Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Examiner

Christopher Schmidt from the recently published a review of Dublin Square, a cool San Diego spot I had the pleasure of visiting and grabbing a beer with a friend. As the photo junky I am, my camera was going off in every direction. My Flickr page has more than 4000 images, I have lost the count but thank God they keep track of that for me. As part of the review for Dublin Square, one of my photos was used and published. You can view the article and photo here.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Back to Steve

"It's damn hard to make a canvas interesting with only one person.  And it's not enough to get the likeness.  There's also the background that has to be supple, alive, for the background lives. If that is opaque, dead, then there's nothing left."
- Edouard Manet -

I've been working on Steve's second portrait in the past few days. Since the last post on the progress of this painting I had intended to have a rich blue background, similar to those found in Holbein's portraits. But it was not going in the right direction. Working with a flat color that is that bright can be tricky, and I found out the hard way. It was a good idea to leave the painting alone for a few months, although I did look at it everyday as it sat around my studio near other works in progress. I was not happy with the blue look, and finally one day I gave up on my stubborn idea that it had to be blue, and started working in a neutral tone. I think it was a the right choice. The color of the tank top and Steve's skin color are no longer fighting for attention as they did with the blue background. Now they stand up and I believe that this is a better harmony. I'm starting to paint the face, something that will take me a while to nail down.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Scammers are Back

In December of 2006 I almost fell victim to an art scam. I was contacted by a possible buyer for some of my paintings and after getting an uneasy feeling about the email I received, I asked a friend's opinion. He got on the computer and did a search, resulting on a long list of people who had been scammed.
Yesterday I received another email, and had the same uneasy feeling. I responded with the cost of the two paintings "Vanlentine" was interested in. This is the response I received:
Hi Luis,

Good to hear back from you. Yes,i will like to proceed with the purchase of both works . I think they are lovely works and i hope to give them good home. Advise if it is possible to give any discount for the purchase of both works.

I am presently away in London for my twin sister's wedding eventhough it comes at a time when i was preparing for a big move and also expecting a baby but it means so much to her. I should be back in few days.

Meanwhile,i will like you to forward your mailing address and phone number so i can inform my husband still shutling between our home in New Jersey and Jo'burg, SA on where to forward the payment . He has just been transfer to head the IT section of their head Office in Jo'burg.

I can also forward your contact info to the local cartage company that will be moving all our house decors so they can get in touch with you to arrange shipping details. They can arrange pick up FedEx pick up of the artworks from your studio.

I will look forward to hearing from you so i can know how best to proceed. Cheers.

Best Regards,

I copied and pasted the body of the letter on google and I was right. This was another scam. What can I say, these people do make me sad and angry. I do not wish them any good in this life. Artists work hard on their art and push themselves to make the best work they can produce. It is always nice to hear feedback from others and yes even better if some one wants to purchase the work. But this kind thing can be very discouraging, and even disrespectful. To all you other artists, be very careful.
Here is the link to the post I wrote in December of 2006 about the first scam. You will find here more information about how the scam works and how you may end up loosing your money and your art.

Monday, August 17, 2009

New Painting: Onion IV

Onion IV, 2009, oil on canvas, 7 x 6 inches
This is the painting I started as a tester for Graham oil paint. I was not able to get used to the slippery qualities of that paint, so I switched back to Williamsburg and Old Holland. More new work to come soon.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Mad About Titian!

Titian, Madonna and Child with Saints Catherine and Dominic and a Donor, 1513-14, oil on canvas, 138 x 185 cm. Funazione Manani Rocca, Parma
I always knew Titian was a great painter. I have seen some of his works in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Frick, but nothing would prepare me for what I was to see at the MFA in Boston. As I had mentioned briefly on Friday, I made the trip from New York to Boston to see the exhibition Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, a day before it was scheduled to close.
Titian, Portrait of Pope Paul III without the Camauro, 1543, oil on canvas, 137 x 88.8 cm. Gallerie Nazionali di Capodimonte, Naples
Getting up around 5 am. on Saturday morning was worth it! The curators of the MFA and the Louvre have put together an amazing collection of works by the three artists. All three giants proved why they hold their place as some of the most important painters in the history of art. But one above all came on top. Undeniably Titian was the master, the one who set the bar for the other two younger artists.
Titian, The Supper at Emmaus, 1533-34, oil on canvas, 169 x 244 cm. Musee du Louvre, Paris.
It is impossible to post images of all the paintings in the exhibit. I had to choose Titian since he made the biggest impression on me. His light, color, and use of paint reached a place very deep in me. The amount of beauty from these paintings made it all too surreal, too much of a good thing to come from a single man. But he did paint all these works, among other great altar pieces, portraits, and mythological scenes, now scattered through out the world.
Titian, Venus with a Mirror, 1555, oil on canvas, 106.8 x 136cm. National Gallery of Art, Washington.

Titian, Venus and Adonis, 1555-60, oil on canvas, 160 x 196 cm. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
If you went to see this show, consider yourself lucky. If you did not, I suggest to buy the catalog to get a sense of how beautiful the show was. Or if you feel like splurging a bit you can catch this fine collection at the Louvre in Paris, the next and final destination.
Titian, Portrait of Ranuccio Farnese, 1542, oil on canvas, 89.7 x 73.6 cm. National Gallery of Art, Washington
It has been a while since I saw great art, the painter in me was hungry for a show of this magnitude. It was very humbling to stand so close to these magical canvases and to study their every detail in hopes of learning how to paint like this great man.
Titian, The Entombment, 1559, oil on canvas, 137 x 175 cm. Museo del Prado, Madrid
A museum visitor came up to me after seeing me sketch The Entombment. She wondered if any one out there these days was painting as beautiful as the three Venetian masters; I gasped for air and told her that I hoped so. It would be a shame if this kind of beauty is lost.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Night of Thinking!

There were a few thing going through my head last night, well they have been there for quite some time, but after a very brief conversation with a friend on our way to a bar, I had to come to terms with why my career as a painter is not going any where. This was after watching the movie Julie/ Julia and a quick bite of food. I had been inspired by the life, commitment, and determination of Julia Child and her fan Julie Powell. Last weekend I had also been inspired by a fellow painter of around my age who is doing very well for himself. And as the nice guy he is he deserves his success and his interview with a popular national publication. I don't want to say his name because I would be a little embarrassed if he found out that I'm wishing his life, to an extent, to be mine.
Things have been brewing in my mind and last night my head boiled as my friend told me that he's had conversations with another mutual friend about why I'm not going any where with my art. "We think you are sitting on a gold mine with your talent, but you have to decide how you want to proceed." As agreed, I'm not trying hard enough, OK, not trying at all, to get ,my work out there to be seen by the right people. It is not enough for me to post paintings and endless works in progress in this blog. I have to make this happen and be more aggressive. "You have incredible resources in us, him being a business developer, and I working at the top of an important international news organization!" My friends, who I love to death, have been offering their opinions and ideas about how I should do things, but in the end it is I who needs to decided what's best and go at it full force. The truth can hurt, but truth is also a damn good eye opener and most times the best remedy. I, from now on, will be more focused. I'm not sure how to get my work out there, most artists don't since there is no specific set of guidelines for us to follow. I'll figure it out as I go along. But one thing is for sure, I have to paint more!
With my heart now set on the right path, I can say I'm starting to feel better about myself. Even more so knowing that I'll be taking a day trip to Boston to see the Titian, Veronese, and Tintoretto show at the MFA. I think this will be a good way to get the gears going.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

A New Onion

Last night I started work on a new small painting of an onion. I have a lot of little 7 x 6 canvases I stretched and primed a long time ago, designed to be part of an ongoing series of onion portraits. There are different reason for me to work on this painting. Number one, I have been working on multiple paintings since last year but I can't seem to finish them. I get bored, or scared. And so I leave them untouched for months. Working on smaller pieces like this one seems less daunting of a task. Number two, I received some samples of Graham oil paint. I've heard wonders about this paint from different people, about how buttery the colors are.
So why not try Mr. Graham's paint? As I lay the colors on the palette I noticed them to be more fluffy, airy, and yes, buttery. Ground in walnut oil the smell of the paint was different than what I'm used to, which is linseed oil based Williamsburg and Old Holland. The biggest difference was painting with them. Covering the canvas with a tone was no problem since the paint extended very far with little medium due to their wet nature. But soon I was out of my comfort zone. Graham's colors were too wet for my taste. I rarely used any medium and the paint flowed and ran. I'm used to stiff paint, something I can loosen up when needed and when not keeping them bulky to apply alla prima passages. I couldn't get the dry brush effect with Graham. I broke down at some point and had to dig in one of my drawers for some Old Holland paint. I needed paint with more body.
The only area I used Old Holland is the blue area where the onion rests on top of. Everything else are mixtures of Graham's yellow ochre, burnt sienna, terra rosa, raw umber, and titanium white. I let the paint rest and dry a bit between layer for about 10 or 15 minutes, but walnut oil doesn't dry of become short like linseed. After getting the general effect of what this painting might look like, I set it aside, and will wait for the paint to dry completely to the touch so that I could back to it without making a mess.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Hell Gate Bridge Progress

On Thursday night I worked on Hell Gate Bridge, the plein air painting I began Tuesday morning on site. I worked on the sky by adding more blue and worked on the horizon sky, making it brighter. I'm having problems with the trees and foliage in the distance. They don't look organic enough, they look like little plastic trees in a model sticking up stiffly. I will work on that next Tuesday morning on site. I've also started fine tuning the bridge, most of the details for this segment of the painting will get done in the studio, since time does not allow for me to be meticulous with it while painting from life.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Painting by the Gate of Hell

Tuesday morning, Robert and I decided to change things up. Since we both live in Astoria, it is easier for us to get to Astoria Park than Central Park. Every time Astoria Park comes to mind, I think of the great views of the Hell Gate Bridge and the Triborough Bridge (now called the RFK Bridge).
We hopped the rail down a 5 feet drop onto the bank of the East River. We found a spot where the tide was low and set up shop there, with a great view of the Hell Gate Bridge right in front.
Very excited about this location, I jumped right in to it. I think this may have been the best plein air session yet. It was great to be by the water and listening to the small waves break by us, bringing with it broken glass which in turn created beautiful sounds like tiny little bells ringing.
After a rough sketch I began to fill in the sky, my latest obsession! I kept thinking about Eakins and his depictions of sky and water.
My canvas was larger than usual, and there's a reason for that. I will be working on this painting on site for two sessions, and will work some more on it in my studio. So far I have blocked in all the shapes and tones, in the coming days I will fine tune it more. As we worked, Robert drawing and I painting, we got to see a lot of boat action accompanied by the low rumbling of traffic up above on the Triborough Bridge. I took some video to try and capture the morning.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Mr. Blue Sky

Julian Merrow-Smith, Cabanon and Wheatfield, 2009, oil on gessoed card, 5 x 7 1/2 inches
Slowly but steady I have been working on the larger version of San Remo. What struck me most the morning I painted the study was the clear beautiful blue spring sky above Central Park. I didn't realize that painting a bright beautiful sky would turn out to be a little difficult. I have been looking through books and online at different artists to see how they dealt with painting the sky. Here are a few examples of the work I have been admiring. Mr. Julina Merrow-Smith, above, always hits the right notes in every little painting he does.
Kim Cogan, Homeward Bound, 2009, oil on canvas, 38 x 50 inches
Kim Cogan is one of my favorite contemporary artists. I ran into his work online while surfing the net a while ago. Since then I seem to see his work more often, especially now that he shows in NYC. I will be doing a post dedicated to him soon.
Marc Dalessio, Morocco
Marc Dalessio, a painter living in Italy, travels around the globe to exotic places in search for the perfect plein air landscape. Every time I look at his work and, countries and people he has seen makes want to have his life.
Camille Pissarro, Route de Versaille, Rocquencourt, 1871, oil on canvas, Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum, the Netherlands
Johannes Vermeer, View of Delft, 1659-60, oil on canvas, 98.5 x 117.5 cm, Mauritshuis, The Hague

Thomas Eakins, Starting out After Rail, 1974, oil on canvas mounted on masonite, 24 1/4 x 19 7/8 inches, The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

I don't think I need to introduce, or say much, abut the three artists and paintings above. All done in different time periods, styles, and from different areas of the world. But they are all great landscape paintings. Out of all three, Eakins' boating scene draws me in the most. His blue is like no other, and the reflections in the water are pure magic. With all these artists in mind I continue work on my landscape, wishing that it will turn out at least a small fraction as good as these guys' work.