Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Blue Springs Art Show

It's that time again... Those of you in the KC area, mark your calendars:

Due to the limited space, they only allow each artist to display two works.  This year, I'll be showing my portrait of Juan de Pareja after Velázquez's masterpiece, and The Artist, my latest self-portrait.  We'll see if I get a Best-of-Show prize yet from this exhibition.  This will be my third time exhibiting at the Blue Springs show, so I'm due for one.
In any case, it's an interesting show.  For those planning to attend, I would encourage you to come on Saturday, as they will be handing out ballots for you to vote on the "People's Choice" artwork, which will be awarded later that evening.  Your support with that would be greatly appreciated!  All Best-of-Shows, 1st place, and People's Choice winners will have their works displayed at Blue Springs City Hall for the following couple of weeks after the show.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Challenge accepted...

A few blogs ago I talked about cast drawings and paintings, and how they really test you as an artist.  So a few days ago, I was thinking about what was the most challenging cast to draw or paint.  What was the one cast above all others that says you are a master of the art of realism if you can conquer it?  Immediately I thought of the one... the only... Laocoon.  Naturally, given my ambition to be the best that I can possibly be as an artist, I decided I must conquer it.
So, the other day I did a very quick sketch of it just to see if I could even come close to capturing the general rendering of the sculpture.  In other words... was it "close enough"?

The problem I have run into when it comes to cast drawings and paintings is my inherent lack of patience... one of the very things such a drawing or painting tests you on.  That being said, I have also never completed a truly finished, polished drawing of a cast before.  They've always been mere sketches such as this one (I would define a sketch as somewhere between 30-60 minutes). 
So now I have this ambition to turn the little sketch above into this:

By the way, in case you were wondering... this is not a photograph of the cast.  It is a painting of the cast done by Andrea Mosley, from Angel Academy of Art in Florence.  In a perfect world, I would be able to go to Angel Academy so I could learn how to do this from real masters.  But unfortunately, I must learn it on my own. 
One of my favorite pictures is of a student from Angel Academy standing next to his painting of Laocoon. It is practically the same painting as Andrea's, and next to his painting is the actual cast of the Laocoon from which he painted.  By the amazing sight-size technique, he was able to paint the cast in actual size, so it is as though you are looking at two casts... except one of them is a painting, and the effect is somewhat surreal.  Here's the picture.  Take a close look at it, and allow your mind to be blown.

The artist's name is Mathew.  I am positive that I have not accomplished this level of craftsmanship... for now.  But I am equally as positive that even Mathew studied and worked hard to build up his skill to the point where this photograph was possible.  And the same is true for absolutely anyone who is serious about learning this craft we call realism.  There are two underlying statements that are made whenever someone says, "Wow, I could never do this."  1.  It is an excuse not to work at it, or 2.  You don't care enough to try.
Either way, it is most certainly not a matter of whether or not you possess some magical "art gene" that automatically gives you the natural ability to be an artist.  It simply does not work that way.  When you were a child, drawing and making messes with fingerpaints were awesome, and you know it.  But somewhere along the road of life, many of us lose interest or we quit trying.  It is exactly the same as whenever a young person gives up playing piano or violin.  Simply stated, becoming a master at anything is a choice we make, not a gift we possess.  The only gift we possess is the passion to do so.  And the question is whether we nurture that passion, or let it fizzle.
So, I have not conquered the Laocoon yet.  But you can't really conquer something like that with one little sketch like the one I did.  It may take me a while, and I may be doing several other projects in the meantime because I'm so scattered like that.  But that is truly the best part about being an artist.  I don't have to be organized.  Only my paintings do.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Self Portrait - Day 2

After about 5 hours today, the underpainting of my self portrait has become this:

The Artist (Self-Portrait)
oil on canvas
28x22 inches
And on that note, yay the weekend is here!  On to the next project...

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Self Portrait - Day 1

Today I happily spent about 4 hours working on the preliminary underpainting for my next painting - a self portrait.  This means I spent 4 hours doing a very simple, reductive grisaille using nothing but brown paint.  When I say "reductive," I basically mean that I coated the entire canvas with a layer of this transparent brown paint using a mixture of turpentine and linseed oil.  The result is a very thin coat that I am able to scrape away with a dry brush, and then later on add darker layers for the shadows.  The result is much like a reductive drawing... only with paint.  This is typically the first step to every painting I do. 
I don't particularly like doing self portraits, but I haven't done one in years, and I figured it's a good thing to add to my collection.  And perhaps it is something I can show later in an exhibition or two.  I also thought that it would be a good update for where I am now as an artist.  The last self portrait I did was many years ago when I was very much an amateur, and as you might suspect, it looked very amateurish.  Hopefully, now, this self portrait will portray me in a much more sophisticated light as a much more sophisticated artist.  And, for that matter, it will be painted using a way more sophisticated technique and method.

Self Portrait (The Artist), underpainting detail.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Juan de Pareja

Here is the latest in a series of Velázquez copies I've done.  This is Juan de Pareja, one of my very favorite portraits by Velázquez.  Juan de Pareja was a slave in Velázquez's workshop, which basically meant that he was the assistant to Velázquez and helped with mixing pigments, stretching canvases, etc.  However, he was also quite the painter himself, and has at least one painting hanging in the Prado along with the numerous works of his master.
  I've attempted to copy this portrait before, but never had success.  Now that I have finished this one, I would contend that it is reasonably successful enough to say I won't need to do it again.  After all, it's not necessarily about making a perfect replica as it is about trying to better understand the style and technique of a genius.

Copy of Juan de Pareja, after Velázquez
oil on canvas
20x16 inches