Who doesn’t want to live forever? I thought it was time, before my delightful hubby and I get too wrinkled to attempt a portrait of ourselves. I love Lucian Freud’s work and think he was incredibly skilled but I didn’t want to wait until we are like this self-portrait he did that can be seen in Vienna. I of course then had to watch a video about him and his art, and found he was a great fan of Cremnitz White, which I have on order. This is a lead based white paint, so don’t eat in your studio while using it. The video I watched on Lucian Freud can be found on YouTube here: A Painted Life I love the emotion he conveys although he obviously was a haunted and tortured individual who didn’t play well with others.
Back to my painting. My husband and I went out to our favorite French restaurant and dressed up for an anniversary one of the staff took a fabulous photo of us. I decided to use that as my reference photo, along with peeking over my wine glass at dinner, an assessing, did dear hubby have a few little crows feet, how did the cleft of his chin look in profile?
A book I referred to was
Human Anatomy for Artists: The Elements of Form by Eliot Goldfinger.
This year, I used a marble based gesso to cover my boards. The white is so white it hurts your eyes. If you are just tuning in you might want to read my post on Mischtechnik.
Next I spent a fair bit of time looking and reading about the anatomy of the face and neck. And then spent a couple of weeks on an initial sketch.
And here is the initial glaze, I used iron oxide red. It was still wet in this photo.
Meanwhile, as I wait for this to dry, I’m reading another book and learning even more about portrait painting. It has an excellent section on blending colors for the skin. I’m only half-way through, but I’m sure this will be a better painting because of it.
Portrait Painting Atelier: Old Master Techniques and Contemporary Applications
by Suzanne Brooker
The next step, after it was fully dried, was to work on the highlights creating more tones, with the egg tempera. I freely thinned the egg tempera with a little cold pressed linseed oil, so I could have different shades of white. Some I used undiluted and some thinned.
And of course wait. I usually keep a second painting going and work on that while I’m waiting. This year its a semi-abstract in acrylic paint that has lots of free movement and invention and dries fast. The antithesis of this.
Another glaze, this time I used transparent yellow ochre. In the past I used a bright primary transparent yellow, but I like the warmer tones of the earth reds and yellows.
Ah, finally we are starting to see some of those magic mid-tones arise out of nowhere. I had on a top that was covered in black sparkles and I want to show that, but I’m not sure whether I have a handle on it. I have a few points of light on it, but I’m not sure if they work yet.
Here is the white tempera on the highlights after this glaze.
Now the blue glaze.
Technically I should do another layer of the white highlights, but I like where I am. I am going to start glazing local colors as soon as this dries. Oops…I forgot to take photos of a couple of glazes. Don’t worry you didn’t miss much, just the first coat on the walls, shirt and shawl.
I had a wonderful time showing some of my work at Art Around Town in Chappaqua, New York. My paintings will be up at Noelle Marie Photography at 140 King Street until the end of June. There are more than 30 other artists of the Northern Westchester Artists’ Guild showing at merchants about the town.. Do stop by and see our work.
I recently finished this painting on the Kleshas. In Christian philosophy, we have the seven deadly sins, that might keep you from finding a state of grace. There are both yogic and Buddhist approaches to the Kleshas and the flavor is slightly different and they define them a little differently.
I came across the Kleshas during studies with my yoga teacher. They are: abhinivesha (fear), asmita (false identity), raga (attachment), dvesha (aversion) and avidya (ignorance).
There are many images for the Kleshas but of not in a Western cultural context. I wanted to create something that those studying yoga in the West could use to understand and meditate on the Kleshas. I did this painting as a gift for my yoga teacher.
The figure is standing on one foot to represent that if the Kleshas are not addressed she remains off balance. I tried to make the figure a healthy looking woman, rather than a model or a magic goddess throwing off sparks, but the you encountered in the mirror every day. The figure is not clothed, as you must take away the outside masks of costume and artifice to overcome these obstacles and know your inner self.
Each hand is in a mudra that is associated with the chakras of the kleshas. The icons for each klesha have the color of the chakra they are over. From top to bottom, they are ignorance, avoidance, false-identity, attachment and fear.
I was talking with my husband over dinner last night. I was lamenting that I had sold my second painting but I was finding it hard to let it go. He said, “Well you can always do another like it.”
But really can you? For instance, when I painted “A Jury of your Pyrs.”
I was watching an old British TV show called Silk, learning about the British Court system and inspired by the pun, “A Jury of Your Pyrs.” Would I have the enthusiasm to do it all over with as much interest and attention to detail? I don’t think so.
Another thing that moves on is abilities and techniques.
I love the image of a Great Pyrenees Mountain Dog happily rolling in the freshly fallen snow. Such joy! So I did paint one canvas to portray this about a year ago.
Snow kept falling and I kept learning and painting. I painted may other subjects and then returned to the same concept again.
I find that how you view a concept and how you attack it changes. Below is this year’s take on the same concept. I’ve refined my brush strokes. I still have problems with perspective. But it is a “finer” image. Could I return and to the first over again, and if I could, would I want to?
Perhaps I should paint a Pyr making a snow angel every year, just as a record of how my abilities and outlook change.
Part of what I love about painting is the exploration of different styles and topics. I don’t think I made a post about my chaos paintings where you just paint as the spirit moves you and go back the next day and try to refine shapes you see into images?
These two images are done on canvas paper and are very free and spontaneous. Interestingly enough, the Mermaids below were actually purchased from my Etsy shop, also called “My Muse Calls“. So the first painting I sold was of mermaids and not a Pyr. As usual, an unexpected turn!
I’ve recently discovered the visionary artwork of Alex Grey and much to my delight he has a center where he holds what he calls “Art Church” and workshops only 30 minutes from my home. I’m going to take a workshop he and his staff offer on visionary painting this summer.
The road twists and turns and keeps taking me new and interesting places. I don’t really want to do another painting exactly the same. And I shouldn’t lament if I am able to sell a painting. I can use the money to buy more art supplies. And the person who buys it hopefully will be cheered on daily basis by having it around. The more I travel down this road, the more doors seem to open and the more interesting the sights become.
I could not resist the word play. I have the greatest respect for the courts of Great Britain and no slur is meant. I don’t think they are going to the dogs. If you’d like to read about my background research you can read the post Inspiration from the English Courts.
News update: My Muse Calls and A Jury of Your Pyrs has been blogged about on Law Actually!
I have always been an avid gardener. In the spring I love to start by filling colorful pots on my deck with fresh plants from our local garden centers. When Tila was a puppy, I was happily potting away, turned my back for a moment and found my puppy in a whirl of lavender plants. In reality, there was only one plant de-potting puppy, but in this painting I thought it was more fun to have two.
I had an idea, a dream of a painting I could see clearly in my mind. A little Pyr puppy who was woken up at night by the light of the full moon and decided to play. I picked up my brush and realized I had no idea on how to paint light. Light is hard. So I read up on glazing. That is what the great painter Vermeer used and many other great Masters to show light and make their paintings glow. Me, I’m starting with the basics.
First take a large serving of patience. Glazing involves using transparent paints and a special alkyd medium (I used walnut alkyd oil) to dilute the paint. Then after putting a thin light layer, you must let that layer dry before you can do anything else! That’s right….a few brushstrokes and ..come back tomorrow. Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock sigh.
So in the painting below I only used red, yellow, blue and white. I wanted the hand to look like ghostly moonlight. First I painted the hand white and the red bar at one side and the top stripe of yellow. Then I painted the square over the hand a dilute blue and then a dilute red and I got purple. Then I painted the stripes at the side. Then I pained the hand a light yellow (my original yellow mixed with a little white). Of course I had to let everything dry in between and then the red heart and the blue paw. Where the paw overlaps the red it is a dark purple, where it over laps the yellow hand it is blue. The same with the other colors. The paint that is used is classified as transparent or semi-transparent and it is diluted with walnut alkyd oil medium rather than linseed oil or turpentine.
I like to paint wet over wet where you paint with layers of wet paint over other layers of wet paint. Sometimes I wait to let a layer dry so I can have a pure color and it won’t mix with the under-layers of paint.
But glazing you have to let each layer dry. But it is worth it. The next layer you put on, like putting one pane of stained glass over another, is blended by your eye to give you a new color, and more depth and luminosity. You really need to see the result with your eye on the canvas because it doesn’t photograph well.
So I did two somewhat abstract designs, Hearts and Paws, and Hands, Hearts, and Paws. I used only three colors, red, blue, yellow and white. Any other colors you observe is what you eye sees after one layer of one color is laid over the dry layer of another color.
So finally, I had the technique to do moonlight.
And here is my little Pyr at Moonlight Play.
I am now working on the largest canvas I have ever used. It is 18 inches by 24 inches. It has a theme again of Pyrs in moonlight. I hope to make the moonlight in the next one a little less intense yellow and make it look a little more like real light rather than a “beam me up Scotty” Star Trek beam. Getting better takes practice and trying new things. But it’s fun to branch out.