Monday, March 10, 2008

Student Show and Flora, Ernest and Alvah Ride Again

The 2nd Annual Art of Your Life Student Show was held last Friday night. It was fun to show friends and new acquaintances the variety of creative work produced by workshop students and group participants.

Janene: "Alterations in Progress"

Jean: "Roscoe" Jennifer: "Blue Brinnie" "Brinnie Engima"

Work by Jennifer and Andy

Jean and Mary Stilwell and The Art of Life group.

Students in my workshops are often amazed at their own abilities to paint faces for the first time. I am a big fan of copying from the greats and learning by looking for lights, darks, and shapes in the originals. I think our hands learn from emulating great art and soon we are moving into our own styles after learning the basics. When I taught myself to paint, I really was taught by some excellent instructors. Copying is a time-honored way to begin painting and is always useful as a means of learning more. Picasso is supposed to have said, early in his career, "I copy now so I won't have to copy later."

Last Tuesday, members of The Art of Life group produced portrait studies from old master paintings. They did these in about 45 minutes. These were a high point of the student show.

odi's "Mary, after Guercino"

Emma's "Sibyl, after Michelangelo" (Emma's first-ever portrait)

Jennifer's work from an unknown photographer. We call this portrait, "Narcissus." This is Jennifer's first portrait. We all agreed it was easier to work from paintings than from photos, but we all still love this abstract guy.

Cindy's handsome courtier, from a work by Titian (we think.)

Jodi and Emma at the show with the World's Largest Sketchbook

And now for the continued saga of Flora, Ernest, and Alvah. As some may remember, a couple of months ago I posted several pictures of a painting in various stages. I was working on a picture of three children, inspired by an old family photograph. (My great-grandfather is the one in the high chair.) One of the challenges I faced was not losing the liveliness of my original sketch on the canvas while I worked on finishing the painting. Well, wouldn't you know that the painting I put on my blog to share my process turned out to be the one I wasn't at all happy with. I was so unhappy with it that I painted it out in white and began again!

One thing I realized in configuring the new version was that in the photograph that inspired me the children's buttons were on the wrong side. Then I remembered that early photographs were reversed images. I reversed the image I'd been working from and it looked much better to me. So when I redid the picture, I reversed the design of the painting as well.

Left, the image I had in the original. Right, the reversed, "correct" image.

To start over, I did a quick sketch in charcoal and then a monotone undercoat in acrylic on the "new" canvas. I began this at my friend Diane's studio as I had before. It already looked good to me at this point, but I was wary of "ruining" the painting again. Why the ruining issue was coming up I wasn't sure. I usually use a lot of layers on my paintings and don't ruin them as I do so. What I think is happening is that my style is going off in a new direction, at least for the present. The figures are more stylized and less proportional. I wasn't able to keep to this vision in the first attempt at the painting.

This is the undercoat. Diane and I liked it a lot, but now what?

While at Diane's I got as far as the second stage. I took the painting home and let it sit for several days.

This is the 2nd stage. (upper portion)

I took a deep breath and went on. I worked some more, concluded that I had not yet wrecked the painting and again let it sit. My partner saw it and said, "You might think
this is weird, but I think it's finished." Could this be true? This isn't how I paint--is it? Finally I decided she was right. It is finished. I just did a couple of touch-ups to the background and decided I like it a lot! I'm so glad I did it over again! I still don''t know what the heck is happening in my work but that's how it is sometimes and you just have to go with it.

Flora and Her Brothers (Oil, Acrylic, and Graphite) 30" square


Judy Wise said...

I also like this degree of finish for this painting. I particularly like the red haired boy - both his shirt and expression draw me in. Nice indeed.

gl. said...

it was great to get to see the student show. also, thanks for the update on the flora piece: i love it!

Emma said...

Whee! I finished another portrait and pontificated on the joy of learning to paint faces on my blog.

Scroll down to see the new one. I'll bring it on Tuesday too. Woot!