Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Special Commision

My newest commission is from Jory and Gerry. It is based on a wonderful snapshot of Jory's parents, Hank and Kathleen Rose who obviously had a wonderful time camping, fishing, and rambling around in their convertible (with a rumble seat!) This painting was created using two photographs. One had Hank, the other had Kathleen and her brother in law. I simply place Hank in his proper place, next to Kathleen.

I spent quite a bit of time framing the photo in a way that I thought created the best composition. I then started the preliminary underdrawing.

Normally, any time there is a prominent vertical off to one side of a piece (in the form of the four-by-four pole, leaning slightly to the right), I go for it. But then, after laying it all out, I realized that the way I had framed it just wasn't good enough!!! I realized the true interest was the shapes of the boats off to the left. And So in order to show more of the boats, I shifted everything to the right two inches. By doing that, I also found that the became composition less cluttered. Here in this detail you can see the work of erasing and redrawing the image.
Since I am drawing directly on birch panel, I use a single-edged razor blade to scratch it off the surface.

This is a complicated image, so I spend a lot of time simply establishing where everything is. But I also have to be careful to stay open and not focus too much on the details. So I keep moving around the composition, and try no to get "stuck" in one spot or on one object. I start laying down color as soon as I can, so that I will always take the color into account when I am making drawing decisions.

Darks and lights...

Establishing the color scheme.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

My Process with "Seal Rocks"

This is the original photograph I based the painting on. It is from an on-line exhibit of photographs taken in 1940 by the WPA for the purpose of promoting tourism in Oregon. The exhibit on the Oregon State Archives website on the "Web Exhibits" page. This is a wonderful resource of publicly owned images that are free for us all to use (though they do ask that we annotate them so that others may know where to access them) "Seal Rocks, #2413.
To access this resource:

This is a shot of the initial drawing for the painting. It is 22"X28", on birch panel. I am trying to emphasize the strong "frame within a frame" composition of the image by assertively drawing the trees in the foreground from the start.

Here you can see I am trying to figure out how the person in the photo is sitting. I have drawn an inverted triangle where I believe her tailbone is. The positioning of the tailbone, shoulders and spine is integral to making her "believable" in the finished piece.
Then I draw the rocks by using geometric shapes. This makes it visually interesting, and it also helps make the rocks "exist in space" which gives the piece a feeling of solidarity and reality.

I start to lay on some color, going slowly to assess the effect they have, and in attempt to keep the wood showing through as much as possible.

Here I have most of the color worked out. But something is bothering me. So after a while of experimenting , sitting and staring, (a very important thing to remember to do -- stop, sit back and let your intuition talk to you!) I realize that part of it is the hard horizon that chops the composition in half.
Whenever a figure appears in an image, we as viewers are naturally drawn to it. I wanted to emphasis the landscape over the figure, so I softened the horizon, and made the colors in the figure similar to those surrounding her, so that she would blend in.
The result is a softness that counterbalances the strong, graphic lines of the trees and the "frame within a frame".

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Rediscovering the work of Diebenkorn.

In working a bit with landscapes, I re-remembered the
paintings of Richard Diebenkorn. Though his career was long, and his painting evolved a great deal, there is a moment in his development that sings to me and hopefully will inform my own work. It is called the "late figurative works".

He rides an edge between representational and pure abstraction that I wish I could feel more comfortable with.