I had only an hour or so to paint today, in late afternoon, and as I was wrapping up a parade of cute trick-or-treaters came ambling by. Fun! I also had fun painting this little scene. I removed trash cans and cars, and I sneaked in a few extra fall colors, so the picture is more idyllic than the reality. So be it!
It was our first nice fall day of the year, or so it seemed, so I finally got a chance to search for some fall colors to paint. I found some muted ones on Norfolk Street, in Bethesda. My ink sketch was promising, but I dithered too long with the oil painting, and by the time I had settled on a composition, everything was basically in shadow. It’s a lot easier to convey form when things have both a light side and a shadow side! So this is one case in which I prefer my 5-minute sketch to my 3-hour painting.
In life class we almost always have a nude model, but I almost always paint the portrait, not the full figure. I do draw the full figure in our warm-ups, but for a painting, I am generally most interested in the subject’s face. This time, though, the reclining pose really called for a figure study. I did this in about an hour and forty-five minutes.
I’ve been itching to paint this house for months, and today I finally got to it. It took about two hours. I got cold and declared victory!
Before I did the painting, I did this little sketch. The idea of the sketch was “light house against dark background.”
My family and I went to see the New York Rangers tangle with the Washington Capitals this evening, and I did a few gesture sketches. Disclaimer: it’s hard to draw moving hockey players! Fun and good practice, though.
I did this portrait in about two hours in life class today. As always, more time would have been nice, but I did get a likeness.
I did a number of fast sketches while I was at Yale for Family Weekend. Here’s a quick depiction of the Old Campus, looking west toward Connecticut Hall. It took about 5-10 minutes.
I saw a football game at the Yale Bowl, something I last did 36 years ago. Fun! We hosted Dartmouth. We shall not speak of the outcome. Here’s a quick sketch.
Today I started drawing and painting Wisconsin Avenue looking south toward Chevy Chase Acura and downtown Bethesda. Here’s the oil painting, still in its early stages:
And here’s the preliminary sketch I did, in black carbon ink and purple water-soluble ink. I hope to return over the next few days, but parking is difficult there during the week, so I may not finish this for a while!
Natalya is a striking model with high cheekbones and scarlet hair. Alas, I ran out of time before I could finish modeling her ear and neck, I only sketched her hair, and I never got around to detailing her eyes. Even so, it’s a reasonable likeness.
We have some nice flowers out on our back porch, and it was the first nice day since July, so I rushed outside to paint. My plein air skills are a bit rusty, but I think it turned out reasonably well.
I’ve been working on this copy of Vermeer’s “Girl with a Red Hat,” which hangs in the National Gallery of Art here in Washington. It’s a challenging project because the original is so small, and I’m painting at roughly the same scale.
Also, it’s hard to find a definitive photo! In my Vermeer book, the painting looks dark; online photos often look much brighter. I have stared at the painting in person many times, and I’ve taken my own photos, but I’d still be better off setting up an easel right in front of the painting in the National Gallery. Maybe one day I’ll join the artist-copyist program the Gallery sponsors.
I like the way it’s going so far. I’m not striving for an identical replica. Mostly I’m trying to learn from the experience of copying it. And I’m having fun painting that crazy fuzzy hat!
It was the first nice day in months, or so it seemed, so I got out to do some drawing and painting. I started with an ink sketch of a nearby house, and then I sketched it in oils. This was my first session with my tiny new “Thumbbox,” a pochade box that holds only 6” x 8” panels. I hadn’t painted this small in a while, so it was an adjustment, but I still had fun. Here’s the ink study:
After a three-month hiatus, my regular life class finally resumed today. I draw every day, but I still felt rusty! I did this oil sketch in about 90 minutes, using a limited palette of Alizarin Crimson, Cadmium Red Light, Viridian, Mars Black, and Titanium White. Given the long layoff, I wasn’t expecting too much of myself, but I thought this turned out reasonably well.
For the past couple of days, all I’ve done is sign paintings. I’ve got a show coming up (Nov. 24-25 at the Yellow Barn Studio in Glen Echo Park, Maryland), and I’ve got to sign and frame dozens of paintings between now and then. I’m often reluctant to sign because paintings are never really finished. (As Leonardo said, art is never finished; it’s merely abandoned.) It’s also a bit nerve-wracking to “write” with a paintbrush, especially when the paint is still wet, so I often wait to sign until the painting is dry to the touch.
Anyway, I thought I’d share a few examples of my various signature styles. First up, here’s a full painting, including signature, to provide context.
And here’s a close-up of the signature in the lower-left-hand corner. That location is unusual for me; usually I pick the lower-right. In this case, I felt I had more room on the left.
Here are a few others, without the full picture. The first is a signature from my copy of Sargent’s portrait of Lady Astor. Do you think my “SARGENT” is clear enough?
The next one was done in gouache and watercolor, which gave me the luxury of signing with a pen or pencil, allowing me to use cursive. If I had my druthers, I’d sign my paintings this way too.
Actually, my very first oil painting does bear a decent cursive signature. Maybe I shouldn’t give up on signing this way.
But block letters are easier, especially if I’m trying to sign something while painting plein air. Some purists say a painting isn’t “plein air” unless everything is done on the spot, including the signature. I’m not a purist, but if a plein air piece is done, I will sign it to make the purists happy! I’ll leave you with a few examples.
It's been too hot to draw anywhere outside other than the swimming pool! So I did this sketch of a sunbather at the pool.
We moved our daughter into Yale this past Friday -- almost exactly 40 years to the day after my parents moved me into Yale. Friday also happened to be my birthday, which was cool too. We stayed for much of the weekend, and we enjoyed the opening ceremony in Woolsey Hall.
I found a few spare minutes to draw on Yale's Old Campus. What a glorious abundance of subject-matter to choose from! I wish I'd had time to do more. I hope I will have more time in October, when I return for Family Weekend -- maybe this time with watercolors or even oils.
The weather finally cooled off a bit, so I stepped outside to paint ... my recycling bin. Why not? The drawing needs a little adjustment, but it's a fun little study.
Illustrator Jim Kay has been lending his prodigious skills to the Harry Potter series; he's illustrated three so far. The pictures are wonderful! I'm glad that Kay doesn't mimic the films. Instead he offers his own unique vision of the magical world. He likes to work from life: he uses real people as models for most of the portraits, and he built maquettes (3D models) for characters like Dobby. You can learn more at his website here. You can find the books here.
My renewed interest in the Harry Potter series coincides with the departure of my daughter for college -- her own version of Hogwarts. I like to think that I'm a better dad than Vernon Dursley, though. :)
Here's an example of the art from volume 1. Kay's Hermione is modeled after Kay's niece, but she also has bushy hair and other features described by J.K. Rowling. I love the graffiti on the door, the cool reflected light on Hermione's face, the way she grips her wand in the middle (not at the end), and above all the intelligence in her eyes.
Here's another painting from Rehoboth, this time of the beach itself. I did this around the same time I did the picture of Silver Lake in the previous post.