Wednesday, December 07, 2011

New Painting: On the Pan

On the Pan, 2009-11, oil on panel, 24 x 20 inches
After two years and nine months I can finally say this painting is finished! I'm not sure what kept me from getting it done sooner, perhaps when I started working on this piece in 2009 I thought this would be my largest and most complex painting yet. This made me proceed with caution, perhaps too much, delaying the process and adding fear as I laid down each layer of color. Now it is finally done, and I can move on to bigger projects. As I've said before, painting is a learning process that will forever teach me a new lesson or two, I just have to keep on trucking doing my best with each new painting.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

New Plein Air: East River

East River, 2011, oil on linen, 8 x 13 inches
We are lucky that so far this fall has felt more like spring, I am not complaining at all about the warm weather, as a matter of fact I wish our winters were this warm, that way I could get to go out and paint all year round! I know this beautiful weather won't last long, and so I made it a point to do one more plein air by the East River, turns out it was pretty cold and windy soon as I got next to the water, but I tough it out and painted as much as I could on site. The light was fading, it got more windy, and the group of old Greek men that congregated around me made it difficult to finish the painting in one shot. Back in the studio I added the two bridges and finessed the sky a little more, all this was easy to do since all the colors and light effects were done from life.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Little of Peru in NYC

It's October 18, and today marks a very special day in Peruvian culture. It is the main date of the celebration of Lima's patron saint el Senor de los Milagros (the Lord of Miracles). For hundreds of years the image of a black crucified Christ has been marched through the streets of downtown Lima, and Peruvian communities abroad have brought this tradition with them to their new cities.
This past Sunday, October 16, the Peruvian community of New York City celebrated this religious tradition with a procession of its own through the streets of midtown Manhattan.
Just as in Peru, faithful Catholics follow the procession at a slow pace to the beat of a marching band. For those who are not familiar with this celebration, the image of life size Christ in agony adorned with silver, gold, and flowers can have a powerful presence, some shy away, and some non believers laugh. No matter what, the Peruvian followers walk looking at the image of Christ with their heads high, praying for better health and a better tomorrow.
I payed my respects this Sunday, and was there praying for my family and to thank for my blessings. For me this procession is moving, there's so much attached to it, it's not just religion, it's a connection to my roots, an experience that brings me closer to my country of birth, the place I haven't been to for over sixteen years.
I grew up with this, I loved smelling incense in the air, and seeing the push and shove of the people trying to get close to the image. In Lima, over half a million people follow the procession from start to end, which runs some eighteen hours on both October 18 & 19; that is one large group of passionate people.
With so much going on in the world, Lord knows we all need something to believe in, something to make us feel that things will be alright. For the poor people of Peru this has been their strength, their hope for a better way of life.
For more information on this festival, please visit my post on the history of the Lord of Miracles here.

Monday, October 17, 2011

New Plein Air: Loeb Boathouse

Loeb Boathouse, 2011, oil on linen, 8 x 11 inches
This is my latest shot at plein air in Central Park. I went out to paint last Tuesday hoping to enjoy the last few warm days of fall, and I must say for the most part it was beautiful warm day, that's until it got cold in the split of a second towards late afternoon. I'm not sure how many more times I'll be able to paint out doors, cold weather is coming and it makes me run and hide under multiple blankets. There's a big part of me that would love to paint out doors during the winter, trying to catch the cool light sounds fun, but I'm not a winter kind of guy, and the thought of painting with gloves, scarf, a coat, and multiple layers doesn't sound fun. At the moment I'm just playing it by ear, let's see how far I can take this.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Delacroix Said It

"I'm always having excellent ideas, but instead of working on them while they are still fresh in my imagination, I keep telling myself that I will do them later on - but when? Then I forget about them or, worse still, can no longer see anything interesting in ideas that seemed certain to inspire me. The trouble is, that with a roving and impressionable mind like mine, one idea brings another out of my head quicker than the changing wind alters the direction of a windmill's sails."
- Eugine Delacroix, journal entry April 11, 1824 -
Going through my notebook today, while looking for Velazquez's color palette, I ran into this Delacroix quote and it made me think "don't I know this too well!" I constantly find myself getting ideas for paintings or being inspired by things I see in day to day, but, just like Delacroix, ideas get lost in time if I don't take action. And even when I do take action, they don't get completed in a timely manner. That is my problem now, I have various unfinished pieces in my studio and can't get myself to work on them more until I can say it's finished. Instead I get "inspired" by another thing and yet again another painting gets started. I have a lot of things running through my mind, specially after coming back from a trip to Madrid and a two day visit to the Prado can awaken dreams, inspiration, and a lot of self criticism. My head is still spinning from all the breathtaking works of art I saw, and more ideas as to where to take my work in the future keep running through. It's nice to know that one the world's greatest artist felt the same way.

Monday, September 19, 2011

My Abstract Past

For Inna, 2011, acrylic on canvas, 30 x 30 inches
I have been contemplating on going back to working abstractly. From time to time I come across beautiful gestural paintings and it makes me reminisce of my short abstract period. This painting is the outcome of a commission done for a boutique opening in the lower east side of Manhattan. In this painting my influences of Rothko and Frankenthaler scream loudly, and I hope it doesn't look like a terrible knock off. I respect both painters greatly because of their use of color, light, atmospheric effects, and because of their landscape qualities. Let's hope MISSiNNA likes having this piece hanging on their wall amongst designer clothes.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Inspired By John Henry Twachtman

John Henry Twachtman, Connecticut Landscape, ca. 1889-91, pastel on paper, 16 3/4 x 20 3/4 inches, Private Collection
When you least expect it changes happen, at times they are the kind that you may not have hoped for, and at times they are the kind that you needed to make you look at life with a better, positive outlook. Changes in how we approach art happen just the same, and we have the choice to go with it or resist it. Out of fear of change, artists stick to one specific medium, size, color, format, the list goes on and on; although knowing what works best for you, it isn't always good to remain closed to other possibilities. This has been my case. For many years painting has been my only focus, other ways of producing art were brushed off (no pun intended) because "I am a painter!" I realize now how silly of me.
John Henry Twachtman, House and Tree, undated, pastel on paper, 10 x 10 inches, The Phillips Collection, Washington D.C.
At the plein air competition I took part of a week ago I was re-introduced to pastels. Artist Janet A Cook worked a few feet away from me in oils and pastel and I got to thinking about why I haven't given pastel a chance since 1998. That was the seed that was planted in my brain, and it took a book of John Henry Twachtman's art to make it blossom. In this book, I saw some of his pastel drawings done on site and I was blown away by their beauty.
John Henry Twachtman, The Ledges, ca. 1889-91, pastel on pumice board, 8 3/4 x 13 inches, Spanierman Gallery, LLC, New York
Connecticut Landscape and Spring Landscape made me realize that the effects I love in painting can also be achieved with pastel. I love a light red ground coming through the layers of paint, and Twachtman's pastel drawings made use of that technique with toned paper. I had limited myself by thinking that pastel, a form of drawing, has to be done on paper which by general standard is white. I have been aware of toned paper for years but for some strange reason it didn't click with me that I could used it for pastel and plein air.
John Henry Twachtman, Spring Landscape, ca. 1889-91, pastel on paper, 12 x 20 inches, Huntington Museum of Art, West Virginia
I remember doing some pastel work when I was 17, and what I can recall pastel was messy, and in a way hard to control. I am thinking now that maybe I was the problem and that I didn't have control of my hand and my technique. Through Twachtman's pastels I was able to see that I could also get the painterly aesthetic I enjoy so much about plein air painting. The medium does lend itself to broad and delicate applications, I just needed to be better educated. Now the blind fold has been stripped away and I'm looking to the future with excitement about the new explorations I will do with pastels. This has come at a good time since my plein air easel broke just after the competition. Carrying with me small pieces of paper and pastels to the park, I know, will be easier and I'm even thinking that the working time will also be shorter, allowing me to get more done in one day.
John Henry Twachtman, Three Trees, ca. 1888-95, pastel on paper, 14 x 18 inches, Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York
I haven't researched much on Twachtman, coming across his book this week introduced me to his art and so far I am loving it. This has also reiterated the fact that I love Impressionist landscapes, and how my use of color and brushwork keeps getting closer to the way Twatchtman, William Merritt Chase, and other Impressionists worked. It was actually a treat to find out that Chase used to paint in Central Park, and it was very interesting to see how some of the places I'm familiar with looked in the 1800's.
Berthe Morisot, A Village (A Village of Maurecourt), pastel on paper, 18 1/2 x 28 1/4 inches, Private Collection, New York
In my search for Twachtman's pastels, I came across this beautiful pastel landscape by Berthe Morisot. There is no denying I love color and loose applications, just like her.
After so much inspiration I have started applying acrylic ground for pastels on 4 ply museum boards. I have cut down large sheets into small manageable sizes that can fit in my messenger bag so that I don't have to carry other unnecessary bulk. Things happen for a reason, and this new interest will be a great solution to traveling with paint. I am heading to Madrid in a week and I would love to get some plein air work done there, but I was skeptical about carrying oil painting supplies. With a few prepared light weight boards and a small selection of pastels traveling light is feasible.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Paintings from Sagamore Hill

Cold Spring Harbor, Sagamore Hill, 2011, oil on linen, 9 x 12 inches
Here are the paintings I completed at the Sagamore Hill Plein Air Competition, I haven't done this much painting in two days ever, but as you can see I had fun and was able to experiment with different styles of painting.
Cow Pasture, Sagamore Hill, 2011, oil on linen, 11 x 8 inches

Field at Sagamore Hill, 2011, oil on linen, 9 x 11 inches

Sagamore Hill, Afternoon, 2011, oil on linen, 9 x 12 inches

Palette & Place: A Plein Air Exhibiton at the Koening Center (Oyster Bay Historical Society, 20 Summit Street, Oyster Bay, NY) will be on through October 4. Come and see the work of the talented chosen thirty five plein air artists.

Sagamore Hill Plein Air Competition

This past weekend I took part of a plein air competition coordinated by the Teaching Studios of Art. The location was Sagamore Hill, Teddy Roosevelt's "Summer White House", located in Oyster Bay, Long Island. Thirty five chosen artists descended on the grounds on Friday morning for an intense two day painting experience that culminated in an exhibition and award ceremony.
This 83 acre estate offered a variety of subjects for the artists to paint; wooded areas, fields, a nature path, a creek, and a beach. Mr. Roosevelt had it made in this fine little piece of land of his!
After getting our canvases and panels stamped, without missing a beat, we all got to work, the quicker you walked to your destination the better the chance of getting a good spot. After all this was a competition and $1000 were on the line...you better paint, paint it good, and choose a good spot!
Going into the competition I was very relaxed, after all I have spent most of the summer getting ready for this, but after seeing all the artists come out of their cars with their painting gear reality set in and I became nervous.
I headed straight towards the beach, I knew that I might find a good scene to paint there, and I was right, everywhere I turned I saw a painting in the making. It was hard to settle on one spot, and at the same time I didn't want to be too close to other artists out of fear that I would get distracted.
Little did I know that half of the artists wanted to paint at the beach. Talk about important real estate!
After walking down the bridge connecting the beach to the nature trail I saw these trees gracefully moving upwards. I wanted to paint them, and I also wanted to paint part of the beach.
I found a spot I thought might work for me, little did I know I was going to spend most of the day working on that one little painting. I'm stitll not sure how I feel about what I painted that day, I had something else in mind and not achieving that, kind of bummed me out. Different variables came into play for my lac of focus, the sun was intense and there was no hiding from it; I have the farmer's tan to prove it! Intimidation got the best out of me, but that night I relaxed a bit more and forced myself to do better the next day.
We were allowed to stay on the grounds until sundown, and everywhere you walked artists were busy at work capturing the magic of the Long Island sunset.

For more images of the event click here and here.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

A Scary Start!

Last week I started work on this new painting, a large landscape of a path through a wooded area. The way I begun this painting is a little different, I usually tone the canvas with burnt sienna and make a quick sketch using the same color and a little burnt umber for the darks. This time I'm using color triads, a process used by Tad Spurgeon. I've been a fan of his work for quite some time and going through his website can be such an educational experience. On the image above I started mapping out the composition in a loose manner using the first color triad, made up of burnt sienna, alizarin crimson, and ultramarine blue. Following Tad's technique I started a rough sketch with burnt sienna. After capturing the overall feeling of the landscape, alizarin crimson was added to the composition, defining areas a little better. Then comes ultramarine, which starts to define the painting's lights and darks.
Over the first pass using the first triad, the second triad gets added on top. This new color harmony is made up of manganese blue, yellow ochre, and gold ochre. I didn't realize until a week ago that manganese blue and yellow ochre can make such a beautiful green! I started mixing on the palette more than I should, I believe the lesson in this technique is placing pure colors next to each other on the painting surface and letting them mix there or play optical illusions of mixed colors.
Here's a closer look of both triads at play. When I was done with the first pass I became scared that I had ruined a perfectly good canvas. It was bright red, and although I knew that the red tones would come through the greens on top making a beautiful color harmony in the end, I still could not help to think that this was looking more like a Fauvist painting. Once I laid over some green I could see that nice red tone coming through. I have spent more time working on this painting, and although I admire and respect Mr Spurgeon's knowledge and work, I went back to my usual color palette and technique. So far this painting is coming out nicely, I'll have more images on the progress in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

This Week's Plein Air

Astoria Park, August Afternoon, 2011, oil on linen, 10 x 9 inches
Irene came and left last weekend, the city was at a halt trying to get ready for a hurricane that threatened to do a lot of damage to the tri state area. MTA, New York's public transportation system made up of subway lines, buses, and commuter rails going in and out of the city were shut down on Saturday afternoon, leaving millions of people without ways of getting around. Irene's heavy rain and wind knocked down trees and flooded neighborhoods close to the water, but things seemed to get back to normal on Monday.
Central Park Tree, August Afternoon, 2011, oil on linen, 11 x 9 inches
The sun came out and I could not stay cooped up in my apartment any longer. I spent two days enjoying the weather doing some plein air painting, hoping to catch the beautiful golden light of summer afternoons. I have been focusing on tree studies, trying to find the perfect painterly way of describing them without overworking the painting. So far I haven't reached that perfect balance of big shapes versus more detailed marks, but I'm working on it. More painting get done next week, stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

New Plein Air Paintings

Tree by the Pond, 2011, oil on linen, 8 x 10 inches
I spent two full days at Central Park this week. After days of rain the sun finally came out and without missing a beat I went out to paint. I have been trying to get some outdoor painting time in the last month, mainly because I wanted to practice and perfect my technique as much as possible.
Driprock Arch, 2011, oil on linen, 9 x 10 inches
Something clicked in me these past two days and the quality of my work improved. My colors are more alive and my attention to detail is getting better, I have also noticed that I have a better handle of paint. All this is making me very happy.
Kerbs Boathouse, 2011, oil on linen, 9 x 11 inches
After getting home from the park tonight I pulled out some of my old plein air paintings, some from this year and some from 2009. The change is tremendous, I can't believe how much I have grown as a plein air painter. More to come.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Working on a Portrait

August has not been a good month for painting outdoor. On my days off it has been raining or things come up that keep me from getting work done. Even trying to find time to go for a run has been difficult this month. I started working on a new still life but after the third night I set it aside, things weren't going well with that. I was inspired to start a new portrait of Jarod, a small one that would be good practice before starting a bigger more complex painting.
On the first night I started by drawing out his face with burnt and raw umber. I refuse to draw it out in pencil on paper and then transferring it to the canvas, so that I could then proceed to paint within the lines. I like what happens when you develop and correct the painting without having guidelines. It looks more painterly and fleshy that way.
After figuring out the features I moved on to adding color trying to stay true to the under layer. Not bad for one night's work, but coming back to it the next day with fresh eyes, things start to stand out and changes become necessary.
After letting the painting sit for a day, looking at it, corrections start to take place. On the second night of painting I start measuring things and moving the position of the eyes, shortening the length of the face, changing the lips a little, etc. So far this painting is not so bad for a guy how doesn't do portraits. There's more progress to be done here, but it seems like this painting might be done sooner than expected. More to come.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Life is a Beach...

Jones Beach Before a Storm, 2011, oil on linen, 9 x 11 inches
At least it was for a few hours yesterday afternoon. It's so hard to believe that summer is coming to an end and yesterday was the first time I went to the beach this season. It may not have been the perfect beach day, but it was enjoyable to lay on the sand and hear the waves crashing on the shore. I was not going to pass up on the opportunity of doing a quick plein air painting at Jones Beach, and it went smoother than expected. I thought that I would get sand everywhere, but by now it seems that I am able to keep debris away from my work. I finished this painting just in time before the rain came down, as soon as we made it back to the car it began pouring. Man was I lucky! It's funny to me that the two paintings of Jones Beach I have done have been stormy scenes...I swear Long Island has plenty of sunny days and I've enjoyed my share of them, but stormy days do make an interesting painting. More plein air painting to come.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Updating Images

Maintaining a website or blog can be hard, time consuming work! Perhaps this is the reason why my official website hasn't been touched since it was launched in 2006; it makes me cringe every time I look at the outdated, poor images. Updating this blog has been a long project as well. Through the years I have been learning how to understand HTML, or at least recognize the things that need to be changed and substitute it with a different code. I'm always getting new ideas to keep this blog fresh, and so I've changed the banner and the side menu among other things. Tonight I decided to update images of my work, which means that I had to go through all the entries that had finished pieces since 2006. This little assignment I gave myself tonight took a good chunk of my painting time. Regardless, I feel better now that I have updated a lot of images of my work, colors look better and the details can be better appreciated. If you have time, please have a look through the archive, specially the first few entries of 2006 which show my early still lifes in a much better light. Thank you for reading and for following this blog!