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.

Monday, September 13, 2010

New Painting: Self Portrait

Self Portrait, 2010, oil on linen, 10 x 8 inches
This is a more polished version of the first self portrait of August 24. The first take seemed funny, not to mention the color was a bit dull. I think that it was a good painting given the fact it was a two hour study, but I wanted to take it further and capture my likeness better. Maybe I was inspired by Holbein's portraits, by their delicate beauty and liveliness. I recently bought a book of his work and I have been looking at it from time to time. He had a touch like no other, and his use of color was rich and bold. A bold background is what I was after, something to make this portrait modern while at the same time linking it to the past. Is this a masterpiece? I certainly think not, but I'm very happy with the result and with what I learned.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Sad Changes for Williamsburg

In June of this year, Golden Artists Colors, Inc. bought out the much loved Williamburg Oil Paint company. Finding out about this I feared Golden would make changes to Williamsburg's great paint line. Golden promised that no changes would be made and that they would continue Carl Plansky's legacy by not compromising the quality and integrity of the paint brand. Changes do happen no matter how much the opposite was promised. I just got word that Golden has discontinued production of four colors from Williamsburg's color line. The colors are Permanent Red Orange, Permanent Yellow Green, Cobalt Green Pale, and Indanthrone Blue. This has come a few short months after Golden discontinued Intense Black. The discontinuation of the these five colors does not hinder my working process, but I'm sure that there are other artists who might depend on these colors for their work. The biggest offense to me is that Golden is tampering with a high quality product that needed to be left untouched. What's next for the future of Williamsburg? I am not a Debby downer, but I'm starting to see grey skies and, hopefully not, poorly made paint. Oh, FYI, according to Golden, Williamsburg's Sun Thickened Linseed Oil is "temporarily" unavailable.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Workshop Magazine

The fall 2010 issue of Workshop Magazine, published by American Artist, is out on news stands. This may not be big news to anyone, but this specific issue came as good news to me. Workshop Magazine covered the Central Park plein air workshop I participated in back in June 5th of this year. The article focuses on Bennett's approach to landscape painting, and has some shots of him with the different workshop participants. As I painted I could hear the camera snap behind me, and all I could think of was "please make me look good, please, please!"
And so, my face, well the back of my head to be exact, has made it to page 23 of the issue mentioned above. Although my name was not printed bellow my photo, I'm still very excited to have made it in. There was a cool shot of my hand working on my thumbnail sketches in my moleskine that never made it to the final copy of the magazine, but I did get to see it during the preliminary stages of page layouts for the article. As I had mentioned in June, this painting method required four steps; the thumbnail studies, drawing the final composition on to the painting surface, applying transparent washes of color on top of the drawing, and finishing with thicker layers of paint. In the photo above, I'm on stage three of the process. Bellow you can see the final result.
Central Park North, 2010, oil on canvas, 8 x 10 inches