Sunday, May 27, 2012

Saint Matthias, Part 3

 Once the blue was on, the main effort was directed at covering up the rest of the red--pretty vivid for a little studio--as quickly as possible.

The basic color plan was established. The Saint Matthias head study (upper left) has become St. Francis of Assisi--I have yet to finish it).

A bit further along, this detail shows the rough modeling stage and the skin tone beginning to be established.
You can see it a bit further along in a previous post

Next post: The progression of the face.
Thanks for reading!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Saint Matthias, Part 2

 Detail of the initial drawing on the huge cradled hardboard. For this, I used a fairly large (for me, anyway) round brush and thinned black acrylic paint.

 Have to admit, when the cradled hardboard arrived, the size of it sorta scared me. Here it is, having just squeezed through the front door.

 After hauling it up the stairs, the first order of business was to cover up that huge, intimidating expanse of white with a loose coating of Cadmium Red. There's a life-sized head study of St. Matthias I painted as a prelim, just peeking over the plant in the upper left corner of this pic.

 The next step was to get the figure drawn out. Not too detailed, though, as I wanted some wiggle room when the actual painting began.

Using a big flat brush, Cerulean Blue was applied in the shadow areas.

My lighting contraption consisted of two lamps and a lot of tape. 
Normally the studio stays vaguely organized, but not during this process.  I had to let go of my usual discomfort with dishevelment, and actually dispensed with my usual doubts and fears during a project; at least throughout most of this painting sequence. The big nerves would come later  :)

Next post: Saint Matthias, Part 3: Thicker paint!

Thanks for the visit!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Saint Matthias, Part 1

 Saint Matthias. Acrylic on canvas, 4" x 12". (Image copyright The Catholic Community of Saint Matthias, all rights reserved.) Photo by Neal Wallace.

I was honored to be asked to paint several iconic images of Saint Matthias--the Apostle chosen to replace Judas--as part of that wonderful parish's 50th Jubilee Celebration.  One was to be 4" x 12". The other? Life sized--30" x 84".

For me, painting an image of a saint requires research and prayer. 

Not only did I research available information on Saint Matthias, but I also needed to know about the parish.  With the help of Danny, the parish's Junior High Youth Minister, I learned that the Community of Saint Matthias--located in Somerset, NJ--is dynamic and active. (I was later to find that it is also much, much more!) 

It seemed to me that Saint Matthias must also have been an active, charismatic and warm person, but how was I to portray that?  A full day of sketching produced no satisfactory result. Only after a quiet period of prayer did an image of his face appear in my head. Unlike most of the historic portrayals of the saint (which show him a bent, grizzled old man) the face that floated up into my head was this one--a much younger visage!

 Excited, I sent a package of many sketches, both black and white and color, to the parish for consideration. They liked them and were confident in their choices, so I was able to begin work on the small version in February of this year. The sketch to the right is only one of many color options sent.

Next blog: Saint Matthias Part 2; the giant panel arrives.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Studio Pics

 My studio is a small space, which is my preference.  It's easy to keep ordered, and has made me think about storage and functionality alongside my need to have lots of aesthetic objects, books, and artworks around me. Pretty much everything in it slides or wheels across the floor easily, so I can rearrange the space when needed--which is often.

 While it's easy to keep in order, my penchant for collecting gives me a workout when it's time to clean. But I don't mind--every time I dust or wash off an object, it's a time to reconnect with it.  Touching the object and freeing it from grime reminds me why I chose it to be part of my creative space, and that keeps me from taking my surroundings for granted. For a closer look at the Cabinet of Curiosities, see:;postID=844841635882597329

The desktop on which I've been painting lately is an old school desk given to me by my uncle. It's a good, solid oak surface. My slant-top drafting table had to be folded up and stowed in the closet to make room for an easel--necessary right now--loaned to me by a friend.

Here's a detail of the little pic-in-progress on the desktop.
He's part of a new group of mixed media pieces which are small, square, and have a preliminary coating of watercolor.  They'll be enhanced by acrylic and collage in the near future.

Thanks for visiting the studio.
Peace and good wishes!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Medieval Knight and his Buddy, revisited

 Stealing Eggs. Mixed media on board, 5" x 7". Private collection.
Not sure from where the actual idea for this painting came, but I definitely know the inspiration, which I'll talk about below. 

But the process?
For me, the picture often simply develops as I'm drawing it on the final surface.  Nowadays composition seems to come more easily, and so the picture simply emerges simultaneously along with the idea.

 My sketchbook is full of faces and figures, so when I begin a painting, it's not like I have to have a resource. My head is already full of little guys, and my hand is so used to drawing them that they sort of fall out of my pencil onto the paper.
This guy's cuirass came from a demo I painted for my students as I was teaching a layering technique. I saved that pic, and it came in handy!

 I've always loved the bird and the knight's faces, looking guiltily in opposite directions as they check to see if they've been followed after pilfering the bucket of eggs.

I've been inspired by W. Heath Robinson since my college-days. During my time in art school, a fusty old bookstore was a favorite haunt. 
One day I unearthed this book from the depths of a barrister's bookcase in the store.  I replaced it, making sure it was hidden from another potential buyer. It took me awhile to scrape up the cash, but I managed, and bought it a few months later--not one regret! 

The closest date of publication I can find is 1908.
It is filled with Robinson's goofy color plates and margin drawings--remarkable masterpieces that make my drawing-fingers itch every time I leaf through the pages (which are so old that the edges are crumbling).

I've had plenty of times of buyer's remorse, but never when it's come to building up my cache of inspiration-resources.

Thanks, as always, for visiting!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

An Imminent Explosion

 Guy Fawkes Night. Watercolor, 5" x 5 1/4".
This little painting is about the night the English burn the effigy of Guy Fawkes and the pope, and shoot off a ton of fireworks.
I did this quite long ago, when I was heavily influenced by the faery-folk artwork of Brian Froud, but it marked a turning point for me in terms of color.

Prior to that, most of my watercolors were modeled after the color method of Arthur Rackham,  ( )who would ink his drawing, then wash over it with a pretty strong dose of Burnt Umber. After that would come the color--and not often much at all.

Little Witch. Watercolor, approx. 4" x 6". Private collection
I painted this one using Rackham's technique.  But my works like this got hammered by editors and art directors for using "too much brown".  I cared a lot about what they said once. Looking back, I think their reaction had nothing to do with art and everything to do with "marketing" (a poison in our society that I despise more and more).

But back to my point.  Guy Fawkes Night proved a turning point for me in that it was my first foray into using brighter color in my paintings.  Don't get me wrong, I love and still use the Rackham approach, but I also love having the freedom to choose. When I want bright color, I want to be able to use it (for my art, not because it'll help some company sell a book). And that's how it should be, right?
Thanks, as always, for reading!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Watercolor: You Can Go Home Again

 A detail from a watercolor I painted a few years ago.  Can't remember the name of it, but a very kind couple bought it at the first Sk3tchbook! show.

Watercolor will always be my first love.  The way the paint flows and mottles on the paper; the weird but pleasant odor of the pigments; and the simplicity of clean-up and portability for sketching away from home. It's just a fit! Unfortunately, there's not a simple solution to the requisite matting and framing of a watercolor.  Hence, I've been traitorously working in acrylics, all the while longing to get my brush sloshing around on that awesomely pungent watercolor paper.

 The Little Garden Plot. Watercolor, 4" x 4".  This is the first watercolor I've done in a long time--but the itch to return to that medium had been building all the while I worked on an acrylic commission.  One little sketch (from a crop of them) in my sketchbook was the source for this one, but the inspiration?

Good old Etsy!  Rambling through the site, I came across a store that has a bunch of wonderful, fresh little watercolor birds (among other paintings).
This is a detail of one called Common Swift by Rose--an amazing artist! I bought one of her hummingbirds, not only because it's gonna look great in my home, but because I'll study and learn from the technique (as I try to do from all great watercolor paintings). 

If you are a lover of watercolor, or a lover of all wonderful art, it'll be worth your while to check out the works in their shop:

Thanks for your visit!

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