Monday, November 19, 2012

River Access

18 x 36
Oil on Canvas

I originally did this one quite a while ago, several years in fact.  I don't think I ever posted it simply because I could never get a good picture of it.  Just as well because I wasn't particularly happy with the first version.  So I started over from scratch, and within a couple days it's all done pretty much the way I'd envisioned it all along.  Still don't have a good picture though, please pardon the glare.  

There's a couple things I'd like to talk about in this picture.  First is the use of a limited palette.  In this particular case I used Prussian Blue (Milori Blue actually.  It's supposed to be a more stable version, but handles just about the same) Venetian Red and Yellow Ochre along with Ivory Black and Titanium White.  The blue and red make a really nice range of grays and they're dark enough together that the black was not all that necessary.  I'm not entirely sure I used it at all now that I think about it.  I do use black to gray colors as necessary so I'll include it here just because it's usually on my palette.   For this image those three pigments plus white is all that is needed and they worked perfectly.  There is nothing that says you can't add a higher chroma pigment if you need something to pop.  A limited palette is not magic.   It does have the advantage of making it easier to harmonize a painting's color.    There just aren't a whole lot of color combinations to deal with, but with these three colors you might be surprised at just how much color range you can get.  Again, if you want or need higher chroma passages use a higher chroma red or yellow.  The advantage of using an earthy red is that you can get a range of grays without adding the third color.  This isn't the only combination that will work of course.  Ultramarine and burnt sienna works nicely as does french ultramarine and raw sienna.  Both of those will give you a nice range to play with.  Another advantage of the limited palette is cost.  I know I have a lot of paint tubes that I haven't opened in quite a while.  Keeping it simple can keep the cost way down and in these times that can't be all that bad.

The other thing I wanted to mention about this painting is details.  This basically a simple image, just a  basic value arrangement.  As such, I think it works fairly well.  But in something like this I like to hide a few little nuggets for the viewer to find.  Take a look at this detail. 

That egret just one example of what's hidden here.  It might not be big enough to see here, but there is a great blue heron and a handful of ducks to be seen if you care to look.  So the thing is give the viewer something to look at.  There's nothing wrong with a simple image, but that doesn't mean you can't make it rewarding too.

One last thing, there are a few things for sale over at the Drying Rack.  There's a link over on the side here.  If you'd like one get it now.  Prices will be going up the first of the year. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Silverpoint Landscape

I did this one back in the summer when it was about 1000 degrees outside.  I thought maybe drawing a nice wintery landscape would cool me off some.  Didn't work, but it kept me occupied for a while.

Silverpoint on light gray ground
8 x 6.5

I've never really done a landscape in silverpoint before other than something seen in the distance through a window.  There's a reason for that.  Silverpoint just doesn't have the range of values to quite do the job. Now, this image isn't horrible, but if those closer trees were darker the whole scene would have so much more power.  This image really needs to have a more graphic quality.  I had wanted to do a version of this in ink just to illustrate the difference, but I just can't seem to find the time.  You'll just have to use your imagination.  If you're going for a more etherial look, silverpoint might be just the thing so maybe this is just a case of the wrong medium for the wrong image.  

I've seen a handful of silverpoint landscapes.  Most left me feeling like this one, not bad, but it would be better if there were darker darks to give some more depth.  I've also seen a few that fit the medium nicely.  They were all more dreamy, fog shrouded images.  But they were all mostly gray of virtually the same value.  So if you like mid-tone gray images there you go.

The thing I'm finding with silverpoint is that if you have one or two they can be really nice if they're not competing with something with more range of value or color.  If you get too many together at one time they start to take on an overall grayness and they start to blend into the wall.  That's a problem with drawing in general.  It just seems to be particularly problematic with silverpoint.  And that's why you don't see many shows featuring just drawings I think.  Remember this is coming from someone that likes drawings.  

Well, I'm rambling today.  Not quite sure where that came from.  Any of your thought are welcome.  Thanks for looking.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Once again it's been a while since my last post.  It seems that I get just about as many views as when I don't post as when I do, so efficiency would seem to indicate that I'd be better off using my time on something else.  But that wouldn't really move things along much.  At any rate here's something new.

Oil on Canvas
30 x 20

Since it's been so long since you've heard from me you would think I would have a lot to say.  It certainly seems like I should, but I got nothing.  Tell me what you think, and I'll be back soon I hope.

I forgot that I had some preliminary studies for this.  Maybe they'll be of interest.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Forgotten Images from the Vault

A few days ago I was looking through an old portfolio.  It was full of older drawings and things from several years ago, and I wasn't entirely sure what I would find.  Since they were older I expected to find a lot of junk to throw out.  There was some of that, but not nearly as much as I expected.  What I did find were some of the things I did while relearning how to draw.  Some of them weren't half bad if I do say so myself.  At any rate I thought some of the old master copies would be of interest to you.  So let's see what I found.

Look familiar?  A nice little silverpoint copy of Leonardo's silverpoint study for an angel.  It's heightened with white chalk.  This is one of the earlier silverpoints I have done.  A handful came before this, but you don't want to see those.  Trust me on that one.  The ground is a watered down acrylic gesso toned with some dry pigment, prussian blue I think.

I love old master drawings.  The St Louis Art Museum has a gallery devoted entirely to works on paper, drawings, prints, the occasional watercolor, and I always make sure to spend some time in there.  When a list of the greatest draftsmen of all time is put together Leonardo is always on it.   Albrecht Durer always makes the list too.  If you're looking for drawings to copy he's got some nice ones.  He also has a great list of engravings.

Another pretty famous image.  Well, if you're going to steal, steal the best.  Now this isn't a bad bit of drawing considering it's me and all, but compared to the original it definitely blows chunks.  I've seen the original print several times, and it never fails to amaze me.  It's not very big, only about 10x 8, but there's a lot packed into that small space.

This might not be quite a well known, but still a pretty sweet image.  This is Goya's The Sleep of Reason Produces Demons.  It's from a collection of etchings (maybe they're classed as aquatints) Goya produced called Los Capricios.  Pretty sure I spelled that wrong, have to check.  For all the non-etchers out there an aquatint is a resin dusted over the plate.   The plate is heated just enough for the resin to melt creating a resist to the acid bath.  When etched it will result in a wash-like tone like the background here.  The longer the etch, the darker the tone.  In the case of my drawing here I used charcoal.  I always liked etching.  Really should have broken down and bought a press.

A copy of Rembrandt's etching Woman with an Arrow.  Another of the world's all time great draftsmen and one of the great etchers too.  Nobody's quite sure what's going on in this image.  Venus giving an arrow to Cupid?  Maybe, as good a back story as any.  Personally I don't really care much.  I just like the image.  That's the reason I did most of these.  I also tried to copy them as closely as possible, trying to figure out the whys and wherefores.  Honestly I don't remember what I learned on any individual drawing.  It was more of a cumulative effect.   I have sketchbooks full of quick versions of things like this and other assorted objects.  The more you do the better.   One more today.

Recognize this guy?  If you don't you're in the wrong place.  I'm sorry, you'll have to leave.  I can only take this inclusive stuff so far.  I mean we're talking Rembrandt here.  Okay, the pose is based on a rather well know Titian portrait, but this etching may well be equally famous, and I do like a good etching.

Last thought for the day comes from Rembrandt while we're on the subject.  "Take the brush in hand and begin.  When you have said all you wish say you're done."

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Playing with the Wind

Silverpoint on off white prepared paper
14 x 10

This is the companion piece to the last one I posted.  The size and paper color is identical.  The value range is about the same too.  If it looks different here blame it on the white balance.  It also illustrates the problem in photographing artworks.  I've seen the same image posted on different sites, all well respected art sites, that look totally different.   So maybe I'm not such a bad photographer after all.  Well,  I'll admit to being adequate.  Now there's something to aspire to.

I've been trying to think of something to actually say about this piece, but I really got nothing today.  The two drawings do go together fairly well.

or you can put them together the other way which I think I prefer.

That's not so bad a pairing.  I've considered doing a third figure to put in the middle, probably a standing figure about twice as big.  I think that might look pretty good.  Gotta give that some more thought.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Silverpoint and its limitations

I've been posting silverpoint drawings at various places on the net for a few years now. I usually don't get any comments at all which is depressing but I can live with that. I don't say much either so I can see where that is coming from. One comment I do get quite a bit is, "Your darks need to be darker." Uh, how many times does it need to be said, "This is as dark as it will get." Depending on the image that can be a deal breaker. But for the most part silverpoint will give me darks that are dark enough.
Silverpoint on off white prepared paper
14 x 10

 I think the people are used to seeing highly retouched photos with totally black darks and almost pure whites. Very contrasty and eye catching, but not really true to nature. Let's do something I usually don't do. Let's look at the reference photo I used for this drawing.
So here we have a very usable reference photo from the lovely auroradreams. I made a couple minor changes, but nothing earth shaking to be sure. Now look at the darkest darks, hair, eyes and the shadow under the knee. Silverpoint won't get quite that dark, but it will be pretty close especially when its aged and the silver has tarnished. Definitely not a problem though. Now look at the folds in the drapery. The shadows are light and airy with plenty of light reflected in them. Certainly no real dark darks there. But that's exactly where people want to see more contrast. Well, let's do a little retouching and see what that looks like.
That's certainly more dramatic. It's also becoming a completely different image. Better? Maybe. Worse? Maybe. Kinda depends on what you're trying to do. Again look at the darkest darks. All detail is gone including the reflected light on the knee. It just disappears into a black hole. Of course just because it doesn't show up on the photo doesn't mean I can't put it in anyway and I would, but it would have to be extremely subtle or the form wouldn't look rounded. And back to the drapery. The shadows are darker, much more dramatic with much, much less reflected light. A bad thing? Again, depends on what you're trying to do. Rembrandt made a pretty good reputation doing that. To my knowledge he only did one silverpoint though, and honestly it wasn't his best work. While we're on the subject of Rembrandt let's take this a little further.
Not quite Rembrandtesque but it's getting there, and I think we're close enough for our purposes today. I've darkened the midtones a bit more. I actually had to lighten the head and shoulder some because it was disappearing into the background. We've come a ways since the original image. Better, worse that's up to you. It's largely a matter of taste and really what you feel like at the time. Honestly, I think this retouched version is really a pretty good image for a drawing ...... in charcoal. I could get the background this dark in silverpoint, but the shine would be really annoying for quite a while. Charcoal or an ink wash would be a much better choice. I've learned it much better to not fight your medium, and silverpoint does have it's limitations. You want dramatic, use something else.

 I also think that's why silverpoints don't hold up particularly well in big shows. You don't get the high contrast, eye catching images that you can with other drawing media.  Silverpoints also tend to be small simply because they take a while to do. Those darks have to be slowly built up. So you have a big show of large, dramatic, eye catching pieces surrounding a few small, basically gray drawings. No matter how good they are they tend to get overlooked. Now before you start thinking this is all just sour grapes let me say I don't show silverpoints. These are just done for fun, and to keep my drawing skills sharp.

So if silverpoint is such a crappy, unmarketable medium why use it? Because I like it. It's perfect for smaller, intimate drawings.  I like those.  It just has a quality that is like nothing else.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Waiting for Spring

Silverpoint on light blue prepared paper heightened with white gouache
14 x 10

We didn't really have to wait for spring this year. It got here a good month early, and it feels like it's already over now. That's not so bad except for all the lawn mowing. I need the exercise.

Anyway this is the last of my small efforts to give the people what they want. A fair number of people come here from the silverpoint web presumably to see the silverpoints. So here you go. I rather like this one, unfortunately it refuses to be photographed accurately. This is a bit on the dark side. Hope you find it worth the visit.

No idea what's coming next, but I promise there will be something.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Now where was I?

It seems I've been missing in action for a while. Couldn't be helped. Thanks to all the people that keep dropping by. Now, where was I before all this. Oh yeah, I was going over what the stats say everyone likes. First was charcoal drawings, next is the Lady in the Lake theme, silverpoint is coming.

For some reason people seem to really like the Lady in the Lake. It is a nice story, but why the preoccupation? Not that important really. I haven't actually gotten back to the story, but I do have something similar that just might make do in a pinch. It's Greek mythology rather than Arthurian and it is a lady in a lake (technically a river) maybe that's close enough. So here it is The Song of the Potameides.

Oil om Canvas
25 x 36

I can here it now. Song of the what?

Potameides are one of the five types of Naiades, the nymphs of the freshwater. Potameides are the nymphs of the steams and rivers specifically. The other types are Pegaiai, the nymphs of the springs, Krinaia, the nymphs of the fountains, Linmades of Limnatides, the nymphs of the lakes, and the Eleionomai, the nymphs of the marshes. While their essence is directly tied to their specific body of water they are not confined to it. The Naiades are not immortal, but they do have extremely long life spans. However being linked to the water their fate could also be tied to it. If their lake, spring, river, fountain or marsh dries up, bad news for the naiade. Well somebody here seems to be overeducated.

I think this is the first painting I have ever done based entirely on an underlying grid. Somewhere around here I have that preliminary grid with the drawing on it, but I have no idea where it is. I think it wound up on the back of something else that has since found it's way to the trash. But I think it really helped to bring everything together. Placement of objects was pretty easy. Follow the grid structure and put it there. One thing I have wondered about is does it need more? I tend to follow the idea of if it doesn't add to the overall image, it detracts. As a result I don't do a lot of really busy pieces. Personally I like the simplicity and lack of clutter. Of course that can be overdone.