A while back a friend of mine asked if I would do a painting of the view from his house in Big Sky. I said sure. He said, I’ll fly you out and I said “If you are going to fly me out, I’ll do the painting in trade” and he said okay. He also flew Martha out and we stayed in his house for 5 days so I figured I’d better give him something good. I mentioned this before in a previous post. I’m all for a trade and I’ve always wanted to go to Big Sky, so what the heck. I did 3 or 4 crappy studies out there for color and got some decent photos too. This painting is about 48×40. I just tacked canvas to the wall brought out my crappy studies and put some photos up on the monitor and went at it. Turned out pretty good. and when it’s really dry, I’ll give it a coat of soluvar (I now mix the matte and the gloss to get a satin gloss) and roll it up and ship it to him so he can have it framed. A good deal all around.
Archive for June, 2009
I was looking for something, some old photos my grandmother took while in Morocco, Istanbul, Japan and the numerous exotic places she traveled. Long ago I did a series of paintings from these tiny, beautiful black and white windows to a foreign past. I’ll post some of the pics one of these days. Granma had an eye, that’s all I gotta say about that. So I’m sifting through the shoe box of old memories and there’s a pile of shots from my youth, from a galaxy far, far away. Several shots of some early product from my burgeoning business as an airbrush artist; surfboards, t-shirts, vans, murals… man what a flood of memories that came from looking through those. But it got me to thinking about how I got here, where I am. Not to suggest I’ve scaled Mt. Success but rather how I ended up doing what I’m now doing and what a widely circuitous path it was to get here, or maybe I should say back here.
Not to bore you with my life story but I will say my step-mom, or as I like to call her, “Mom”, played a big role in my becoming an artist by encouraging me to take lessons when I was 11-ish. Not drawing and painting but sculpture. Oh and she forced me to go to Europe, which changed my life… thanks Mom. I guess it was because I was always drawing and painting with whatever I could find. Then came the airbrush and man that was some high tech back then. On to college for a graphic design degree (not fine art) why? because artists didn’t make money, but graphic designers did! All the while though I was painting and had started painting outdoors in the early 80’s. A lifetime in advertising (which was fun but left me very hollow at the end of the day) led to a freelance carreer as a designer then as an illustrator. And illustration led to a life of painting outdoors, which was really what I wanted to do all along. So I ended up back here. In many ways I wish I had listened to that little voice that said, just do it, don’t worry about the money. Maybe if I had started in the late 70’s and early 80’s doing that thing that really tugged at me I would be better at the one thing. But all of this circuitous routing gave me something else, a big experience in design and painting experiments. It’s been a good ride and I feel lucky as hell.
It’s done, or at least nearly done. First off let me just say that armor is hard and so are feathers and while I’m at it, faces are too. Especially if the reference is only partially there. The face is a combination of an old black and white pic that I used for the drawing and a Sargent portrait that I used for color. I’ll probably go back in to the hands a tad more and maybe glaze down the background ever so lightly but for the most part I like it. It’ll be the last entry into the opera book, though it will fall in the “L’s” . I like the concept, didn’t really over think it. Since Lohengren is a holy knight on a holy quest and he comes in on a boat pulled by swans it was a natural solution to superimpose them so the swan supports his angelic self. And the sword also doubles as a cross. It was a fun piece, took me the better part of a week from the start of reference gathering to the final strokes. Might have gone faster if I had a suit of armor laying around and an actual model. But one thing I learned as an illustrator is to make do. In fact sometimes cool things happen when you have to make up a bunch of stuff. It’s 24×30 and I started with a pretty full tonal drawing, then washed over it 3 times with burnt sienna, each time wiping out the lights to get a full tonal effect.
One note; if I were to do it over again I probably would’ve rendered the wings en grisaille (monochromatic) and then glazed it with oranges and ochres to warm it up and then paint over it. It was a bear to get the wings to feel like they are slowly losing their light without changing hue. I may still glaze it to unify it some. Anyway the knight is done.
As I mentioned in my last post, I have a book coming out and having seen the layouts on it I am really pumped. There are a few operas that I really was hoping to get to in this series but the opera company and I parted ways last year and now sadly, they are bankrupt and shut down (hmmmmm). In my early idea for this book I wanted to have 50 operas represented and should this book get picked up by a publisher, I will add more pieces to round it up to 50. But there are a few that I’ve always wanted to paint and this one is at the top of the list. Not because I’m a big fan of this opera, I’ve never heard it, it’s because I’ve always wanted to paint a knight in armor with wings. I think it’s the idea of the different textures, metal and feathers. In this opera the main figure Lohengrin arrives on a boat pulled by swans… so there you go. And as it turns out he is a holy knight on a holy quest so I’m setting this up so the swan sort of doubles as a halo and angel wings.
This post is also a tip of the fedora to technology. Where do you find a knight in armor? Nowhere near here that’s for sure. But consult the great god Google or his cousin Bing and there’s a wealth of imagery. But I could not find a suit of armor anywhere with a body in it and in the pose I wanted so on to youtube where I played through a bunch of medeival movie clips, paused, did a screen grab and printed out the reference. Did a couple of thumbnail sketches, scanned em and printed em up bigger and redrew using good old trace paper. Scanned those in and took pieces parts of the various sketches and assembled them into one. Used the pencil and airbrush tools to redraw and push values and cut and pasted a few parts and moved them around, dodged and burned… et voila! A merging of drawing and techno to make a medieval knight, how ironic. The painting is now under way and so far looks pretty good. and not for nuthin but if you are in Orlando and are remotely interested, the collection of opera poster paintings are there on the 5th floor of the Grand Bohemian along with some kick ass Dean Cornwell paintings (it’s worth a trip just for that.. seriously).
I’m really excited to say that a dream of mine is about to come to fruition. A book of the opera series I created over the last 10 years.. around 35 paintings. The thing I’m really all chubby about is that it’s not a vanity book, it’s about how ideas develop. With each painting there is a brief synopsis of the opera, views of sketches and studies and comments about how the ideas evolved. I love it when I get insight into how a piece was done and that’s the entire point of this book. Many of the paintings from this series were accepted into the Society of Illustrators annual exhibit (big honor for me) as well as the Communication Arts Illustration annual (another biggie). The first edition is small, 300 but the book is big 11×14 (that’s 22×14 flat) almost 80 pages.. It’s being designed by one of the top designers in the country and cowritten by and equally good writer. This is not a cookie cutter print on demand project. Haven’t decided for sure on the price point yet but it will probably be around $70. Here’s a sneak peak at two spreads. If you are interested email me through either my illustration site or painting site listed at right. And if you want to see any of the paintings you can go to either my illustration site>entertainment or to my painting site>figure.
If I were to think about who the best designer is/was in painting I’d go right for Gustav Klimt. We all know his work, The Kiss, right? Everyone has seen his brilliant figurative works where he somehow bent and recarved the exterior line of a figure without ruining the integrity of the figure itself but I was unfamiliar with his landscapes. At least until I discovered a book dedicated to this topic. Not only was he a tremendous shape maker, he was flat out a great designer of space. His landscapes somehow bridge a decorative form of picture making and abstraction in a most delightful way. His paintings were adventurous explorations into different ways to break up a rectangle and a treatise on the power one note of color can have in a painting. And he did something I don’t think anyone else had done to that point, he activated the edges, sometimes making the most important shapes happen in the upper corners of the painting.
If you look at any of his landscapes it would seem that the entire painting was created in order to support one or two small but vital events in the work, a note of purple or a small bright sky hole that breaks through a dark forest of pattern. Using inventive space and lyrical shapes, he gave the simplest tree the same sensuousness he gave his figures. Consider the weight one note can have against a much larger mass of subtle color notes in his work. Look at the rhythm of negative spaces, repeating yet no two are exactly alike. In this piece the entire structure exists to back up the one thin birch in the foreground and mr. birches two bigger mauve cousins. And by the way, Klimt wore a tunic and liked cats. He was cool.
I’d like to thank Steve Andrews, Joyce Shelton and Loreen Leedy for putting Migrant Art Worker links on their blogs. I’m finding that the more readers I get the more I post. So spread the word if you like this blog. Oh and here’s another painting from Carmel. The cool thing about painting this was that it was exceedingly foggy and gray when I painted it. It was basically like painting from a black and white photo (which I do in the studio). I was thinking that I wanted to push the color a bit, which I don’t really do as much as I should in the field. I’d brought a tube of cad yellow medi-yum, which I never use and thought.. I’ll just use this yellow instead and see what happens. The whole thing took on a warm cast that I played up. As the sun set, which I knew only because it got darker, there was a warm cast that came through the marine layer that supported what I had already done. And the lesson is, while it’s great to have a palette that you stick too, it’s really good to try something different just to see what happens. Instead of using yellow, red and blue, try yellow ochre, alizarin and black (Anders Zorn) or maybe naples yellow, Burnt Sienna and Veridian (Sargent… just a guess on my part) or any variation like that.You can always go back in and add more pure color later but cool things happen when you break out of your SMP (standard mode of painting). And speaking of links, I can’t figure out where mine went. They were there yesterday…. crazy blog thingy.