Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Case Study #2 - Frank Playing Guitar

"Frank Playing Guitar" oil on canvas 30"h x 24"w
An alla prima guitar?
I don't think so. I have to lay this one in first.
I am trying to work on two bodies of work concurrently. I have the large plywood with the canvas ready to go. I am just at a roadblock as to what to paint on it with perhaps too many ideas running through my head. So, while I ruminate about the large canvas painting, I thought it would be a good time to get back to work on my NF Tribute portraits. I have been in contact with Frank Moore about painting his portrait for a couple of months now. I met him on Facebook just like Reggie. Even though Frank has had his leg amputated from NF complications, that doesn't seem to stop him from getting outdoors and hiking. He also enjoys heavy metal music and playing guitar. He seemed like the perfect candidate for my next painting.

Frank, like Reggie, does not live anywhere near me. Reggie lives in Houston, TX and Frank Moore lives in Clifton, Colorado. So, this time I had to ask him the favor of asking a friend to take pictures of him playing guitar. Frank was happy to help. The first images he sent were of him playing guitar but the flash had completely wiped out any color differences or subtleties on his face. I asked him to set up a photo shoot with a friend and go outside and make sure the sun hit one side of his face while he played guitar. It is kind of strange to art direct a photo shoot via FB messages, but he and his friend did a great job and got me some really good photos to work from. I settled on one that showed most of his torso while he played guitar.

10 - 15-12 -
I had to do a grisaille under painting in order to
get the guitar and folds of the t-shirt to make sense
Because of NF, his arm has many tumors. Interestingly, Frank has a full tattoo on both his forearm and upper arm regions that seem to compliment the tumors as the drawings on his skin will wrap around the tumors. Whether that was intentional or accidental the end result looks very cool.

Originally I had thought it might be interesting to paint Frank doing something that showed his truncated leg and how he is able to adapt just fine with his prosthetic leg, but then it occurred to me that maybe he doesn't really feel like his ambulatory differences are all that important in the entire make up of his personality. So, I chose to just forego that idea in the thought that it might even seem exploitative of NF in general. And, by this point, everyone should know that is not my intent at all.

First lay in of color
"Frank Playing Guitar" - 24"x 30"h oil on canvas

I still need to go back and rework the Reggie Sipping Coffee painting as well since both my last mentor and current mentor thought I could improve the background on it. My advisor, Peter, had thought of coming up with a bit of text to accompany the paintings. Something that would explain who these people are when the viewer looks at them. So, I plan on getting something in writing from both Reggie and Frank when the time gets closer to displaying these paintings. I like that idea a lot as it gives the viewer an inside look into the personalities of the individuals portrayed. My advisor also said something to the affect of: Try to imagine what the exhibition would look like under ideal conditions. Ideally, I would have 17 of these portraits painted. Chromosome 17 is responsible for NF1. If I painted anyone with NF2 that is located on chromosome 22. I will concentrate on people with NF1 for now.

Frank getting his picture taken at the hospital
I also like painting adults with NF. Truthfully, in 2005 with the National Neurofibromatosis Foundation changed its name to the Children's Tumor Foundation it left many people with NF feeling isolated. I understand why the organization did that. It really is much easier to fundraise for kids with tumors than for 30+ year old people with tumors and in the end, we just need to find a cure. I happen to love this charity because they have done so much to raise awareness and help fund scientists to do clinical research. So, if it takes people seeing babies with tumors to donate, fine by me. But, it's never been completely fine with me for the adults with NF to think that suddenly no one cares about them any more. So, these portraits will all be adults with NF1.

Sunday, December 2, 2012


Well, once again I am working on a very large canvas. This time, I can say that I already like my idea and start to this one better. In fact, I think I will leave most of the gown just the gesso. If you look below you can see it was much longer initially and then I cut off about 2.5 feet in width. I decided to have the text be reversed out and in my own handwriting. All the thoughts that go through my head while I "wait". Probably the same thoughts that go through any parents head. It doesn't really matter what your child is going in for, you are worried and you wonder why. Why my son? On the other hand, I would never want it to be someone else's son either. I simply don't want it to exist. I digress. Formally speaking, I rather like the idea that the gown is still just gesso with only hints of oil paint on it and mostly charcoal drawing (which doesn't show up well in my photos).

"Waiting" oil and charcoal on canvas. 48"h x 52"w 

Earlier I had thought about incorporating the text on the forms that the parent always has to fill out while waiting for the doctor to come in. I sometimes think they just give us forms to keep us busy and to not notice how long we are waiting after our scheduled time. I think they then secretly shred them later or put them into a folder that will then get misplaced.

Initial Drawing - "Waiting" 4 foot high by 7 foot wide.
oil on canvas. As of November 27, 2012
As parents, we like to fill out forms because it makes us think we actually have control over our child's health care. Like most parents, I sit there calculating in my head what the cost should end up being depending on what our insurance covers. I also sketch all the time. I have done many drawings of waiting rooms. You can see them displayed at doctor's offices all around the Omaha area. They doctors love them and just hang them up in miscellaneous areas.

Often times I offer to draw a caricature in leu of paying the co-pay. The receptionists always laugh, but by now they know I am serious. So, if nothing else, I at least ask them to hire me for their company parties to help offset the copious co-pays. AND...drumroll please...That seems to always be a winner!

Ta - Dah! Who says you can't pay for your healthcare via art?

I'll trade you one surgery for 3 still lifes! haha....

Well...all kidding aside...right now I am "waiting" for my youngest son to get over the flu so I can continue to paint on this canvas.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Blind Faith

(Final Adjustments)
"Blind Faith" 3.5'w  x  6.5'h oil on canvas

Impressionistic brush
My mentor wanted me to focus on painting 2 figures on this next painting. There is always (for me) an implied narrative when two figures come together on a painting. I am also still very much interested in incorporating text and image and the process of painting over parts. So, I think the best way to blog about this is to just simply post images as they develop.

I knew I wanted a very generic looking surgeon and a profile and rather unapproachable and anonymous looking figure is what I am after for now. I am in the midst of trying to figure out if the other figure will be just a child or be the relation of parent to child prior to the surgery.
Wash in of color

I decided to go with a profile of a man. Perhaps the dad of the child. It could just be a patient. Or it could be a mirror reflection of the surgeon. I'm not really sure quite yet. I am just visually sorting all of this out. I'm still not sure how (or if) I will incorporate any text, but if I do, I will plan on tackling that later.

As far as a narrative in this piece, there is some thought of tackling the idea of when your child goes in for a major surgery. Suddenly you hand over his or her life to a complete stranger just hoping or just blindly assuming that this person knows what he or she is doing. When you think about it, do you really know if the person is a good surgeon? Such power. It's frightening.

I'll have to do something about the two figures because right now there really isn't much mystery as to what I am going after, so I think with some reworking and removal of some of the imagery, etc I may be able to not completely overstate everything.

November 1, 2012 UPDATE:

3.5'w by 7'h. oil and tape on canvas.
Many things are going on right now in my life and they are all probably cumulatively affecting this painting. Something happened recently which prompted me to gouge out the man's eyes. Maybe it is because so much of NF is invisible or maybe it is because people just don't want to believe that NF exists so they keep denying it, blaming behavior and traits on laziness or quirkiness. I used a scraper to paint over his eyes. When that happened, the rest became clear. It's pretty self explanatory of an image, well at least to me. And if it is not to everyone else, then that is okay too. I, nor any other artist,  can completely control the audience anyways. I can give ideas, glimpses and let the audience fill in the gaps.

There is an ironic beauty in MPNST stains.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Welcome to the Forum

24"h x 30"w marker and oil on canvas
I am part of an NF Forum on Facebook. People post their struggles and hardships dealing with a life of NF or being the parent of a child with NF. After awhile the posts start to blur, I forget whose child had what wrong with them, or which person is going to what doctor. Somebody is getting their leg amputated, someone's child has learning difficulties, someone has to pick between becoming deaf or dying, etc. It can be inundating, overwhelming and it never stops. It just keeps going on forever as people keep posting. The posts themselves look like a blur in my newsfeed. Sometimes I don't even look at the forum because I don't want to read about all the horrible manifestations about NF or whose tumor suddenly turned malignant. This week I discovered that one of the kids on my list of portraits to paint for my Many Faces of NF project is dying. I never painted his portrait because I have 15 people in front of him to paint. I felt terrible and now I feel like I should let some time pass for his mother to grieve because it would be in poor taste to start asking her questions about her son while he is on his deathbed. No, I can't imagine it nor do I pretend to know what that is like. It would be insulting for me to even pretend that I can comprehend that. I will now have to paint his portrait as a NF Memorial many many months from now. It's hard. It's just very hard.

Zoomed in so you can read the text
How does this relate to my artwork? I have been thinking about text a lot as it is incorporated with imagery. My advisor told me to look at the work of Sean Landers. I like his technique even though I am not all that interested in most of his images. I read many articles about them and I rather enjoy what he is doing and he seems extremely fascinating, but in the end, I still do not find his actual images to be ones that personally engage me. I should qualify a bit further that I think I enjoy his process more than I enjoy his final product. I think this is actually fairly common for me in art. Oftentimes it is the process or technique that is appealing even if the end result isn't what grabbed my attention.

So, in the spirit of borrowing, I decided to log into the forum and start meticulously copying all of the posts in the NF Forum (leaving out the authors). The forum on FB is completely open and public which means anyone can read these posts. Once someone posts in it, they know that anyone, including people not in this group, can read what they have written. This key element also gave me the sense that if people were comfortable posting these items, then they expect the world to read them. If it would have been a private group, I would have not used the posts.

So, up close you can read each text, but as you stand away from it, it all just looks like a blur of lines. This is really no different than the postings. They blur, I forget and sometimes I don't want to read them anyways.
Another zoomed in shot of the text.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Draw Everyday! HEY...Wait. Why are You Not Drawing?

Draw...draw...draw everyday! You must get better and better. Don't skip a day. Isn't this what every teacher has been telling us ever since we started drawing?


And..so I do just that. Now, to be fair, I am also slightly nutty about drawing. I think I might be addicted to it. It is immediate. It is accessible. It lets me enjoy the present. I am fully immersed in the joy of the moment when I sketch. And, I know that I can spend as little or as long as I want to on it. I have sketchbooks all over my house and even carry one in the car just in case my car breaks down or I get into a traffic jam. Hmmm....Perhaps I should also think about making sure I also have jumper cables?

I also happen to love the notebooks of DaVinci and I love looking at people's sketchbooks where the text and sketch become a piece of art together. I always have. I've also always loved comic books and graphic novels and anything where imagery and text come together.

And, after looking at some of the artists that incorporate text and imagery. I noticed that most of them use text as a graphical element to support the main visual which would be the painting. I am  mostly thinking of the artists Sean Landers and Jenny Dill for example.

So, what if I reversed the relationship of text and imagery. If I can, I will use the series of life drawings I have done the past 2 weeks as a "ground" and simply write on top of it. Again, I do not know how this will work or if it will look like a big mess, but it does bring the idea that Barry Schwabsky introduces in the book Vitamin P: New Perspectives in Painting introduction:

"The fact that fewer and fewer art schools require their students to enroll in departments of painting, sculpture, or printmaking; in the new "deskilled" academy, there is typically one overarching department, of say, visual arts, whose students are expected to apply ad hoc whichever technique happens to be the most appropriate to a given project."

Beth Campbell's "potential future" drawings
I'm mostly interested in his last statement of "apply whatever technique happens to be the most appropriate". With that in mind, I am opting for doing a collage of my own drawings and then painting a thin wash of burnt umber over the top. After that is finished, in the spirit of Beth Campbell's "potential future" drawings I have decided to start with the premise of "I Need to Draw Every Day" This started many different branches and threads of thought as to why I do or do not draw everyday and the reasons for so many roadblocks or successes.

This may seem like a very easy thing to do. It's not. To take all the studies and drawing that I had created for two weeks and then to glue them all down and paint over them actually took a leap of faith. After all, I was proud of all of these sketches. Now, not all life drawings turn out. Some are just really awful. The terrible drawings get thrown out or I let me boys draw all over them or sometimes they even color in the "nudes" all sorts of different colors. I sometimes wonder if that will land them into therapy someday. Will they be lying on the therapist's couch saying "I had to sit in a basement studio coloring in naked people as a child!" Oh well, maybe it means they'll be fairly well adjusted. Either way, I'm sure in about 20 years my boys will gladly let me know of all my "parenting mistakes"...hahaha....

Okay..back to the topic. When I look at this piece now, it reminds me a lot of an artist I discovered at the Des Moines Art Center last month. His lectures were so dynamic and the chalkboard so covered in thoughts, arrows and diagrams that the chalkboards themselves became an art object. And, in order to really view the work and read it, the viewer needs to get close to it. When viewed from a distance, all of the text on my piece starts to blur, but if the viewer gets close then he or she will see what goes on within my head and all the tangents that can spring up anytime I start with the thought "You Need to Draw Everyday".

24" x 28" drawing collage, oil paint, marker

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Don't do that, but you must do this, but not that, but always this. Now paint.

"The Rules of Painting" 4' h x 5' w - oil and marker on canvas
I have been studying Michael Fullerton's work, not because I think he is amazing on any sort of technical level, but because I find his work extremely amusing. The fact that an artist would do an entire show titled "Get Over Yourself" and include stilted portraits of Rothko and Carl Jung looking pretentious makes me laugh. I sometimes think we get so terribly serious about our work that we can become terrible bores. Now, this isn't to say I don't take my work seriously. I take it very seriously. So seriously that I sometimes am so paralyzed by how serious all of these rules and regulations are for traditional painting that I'm not sure I ever let any of my personality show through.

So, perhaps it's still a little of Artist Michael Fullerton's humor still lingering, but I couldn't help but wonder what would happen if I created a painting (and still focusing on the methodology of painting not caring about subject matter) and tried to intentionally break all the rules that have been so firmly ingrained. What if I culled through old notebooks and wrote down the notes of the "rules of traditional painting". What would happen if I took each one and broke it. It might turn out. It also might be a big piece of junk. But, at least I know that if it is junk, I'll just paint over it later.

Here are some quotes from notebooks from all sorts of teachers. Some are from my days at the atelier and some are from Boston and some are from colleagues and some are my very own quotes that I tell my students. In essence, I am taking my entire painting experience and quotes and sorting them all out and writing them onto the canvas. I then start to paint over them. Really there are no rules anyways, just tools. Simple tools to help an artist get better, but not hard fast rules.

In Process - A little over 4 feet long by 3 feet high for now.
 I just wrapped the canvas around some plywood
so maybe it will be longer.
In fact, I rather like when students don't even know the rules because they have no idea that they are breaking them. I've had students do all sorts of stuff that I say "Wait..what are you doing? Why are you doing that?" They'll shrug and say "I don't know, I don't know what I am doing". Well...it seems to me that if you don't know what you are doing it really means you don't know you are breaking any sort of traditions which is equal parts frightening (as an instructor) and exhilarating (as a student). So, since I know the "rules" I think I'll just write them all out with a big permanent marker and just simply break as many as I can. At any rate, it may be the first time I've actually smiled and laughed while painting.

Hmmm...that leads to the next question: Why are we as artists such a serious bunch anyways? Don't pretend to not know what I am talking about. We have all been to the art openings. Sure many great  artists are wonderful and humble folks but there are those other artists. You know who I am talking about. We have all seen the serious artist floating around the room, wine in one hand, pontificating about how profound they are while wearing tight fitting black turtlenecks, little rimmed glasses and a haircut that would make Vidal Sassoon take notice.

If I ever become that pretentious artist, slap me in the face. But after you've rattled me back to my senses, you owe me a drink. After all, you just spilled my wine all over the floor.

The quote reads "Control your brushwork. It Shouldn't look like you just had a seizure with oil paint". Yeah..that's actually my quote. I tell that to my students who start going nutty with their backgrounds when we are doing traditional oil painting.
When asked about glazing - David Leffel grinned and said jokingly
"Why don't You just paint it right the first time?"
 Look, I love glazes but that quote still just cracks me up.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Combination of Two Ideas

22" x 28" oil on board

22" x 28" oil on board. Completed in 2000 + Orange Head Study

Over a decade ago, I painted a still life with objects given to me while being apart of an art club. It was a fun idea and it got all of us painting the same items, but with our own interpretations. At the end, we had a group show and everyone could see the other artist's creations and arrangements of the still life objects. The show was called "Still Life in Motion". I did the following painting for it.

22" x  28" oil on board. Completed 2000
I enjoyed being apart of the show as it really got me excited about painting and gave me some creative parameters to work within. I also met some amazing artists and gained some great friends out of the club. As an art teacher, I love these sorts of show ideas and projects because it gets people thinking and creating. The results are typically not quite as important to me as the process and ideas and getting artists together to talk about art and to brainstorm is always fun.

However, in the end, no one bought my painting at the reception (although receptions full of artists tend to result in low sales..haha). I wondered at the time if it was because I bought the grapes from Hobby Lobby and they were plastic and I painted them to look, well, like plastic. Many years later a friend asked me if she could hang it in her church's library. I gave it to her and quickly forgot about it for over a decade.

About 6 months ago, my brother said "Oh, I have a painting for you". I was genuinely interested because I had no idea what he could be referring to. Here comes this painting back into my life again. Apparently there were church renovations going on and the painting no longer had a home. My friend told my brother that she was worried that it might get damaged and wanted to make sure I got it back safely. That is very kind. But when I looked at it now, I thought "YIKES...this is really bad!" Then the next thought was "Oh dear God! I have to take this awful thing home!"

I got great amusement looking at it again. I suppose, at the time, I was just hoping people wouldn't mind the candelabra being uncomfortably cut right down the candle or perhaps that ellipses didn't really have to be painted convincingly. I was also unimpressed with my drapery which was a silky cloth that I just painted so opaquely that it looks more like a heavy bedspread. The candles were not lit because my husband wasn't so sure that I might not burn down the house since I tend to get distracted fairly easily. Hahaha....

I thought to myself  "Great, I can have this painting haunting my studio". Then I realized that it was time for this painting to go, but why would I want to burden a Goodwill with it? Don't I know, deep down that no one else wants this in their home either? So, I took out my painting exercise from awhile ago: The man with the orange background.

16" x 20" color study
So, what would happen if I merged the background of a still life from my former painting life with the explorations of portraiture that I am currently interested in? Wouldn't that be the same as creating interesting texture in the background, just as John suggested? Notice the color study has no interesting texture, although it has better brush handling.

Honestly, the first mark is the hardest. I had to take that still life out of the frame, clean it off, etc. Then I took an enormous amount of cadmium red light mixed with cadmium orange medium and started blocking out the head.

Then there is that moment when you realize that you have completely ruined the 'finished' painting. Now, since I hated it anyways, it started to become fun to get rid of those lame grapes. It was very difficult to paint a portrait over a dark still life without gessoing any of it. But I just kept at it.

Well...after much time and much cadmium orange....you can see the results.

Do you think a church would like to hang this one up for another decade or so?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Painting Over Painting #2

24"w x 30"h - So here it is now..I'm digging it, but, then again, I just finished it!
I'm not sure I would consider this a traditional method of painting, but painting over previous paintings does have some positive effects on my general attitude. Let's be practical. First off, we all have thousands of paintings in our basements. Why keep buying more canvas and shipping in more hard boards when the truth is, there are millions of mediocre paintings just waiting to be either 1. gessoed over or 2. painted over.

I thought this was pretty great and it isn't too bad,
but why settle for "not too bad"?
People get very closed-lipped about acknowledging  failure and admitting that they can produce forgettable work...especially on pieces that they have just finished. I believe, as artists, we are always closest to the piece we have just finished last. After all, have you ever met an artist that smiled at you and said politely "Shall I get you a cup of coffee and show you my latest painting on the easel? It really is a forgettable canvas, here have a seat while I get that coffee." Of course not.

I think as artists, our objectivity about our own work comes after a certain amount of time has passed. I also believe it is hard to spend an entire day painting and admit to ourselves "Boy...I produced a whole lot of mediocre work today that I will most likely paint over in three years!"  I sometimes tell my students that every failure they create should really just be considered "brush mileage". And the more you paint the better you will get, which means that there are a lot of canvases out there that are "learning" experiences. Now, even though  I know this and teach this idea it is still hard to accept that I can spend a day on "brush mileage". We all want our paintings to turn out in every aspect while we are working on them.

But, after some time has passed, personally, I can look upon my work with fresh eyes, and realize that it is just merely "pleasant", "okay" or "not bad". I have spent a lifetime dedicating myself to unraveling the mysteries of drawing and painting. My aspirations are for something a bit higher than "Oh, isn't that nice?" This may be the difference between the hobbyist painter and the artist. Or it could indicate that I am neurotic about painting.

So, I am uploading my first painting here. I was very pleased with it. I liked my composition and the cutting of his face where I did, very non traditional compositional idea for me. I also tried taking the shadow down the middle of his face rather than off to one side, so even that was a little more tricky. To be honest, I was quite pleased with this when I had finished it up. I had put this in the stack of "Finished" not in the "Paint Over Someday" stack. It was only when I found myself in my studio looking at it again I realized that it was really sort of blah. The brushwork is not confident (mostly because I am not used to painting faces that large so the brushwork is more muddy). And I didn't paint the eyelids convincingly so they look more like walnuts than flesh and then the more I looked at this I thought "Why on earth did I think this was so great?"

So...I set it on the easel and started painting the portrait of the man looking up (again). He is the same man from the first MRI painting. Naturally, I am quite pleased with it, which only serves my first argument of we are always closest to the latest work that we have completed. Ask me next month about this painting and I might just gasp, "EGAD! Quick get the gesso!"

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Content Aside, Focus on Painting - Michaël Borremans Plus Robert Henri

The painting in its current stage. Oil 24"W x 30"H

"Michaël Borremans plus Robert Henri" This is what happens when you read all about both artists at the same time, both of their ideas and work creeps into your brush handling and ideas about what to paint and what to leave out.

In order to really concentrate on the practice of painting and not worry so much about end result or product, I decided to paint someone that I do not know. There is a lot pressure to paint extremely well when you paint your kids or a friend or some of the people in the NF community. I want to paint them in a way that dignifies and honors them, but that is also a bit of a paralyzing aspect because it limits the amount of risk I want to take. For my next painting, I decided to go find a picture of a man I didn't know and I found one of a man making scrambled eggs in Trinidad. I found that if I just painted him without the background of the kitchen and frying pan, it would be a very interesting image. I also don't particularly care about him, he is just an art object, he doesn't even have a name, he is just anonymous.

This is not unlike Borreman's work. He uses stock photography and aims at taking individuality out of his paintings. And, although mine are not images from the 1930's and 1940's, I can see the advantage of this method.

Here is the sequence of process work:

First block in - No background
Washy background - adding a shirt
Uh oh..the shirt was lame, looked like something from the 70s, it got gessoed over

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Painting Over Painting

24" x 30" oil - painting #3 (the latest version--see #1 and #2 below to see what was covered up)
 I have spent the last few weeks reading:
  • Susan Sontag's "Illness As Metaphor"
  • Susan Sontag's "Regarding the Pain of Others"
  • Charlotte Mullins "Painting People" 
  • James Elkins "Pictures of the Body"
  • Vitamin P2: New Perspectives in Painting
In my last mentor meeting, my mentor mentioned "Why not paint over old paintings and just let the interesting parts show through?" This idea of leaving traces and leaving other imagery exposed was brought up many times during the residency. Now, truthfully, I had rather hoped that I wouldn't need to do that so soon with the thought that the portrait exercises I am working on would...well...you know...actually "turn out".


24" x 30" oil - painting #1
So, who knew that I would be painting over a painting so soon? I had rather pictured myself doing this in November...thoughts of painting with hot cocoa had come to mind. It's August and I've already painted a stack of forgettable portraits for my mentor to look at on our next visit. No. No need to post those, I can underwhelm him personally at the next meeting. I will, however, post the first of the "Painted Over Portraits".

So, here is the first portrait (#1). I tried to paint a person lying down going in for his MRI. In an effort to not overstate everything, I left the MRI machine as just a drawing done with oil pastel. I turned the entire painting vertically and let it all drip down. And, while it is okay...I still found it a little boring even with my attempt at a new and unusual composition, it just wasn't very exciting.

Therefore, it got set in the "I shall paint over this". MRI days are days in which the patient has to lie down very still and wear a helmet of sorts while loud buzzes (done in different time durations) drone on and on. The person's family gets to either wait in the room with the patient or sit outside. Most people chew their fingernails while they wait, flip through meaningless magazines, mess with their IPhones or pretend to watch the tv. Everyone waiting is just wishing it was over, as I am sure that is what the patient is thinking. I have never personally had an MRI. I sometimes wonder what they would find in there. I think I would rather not know. Ignorance can be bliss.

I then took that painting and decided to paint over it with the person who would be thinking about them over it. I kept the parts I liked and just simply painted over the parts that I found to be visually boring. It ended up looking like this next image (#2). 

24" x 30" oil - painting #2
Well, that image did not really improve it as I had hoped, but I did like the way her arm was made out of the man's hair. And I liked the area of her shoulder blade. Other than those two parts I wasn't very interested in the rest of it. It sort of looked like something I would do for a magazine cover. I happen to love illustration, but I am not wanting my paintings to look like magazine covers, so this will most likely have to get painted over as well. I wonder if I will just gesso over the entire piece and than just frame that.

We all know that Rauschenberg erased DeKooning's work and there are all sorts of interesting conjecture and theories as to what it all means, but, I think it he was onto something. I think if I gessoed over this entire piece right now and "erased" it, it would vastly improve it. But hey..I think I'll just try again and do another painting.

So, here on the top of this posting is attempt #3. As corny as it sounds, I just simply painted how I was feeling. I don't really look like that (I wish my hair would part like that, but it doesn't. My hair sprouts out of my forehead into a strange formation that is reminiscent of a sea anemone). Anyways...I just painted a face and how tired I am. I don't know whose face this is, it's not really mine, but it is how I am feeling. Just plain tired. No, not tired of painting, just tired.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Final Portrait - My studio assistant, Fred

May 25, 2012 - Finished one final portrait before flying off to Boston next month.
"Time Out" oil on canvas - 24"H x 18"W
The subject of the painting comes per a quote from my advisor:

"richard brilliant (my old professor at columbia) is an excellent resource for you on portraiture. and, as you're discovering, it's a hugely compelling topic in painting today.as i'm writing this i'm hoping you're experimenting with all kinds of portraiture--the husband, the kids, the family, the friends, the denizens of nebraska. don't limit yourself to one theme."

This semester, I have painted my son Henry, I have painted Reggie Bibbs and David Oosterloo (both of whom I met on FB through the different Neurofibromatosis forums located there) and I have painted my friend, Littleton Alston. My final portrait this semester is going to be of my youngest son, Fred.

There are many reasons to pick him. The first is the most obvious quote from the sitter himself, "Why did you paint Henry and not me?" The second reason is that I've watched him grow up too quickly before my eyes this semester. We have spent so much time together and next fall he will be in kindergarten. So, I am losing my wonderful studio assistant. The third reason is that I snapped this picture of him when he was in time out. I can't remember what he did to get in trouble now, but I do remember him saying "It's hard to always be good ALL the time, when you are only a little boy, Mama!"

Okay, that is probably true. However, I find that Fred is a "little boy" only when it comes to punishment, but a "big boy" when it comes to getting rewards, staying up late and other things he seems to believe are denied to him but not to his older brother, Henry. Ahh...I was also the youngest...I remember the unfairness of it all! hahaha....my older siblings would most likely rebuke that claim!

Here it goes:

Charcoal lay in drawing of Fred by the window
Underpainting / Slight color washes

1st pass of color work - nope, not finished

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A portrait of my friend, Littleton Alston

Littleton Alston, oil on canvas, 30" x 24"
Now..finally..here is my portrait of Littleton Alston. Now, I'm not sure I would ever do a detailed underpainting again, but at least now I can say I have done it. I think I will just go back to starting in with transparent coats of the color--similar to what Tony Ryder calls his "wash in". And then do the form painting on top of that. I have been influenced by Tony Ryder's painting method, Mary Beth Mackenzie's textural backgrounds and the brushwork of Gregory Manchess.

Well, and obviously, I owe a lot to my mentor who kept pushing me to go past all of the "safe" paint handling and to actually take risks. My mentor just cut up one of her canvases because it would make a better composition to do so and her quote is if you are going to fail...then FAIL BIG!  So...take chances. I am in a bit of disbelief when I look at my own work and then what I was doing before. It looks like two different artists. I would have never done this painting prior to my time with my mentor. I would have stopped at the safe wash-in stage and painted some sort of overly rendered  background and then removed all the brushstrokes to make it look as photo-realistic as possible. Now, there is nothing wrong with photo-realism, but I happen to love brushstrokes...and I happen to love that I am allowing myself to paint with them! I showed this painting of Littleton to a close friend of mine and her response was "Rachel, aren't those....brushstrokes on your canvas?" hahaha...YES...yes they are, and I rather like them! Here is the progression of the painting throughout the semester:

Charcoal lay in on toned canvas
Grisaille under painting - Payne's gray and white
Light wash-in of color, similar to a watercolor in paint consistency
First pass of form painting, background starting to take shape.
I would have stopped here if it were not for the help of my mentor.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Maternal Gaze - Part 3

So..here it is. I am at least finally happy with it instead of having feelings of complete ambivalence. Isn't that the worst? Nothing like ambivalence to your own work. I sometimes wonder if I am the only artist who grows tired of my own paintings. Luckily, having my mentor keep on me each month about this one transformed it from "This is forgettable and lame and I will most likely paint over it" to "I really find myself looking at those textures when I come up close to it, and it all comes together now".

Sure wish I had this transformation on all my paintings. It does help to put a little time between painting sessions and to have another artist critique my work. I would have stopped at #5 on this progression. I am glad I had guidance because had I stopped when I wanted to, this painting would have gotten painted over in a year or two. Now, I am actually happy with it.

Here is the semester progression: