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.