This was the last portrait sketch I did before beginning on some intensive head drawing study. More about that coming up on my next posts, but wanted to get this one from over a month ago posted first. You can see the reference photo by clicking on my sketch on Sktchy here.
Learning to paint (well) for me means a constant but gradual process of 1) learning from my mistakes and 2) having “layers of the onion” lifted from my eyes until I at last can see something that was previously mysteriously hidden from me. (You can see the reference photo for this painting on Sketchy here.)
This painting taught me once again how much harder painting can be when you don’t start with an accurate drawing, going directly to drawing with paint and then correcting, correcting, correcting.
Getting the drawing right and capturing a likeness can be as “simple” as recognizing the big shapes, contours, divisions of space and observing where things line up with each other. Getting the values right can be as “simple” as observing where the light comes from, how it lands on the large and small planes of the face or any object, and asking myself where the darkest and lightest areas are and how this plane compares. Getting good color “just” means accurately observing the overall and predominant range of colors (saturated or grayed, warm or cool) and then asking is this the spot “warmer or cooler, more or less saturated, lighter or darker.”
I can ask myself these questions over and over, but until yet another layer of the onion is lifted, I just can’t see the answer. When that happens my brain tells me it’s too hard and just jumps ahead with a lazy guess, which then sets off another round or layer of correction, correction, correction. But I do learn from my mistakes and each next painting is an opportunity to put what I learned from them into practice and hopefully remove one more layer until at last I will be able to truly see!
And here it is below in my sketchbook before adding color in Procreate.
Not sure which I prefer. I couldn’t finish the drawing since I ate half of a peach and a banana for breakfast and then needed to refrigerate the rest.
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.
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.
SKETCHES: I try to do a sketch from the SKTCHY App at least weekly. Here is a recent one.
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)