Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Sketchbook: Two Drawings Of Women.

I've been playing around with materials -- experimenting with metallic leaf and letting the watercolor do its own thing.

Tamara (Watercolor in Moleskine sketchbook, 5x8").

Jen Pregnant (Ink, acrylic, casein, and imitation gold leaf in Moleskine sketchbook, 5x8").

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Art: Portrait of Samantha.

Portrait of Samantha (Oil on canvas, 9x12").

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Art: Waiting.

Waiting (Oil on illustration board, 15x20").  Available until 4/1 at Chicano Art Gallery in San Diego.

A few close-ups:

This was my second entry in the No Place Like Home group art show.  Its creation was due to a timely series of encounters.

First, I caught the Richard Diebenkorn exhibit at the Palm Springs Art Museum. I'm not particularly fond of abstract art.  To me, it exclaims, "I Can't Draw!"  But I found myself riveted by Diebenkorn's work. I understood that despite his abstraction, there's a draftsman at work. He knows how to draw.  His choices are actual choices, and not due to a lack of technical proficiency.  I became enamored with his layering of paint, heavy texture, and how he chose to render objects. My favorite piece was Knife In a Glass.  I stood in front of it for fifteen minutes and returned to it often while wandering through the exhibit.

Richard Diebenkorn. Knife in a Glass. 1963.

In many of his paintings, he toned the canvas with a solid color -- often red.  That background became an essential part of the painting because it peeked through the subsequent layers and provided a counterpoint. I loved his brushstrokes and how he let the blue undertone filter into this painting, creating harmony with the color of the knife.  While not true, the knife's handle felt like it was rendered in two brushstrokes.  The hilt of the knife was composed of a thick dark gob of paint that arose from the canvas. The highlights on the glass were pure white paint draped on top.  The application of paint on this painting was incredible.  It created interest.  I studied it closely, and every time I returned I noticed something new.

A week later, my wife and I walked through the San Diego flea market, and I caught this birdhouse sitting in the middle of random ephemera.

I felt enamored with its shape and how the light struck its surface to create dramatic shadows.  While at the flea market, I bought a birdhouse for five dollars.

I brought the birdhouse home and wondered where it would hang.  What location would make it attractive and safe for birds?  Would a bird ever find sanctuary there?  Once I hung the birdhouse, it would just sit there waiting.

As for process....

I applied four layers of gesso to the illustration board.  I prefer using illustration board over other surfaces.  It is light and thin which makes it easy to store.  The surface is smooth and I can adjust the texture by varying my gesso application.  It absorbs paint at a rate that works well for me.

I sketched the general outline of the birdhouse in pencil and then toned the entire board with Gamblin's cadmium red light, knowing that parts of the red would poke through the canvas.  The red was transparent enough that I could still see my drawing.  Using a palette knife, I loosely began covering the entire board with paint, feeling my way around, pulling and dragging and scraping and changing angles.  I applied thick dabs of paint to create peaks, much like I observed on Diebenkorn's paintings.  I used a brush only where appropriate.

I reveled in the looseness, spawned by a synergy of events.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Art: Life Is Elsewhere.

Life is Elsewhere (Ink on paper map, mounted on Masonite, 12x18"). Available at Chicano Art Gallery (San Diego) until April.

In January, I was invited to participate in a group art show with the theme, No Place Like Home.  The only requirement was that each piece had to contain a house.  The house could be any size, shape or design. Without impetus to work large or develop fully realized pieces, I spend my time working on studies in sketchbooks or on newsprint.  This opportunity arrived at a perfect time.  It gave me motivation to create large, completed pieces.

I enjoy working with a constraint.  It provides a challenge and funnel to channel ideas.  However, I struggled with the house theme and am unsure why. I didn't want the house to feel forced.  It had to appear organic. But after a few weeks of having "house on the brain," I erupted with all of these ideas.  I wasn't sure if any of them would work but I ended up developing six pieces with different styles and ideas.  It was fun to explore. Two of the pieces were included in the show, with the piece above, Life Is Elsewhere, being one of them.

When I look out the airplane's window, I find myself constantly wondering how my life would be different had I grown up in the locales revealed below me.  Would I be essentially the same?  Wildly different?  Would my life be better?  Worse?  What experiences would I have had?  I'm fascinated by the concept.

There is a quote by Arthur Rimbaud: What a life! True life is elsewhere. We are not in the world.

This became the basis of Milan Kundera's novel titled, Life Is Elsewhere.  Another novel called, Prague by Arthur Phillips, developed a similar concept.  The idea is that we think our life would be better if we only lived over there.... or people in this other place are having so much more fun than I am.  It's that something is better somewhere else.

I decided to explore this in my piece.

I purchased a paper map of the United States and mounted it to Masonite using matte medium.  It becomes an adhesive when paper is placed on top of a wet layer.  When applied on top of paper, it dries clear and can be used as a base for either water or oil based mediums.  I started by airbrushing white ink on top of the map.  Coincidentally, this made it appear as clouds, very similar to when I fly in a plane and look out the window.  Little patches could be seen here and there.

I won't go into reasons why I added and arranged the specific elements as I did -- that will be up to the viewer.  But to explain the technical process... the figure was hand-drawn on tracing paper and transferred to the map using carbon copy.  I tried drawing on the map directly in pencil but it was too faint to read.  The carbon copy method allowed me to perfect the drawing on the tracing paper and transfer dark lines to the map.  I inked the figure using a Winsor and Newton Series #7 brush.  I airbrushed white ink over top to soften the edges.  I cut a template for the golden symbols and airbrushed them using Daler-Rowney Raw Sienna acrylic ink.  I went back over them with a brush using opaque Gold acylic ink.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Art Show: No Place Like Home (3/15).


I'll have two new pieces at the No Place Like Home group art show opening this Saturday (3/15) in San Diego's Barrio Logan neighborhood.  Stop by to see some great art, say hello, have some beer, and listen to some tunes.

Chicano Art Gallery - 2117 Logan Ave. #1, San Diego, California 92113

Monday, March 10, 2014

Art: Julie With Fallen Dress.

Julie With Fallen Dress (Watercolor, ink, gesso, and aluminum leaf on wood, 6x8").

I gessoed a cradled birch board and free-handed a pencil drawing of Julie.  My photoshoot with Julie took place over two years ago and it's become my most prolific source of reference material.  There is something about her features and form that enable me to render her almost effortlessly.  I've drawn over a hundred models -- several of them many times over -- and I'm fascinated why some are so much easier to draw than others.

Upon completing the sketch it became decision time.  I thought I wanted to render her in the style of a 60's lifestyle illustration -- with dark outline and monotone paint scheme -- but I was unclear on the mediums. I knew that I definitely wanted to experiment with metallic leaf so that played into the decision.  I had to use a water-based medium since oil would create a mess when I tried to apply and remove the metal leaf.  I could have placed the leaf first and then rendered in oil, but since it was my first time using leaf, a water based medium provided margin.

I thought it would be best to start transparent (watercolor) because I could always go over it with an opaque (gouache/casein/acrylic) if necessary.  I used a watercolor pan set and liked the results.  For the majority of the inking, I used a Hunt #102 pen nib.  I employed a Windsor&Newton Series7 #2 brush to fill in larger areas and create a few nuanced marks.

I expected the application of the leaf to be difficult, and the removal to be easy, but the opposite occurred.  I taped off a square and applied Mona Lisa Adhesive Size with a brush, carefully rendering around the head.  After waiting thirty minutes for the size to become tacky, I laid down the leaf and pressed it down using my thumb and rolling brayer, keeping the tissue paper in between to not damage the leaf.  Online instructions recommended using a squirrel hair brush to remove the unglued portions of leaf.  Not having this type of brush, I opted to use a sable, but this seemed to be too soft.  Removing the excess leaf involved rotating through a razor blade and various brushes to find the proper combination and angles.

Initially, I thought I would paint the background a cadmium red color for contrast, but liking the white, decided to keep that background untouched.  One thing I like is how the whole piece changes depending on angle and its setting.