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.