Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

Another year that flashes by, leaving me a bit confused, stumbling, and tired. 2010 was an intense year full of happy and sad times. So much has changed in my life, not always for the best. One thing that 2010 did show me was that I have an amazing group of friends who love me and who I love very dearly. There are also other people outside of my close circle of friends who have also shown their love and respect towards me and most important, my art. To all those people who have touched me in a positive way this past year I thank you from the bottom of my heart, and wish you all the love, joy, and success life can bring this new year and forever. Good luck to every one in 2011...I in the mean time, will start working on my new year's resolution, which is to become a better person.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Color Palettes

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Robert forwarded me a link of another blog about artists' color palettes. I have always found intriguing the color choices of different artists throughout history. Some color ranges are very limited, mostly because of what is available at the time in certain geographic regions. What is most amazing is the how the same artists with limited color choices were able to do so much with the mixtures they were able to make. I learned about working with a limited palette in 2009, and I think narrowing down my choices has worked so much better for me. Above is my plein air color palette made of Ivory Black, Ultramarine Blue, Kings Blue, Viridian, Sap Green, Burnt Sienna, Red Ochre, Yellow Ochre, Nickel Yellow, and Titanium-Zinc White.
Here's the link to Oil Color Palettes. Enjoy!

Friday, December 03, 2010

New Painting: Small Yellow Onion

Small Yellow Onion, 2010, oil on canvas, 8 x 7 inches
Here's one more onion for the collection of little paintings of onions. After painting a complex landscape I felt the need to go back to something simple. I had nothing in mind when working on this small piece, I just wanted to have fun in capturing the colors of the little onion I came across in my kitchen one night. These small paintings of onions allow me to try new things such as paint brand, paint application, and colors. In this still life I made used of more transparent, high chroma colors such as Old Holland's sap green, Williamsburg's Indian yellow extra deep and transparent red ochre. The two Williamsburg colors are not part of the regular line, they are limited edition colors made in small batches, and I have the luck to have access to such colors. I tend to use Naples yellow when working on my onion still lifes, but this time I decided to stay away from that and used mixtures of yellow ochre, Indian yellow extra deep and nickel yellow. I like the results, and I think I'm hooked on the limited edition Williamsburg paint. I'm not sure what will be next, there are a few projects I need to finish and a few more I would like to start soon. Breath, breath, and take your time I tell myself. More to come!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

This Week's Figure Drawing

Seated Female, 2010, graphite on paper, 15 x 11 inches
This is the latest figure study from my night sessions at the Art Students League. Not bad for a two night drawing, but I could have done a little better. I used hot pressed Frabriano Artistico, a paper I've never worked with before. I was attracted to the warm tone of the Traditional White, and to the almost plate finish. It wasn't until I began to layer the pencil tones that the paper started to become a little rough, causing smudge like effects in the area where I was working most. The back of the model became smudgy and grainy, my F and 3H pencils weren't doing the trick. I had to work in a very thin HB mechanical pencil for me to even out some rough patches. It's all a learning experience, now I know what to expect from this paper and I'll be able to handle it better next time.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Study of Sky

Study of Sky, 2010, graphite on paper, 13 x 10 inches
This study was done in the figure drawing/painting class I'm taking at the League. Working on a small scale does mess me up a bit when dealing with proportions and trying to fit the figure on the page. I'm too used to the 18 x 24 inch format. Regardless, I'm happy with this drawing, it's only a study, so I don't feel too bad that it didn't turn out a master piece.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

New Painting: Asheville Trail

Asheville Trail, 2010, oil on linen, 20 x 24 inches
I embarked on a three week journey not knowing if I was going to be successful in creating a good landscape. I started working on this image late in 2008, and as work continued through the first months of 2009 I started seeing that I was not getting anywhere. I wasn't ready for a painting with this many elements, and yes, this much green! As with many things I'm unhappy with, I discarded it, telling myself that I would work on it when I was ready. That time came, after taking landscape classes with Robert Zeller I learned a great deal on the subject. It was time to proof myself I could do this, and a little extra push came from the possibility of earning an award for "Best Traditional Landscape" at the Salmagundi Club. Ok, so all that aside, back to the journey. Well it hasn't been easy. Most nights I wanted to tear the painting apart, but at the same time I kept seeing the end of it. It became an obsession, and the possible prize no longer mattered. I turned to landscape paintings from the past, especially Courbet, and I also turned to landscape paintings from the present. I am very well aware that I can't copy others' works, but I do hope to learn from them and take that and apply it in a way that I can develop my own voice. Asheville Trail will be exhibited in the 127th Annual Members' Exhibition at the Salmagundi Club, from November 15 to December 3. Reception and awards will take place on Monday November 22, from 6-8pm. Salmagundi is located at 47 fifth ave. (between 12th and 11th streets), NYC 10003.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

A Date with Courbet

Gustave Courbet, Louis Gueymard as Robert le Diable, 1857, oil on canvas, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
Saturday night I rushed to the Met from work in hopes of getting at least an hour of viewing time. Trying to make it uptown from downtown on a saturday night can be a huge task, especially when there is limited time, cabs are full and trains run less frequent. I was on a mission, I needed to see some Courbet paintings. I needed to get a grasp of the way he handled paint and color.
Gustave Courbet, The Sea, 1873, oil on canvas, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
After walking through the first galleries of 19th century French art, where Manets hang in all their glory, I came to the landscape galleries. The first Courbet I saw was The Sea, a moody and intriguing painting with undeniable energy.
Gustave Courbet, The Sea (detail)
Courbet's use of texture is admirable, I could see his use of a palette knife in the sky, quite poetic really.
Gustave Courbet, The Deer, ca. 1865, oil on canvas, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
Another moody dark painting is this one of two deer. The browns in the background are rich and applied softly, a big contrast to the heavy impasto in the foreground depicting the snow covered ground.
Gustave Courbet, The Deer (detail)
The deer blend in with the dark colors surrounding them, and most of the focus is on the textured snow.
Gustave Courbet, The Deer (detail)
This is the bottom left corner of the painting, where different colors come through.
Gustave Courbet, The Source of the Loue, 1864, oil on canvas, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
This is perhaps one of the most stunning paintings I've seen by Courbet. There is a daring way in which he went about painting this canvas. The water of the River Loue comes cascading down to the bottom with such convincing force one can almost hear the roar of the water bouncing of the rocky walls of the cave.
Gustave Courbet, The Source of the Loue (detail)

Gustave Courbet, The Source of the Loue (detail)
Looking at this canvas up close is mesmerizing, layer upon layer of paint can be seen, and what intrigues me most is how did Courbet do it? Was there a palette knife involved, or was it all done with a brush? He is unique amongst painters, his build up of paint is intense, very similar to Rembrandt's thick layers.
Gustave Courbet, View of Ornans, probably mid-1850s, oil on canvas, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
This is an early Courbet landscape, it is a bit more delicate and the shapes are more modeled, but it still has some of the paint build up I was hoping to see.
Gustave Courbet, View of Ornans (detail)

Gustave Courbet, Young Ladies of the Village, 1851-52, oil on canvas, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
This is the largest Courbet painting on display at the Met, and it is also a great piece. The green used on the ground is beautiful and full of light. According to the Met "when the work was exhibited in the Salon of 1852, critics bitterly attacked it, finding it tasteless and clumsy..."
Gustave Courbet, Young Ladies of the Village (detail)
Was it clumsy because the surface wasn't pristine as Ingres? I find paintings with painterly effects and texture to be more interesting. They have more soul. It is difficult for me to believe that painters such as Courbet, Manet, Pissarro, etc., were criticized during their day, but time has been kind and they are all now seen as incredible artists.
Gustave Courbet, Young ladies of the Village (detail)

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Studies from Three Sessions

Crossed Leg Female Nude, 2010, oil on canvas, 24 x 18 inches

Female Portrait, 2010, oil on linen, 12 x 9 inches
These are the latest figure studies from the last couple of weeks I worked on at the Art Students League. This was originally a three week pose, but since I'm a part time student I only had a chance to work on it for only three sessions. On the second Monday and Tuesday of the pose I worked on the grisaille of the full figure. On the last Monday, I worked on the small portrait. Having only a limited number of sessions with the models is forcing me to move and see things quicker. These may not be masterpieces in the world of figure studies but hey, I'm just starting.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Second Stage

Work continues fast and steady on this landscape. On the second night of work I had covered most of the canvas, blocking in general shapes and tones. Although my speedy progress looks promising I'm still afraid that I might make the same mistakes I made on the first try. Things can't be as tight or forced as before, I have to keep reminding myself to keep the paint loose. Easier said than done!
I admire the Barbizon school of landscape painters, I love the poetic and wispy movement of their brush. Those guys were loose, they had a tremendous amount of courage and confidence when translating the French country side into an ideal pastoral scene on canvas. How did they do it? My biggest problem is I think too much and don't do enough. I need to enjoy the process and have fun with it, in the end that's why I'm a painter. Not because I hate it, but because of the pure joy I feel when pushing paint around on canvas. To aid me on the search for the ideal landscape I have been looking at Courbet and Inness closely.
After looking at paintings online and in books I realized that these guys were not trying to paint every tree leaf; with paint they were laying down general gestures, ideas of the dense foliage of trees. Innes was more atmospheric than Courbet, who was all about texture and layers. Taking some hints I began painting with a palette knife, something I haven't done since my abstract days in 2003 and 2004. I have to admit, it was fun and scary at the same time. On the first few tries I was having problems with the palette knife, paint would smear in strange ways, sometimes in random jagged forms and sometimes in straight hard lines. I wasn't going to give up, and so I knifed my way through the night adding layer upon layer.
I got the texture I wanted, the trees look like they are moving about as they get lit by the sun, but all the sharp edges are starting to worry me. Thanks to the Italian wax medium I'm using; based of lead, linseed oil, and beeswax, the drying time of these layers will be faster, allowing me to glaze over them and knock them down sooner than expected. More to come...happy painting!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Trying This Again!

I'm currently working on a new landscape, which I had started in 2008. After a couple of months of working the painting to death and failing at achieving a something I could be proud of, I decided to tear it off the stretcher bars and would give it a shot some other time. That time is now. I will be recording progress of this painting in this blog, maybe seeing all my steps will help me learn something about my working method, and with that make the necessary adjustments to achieve a better painting. These are the first stages of the painting, above I'm in the process of applying a warm earth tone on the linen.
Here I'm laying down the first few sketchy strokes which will determine the composition.
Since the first layer of paint was wet I was able to rub it off in the highlight areas. This would give me a better sense of what I'm dealing with.
Why stop at the sketch? I plowed on through the night adding colors that would give a general description of what I'm looking for in the final stages of this painting. Things can change from here, I could go cooler or warmer, or even darker. So far I think this is a good start, but the past keeps haunting me and I'm afraid that I will mess this up again. Time will tell...more to come.

Monday, October 18, 2010

October and it's Patron Saint

Since 1687, Lima the city of Kings, as it is known through its history, celebrates every October the religious festival of El Senor de los Milagros (Lord of Miracles). On the 1st, a one day precession signals the arrival of the purple month, a color adopted from the habit of the confraternity of the Lord of Miracles.
Photo by Joselito Calbanapon
The main dates for the month are October 18 and 19, when the procession of the crucified "black" Christ travels through the main streets of the capital city. On both days, from 6 am to about 2 am, the heavy silver and gold framework and walker is carried on the shoulders of the brothers who take turns every few minutes.
Photo by Juan Manuel
The air is filled with incense and with the voices of a large group of women singing prayers. The National Guard Band plays non stop accompanying the procession, and as the image makes its way through, believers from every walk of live push their way through, trying to get as close as possible to see or even touch the venerated image.

Offerings of flowers are passed to the front, with hopes that the flowers will yield blessings and perhaps a miracle to the donor. Peruvians from every corner of the country travel to Lima to have their prayers heard. This has been recorded as the largest procession in the world, and it is said that it keeps growing every year.
Photo by Reinhard Agustin
Whether you are a believer or not, the intensity of this procession is an amazing experience. The faithful pour their hearts out, emotions run high; sounds of song and music fuse with car horns and ambulance sirens. The sun cast its rays on the image, and the reflection of its precious metals can make it seem like you are witnessing an apparition.
Photo by Lucyta Gomez
This dark painting, of Spanish Colonial influence, was my first taste of art and it's power when I was a little boy. I grew up with this, and I would force my father to take me to see the Lord as close as we could get. I grew up drawing and painting replicas of it, and as I mentioned once before, I swore that one day I would paint my own take on the subject.
For more on the history of this Peruvian Catholic tradition click here.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Nice Day in the Studio

The sun was out and light filled my studio. This always puts me in a good mood, I love bright days, bright rooms, and sunlight reflections. Daylight is the best to paint in, colors are more true and it's better for your eyes.
I'm trying to finish this still life I started early in 2009. The towel is looking good so far and I have about half of it done.
I've added the reflection of the towel on the pan, was a little hard to do at first but once I thought about it in a more abstract way it got easier.
I have to keep my colors clean, reason why I'm using a different brush for the four stripe colors of the towel.
Freshly squeezed paint on my palette, while the sun lights it up. Recently I changed the set up of my studio. I decided that I'm happier painting on a wall as opposed to an easel. It allows me to move freely and act quicker when making decision or reaching for materials around the room.
The new set up has allowed the room to become bigger and brighter. I used to have a large black work table in the middle of the room and it sucked the life out of the studio. Now this table is against a wall and it doesn't seem as intrusive as before.
More sunlight coming into the room as I worked. I love how it hits my pigment jars!

Friday, October 08, 2010

New Painting: Sliced Red Onion

Sliced Red Onion, 2010, oil on canvas, 12 x 16 inches
I feel relieved I pushed myself to finish this painting. It's been dragging for too long and for no reason, only that I haven't been working. This painting is a bit different from the other still life pieces I've done. Composition is a bit more complex, integrated; I'm trying to stay away from the single object still life. What's more noticeable about this painting is the cooler palette. The cool white gray background and the white table give this piece a more contemporary feel. This was not out of accident, since I've been pushing for that cool modern it factor, while keeping things warm and familiar. I find it hard to believe that the year is almost over, and with that in mind I'm scurrying to complete some unfinished pieces, like this one, that have been abandoned out of lack of discipline. Next are two landscapes, one still life, and I'm planning on a new portrait. More to come.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

A Message from Mark Golden

On September 11 I published a blog post about changes happening to the Williamsburg color line after Golden Colors purchased the oil color maker. Mark Golden responded a couple of weeks later with a very nice note, assuring that Williamsburg will not suffer any changes in the color line or the quality of the paint and that Carl Plansky's standards will remain intact. You can view the original post and his comment here. I would like to thank Mr. Golden and his Technical Services Supervisor for taking the time to read and respond to the post. After reading their letters and receiving their invitations to tour the new Williamsburg premises, I feel more at ease with the transition of the two color makers. Golden Artists Colors, Inc. welcomes any questions and comments any one may have about their acrylic or new oil color line. Happy painting to all.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Notes on Rothko

Mark Rothko, Untitled, 1969, Collection of Christopher Rothko
I thought it was a frame blending beautifully with the stark white wall. A white frame for a Rothko painting works great, I thought. Walking closer towards Untitled, 1969, I realized Rothko had taped off the edges of the canvas, creating a flatter, print on paper like impression of the painting. This was the first time I stood before a late Rothko. To see it reproduced in a book does this piece, or any of his paintings, no justice. This horizontal painting of stacked black and gray rectangles had movement and atmosphere, despite the hard line of color separation. The bottom portion, made up of two grays, one cool one warm, shows Rothko's brush work dancing vividly across the canvas. There is more action in this section of the painting than I had anticipated. When I think of the paintings from this period I tend to see dark flat spaces that sit still on a wall, no movement, color, or atmosphere emanating from them. This doesn't mean that they aren't any less than his brightly colored "classic" style works. They are more quiet, perhaps a bit melancholic and visibly minimalist. Two dominant gray tones did not take away Rothko's sense of drama, encountering a large dark canvas, like the ones in the Rothko Chapel, can be menacing to some, and to others they are a revelation. In the darkness of his colors there's still a warm glow reaching out to the viewer prolonging the time we spend looking at them. As I stood admiring a "flat" painting of rectangles, while skeptics leaned close, looked at the label on the wall and laughed. There is no shock or point of view that's blatantly spell out for the viewer, the painting reveals itself to those who are willing to see it, to optically peel away the layers of color.
Rothko's Untitled, 1969 is on view at the Pace Gallery in Chelsea as part of the exhibit 50 Years at Pace.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Study of Raven

Study of Raven, 2010, oil on canvas, 24 x 18 inches
This grisaille of Raven was accomplished in two days, about 5 hours total. As a part time student at the Art Students League I don't get the luxury of working from the model for long periods of time as the others artists do. Knowing that I only had two sessions to work from, I had to move fast, and had to nail it in the first shot. I am very happy with this study, although working fast made me neglect some important things in the figure, like more curves which can show the movement of the body even when standing still. Perhaps the hardest part in this study was getting the positioning and weight of the legs. On the second day I forced myself to work more on them, especially the feet, since I had managed to ignore them completely. Dan Thompson came around and gave me some instruction, apparently my neglect with Raven's legs was apparent, and so Dan drew a little sketch of the construction of the leg next to my figure. I was planning on painting it out since what he was showing me was recorded in my brain, once I get taught something it stays up there. Tonight I decided that I would leave his sketch, I might learn more from it than I think. Next week another pose, another model and another grisaille.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tuesday Night at the League

Seated Female Nude, 2010, oil on cotton, 14 x 11 inches
Here she is, Tuesday's attempt at another painted figure. I think this isn't bad for an hour and a half pose.Dan Thompson was in that night and did a demo in which he taught us how to construct the figure out of a few lines, similar to a stick figure. There's always a search or lines in the figure, the direction of the torso and how it relates to the legs, and the direction of shadows which join other lines of the body. All interesting stuff, can't wait to see what else he has in store for us.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Monday Night at The League

I was a man on a mission last night, going to class early to secure a spot should have been easy, but being a part time student in a class of full timers means that I can get the shaft on dibs for a good spot. Two models are always present, one end of the room is for short poses, the other is for long poses that could last weeks. If I'm painting I want the long pose! To my luck there was an easel not called for and I claimed it right away. The photo above is the set up of the long pose, my painting can be seen on the far right.
Female Figure Study, 2010, oil on cotton, 22 x 18 inches
This is what I was able to get done in three hours. I am very happy with this study, after all this is my first time painting a nude. I've done figure drawing plenty of times, it's actually one of my favorite things to do, but I've always been scared to try it out with paint. Not any more! I loved this and can't wait to try it some more. Round two is tonight.