 100 steamboats and later increased his business in the railroad industry.
Unlike his father and brother William Henry Vanderbilt, George was interested in cultural qualities such as learning, art, and travel. It was on one of his trips to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina when he found the land where in 1889-1895 he would build a working estate that would sustain itself and benefit the community. This estate would feature acres of gardens, parklands, and managed forests and would be called the Biltmore Estate.
As you can see from these pictures the architecture is amazing. But it gets better and better. Unfortunately when you go into the house to take the self tour of most of the house you are greeted with a sign that says "NO CAMERAS." What a bummer, there was so much to look at inside. Have never seen so much splendor and grandness in my life.
Of course, being the bad boy that I am I snuck a few pictures here and there while inside. These images will be part of the next post. For now enjoy the outside of this house.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Drawings from Asheville

My Moleskine came very handy when taking my trip. In the past I've taken sketchbooks to some of my weekend getaway trips but nothing comes of it because the books are too big and difficult to handle. Not this time. This was my first time taking a Moleskine out and about just for sketching and I love it. It was small enough to carry around in my hand, and what I love the most is that the pages open up easily, making drawing towards the spine a breeze. This book was my Asheville companion.
On the first night I went out to dinner at a place called the Leaping Frog. This was a very interesting restaurant since their menu featured three kinds of cuisine. The first part was American-Italian, followed by German and then Indian. The sketches above are of the small olive oil bowl with bread we were brought by the waitress before our dinner came. The first sketch was of the way she put it down on the table. The second one I go creative with the composition.
I also had a chance to sketch at the Botanical Gardens. I loved the way the stream flowed right under the bridge. It reminded me of a Corot painting I love. I know I'm not any where near Corot but you can't blame me for trying! Right?
There was so much natural beauty in Asheville that it was just too much to take. Even the garden of the White Gate Inn was amazing. One of the two owners of the Inn, Ralph, loves gardening and he created an amazing oasis for his guests by planting different beautiful plants and flowers. Not to mention the koy fish in his two small ponds. The sketch of the flowers above were done while I sat and relaxed in their garden. The color of the petals were a beautiful fiery orange. Simply amazing!
This is another testament of the natural beauty of Asheville. This was the view from the back porch of the Biltmore House. This 250 room palace sitting on top of 8,000 acres was more than words could explain. The landscaping of this estate was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the same guy who created Central Park. The trees in this place were out of fairy tales, standing tall with huge domes of leaves.
This quick sketch was done while having lunch in the Stable Cafe after the Biltmore tour. Yes the cafe used to be the stable housing Biltmore's horses. I loved the little shelve on the wall which had a small white plate with a pile of paper napkins on top. On the left there were three pitchers containing water, iced tea, and some other drink. It reminded me of a still life included in Velazquez's Forge of Vulcan. I'll start my series of postings about the Biltmore Estate in the coming days. There was so much I need to break it up into four parts.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Work in Progress

I thought I give you all a sneak peak at what I'm working on. I started this painting about a week and a half ago and I'm enjoying it. I'm trying out a different format and am happy with the change. I think I'll try to do more of these horizontal images. Lighting is bad in this one, much of the some what loose brush work has been lost because of the lack of good light. But I promise to get the right light for the finished product.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Botanical Gardens at Asheville

On the second day of my stay in Asheville I took a trip to the Botanical Gardens. Founded in 1960, and designed by landscape architect Doan Ogden, the gardens are a ten-acre natural sanctuary featuring over 700 plant species and a refreshing creek which I could not resist from dipping my feet.
It was a sunny hot day and had some energy to burn since I had just finished eating a very good late breakfast at Bistro 1896. This little eatery was charming with the flare of a true French cafe. As we approached the place I noticed that this must be the place to eat since the tables outside were full of people having a good time and a good meal. The cafe next door looked nice but it was empty. When it comes to food you have to go were the crowd is.
We sat inside on a little corner next to the front widow looking out into the outdoor tables, street and these three cool lanterns hanging from the owning outside. Inside the place was cute, with butter yellow walls and cherry wood tables and chairs. I loved the blue tiled floor on our end of the restaurant, it definitely made me feel I was out of the country.
We drove down to the gardens, which are located not too far from downtown Asheville. In all honesty, everything is very close to downtown Asheville. Upon our arrival we were greeted by quietness. For a moment I thought the place might be close since I couldn't see any one around. Didn't even see any employees, but the cars in the parking lot told me that they might be open. The gardens are open year round and free of charge. When walking in though the front walk way you come face to face with the visitor center and in front a tube with a little slot for people to deposit donations. After dropping a few dollars in the donation tube we were on our way with our expedition.
After walking for about two minutes I noticed this garden wasn't what I expected. I thought Botanical gardens had displays of flowers divided by different categories displayed in an outdoor museum like setting. At the start of our walk there was small area with many local flowers, but that seemed to be it. The rest was a park full of bushes and trees. The tour continued since the day was great and I was just happy to be surrounded by nature as opposed to concrete and steel. I loved this creek, which runs through the whole park. I took advantage of my flip flops and decided to walk down into the water and refresh myself. It was nice to feel the cold water running through my toes.
Further in my walk I came across this creepy log cabin. It looked haunted and I didn't like being near it, but curiosity always wins. Hayes Cabin is an original dog-rot cabin which was moved to and reconstructed at the Botanical Gardens from Madison County. After hiking some more through the small hills the path took me back to the beginning of the park. I didn't get to explore the whole place but I thought it was time to go.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

A Trip to Asheville

I just got back today from a vacation getaway to Asheville, North Carolina. Not a place I would normally go to but I was tagging along with someone else. I had a very relaxing three days in Asheville and wished they didn't end. The town was very charming, it reminded me of the movie Pleasantville. The people were nice, they all seemed to be very relaxed and chill, but at the same time I was creeped out because everyone looked the same. I was definitely out of my element. But I had a nice time non the less.
I found out in my stay that Asheville is a very artsy town. There were many galleries and the main disciplines to be featured were ceramics, glass, and other crafts like basket weaving. Didn't see much painting around, that was disappointing, but it was nice to know that the locals support their town artists. Asheville is a small southern town that has been getting a lot of attention in the past few years as a vacation destination. The town has been growing but it still remains small. The downtown area was full of little restaurants and coffee shops, some seemed to be more popular than others.
I stayed at the White Gate Inn, a lovely huge plum color Victorian home that has been running as a bed and breakfast for the past seven years. I was amazed with the garden!!!! As soon as you open the white gate in the front of the house you are greeted by lush greens and flowers rising from the ground high up to your waist. The image above is the entrance to the garden from back of the house, where one can find a small sitting area with a bong fire place in the middle. Situated next to it is one of two small ponds.


The sound of water running was soothing. Everything around was quiet and all you could hear is the water and birds. I was immediately fascinated by the fish in the pond. There were two big ones, yellow and orange each. The rest were smaller fish with the same coloring. They all seemed to be happy at home!