Category Archives: Norfolk VA

I have a plan. / Port Authority Norfolk

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A couple days ago I bought some supplies at Jerry’s Artarama. They had a sign about putting your art in the store window, so I asked about it. They want to hide the back of the display racks facing out the windows, so they are making canvases in the sizes to fit the windows. You buy an odd size canvas from them, but they will put the painting in the window and not ask any commission if someone wants to buy it. I decided to give it a try. An artist has to take advantage of free space. I’m glad Jerry’s Artarama is doing it.

So I got this 19 x 38 canvas, and thought it might be fun to use it for a panoramic scene. The place that came to mind was the view from the Hermitage Museum in Norfolk. It’s the Port Authority all the way across the Elizabeth River.

Imagine the canvas covered by sky and river with a thin strip of land breaking it up far away. The strip of land has rigs they use to load and unload ships. They’re moving giant  ships in and out every day and they have huge stacks of cargo containers too. I’ll have to paint the rigs small because they’re far away, but they’re quite large constructions.  I might use my secret masking fluid on oil paint technique for this.

That’a my charcoal sketch taped to the canvas. Since I sketched it in plein air and it wasn’t too difficult to get my drawing close to natural visual perspective, I’m pretty sure I can make it work when I paint it.

We’ve had a few cloudy rainy days which is boring for your plein air artist because there’s no shadows. I have 2 other paintings planned, but it’s good for me to go out and sketch even if it is cloudy and chilly. They are predicting more of the same dreary weather for a couple days. As soon as the sun comes out I’m going to work on my painting at Pleasure House Point. I don’t care how cold it is or if it’s windy. I’m going out to paint.

When I was at the Hermitage doing this sketch it was kind of gray blue over there in the sky and water. It makes me feel like tinting this canvas with a peachy color because that’s the complimentary color of the cold steel gray I saw out there today. Won’t that be funny to paint this scene on a peach tinted canvas? Wouldn’t it be great if I could get the bright winter sunset colors in the sky and water? Maybe I could let some of the peach tint show through. I don’t know, it’s just an idea at this point.

It might take me a few weeks to finish this, because I’m going to wait for a real pretty winter sky after I get my land and rigs roughed in on the peach color.

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7 reasons why I like sculptures for figure drawing practice

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  1. They don’t move. There’s no need to worry about running out of your 20 minute time allowance before the model needs a break. The artist can take a break any time they want to and the model will be in the exact same pose. You can even go back any time any day and the model will be the same.
  2. I can finish a drawing. Don’t get me wrong on this, open studio figure drawing practice is necessary, the more the better, but I never could finish a drawing. I had lots of sketchbooks full of sketches that I threw away when I moved. When I looked back at my figure drawings from years ago I could see an improvement that came from the open studio. I work slowly though, and I do enjoy finishing a drawing, which I could never do in the 3 hour or so time of the open studio.
  3. Lighting isn’t a problem. Check it out and decide what time of day you like the light and go then. There is no getting stuck on the dark side of the model. You can’t beat natural light.
  4. The pose is good. Like to see a graceful model in an interesting pose? Statues are more likely for that than some nude sitting or standing around.
  5. They’re ideal figures. Easy on the eyes, in perfect classical proportion.
  6. It’s not crowded. Sometimes at open studio figure drawing, my view is blocked by another artist . When I go out to draw a statue, I get to pick the best side to draw from. No other artists are there drawing.
  7. Last but not least, THEY’RE FREE! Who needs to pay a model to do figure drawing?
  8. This sculpture is “Breaking Ground”  by Kathleen Farrell. It’s the WPA monument at Norfolk Botanical Garden. During the depression the government had this project where they hired 220 African Americans to dig gardens by hand. 200 were women and 20 were men. It looks like back breaking work, doesn’t it? And that’s not all, they had to watch out for snakes, and the weather made it even more difficult. This model probably saw something moving on the ground, because she’s not looking at her shovel, she’s looking to the side. Yikes!

Whitehurst Lake in Nov. / oil

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See the photos below, stripping off the layers of glazes all the way back to my underpainting.

As I was working on this, I read a science fiction story my daughter wrote. She had a real good idea, STOPPING TIME. That’s the illusion I’d like to put into my viewers’ heads.

I often think about modern Impressionists when I’m taking my sweet time finishing a painting. The Impressionists feel like they have to rush. Their goal is to capture a moment. To me, that sounds impossible. Like a Kodak moment, like the shutter on a camera. Click, and you have the image in an instant.

It’s true, they complain because the light changes so fast. They don’t take the time to work the paint by mixing colors with a palette knife. They squirt the paint out of the tube and stick the brush right in it, mixing the colors with the brush on the canvas. That is why they have to worry about muddy colors.

Impressionists, what’s the rush? You can go to your scene a little early for the best light and mix some colors to the shade you need. You can put a glaze on the painting thinking it’s close to right. Then when you go back the next day at the same time, the light will be the same as the day before, and you can easily make corrections since the paint has partially dried overnight. You can put another glaze right over top of the previous one without smudging the colors together creating mud. You can go warmer or cooler, lighter or darker so easily. Then the eye of the viewer blends the colors and you get depth in your shadows. And the lightest and brightest colors are on top in thicker paint.

Sometimes people tell me that what I’m doing looks like magic. They see me in the same place day after day with my painting slowly evolving. I always tell them, it’s not magic. It’s an illusion. I started thinking, maybe I can make the viewer think I can stop time.

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This is my painting with one layer of glazes covering the whole canvas.

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This is my underpainting in gray on a violet tinted canvas.

A  few years ago I bought a tube of violet so I could paint some purple flowers. The violet in a tube is brighter than a violet I can mix with any red and blue. But I rarely paint purple flowers so that tube didn’t get used. I decided to tint my canvas violet instead of gray, as I did before, just to use my violet paint before it dried up.

When I tint a canvas, I thin the paint with odorless Turpenoid so it’s like a wash. It makes the pigment not bind with the Gesso. The purple pigment is kind of powdery on the canvas and rubs off even when it’s dry.  When I do my underpainting, I’m using neutral grays but the violet lifts and changes the gray. Then, I get the feeling the paint is sitting a tiny fraction of an inch off the canvas. After I put some glazes on top of my underpainting, I think they are sitting on top too, like the violet makes everything lift, visually. So, the violet is kind of fun to work on.

The underpainting is a necessary first step in this way of painting. I estimated I had 8 hours in it at this point, because first I sketched it with charcoal on paper. Then I sketched it with charcoal on the violet canvas before I started to do the underpainting.

I have to take the time to do these steps. I doubt I’ll ever learn to paint fast. I have the time to go back to the beautiful place any day and stay as long as I like. So this way of painting that was pushed on me when I was young at York Academy of Art, actually suits me fine, now, but when I was in art school, I rebelled against the Academy. hahaha

Mirror Lake with Water Lilies / oil

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When I think I’m finished, I see something that needs touching up. Good thing I didn’t clean my brushes. hahahahahha

The Water Lilies are fading fast. They’re showing brown on the edges. I kind of like the brown, but I should try to paint them when they’re blooming next year. I’m not sure what month that is.

I hope this shows up ok on the computer, because I think I can see some depth showing as I look at it here in real life.. I built up a lot of layers of glazes. It took me 2 weeks of working on it almost every day for 2 or 3 hours at a time. It rained twice and I didn’t go out to work on it those days. Yesterday was kind of chilly, but I wore layers, so it wasn’t too bad.

I’m priming a canvas for another scene at Norfolk Botanical Gardens.  I think I have time to do one more painting before the leaves are down, since we haven’t had a frost yet. It’s another beautiful scene over water.

I model the outfit I made

IMG_1879I’m standing on the bulkhead across the street from my daughter’s house in Norfolk.

The pants are Simplicity pattern 8056. The fabric is linen polyester blend. It is so cool and comfortable. That’s my favorite tie dye shirt  with a beaded fringe.

I made a slope out of muslin to try the pants pattern first. When I looked at all the pieces I had to cut and all the steps to assemble it, I wondered if I could make the slope without cutting and sewing all the pieces, but then decided I had to do it as far as getting the waist band on, because it looked difficult and complicated.  The pockets are 4 pieces each and the zipper has a fly. I’m used to doing slipcover zippers which are more simple. When I looked at the directions, I read the text, I looked at the illustrations, and I said to myself, “what?” I had to  stop and do something else because I couldn’t figure it out. A couple days later, I tried to figure it out again and still didn’t get it, so I made a guess and that wasn’t right. At least then I could see how it was meant to go together, and I was glad I made the slope, because I needed the practice! A lot of times I sew something, I have to rip my stitches and try again, so, no big deal.

The slope did fit well. I took my measurements and compared them to the chart on the pattern. I guess I’m not a standard size. So, when I cut the muslin I cut the hips bigger and the waist smaller. There’s the first step and I was just trying to make my best guess. I really needed to make the muslin first so I could check the fit, and learn the steps to assemble the pants. It was difficult the second time too, but next time it will be easier. I want to make this in green, another blue and tan. Then I’ll be all set for summer. And in a few weeks when the lotuses bloom, I’m going out wearing this to paint, and I don’t care if I get paint on my new pants. I’ll make more. At least I’ll be comfortable and dressed better than before.

A Spray of Goldenrod by Charles Courtney Curran

At the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk VA.
At the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk VA.

It’s a great show of American Impressionists titled “The Artist’s Garden”. I drove to Norfolk yesterday to see it. The show ends in the beginning of Sept.

It’s exciting to see old Impressionism. There’s a lot of variations in the different artist’s styles. These artists had academic training. You can see it in the beautifully drawn female figures. An artist doesn’t get this kind of results by tracing a photo. This took years of figure drawing practice.

I wanted to see if the old Impressionists used glazes, and yes, I see layers of glazes in a lot of the paintings. Modern Impressionists don’t use glazes. This painting shows a lot of variation in the way the paint was applied. Some is glazes and some parts are painted thick.

The old Impressionists didn’t have a formula. I doubt this was finished in one day. They had inspiration. They were daring and groundbreaking. Modern Impressionists are in a big hurry to finish paintings because they think it makes them look “prolific”. They have a good level of successful paintings that are marketable because they have a formula, which they might call “streamlining” a painting, or “simplifying” or something like that. That’s why all modern Impressionists work looks the same. Modern Impressionists are on some kind of art treadmill. I want to paint like this guy, Curran.