Pete

This was the first time I’d painted this model, and I enjoyed it. I was aiming for a higher-key, sunnier vibe than the more serious “Gentleman” I painted last week. I also experimented with what Charles Reid calls color “tie-ins” — that is, linking color in different parts of the picture in unexpected ways. For example, I tried some flesh tones in the hair, some overlap between shirt and background, and some blues and greens in the model’s face.

It’s also a pretty good likeness, though I think I shaved off a couple years. Most models don’t object to that.

Geoff Watson, “Pete,” oil on panel, 11” x 14,” 2019.

Geoff Watson, “Pete,” oil on panel, 11” x 14,” 2019.

Cadmium-free apple

Today I spent the afternoon painting (drum roll) an apple. I just bought some "Cadmium-free red" and “Cadmium-free yellow” from Utrecht paints. I'd heard about them from their designer, who was interviewed on Eric Rhodes' Plein Air Podcast. So I wanted to paint something with red and yellow to try them out. Thus the choices were (1) an apple, (2) a peach, or (3) the national flag of Spain or China. As I had no peaches or flags lying around, I went with an apple. I liked the paints but found them a tad dry; nothing medium won't fix.

To add to the fun, I also chose to follow Mark Carder's "color checker" method. For more info, see his website and many interesting videos: http://www.drawmixpaint.com/

I own Mr. Carder’s color-checker, so I made myself check almost all the colors I put in. He wants you to put in just one little stripe of color wherever you see it, and never to blend. Mostly I did that. For me, it's great training in judging values (i.e., lights and darks). Whenever I do his method, I'm always amazed at how poorly I judge shadow values: they're almost always darker than I expect. A LOT darker than I expect. The cast shadow here should be darker, but the only way I could figure to do that was with black, and I didn't want black.

I didn't color-check the background because I wanted to change it to suit my evil compositional design -- darker background by the lightest side of the apple, for example. Mwuhaha!

Geoff Watson, “Cadmium-free apple,” oil on panel, 6” x 6,” 2019.

Geoff Watson, “Cadmium-free apple,” oil on panel, 6” x 6,” 2019.

A Gentleman (finished)

This was the second session of a two-session pose. I spent a bit less than 4 hours total on the painting. At the end of the first session, the likeness wasn’t great; you can see it in my March 4 post. So I focused hard on improving the drawing at the start of today’s session, and within a half hour I had a good likeness — and it got better as the session went along. I’m quite pleased with the final result, though as always I needed more time. The shadows on the side of the face need a little smoothing and refining, and it would’ve been nice to add more detail to the outfit.

Alas, neither of the photos below does it justice; the second photo shows off the color better, I think.

Geoff Watson, “A Gentleman,” oil on panel, 11” x 14,” 2019.

Geoff Watson, “A Gentleman,” oil on panel, 11” x 14,” 2019.

Geoff Watson, “A Gentleman (detail),” oil on panel, 11” x 14,” 2019.

Geoff Watson, “A Gentleman (detail),” oil on panel, 11” x 14,” 2019.

Watercolor sketches

I’ve been painting in watercolor every day this week for a change of pace. I love working in watercolor, but I do find them more challenging than oils. Here are a few example’s of the week’s work.

First, a pair of interior sketches — the first in watercolor, the second a quick pencil study.

Geoff Watson, “Interior sketch,” watercolor on paper, about 8” x 10,” 2019.

Geoff Watson, “Interior sketch,” watercolor on paper, about 8” x 10,” 2019.

Geoff Watson, “Quick interior sketch,” graphite on paper, about 5” x 8,” 2019.

Geoff Watson, “Quick interior sketch,” graphite on paper, about 5” x 8,” 2019.

Next, my trusty stainless-steel water bottle. I spent all of 60 seconds on this, but I like the orange.

Geoff Watson, “Sketch of a water bottle,” watercolor on paper, about 4” x 6,” 2019.

Geoff Watson, “Sketch of a water bottle,” watercolor on paper, about 4” x 6,” 2019.

Finally, my piano bench. For the first four decades of my life, music — especially piano — was my main creative outlet. But as I grew older, my fingers and hands started to ache when I played piano. For whatever reason, painting doesn’t bother my hands much at all, so I moved from performing to visual arts. Although I have been drawing my whole life.

Geoff Watson, “Piano bench,” watercolor on paper, about 4” x 4,” 2019.

Geoff Watson, “Piano bench,” watercolor on paper, about 4” x 4,” 2019.

A gentleman (Day 1)

The lighting for this pose was somewhat better, and I had an easier time of it. This was the first of a two-session pose, so I didn’t get to some stuff, notably the blank area around his ear and his clothing. And I should tone down the expression I’ve given him! But it’s a decent start, I think.

Geoff Watson, “A Gentleman (in progress),” oil on panel, 11” x 14,” 2019.

Geoff Watson, “A Gentleman (in progress),” oil on panel, 11” x 14,” 2019.

Jolene

The lighting at today’s life class was confusing because we had to deal with three light sources. (1) A warm spotlight; (2) slightly less warm overhead lights; and (3) behind us, a wall of bright windows (covered with ineffective curtains) casting cool light on the model -- and glare on my painting surface. I found these conditions difficult.

Anyway, I did my best. We had the model in front of us for a couple hours (minus breaks). But I confess I spent a half hour touching things up after class at home, working from memory with no photo reference — not a great way to improve the likeness. At least I had my new Revelite easel light illuminating my panel properly. "Jolene," oil on panel, 11" x 14."

Geoff Watson, “Jolene,” oil on panel, 11” x 14,” 2019.

Geoff Watson, “Jolene,” oil on panel, 11” x 14,” 2019.

Darien bookstore

We visited southern New England last fall, and I drew a few sketches and took a few photos. I did a watercolor of one such scene last night; it took a bit more than an hour. I like how it turned out, though I confess I have a lot of trouble taking good photos of my watercolor paintings. It’s not so much the curled edge of the sketchbook paper as accurate depiction of colors and temperature. This picture is warmer than the original, and it looks better in the original sketchbook. Still, I hope you get the idea.

Geoff Watson, “Darien shops,” watercolor on sketchbook paper, about 4” x 7”, 2019.

Geoff Watson, “Darien shops,” watercolor on sketchbook paper, about 4” x 7”, 2019.

Here’s another imperfect photo. I’m not sure cropping it shows it off better. If the photo above is too warm, this photo is too cool!

Geoff Watson, “Darien shops,” watercolor on sketchbook paper, about 4” x 7,” 2019.

Geoff Watson, “Darien shops,” watercolor on sketchbook paper, about 4” x 7,” 2019.

Snowy road

I did a pencil sketch of this snowy road a couple of weeks ago, after a light dusting of snow, and finally got around to developing the sketch into a little studio watercolor. I’m afraid I haven’t photographed it very well; the original is somewhat cooler and whiter.

Geoff Watson, “Snowy road,” watercolor and gouache on paper, 5” x 8,” 2019.

Geoff Watson, “Snowy road,” watercolor and gouache on paper, 5” x 8,” 2019.

Here’s an earlier version, photographed in cooler light. The colors are closer to the original. There’s not much color in the painting, to be honest, as the scene was mostly grey and white. Still, I need to add more color to my watercolor. :)

Geoff Watson, “Snowy road (in progress),” watercolor and gouache on paper, 5” x 8,” 2019.

Geoff Watson, “Snowy road (in progress),” watercolor and gouache on paper, 5” x 8,” 2019.

Sketch of Moe

I did this oil sketch of Moe in about 40 minutes today, in life class. I wasted much of class prepping my panel and then dashing to my car repeatedly to grab supplies I forgot to bring inside. So this quick painting is very rough, mostly painted with a very big brush in one go. Next time I’ll get to class early!

“Sketch of Moe,” oil on panel, 11” x 14,” 2019.

“Sketch of Moe,” oil on panel, 11” x 14,” 2019.

Experimenting

I started this portrait of Moe in life class a couple weeks ago, and today we continued with the same pose, but I had a different vantage point. So, prompted by my instructor, I experimented with the composition. Eventually I’d like to achieve the lost and distorted edges produced by artists like Terry Miura, but I can see it will take a lot of practice. Even so, this was a decent start.

“Moe with distortions,” oil on panel, 11” x 14,” 2019.

“Moe with distortions,” oil on panel, 11” x 14,” 2019.

A strange lay-in

Today after life class I stupidly left my easel and painting in the studio! Fortunately, my instructor noticed and stored them for me. But that means I don’t have a photo of the progress I made. I do have this photo I happened to snap of the lay-in after maybe 45 minutes of work. It’s sort of strange, as you can see, but interesting too. Obviously I hadn’t figured out where that left foot is!

Once I recover the painting and easel, I’ll try to bring order to the chaos in our next session, next week.

Geoff Watson, “A strange lay-in (in progress),” oil on panel, 12” x 16,” 2019.

Geoff Watson, “A strange lay-in (in progress),” oil on panel, 12” x 16,” 2019.

Nell Painter's "Old in Art School"

I’m listening to Nell Painter’s book “Old in Art School.” I highly recommend it. Dr. Painter, a very well-regarded historian, left her tenured position at Princeton to enroll in an undergraduate art program at Rutgers and, later, an M.F.A. program at the Rhode Island School of Design. This book, read by her, is her account of these experiences.

She describes the ups and downs of art school in vivid terms. She describes teachers who are sometimes supportive and sometimes unaccountably stupid — e.g., telling her she’d never be an artist. Her fellow students can be energetic and friendly but also inattentive and rude. The “art world” she describes seems hostile to traditional representational art, and sometimes I get the impression that the schools discourage her from appreciating that form of art. She is chastised, for example, for looking at things with “20th century eyes.” I find myself urging her not to abandon those eyes.

It’s not just her eyes that look backward; it’s her historian’s instinct too. At one point she says she wishes she’d gotten into Yale’s M.F.A. program, not only because it’s a great art school, but also because it’s part of a broader university with an art history and history department. Her training as a historian pushes her to put art in a broader context — to relate art history to “history history,” as she calls it.

I especially enjoy the autobiographical parts of the book: her experiences as an African-American woman who occasionally “lets her guard down”; her relationship with her aging parents; the way she uses libraries; her struggles to commute from Newark to Brunswick; her life in her own apartment, away from her husband, in Providence. I also like that her book has induced me to explore some of the African-American art that she admires.

As someone who has come to art later in life, I identify a lot with what Dr. Painter has to say! You can find the book here. You can see some of her artwork at her website.

Emily, week 2

This was the second session of a two-session pose. I’m pretty happy with it; the likeness is good, and the colors are juicy.

Geoff Watson, “Emily in January,” oil on panel, 11” x 14,” 2019.

Geoff Watson, “Emily in January,” oil on panel, 11” x 14,” 2019.

Moe

I’ve never had the privilege of painting Moe before. Wow, what a great model! He’s got a handsome face and fantastic physique, and he’s a super nice guy — just a treat to paint. This was the first of a two-session pose; not sure whether to refine this next time or start a new one, perhaps of his whole figure. Either way, I really look forward to painting him again.

Geoff Watson, “Moe,” study in progress, oil on panel, 11” x 14,” 2019.

Geoff Watson, “Moe,” study in progress, oil on panel, 11” x 14,” 2019.

Emily in January

This is the first of a two-week portrait study. I suppose this is a brunaille — a brownish underpainting. I was focusing on getting the drawing right, not really attending to color. It’s close to a likeness, but Emily is younger and slimmer in real life, so I will try to fix those things next week. I hope I have enough time to add some detail to her eyes, too.

Geoff Watson, “Emily in January,” oil on panel, 11” x 14,” 2019.

Geoff Watson, “Emily in January,” oil on panel, 11” x 14,” 2019.

Mallina at the wall

Life class finally resumed today, after a too-long layoff, and I was definitely rusty. But it was great to work on figure and portrait drawing and painting again. I did this quick study in about 90 minutes. The model posed right against a white wall, which made for interesting shadows.

Geoff Watson, “Mallina at the wall,” oil on panel, about 8” x 14,” 2018.

Geoff Watson, “Mallina at the wall,” oil on panel, about 8” x 14,” 2018.

New Year's art resolutions

Happy New Year! I’ve been busy preparing to return to teaching this semester, but I still plan to paint or draw every day. My New Year’s resolution is to paint 50 pictures this year — but to paint them more carefully, with more attention to detail. I will experiment more with converting plein air studies and other reference material into finished studio landscapes. I’m reading Michael Chesley Brown’s book on the subject now.

In general I don’t paint exclusively from photos, but I’m not a fanatic about it. I did the painting below as a commission, using the client’s photo reference and other photos. It was fun!

Geoff Watson, “New light,” oil on panel, 11” x 14,” 2018.

Geoff Watson, “New light,” oil on panel, 11” x 14,” 2018.

T. A. Moulton Barn

The T. A. Moulton Barn is, apparently, the most famous barn in Wyoming. It stands guard in front of the Tetons. I painted this little picture as a Christmas gift for relatives who live in the area. As I said in my last post, Santa’s elves have a couple more gift paintings on the way!

Geoff Watson, “T. A. Moulton Barn,” oil on panel, 5” x 7,” 2018.

Geoff Watson, “T. A. Moulton Barn,” oil on panel, 5” x 7,” 2018.

Santa is busy painting

Santa here! I’ve been busy painting several pictures as Christmas presents, and I won’t be able to post them here until the big day arrives. In the meantime, I thought I’d treat you to my portrait by Norman Rockwell, the great (and under-rated) American painter and illustrator. (In a later post, I’ll consider Rockwell in more depth; his work didn’t simply consist of idealized depictions of American life, but also took up themes like civil rights and mistreatment of African-Americans.) For now, enjoy!

Norman Rockwell, “Santa with Elves,” cover of the Saturday Evening Post, Dec. 2, 1922.

Norman Rockwell, “Santa with Elves,” cover of the Saturday Evening Post, Dec. 2, 1922.