Oil Portrait of Baby Toa; Painting with Joy and Freedom

Portrait of Baby Toa, oil on linen panel, 10x8 inches

Portrait of Baby Toa, oil on linen panel, 10×8 inches

I really enjoyed making this painting of my friend’s grandson Toa. The biggest challenge was working from a cellphone photo taken in a carseat in the dark where his skin looked dark and bright orange. Fortunately I was able to see some other snapshots with better skin color.

I’ve been taking a new approach to painting; focusing on the joy of creating and letting go of the internal “committee” that demands perfection. I have accepted that my work will never be perfect and that perfect art bores me anyway. A bit of wonkiness, even in a portrait, is ok with me, if I feel I have captured the spark of the subject. I’m painting for myself; if it pleases someone else too that’s a bonus, but not at all a requirement. Giving myself this freedom has completely changed my life.

Below are my initial sketches, a picture of the setup with the photo, and an early stage in the painting.

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From Veggie Porn to Bad Begonias

Veggie Porn, oil on Gessobord panel, 8x8"

Veggie Porn, oil on Gessobord panel, 8×8″

I’ve developed the goofy habit of storing my leftover cucumber in the bell pepper half when I prepare a salad. It always makes me laugh so I decided to paint it. My sister called it veggie porn. I hope it makes you chuckle too.

I’m trying out a new format for my blog posts, a simple list with images of what I’ve been working on, successes, challenges and what else is going on in the studio and my life. Theoretically it will mean less writing and more frequent posting. So here goes…let me know what you think.

CHALLENGES: I’ve been struggling with composition, discovering half way through a painting that the composition sucks and the painting will never be an enjoyable thing to look at.

SUCCESSES: I finally got the willingness to begin all paintings with some thumbnail sketches. I realized that COMPOSITION is simply the structure that directs the eye around the painting, creates a feeling of action or stillness and (if done well) delights the eye. Two of my favorite painters, Susan Jane Walp and Giorgio Morandi use composition in unexpected ways, and both delight the eye (or at least my eyes) whether they are following or breaking the “rules” of composition or making their own.

LETTING GO OF A BAD PAINTING: This one started off really happily but ended up in the trash, after scraping and redoing it over and over until I killed it so dead it couldn’t be revived. I just felt there was too much red, that it was too “hot” somehow. A friend suggested adding black. That was the final nail in the coffin. I’m not sure why I’m even sharing it at all.

FAIL: Bad Begonias, oil on panel, 10x8"

FAIL: Bad Begonias, oil on panel, 10×8″

SKETCHES: I try to do a sketch from the SKTCHY App at least weekly. Here is a recent one.

Isabel T, from Sktchy photo reference, graphite, 12x9"

Isabel T, from Sktchy photo reference, graphite, 12×9″

WHAT I’M READING: “Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked.” Great book about how our devices and apps are designed to keep us using them. I waste way too much time web-surfing on my phone. This book gave me some tools for changing my habits along with a good talking to! I think it’s a must-read for parents especially.

WHAT I’M LISTENING TO: Ed Sheeran and Alicia Keys on Amazon music, which I like much better than Apple music. (If you’re interested, here’s a link to  Amazon Music Unlimited 30-Day Free Trial)

Six Self-Portrait Studies

2017010-Self-Portrait_#6, oil on Arches Oil Paper, 15x11"

Winter Self-Portrait #6 (but really 7), oil on Arches Oil Paper, 15×11″

Painting quick self-portraits seemed like a good way to work through my feelings while supporting my elderly mother in hospice, especially with my limited studio time and energy. The most recent, #6 above, is my favorite so far because I focused on finding light, beauty and strength rather than darkness (and because I omitted my frown lines). I used a limited palette of titanium white, yellow ochre, venetian red, cobalt blue and a little Gamblin Asphaltum and a cool white light bulb.

Studio set-up with mirror

Studio set-up with mirror

Here’s my funky set up with the big mirror  propped up on a dresser drawer. In all six of these self-portraits (above and below) I focused on capturing something of what I was feeling in a short session (3- to 4-hour studies) without worrying too much about getting a true likeness. Read More

Bits and Pieces (while falling to pieces with a cold)

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Sunflower and Pomegranate Studies, oil, 5×10″

After I did these two studies on one piece of Arches Oil Paper focusing on values (started with transparent earth color underpainting), I caught a nasty head cold. I feel super lousy and haven’t had the energy to paint but I’ve done a couple sketches, below.

Pomegranate and persimmons on a brick. 2B pencil in 8x10 moleskine.

Pomegranate and persimmons on a brick. 2B pencil in 8×10 moleskine.

Drawing helped take my mind off my sneezing and nose running like a river.

FarhooD S via Sktchy app. graphite, 11x8

FarhooD S via Sktchy app. graphite, 11×8″

I think I made his hand too small. Here’s his photo on Sktchy:

Obey! You Must, this Kid, in a Cap.

Sketched in pencil from photo on Sktchy, 10x8"

Sketched in pencil from photo on Sktchy, 10×8″

Another quick post of a recent sketch done from an inspiration photo on Sktchy. I love the app and I love drawing people more than just about anything. Pears and bowls and pretty landscapes are great, but nothing can match the joy of drawing people for me. Below is the reference photo. I’d intended to add color but liked the black and white version too much.

Photo reference by Adam Vitry on Sktchy

Photo reference by Adam Vitry on Sktchy

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