Sunday, March 11, 2007

Gathering Momentum

These past few weeks, as I've moved into the new studio and resumed a more complete painting schedule, it's been something of a struggle to get going. Every time I'd pick up a brush there were literally dozens of other tasks--unpacking materials, sorting old paintings, etc.--that whispered urgently for attention. Nevertheless, like an old freight engine, I've been gathering a bit of momentum.

In other words, studio work is picking up. Over the past several days I've had two new sitters in for portraits, and I've two more portraits in the works. I've also managed a few more cat sketches, in preparation for that one, which is next on the list because the lady who asked me for it is starting to get impatient. And of course there are always drawings to do and ideas to sketch out. Come to think of it, I did a small, alla prima sketch today (8x6 inches) on a gessoed panel that I'll photograph and post in the next day or two.

Life is good.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Portrait of Roy

This portrait of my friend Roy is nearing completion. It needs some work on the dark passages, particularly in the hair and areas of shadow on the left side of the head and neck.

Portraiture was traditionally thought to be the most difficult of the various genres of art, and for good reason, in my view. Portraits require the painter to not only achieve a reasonable likeness (although everyone misses nuances here and there), but also appropriate color, a good pose, and some kind of emotional content. John Sargent used to say that portraits are paintings of people with something wrong about the mouth. I think that's a fair assessment.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Portrait Sketches

Despite my cat commission, life goes on in the portrait world, too. Here are a couple of portrait studies, color sketches on canvas panels. The male is on a 14x11 panel, the female on a 12x9. Each photo is a bit different from the colors in the studio.

Neither is completed yet, although the painting of the woman is pretty close. Each of these has been challenging in its own way. The male portrait is from two life sessions plus a reference photo, but needs a bit more work. The female portrait is a posthumous one, and done from a black and white reference besides, which is always difficult. Looking at them here online it could almost be that the reverse is true. I'm uncertain why that should be, except that the value contrasts are a bit stronger in the posthumous photo reference than in the male portrait, done in the studio, where the direction of light made the sitter's face look a bit flat. Clearly there is more to do on the central areas of his face, particularly to enhance values and color. Since there's more to do on each, so stay tuned to see what the final outcome will be.

Friday, March 02, 2007

In Like a Lion

This month began with a blizzard. Payback for the mild November and December. Over the last couple of days, a warm air mass overrode the existing cold air mass in the upper Midwest, resulting in snow, "thundersnow" (a woman in Des Moines was struck by lightning), and ice. The interstate highways are closed. All 99 Iowa counties are declared disaster areas. Eighty people had to be rescued from their cars at the Audubon exit of Interstate 80 yesterday afternoon. Dreadful weather. Don't go outside weather.

But here in the studio, I've been snug, warm, and happily working on those cats. I'm also working on a portrait of my friend Roy, who graciously sat for me last weekend, during our last big snowstorm. And there are always books and technical information to study. So the March lion hasn't managed to bite me, however much it's mauled the rest.

So here is a study of a cat. Actually, a sleeping calico.