Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Helping Judi

Seize the moment many say, a slogan that at times comes and goes from my life. But lately I've been keeping my eyes and ears open for special opportunities that will help me grow as an artists and hope that it will take me to the next level in achieving my goals. That day came recently when artist Judi Harvest walked into my store looking for an assistant. I didn't know who she was or what her work was about, but I got a good feeling from her and I jumped in her site saying "I can do it."
She explained that this was her first time getting an assistant, she has never had the need for one since she likes to make her work all by herself. But after being invited to show in Art Miami on a very short notice she needed all the help she could get. The project at hand is to create one large scale "bee hive" and a 20 foot painting to accompany it in an installation. Judi has been working on a series of paintings dedicated to bees, creatures facing extinction. From the paintings she has moved on to creating mixed media sculptures of bee hives, a process involving chicken wire, porcelain, bees wax, resin, and gold leaf among other materials.
As I walk in her studio Monday morning a chicken wire structure hung low at the end of the entrance hall. After some brain storming we decided that we should stick with the structure she had already begun. Creating another structure out of heavier metal hardware was out of the question, and so we proceeded to hang the naked bones for the bee hive to the middle of the studio. After we decided on the right height we tweaked with the shape some more, and by the end of day one we had the final shape for the large bee hive.
Day two begun with admiring some of the porcelain work that had been done a few nights before. It was time to keep covering the structure with the play dough like porcelain, a job we already knew would take days.
Like busy working bees we moved along adding porcelain here and there, leaving open areas that will serve as peek holes for elements inside the sculpture. The holes will also be a good way for viewers to look out from inside the bee hive while they stay inside listening to soundtracks of bees and bee related music.
Moving right along we keep covering the wire, stopping only for air here and there and for the occasional bath room break.
By the end of day two we had gone through eleven packages of porcelain, more than enough to cover one of her regular size sculptures. Judi has estimated we will need about eighty to eighty five of these containers, but as I left her studio we were both thinking we might need more. By the end of the week we will have a better idea about this.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Details of Steve

I took some detail shots of Steve in Yellow recently, something I felt needed to be done and shared since the paint layers can't be appreciated fully in the painting's photo.
The piece hangs in a wall at work, along side with other of my paintings. It hangs high above the racks and shelves of oil paint and mediums, and even though this is a large portrait most of the paint application can't be seen with clarity from the sales floor. The most obvious thing people seem to comment on is the shirt.
I am proud of the shirt but I wish most could see up close the flesh areas of the face and the right arm. After putting on so many layers through the years I started building a good surface, the painterly element I always want to achieve. It was never easy, after a while the surface in the face became so smooth and glossy it was almost impossible to keep adding paint on top. Paint didn't want to stick, a frustrating thing to deal with. But I kept on painting and after a while the build up was more apparent. Is it a breathtaking portrait? Maybe not, but it is a big step for me and I'm happy with the outcome.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

New Painting: Elizabeth Park

Elizabeth Park, 2008, oil on panel, 9 x 12 inches
After living in the city for a few years I have come to appreciate nature much more, even when it's man made, such as a park. I find that every time I go back to Connecticut I find pleasure in looking at trees and surrounding areas. The painting above is from a small park called Elizabeth Park, and it's known as the Rose park due to its Rose gardens. It is here where brides come during the spring and summer to get their pictures taken among the Roses. It was no different for my sister on Saturday, August 16. She took the trip with her husband, flower girls and entourage to take pictures commemorating the day. As I walked to the main lawn I came across a group of small, low, trees that seemed to guard the Rose gardens beyond them. I became interested in the way the sunlight hit the tree at the center lighting it up, and at the sunlight patches on the ground. I had found a romantic scene at the Rose park and it did not involve flowers.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Weekend Update

It has been a good weekend in every aspect. I did get a little sick, I started fighting a cold Saturday morning which weighted on me like a ton of bricks but was able to shake it off by Sunday night, thanks to the help of my loving roommate. Never had so much theraflu and vitamin c pills in my life, but they did the trick. Not to mention that I can make a mean chicken soup, good enough to revive anyone from the dead. Cold aside I was able to spend time with friends out in the city and managed to have an amazing time. Did a little much needed kitchen cleaning. The most important accomplishment, aside from doing my laundry, was working on the new landscape. So far progress is steady and promising. I have built up a couple more layers and the intensity of the colors are as bright as the sunny day being depicted. Seems that I will finish this painting this week, that is if I don't become distracted by random events.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Local Color

Thanks to Marc Dalessio's blog I found out about a great movie that will be released on November 7, 2008. It's a story, based on true events, about a young painter who seeks knowledge and inspiration from his hero, Russian painter Seroff. Bellow is the trailer for this movie.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Steve in Yellow

Steve in Yellow, 2005-08, oil on canvas, 36 x 30 inches
It seemed that I would never finish this painting. It has been three years of working on it, putting it away, forgetting about it, bringing it out and reworking it, hiding it, reworking it, and now I can say I'm done! I started this painting in late summer of 2005 and was finished, to my believe then, in October. Then in December I realized that I was not happy with it. Since that day I embarked on a long back and forth relationship with the portrait; funny how art imitates life. In the end, after technical struggles I can say I'm happy with the end product, but I didn't do it alone. I have to thank my friends Josh and Oscar for critiquing the piece as it sat on the easel or hung on my wall. Their fresh eyes helped me see the things I was not noticing. There are so many layers of paint that there are areas where the canvas is no longer visible, such as the area of the face. It was always the face I had problems with, and maybe it still looks a bit off but I think it's the best it will ever be, but before I start making more changes and repainting the face I took the painting out of my apartment and made a run for it to work.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

First Layer

Started laying down color on the new landscape. I was able to get general shapes and values in a loose manner. The general idea I've had about the new landscapes is that I want to keep it painterly, somewhat more Corot than Cole. Not to knock on Thomas Cole, at a very young age I admired his work while living in Hartford. His over stylized aesthetic is not what I'm after, nature by itself is beautiful and does not need over embellishment. The more one tries to make a landscape ideal the more it turns out like Bob Ross or Thomas Kinkade, don't know which one is worse. I'm after the real, and by this I don't mean a good copy of the material world, what I want is humility and honesty. The first layer of this painting has the spontaneity I want, but a few more layers are needed to reach vibrancy of color. My biggest fear is that I will get too tight with this and start painting each little leave at a time. I will keep slapping my hand to prevent it from happening.

Monday, October 06, 2008

On To Something New

I have been working on Steve's portrait almost religiously but at a point I had to put the brushes down. Not for good, but to start a new painting. A new landscape is on the works. This painting will be a little different than the last landscape. To start I'm not painting a vast scene. This piece will be more intimate with tress on the foreground surrounding the viewer. I'm excited for this new small painting but I also know it will be a challenge due to the layering of lights and shadows. But I will not rush it, I will just let it develop with me. I know this painting will be a good lesson.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Working Friday

It turned out to be a good Friday night. At the last minute I decided to cook dinner, and after being away from the kitchen for some time it felt very good to get back into it. I love food as much as I love painting. I enjoy the process and outcome of it. Just like art, food is meant to be shared, but on this night it was all just for me.
As my phone rang and vibrated from calls and text messages from friends trying to get me to go out, I chopped and sliced and diced my way to a nice dinner. I made one of my favorites, Chicken Stew which is a nice dish on a cool fall night like tonight.
After filling my stomach with goodness I started work on Steve. It was a good working night, bringing this painting to almost completion. After so many layers of paint that have accumulated over a period of three years it is such a relief to see this portrait coming close to its end. The unveiling of Steve in Yellow is coming soon!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Keep Working It!

Steve in Yellow is up on my wall, this time hoping I will finish this long dragged out portrait. I'm beginning to feel better about this painting than I did earlier in the year, and although I'm still having some flesh tone issues I'm working at them and getting them right little by little. I will continue to work on this piece in the next few days pushing myself to complete it. What's after that? A double portrait I started around the same time as Steve's three years ago.