Monday, April 28, 2008

Laying the Ground

I had to spend some time applying lead ground to a couple of canvases. I've been putting off this job for a while and I just couldn't get away from it any more. I wish I could use acrylic gesso and be done with it, but I don't trust it. I want my work to be done right and following the long tradition of painting and its materials seems like the right way to go about things.
Using lead white can be scary at times. I use it often in my painting and I'm careful while doing so, but it becomes a little more alarming when I work with large batches. The good thing is that I use lead white already suspended in oil so I don't have to worry about having the pigment's particles in the air. Kremer's lead white is a beautiful warm color, but way too oily. Unlike paint, the ground is supposed to be more stiff, and to decrease the high oil content of this mixture I add chalk. This also makes the ground more absorbable.

So far I was only able to prime two canvases, I still have about twelve more to go. Looks like I'll be doing this for a while!

Thursday, April 24, 2008


Just another beautiful spring day, the kind that makes you stay out and take in all the sun rays. Nothing beats the spring in the city, and though I wanted to get out and be a sun bum at the park I knew I needed to get some work done.

After a quick morning clean up of my apartment I set my self up to start stretching some more canvas. In the last few days I've been stretching and preparing supports for the near future. Better to be ready than not. With the windows open and the breeze blowing in I got to work on this oil primed linen. I still have more panels and canvas to prepare but I don't mind. Building the bones of a good painting is my favorite part of the process.

Friday, April 18, 2008

New Painting

Still Life with Apples, 2008, oil on canvas, 16 x 12 inches
What an amazing feeling it is when a painting is done, especially if it was begun a year before. I planned and set this still life back in early 2007 during a visit to my parents home in Hartford. I took over my mother's kitchen in search for inspiration. I love going through her pantry and cupboards looking for things with that unique touch. Nothing seems to be a set, dishes, pots, pans, cups, they are all a collection of misfits that have found a way to her kitchen. I set a number of still lifes and took reference shots, since I was only there for two days. This painting is the first of that group. This is the simplest one of the bunch, but I remember being very excited to start working on this one because of the apples. I don't usually paint apples or pears because they have been done way too many times. But I remember that day looking at the yellow and red variations of the fruit and thinking of Caravaggio's still life. I was after his apples! That's a tough standard to match, but hey I tried.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Spring Cleaning

It turned out to be a beautiful spring day. I could not be any happier since it was my day off, and days like this one you have to enjoy. I took a short walk to Astoria Park, in Queens, to sit in the sun and breath some fresh air. The morning was warm and breezy and so full of light. Warm weather is what most of us here in the East Coast have been waiting for. Winter wasn't bad at all, it was actually one of the warmest, but it was a little too long. Now Mr. sunshine is out and has us all very content.
After a peaceful day at the park, listening to music, reading and taking a nice little nap I came home ready to work. But the spring cleaning bug bit me as I looked at my messy palette. I was known by my peers as the neatest painter in the studio. Always wiping down my palette so that paint wouldn't build up. That was then, lately I have been too lazy to clean up after working. This isn't good since the dry mess doesn't let me see the colors I'm mixing.

It was time to scrape it all off. It usually takes me a while to get the glass clean but thanks to a new razor blade the job got done in no time.

With a clean surface to work on I was ready to paint and finish a still life I have been working on. I get a kick out of a clean palette. It's so pristine that I don't even want to get it dirty again. Before laying out fresh paint I took some time to look at Gregg Kreutz's Problem Solving for Oil Painters. I just needed to get some palette inspiration, and the trick worked since I got in the mood to start working.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Drained but Working

Don't know why but I have been extremely exhausted. Doesn't' matter if I get some decent hours of sleep, it's just hard for me to get up in the mornings, and throughout the day I continue to drag my body around. All who are close to me know that I'm not a morning person, they also know that I love to sleep ridiculously late! But now it's different. My body feels drained, maybe my four months of being a party boy has finally caught up to me. It doesn't matter now since I've calm my social hormones down. But all this hasn't stopped me from working. I keep forcing myself to get some painting done even as I'm falling asleep on the easel. There have been many ideas popping in my head for new paintings, and I have to run with it. Seems like I'm leaning towards portraiture a bit more. I'm excited about this change, but nothing has been started yet. I'm still working on three still lifes and Steve's portrait has been set aside for the time being. I have been thinking more about the way I paint and which way I should take them. Having an active brain is always good, this is the motivation, the fuel the artist needs to keep producing, even when it feels like I may drop dead with brush at hand.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Food for Thought

Apple and Oranges, 2008, oil on linen, 7 x 8 inches
This is the second painting I accomplished while visiting Hartford during the weekend. I went back to an organic subject matter, but that's okay. I'm not sure how I feel about this painting, at times I like what I did and then at times I feel like there's something missing. But that's the positive aspect of making these painted sketches, they are only studies. They are not meant to be masterpieces, the main idea is to relax and explore technique, color, composition, etc. What I can't figure out is how come I'm able to have a certain paint quality in these studies, that I enjoy very much, and not have it translate to the "show pieces"? I do admit I get a little too uptight and precious with my regular paintings, I am very aware of the problem and I do push myself to get more paint on the surface but somehow I end up with smooth surfaces. Something to keep working on I guess!

Monday, April 07, 2008

A Box of Matches

Strike On, 2008, oil on linen, 7 x 8 inches
I took a weekend trip home to Hartford to see my parents. As many parts of Connecticut, Hartford is a very quiet sleepy town. I grew up there but I could never get used it, especially now that I live in the city. It's always shocking to go back, it seems like as soon as I set foot in CT land sleep and everything that's tiring takes over me and I do nothing but sleep. This weekend, so not to get bored, I brought with me a small paint box. I've tried doing this before but my old paint box was too big and heavy for me to haul it in the train. On Friday I bought a very small box that holds about eight colors, so I had to make wise choices in terms of a palette that would work for me. After seeing that my brushes were too long for the compartment designed for them, I made use of the space by adding three more tubes of color. Seriously, eitght colors, me? After my long nap on Saturday night I woke up a little refreshed. I needed to get some painting done, I had made it my goal to do a painting for each day of my visit. Looking through the house nothing caught my eye. My mother has filled the house with lots of kitschy little things that pop up here and there throughout. I was not going to paint kitsch! I didn't want to paint the usual tomatoes or onions either. I've done way too many of those. Looking at her sewing table I found a box of matches. A bright little box with the three primary colors on it. This was what I needed. This is the first time I paint something inorganic, and my main focus was on the shapes and color. I didn't care too much about the details of the packaging, all that mattered most was to do something a little different that what I've done before.

Friday, April 04, 2008


Plums, 2008, oil on canvas, 6 x 6 inches
I spent most of the day working in the studio preparing a few canvases for future paintings. I'm enjoying having days off from work during the week, for some reason I stay more focused, since I don't get the usual let's hang out phone calls from friends like during the weekends. It's been a while since I did one of the little one day paintings, and since I had the time and inspiration I went ahead to paint these two plums. It's nice to know that I haven't lost my touch.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Apple Painting

I have been getting some work done lately. I'm focusing more on my art now that I've been able to put some things in my life behind. I have made it my goal to make this year as good as 2006, a very productive year for me. At the moment I'm alternating paintings on my easel, going back and forth between this still life of apples, Steve's portrait, and the yellow heirloom tomato. Actually, I had to give the tomato a rest since I got too obsessed with the details of the towel. Steve's portrait is coming along just great, I'm almost done but I'm not rushing it since I want this to be a good painting. The apple still life is unfinished work from almost a year ago. Like many things in my life, it was placed on hold. Now I'm back on it and happy to say that progress on this painting is going smoothly. Please stay tuned for more to come.