Friday, September 29, 2006

Getting More Work Done

Without missing a beat I have started working on another painting. Sometimes it takes me a while to start work after finishing a piece. This time around I'm not going to waist time, or make excuses for not getting work done every night. My night was some what disappointing. I tried making a painting medium of Austrian White Fir Turpentine and Sun Thickened Linseed oil, but for some reason, after adding the turp (turpenoid to be more exact) the medium became cloudy. I was very upset since I knew something had gone wrong. It was not supposed to turn cloudy. It was supposed to be a clear yellow. I left it overnight and found the medium less cloudy but with stuff settled at the bottom. Went to work on it again last night. Had to start the medium all over and hope that it wouldn't go cloudy again. This time I mixed the Sun Thickened Linseed Oil with thinner first and then added the Fir Turpentine, which is a balsam. I couldn't believe my eyes, it was clear. I started stirring the mixture and there it goes again! Turning murky. It looked like yellow milk. Very upsetting! I had to get rid of it and wash the glass jars I was using. I have given up on the Austrian White Fir Turpentine, I'll stick to Canada Balsam and Larch (Venetian) Turpentine. They don't get murky!
After my fiasco I was feeling a bit gloomy, thinking, "this is not my night!" I grabbed a Sean Scully book I had just bought a few days ago, Sean Scully Wall of Light, and was immediately inspired by his work. I set the book aside and went to work on this painting. On the first image you can see the first layer of paint, which is very light. After looking at Scully's work I decided to go dark. This still life of a Carrot on a White Dish will be an ode to Scully's Wall of Light paintings. I don't know why but I like the painting as it is. But I'm not thinking of leaving it that way. I'll have to wait and see where the painting goes. So far it's on point.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

New Painting!

Tomato on Green Dish, 2006, oil on panel, 8 x 9 inches
It's been a while since I finished an actual painting. What can I say, my work takes time to develop and I must say I like it that way. I have been working on other things but don't seem to finish them. I guess I was starting to get bored of what I was doing, but about a week and a half ago I started this painting and enjoyed the process. This piece is a tribute to a man who has influenced my work deeply; a great man, but first and foremost, a great artist. I met Stephen Brown in my spring semester of freshman year in college and from the beginning he saw potential in me, which caused him to push me harder than the other kids in the class. At that time I thought he was picking on me, but now I know why he was doing it and for that I thank him deeply. Didn't get to work with him again until my senior year, and he still pushed me. Recently I found out through a website that he had suffered a stroke which caused him to stop painting. Here's a link to a letter he wrote to a friend.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Working Out Ideas 2

Having a Moleskine sketchbook has changed the way I work. I carry this thing every where since it's small enough to fit in my bag and/or my hand comfortably. You never know when creativity and inspiration might hit and you need to have something to make note of your ideas before you forget them. Ideas and compositions for new paintings have been coming to my head while being out and about. The drawing above was done on the subway on my way to work one morning. I had an image in my head of a lonely tomato being lit a certain way against a certain background.
These heirloom tomatoes might be the subject for that painting. Not sure yet. These were taken from pictures I took at the Farmers Market in Union Square.
These two drawings came to me while doing volunteer work at a gallery. I was reading a very good book titled Looking at the Overlooked and these compositions got in my head. I put the book away and started drawing, trying to get the ideas down as best as I could. It's funny how things have changed for me. I used to play around with objects and set them up a certain way so that I could take pictures. So, the still life came before the painting. Now, the idea comes first in the form of drawings, followed by setting up the still life for photos, and finally the painting. I'm enjoying the new process best.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Something Different, Something Fun!

So I'm not a starving artist; well not yet! When I first set out on my blog journey the idea was to not only show and talk about my current work but to also show and tell my cooking. I have always said that the reason why I'm always painting onions and tomatoes is because I use them a lot in my cooking...Well here's the show and tell part.
The other night I made one of my favorites. Chicken stew! This is one of the many things I learned from mom, but I added a little of my own stuff to this.

The ingredients: Boneless,skinless chicken breast(this is for healthy reasons, better if you use bone in chicken for flavor); one med. to large tomato, one large onion, two large potatoes, about three garlic cloves (the more the better), small can of tomato paste, white wine, olive oil, salt and pepper, and diced carrots and peas. I don't have set measurements since I cook by sight and smell.

Prep: Chop the onion into squares. Slice the tomato into long wedges. Cut the chicken into the desired portions, and cut the potatoes into round slices. Chunks work well too.
I start by heating the oil and then adding the onions. Stir the onions to keep from burning and until transparent. Then I add the chopped (minced) garlic followed right away with salt and pepper. This creates a good base, what we call the sazon!
After I stir the seasoning base for about three to five minutes, I add the chicken and let it soak up the flavor of the onions and garlic. When the outside of the chicken turns white I add the tomatoes and let it cook together for about five minutes until the tomato releases all its juice.
Then I add the tomato paste and potatoes. Stir well and let it simmer until the stew takes shape. This might take about twenty minutes or less, depending on how high your heat is.
Once the stew looks right I add the carrots and peas. Stir well and let it simmer for about five minutes. The veggies cook fast so you have to keep an eye out for the potato since it's the slowest one to cook. When the water content starts to reduce I add the wine, stir and let it simmer some more. About five minutes.
This is how the stew should look once it's ready. When the heat is on the stew looks very loose but after you let it rest for a few minutes it starts to thicken.
Here's the stew ready to go to my stomach served over white rice. Always white rice. We Peruvians eat everything with white rice. For more flavor I add fresh chopped parsley, but I didn't have some for this shot. Trust me, fresh parsley tops almost everything I cook. I hope you enjoyed this little window into my personal time and space at home.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Waited a Long Time

In July I had started plans to make a small portrait of my mother. I made a drawing and left it as that. I chose the painting support for this piece and covered it with a neutral brown tone but that's as far as I got. I became scared. Painting portraits or figures is something I don't do often since I'm always scared of failure. But I got myself in gear, and took Peter Yesis' advice about what do I have to loose!?! This weekend I started the painted sketch, and laying of color for this portrait. Little by little she's coming alive, and after waiting a long time to start I can say that I felt more at ease and excited seeing the portrait take shape.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Gallery Night in Chelsea

Two years ago I got my first taste of the New York art world. On a September Thursday night I decided to go to the opening of a show I had been wanting to see. What I experienced that night was something I had never in my life seen or felt. The art world here in NYC puts on the best shows in the fall, and every Thursday night many galleries have opening receptions for the artists they are showing. Opening night becomes like a block party and crowds of people with plastic cups of wine walk the streets of Chelsea (gallery neighborhood) going from one gallery to another.
Last night I wanted to experience it again! I met up with friends on 25th St. and 10th Ave. to check out the openings and drink some free wine! We went to Cheim & Read where the mood was a little uptight since this is a high end gallery, therefore the place was full of socialites, collectors and fashionistas. You could spot the artists in one hot second since they were the only ones not wearing the usual black New York uniform. Although I like people watching I did not stay too long since the art on the walls was not my type. It was all too gimmicky! We ended up at Stux Gallery just down the street. From outside I saw large colorful canvases with textural elements. We decided to go in and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I was floored! Immediately I fell in love with these paintings by artist Kuno Gonschior. Being in front of these large paintings was like being on a high and I could not get enough of it. I thought the work was amazing and full of beauty. Created by delicately placing blobs of acrylic paint these abstraction come to life. I fell in love with the way the artist left many areas of the raw linen support exposed, incorporating the natural color of the material to the overall scheme.
When I saw the paintings from outside I thought they were layers of colored paper, but I was wrong. The only way to describe the texture of these paintings is that it looked like layers of rose petals, as my friend David put it. Rose petals or paint, the vibrancy of the colors was undeniable. Much of my admiration for Mr. Kuno Gonschior comes from the fact that he has decided to maintain a high aesthetic level. This kind of commitment to the beautiful now in days deserves a standing ovation since most of the art that's turn out is about ideas and agendas. Art no longer is about the object hanging on the wall, but about the issues of a certain group.
Being a young artist, and perhaps a bit jaded, seeing this kind of painting during this time period seems baffling. Who makes this kind of work anymore? No one my age that's for sure! Mr. Gonschior is a German artist who has been an active artist since the 1960's. This explains it all. Most artists from his generation are still creating beautiful work of art that speaks to the soul.
The concern of this work, which is based on the Color Field tradition, is about the connection between the artist and material. This exhibition is a testament that formalist painting can still be emotional and meaningful. Purity in art still exists in the work of artists like Mr. Gonschior, Helen Frankenthaler, Jules Olitsky, Sean Scully, and Pat Lipsky to name a few.
It didn't take long for me to become inspired by these paintings, and at the same time leaving me nostalgic about my past large abstractions. This kind of painting holds a very special place in my little artist heart, and some day soon I'll pick up where I left off. For now I sit back and enjoy the work of great artists like Mr. Gonschior.
I had to get a close up of the paint layers, too bad the color came out too yellow. But you can get the idea. This show is the reason whey I keep going back to the galleries of Chelsea; when I least expect it I always find something worth seeing and rewarding.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Application of Tempera Color

I have started applying color to my tempera painting. Now there's no going back. From now on this process will be long and tedious. After doing the underpainting I started to apply a layer of Indian Yellow to add a kick to the upcoming layers of color. Before going on about the beginning stages of this painting I must say that I do not use already made tubed egg tempera. I don't trust it! Every time I sit down to work I have to crack open a fresh egg and get rid of all the egg white. Then I role the egg yolk on a paper towel to make sure that I've gotten rid of all the white. The tricky part comes here when you have to pick up the egg yolk very delicately and puncture the egg yolk membrane and let the yolk pour out into a small container, something like a shot glass. Then I add an equal part of water, mix and tada! I have my binding medium. Once I have my egg medium I mix the pigments, with equal parts to medium, as I go on my little well palette. As you can see above, my Kremer pigment box has all the colors I might need.
After the application of Indian Yellow I start building up the painting very slowly by crosshatching the color. I load my brush and then run it down, twisting at the same time, on a paper towel to get all the excess color out. This helps out in laying down clean lines.
At this point you can get an idea of where I'm going with the background color. I already know what I want, I just have to work at it to achieve the inspiration color, which I will reveal once I post the final image of this tempera onion. The image above shows layers of Indian Yellow, Cobalt Green, and a mixture of Cobalt Green and Zinc White.
Back to the pigment box. This set of pigments is by Kremer Pigments and it's called the 25th Anniversary Set. This beautiful wooden box with twenty five colors was a special production by Kremer to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the company's birth a few years ago. This set was so popular that it became part of the permanent product line. This set is ideal for oil painters since aside from the twenty five jars of color the set also brings a small jar of cold pressed linseed oil and a small jar of Kremer's fast drying oil painting medium. I substituted those two jars with two other colors that are part of the Historical Colors line. You don't have to paint in oils to use this box though, as you can see the set could be used for tempera painting because you only need small amounts of pigment for this style of painting.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Quick Look Into the Future

This past Friday night was the opening reception of a show I was part of. I'm very happy about this show. It's my first professional exhibit since graduating from school. I have been working very hard the past two years to get a body of work together and now that I have a group of paintings I'm submitting them to as many shows I can find. This was the first show I submitted my work to and the first acceptance. Although it may not be one of the high end galleries of Chelsea, NY, it is still a NY gallery and I'm happy to add it to my resume. In all it was great to be part of the show and it gave me a quick peek into my future. I hope there are plenty more shows to come.
This is the accepted painting and it amazed me at how different it looked hanging in the wall of this gallery. This is the funny thing about art. In the studio it looks a certain way, but when it hangs in a different space far from the artist's, it becomes alive and commands attention. For some reason the colors looked more rich than I thought they were.Here are a few examples of the work hanging in the exhibition. The photograph was the favorite among friends. I thought they were right, it had drama and light, good reasons for anyone to be attracted to it. My personal favorite was an abstract painting showing many different layers. It had movement, the color was alive and I love the thick and thin application of paint. The composition of this painting hit the nail as well.

I'm not a big fan of conceptual, post modernist art, but I loved this one. I thought it was well put together and the pairings of words was good. After walking around and looking at the work and taking pictures it was time to get my drink on! Who can resist free food and drink?



Thursday, September 07, 2006

A Still Life from the Heart

Home Grown II, 2005, oil on canvas, 19 x 17 inches
About a year and a half ago I received a commission to paint some vegetables that grew in my patrons' garden in Connecticut. This couple has been very kind to me and had purchased two pieces prior to this one. But this painting posed a challenge for me. This was my first commission and the pressure was on. I was given vegetables along with some reference shots to come up with the composition. After completing the painting both my patrons and I agreed that it wasn't my best work. I could do better and we all knew it. Now the commission became more personal, it was time to prove myself that I could do good work.
Watercolor study for Home Grown II
When I got home after our meeting I started to panic because it had been months since the commission was agreed on and since I was given the subject, physically, to paint. After so long, I no longer had the veggies and I didn't have a way of getting a replacement since my patrons' vegetables were huge turquoise blue squash and a beautiful round bright orange squash. All I had were pictures taken after they were picked from the garden and my own shots I took of them in different compositions with other subjects for my own work. I started to make mental compositions for about a week or two about how I wanted the painting to come out. One night after work, and not in the mood to paint, I made a sketch from my imagination. I needed to add color to this drawing so that I could get a better idea of the feel of the soon to be painting. This watercolor study shows the work done on that night and the composition that would seal the deal.