Friday, February 24, 2012

Master Study Exercises - Study Four

Gregory Manchess, also referred to me by my mentor, is a master of both color and  brushstroke. Ryhythm and timing, conveying emotion through brushwork and achieving a balance of concept and aesthetics are essential components of his technique. This has garnered prestigious assignments from an ever-widening list of clients. His art has highlighted covers for Time, National Geographic, Atlantic Monthly, and the Major League Baseball World Series Program; spreads for Playboy, Omni, Newsweek, National Geographic, and Smithsonian; countless advertising campaigns and book covers. For Federal Express he created five paintings for display in the company’s corporate headquarters, which were then reproduced and distributed as posters and greeting cards. He has also illustrated movie posters for Paramount, Columbia, and Disney; conceptual work for The Chronicles of Narnia. His portrait of Sean Connery was used as the defining climactic moment in Warner Brothers’ Finding Forrester.

His work has also been recognized in the children’s book market. His first book, To Capture The Wind by Sheila MacGill-Callahan, was published in 1997 and nominated for a Caldecott Award, followed by Nanuk: Lord of the Ice, by Brian Heinz, released a year later. His second collaboration with Heinz, Cheyenne Medicine Hat, a story about wild mustangs, was released to wide acclaim in 2006. Other books include, Giving Thanks, 2003, The Last River, 2006, and Magellan’s World, released by Mikaya Press in 2007. He has just completed a lavishly illustrated book of 5 classic Robert E. Howard stories with 60 paintings. A black and white version was published by Del Rey in 2006 and a full color limited edition is forthcoming from Subterranean Press.

Widely awarded within the industry, Manchess exhibits frequently at the Society of Illustrators in New York, where he has won a gold and four silver medals. The Society of Illustrators in Los Angeles awarded him two silver medals and a Best in Show Award. His peers at the Society of Illustrators in New York honored him with the coveted Hamilton King Award in 1999, based on an artist’s career accomplishments. The following year they awarded him the Stephan Dohanos Award for the best illustration of the year by a member.

It is easy to understand why Manchess is so well received and awarded lucrative illustration jobs. His sense of composition, paint handling and color are all superb. For my demo exercise, I chose a nice little profile, and thought it would be a challenge to paint that hand near the mouth. It wasn't nearly has challenging as I thought it was going to be, but maybe some of that has to do with the fact that I've been studying artistic anatomy (again) since last fall. Studying or refreshing myself with all the bone and muscle structures always helps with bony landmarks to know where to place those notes of color so they read correctly.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Master Study Exercises - Study Three

My mentor sent me a list of influential contemporary artists to explore. In her words, "Some of them are about color. Some are about paint quality. Some are about composition. Those elements should be in important in ALL your new work, including your portraits that you want to include in your MFA work."

Here are her suggested artists:

Trisha Adams, Vadim Zang, Yana Golubyatnikov, Diedeker, Sandra Flood, Katy Schneider, Wayne Thiebauld, Mary Beth McKenzie, Irwin Greenburg, John Howard, Gregory Manchess, Ying Liu, Michael Hussar, David Shevlino, Ramona Youngquist, Darrell Hill, Ann Gale, Skip (Malcom) Liepke and Joseph Lorusso.

Out of the entire list, I was drawn to a couple people right away and for the same myriad of reasons Chris suggested.

Out of this list, my first choice to study was Sandra Flood. I just love her portraits, the muted palette with just notes of vibrant color. Her portraits have emotive qualities while still being subtle. Her influences are Egon Schiele; Lucian Freud; Degas; Motherwell; Whistler; and Antonio Lopez-Garcia.

The particular painting I studied is titled "Blue Amy" 12x12 oil on linen. It is actually much more colorful than her other ones, but I also thought it would be very was!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

In the technique of Donato Giancola

During my visit, my mentor had me watch the technique of New York illustrator, Donato Giancola. Donato spends his time initially doing a highly rendered drawing of his illustration. Once he is completely satisfied with the drawings and has all the values and subtleties to his liking, he then photocopies the drawings onto Strathmore 500 series Drawing 1 ply paper. The rationale to this approach is so that he does not need to then worry about ruining his original drawing should a mistake happen in the painting phase. This technique also lets the artist print out multiple copies of his or her drawing and then experiment with many different color combinations with each one. Unless the painting is going to be extremely large, he mounts the paper onto 1/4" masonite boards using acrylic matte medium as the glue/sealant.
So, in order to try out this method, I first have to get a finished drawing ready to be transferred. Luckily, I met a man willing to help me with my artwork. His name is David and he has NF1. David lives in the Netherlands and I happened to meet him online through Facebook. Because NF is not a disease, but a genetic disorder it is not something that only concentrates in certain geographical areas. NF is worldwide in distribution, affects both sexes equally and has no particular racial, geographic or ethnic distribution. Therefore, NF can appear in any family.

I had asked David if he could have someone take a few photos of him for me to use. Not only did he do it, he had about twenty taken and had them done and sent by the next day. He is just a real blessing, since lots of people with NF don't want to talk about it and some even refuse to have their pictures taken.

I finished the drawing this afternoon, so now, I will need to go find some masonite boards for the backings of the transfers. I don't have anything drawn in the background because I plan on having all that just done with loose paint without a predetermined outcome. I now need to go have the photocopies made. I think I am going to try a smooth finish to my paper when I transfer it. I'd like to do at least four different versions with four different color methods in mind.

In order to mount this drawing, I need to wet the paper first to get it to expand before applying the 'glue' to the panel/masonite and back of the copy. Then roll out the paper with a rubber printers roller. The idea is to squeeze out most of the excess medium but leave enough to work as a glue. This also means, I need to go buy a rubber roller! I will update again as soon as I have these transferred!

With a little help from my husband, all my boards are cut to the right size and I was able to transfer the drawings and get them all secured and mounted without bubbling or rips. I had to stand up on a chair in order to take this picture. (I think every real artist studio should have a Hot Wheels race car track in it too along with a broken florescent light fixture.) 

I originally had planned on doing about three or four. Somehow I accidentally stumbled up the properties of the number 6. According to the Pythagoreans, 6 is a perfect number and symbolized beauty and high ideals. So, since I am questioning beauty as I explore these portraits, why not paint David 6 times with 6 different color treatments. Well, we'll see how it goes. 

So, I decided to paint the portraits in complementary color pairs. Pairing of the portraits seems to just be natural, or I have been reading too much about the pairing of chromosomes lately, but either way, it seemed to be the way my brain was wired to do this. For each pair, I tried to use the base background color as the base color for the skin tone and then to use the complement for the shadow areas. Doing the Manchess exercise right before this definitely loosened me up as far as brushstrokes are concerned. Plus, doing this technique does help alleviate the pressure of messing up the drawing underneath. I knew at any point if the painting was going terribly, I could simply paste a new drawing down on the board and start over. 

Here are the color complement paintings. I am going to try to do something to those borders, but I am not quite sure yet what. I am thinking simple color strokes that are found on the DNA chromosomes would make for interesting graphics around the edge. (Again, please excuse my camera and we can all be thankful I am not working on a MFA in photography): 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Master Study Exercises - Study Two

For my first exercise, I picked Nathan Fowkes, an artist of whom I had always admired. This time, I wanted to discover a new artist. Not only am I making a study of another painting, but I am also widening my knowledge base of the artists currently working and producing work I admire.

Back in 2004, I took my first workshop offered through the Scottsdale Artists' School. The workshop met in Old Lyme, Connecticut and was a plein air painting event. The school had about fifteen or so P-A-P-A members at the event who were there to do demonstrations in the mornings and then instruct the students in the afternoons. I loved it, learned a lot and really enjoyed watching the painters approach landscape painting differently. However, the lodging, the workshop itself and the transportation all added up very quickly for me. So, this trip was a splurge, a gift to myself. Later, in 2006, my work was accepted into their "Best and Brightest" competition held in Scottsdale, Arizona. After that show, I promised myself that once my children were raised (I was pregnant at the time with Fred so I was really thinking down the road) I would make sure to attend a week long workshop every year, even if it was not through this particular school. I believe every artist needs at least a week long retreat to get away from work, family, social obligations and the daily routine of life and just concentrate on making art.

Knowing that I will someday partake in doing this workshops again, I periodically peruse the workshops and all the instructors and narrow it down to which workshop I would attend if school suddenly called and said "You've won a free workshop...everything is paid for, come right now!" I know, it's quirky, but it does sometimes lead me down interesting artistic tangents of ideas for classes, interesting artists to explore, possible workshops and books to look through. I also like to call this time "research" even though it's more like indulging in eye candy.

In order to find my next artist, I scrolled through their instructor list looking for an unfamiliar name and I came upon an artist named, Michael Malm.

I really enjoyed his painting of the two figures on the rowboat. It reminded me of the Thomas Eakin's "The Champion" painting; only for the content, not because of the color palette. It made me smile. The Eakin's painting was on the cover of my American art book back in college. Michael's painting is much more colorful and painterly than Eakin's and it seemed like a good challenge. Not to mention, I was pretty certain that was pthalo blue, a color which I never use. I thought, it's probably time to give that a try.

I went through his website, looking for images and content. He frequently uses the Georges de La Tour motif of not showing the candle and having the figures backlit around it. I've always like that in paintings, adds to the drama and narrative of the scene. I mostly enjoy his figurative works, but decided to try my hand at copying the painting that first grabbed my attention. I also read through his artist statement and particularly liked his last paragraph which reads like this:

"I am motivated by life and God's beautiful world around me. When I get bogged down in the studio, and lose the vision of what I am trying to do, I have found that getting outside to observe things as they really appear in first person away from the computer screen, or working from a live model is always so refreshing. I am always amazed at just how rich and beautiful the colors of nature around us really are. It is easy for me to forget when I fail to observe life more than the monitor. The most effective education for me comes from observing from life."

I believe this to be very true. There are times that it is just invigorating to paint from life, whether it is a model or from nature. It's nice to get out of the studio and away from the monitors. It's also nice to slow down and enjoy what is all around us and take the time to actually look at it.

I spent this evening finishing this one up. Just little touches here and there trying to match it the best I could. His original is much bigger than 9" x 12" so I think the copy would be better had I done it larger instead of trying to use little brushes to do all the work, but this study is mostly for color exploration, so I'm not too worried about details.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Master Study Exercises - Study One

My mentor recommended that I try doing a few master studies to be able to problem solve color mixing issues. It was hard for me to think who I would use to create a master copy from. The truth is, I think I do that exercise fairly well when it comes to paintings with definite edges and subdued color. So, I thought I should challenge myself and pick someone who was known for color, loose brushstrokes, and was alive and working today.

I then remembered Nathan Fowkes. Nathan taught at the school I attended in Los Angeles, and at the time he was working on color keys and background paintings for DreamWorks Studio. He was fresh off of working on the Prince of Egypt, a movie in which I admired the background paintings more than anything else. In fact, I remember watching that movie and falling in love with the paintings behind the animation, which prompted me to buy the Making of the Prince of Egypt book.

I always admired Nathan's work, but never got to take any of his classes, nor did I ever get the chance to meet him. I thought I would look him up and see if he was still painting. And, yes, he is still very active and doing amazing work. So, I sifted through his blog to find some very loose paintings, that were still very colorful. In essence, I was looking for something that would be very difficult for me to emulate. He didn't disappoint. Here I am so far on this study. I had to stop in the middle of it and get my boys ready for bed, then I went back downstairs and kept working. I think it's getting better, but I plan on working on it some more tomorrow.

I got up this morning and kept working on this color study. It is very hard to get that same level of brushstrokes when I'm not using the same brushes most likely, but at least the colors are getting there. I think I am done with this one.