Friday, March 30, 2007

Progress: Anne

AnneYes, progress is being made, and for the most part, it's not 'ready for presentation' most of the time. To show all the steps or stages, or shoot a picture every hour on the hour would feel too much like someone is watching over my shoulder. More unnerving than creepy. Besides that, to paint something so large and make it accurate, there's a place I have to go in my head that is neither automatic nor explainable. In some ways it's mindless — not thinking about what I am painting (an eye, a cheek, a neck or hair), but rather what are the shapes and hues, values and edges that make it look good?. To snap out of such a mental place is a bit abrupt and disquieting. So I just paint on. Blank CanvasI start, of course, with a blank canvas. This one, at 32" wide by 40" high (81cm x 101cm) stares back at me like Goliath to this Little David. "Go on... I dare you," it taunts. No it's really not that bad. Even if Norman Rockwell said it better, a blank canvas just has to be dealt with. Dangling prepositions notwithstanding. The first thing I have to do is tone the canvas. This serves at least 2 purposes: One is to get rid of all that glaring white which will effectively fool my eyes while I paint, likely resulting in too light of a painting. The second it to get a darker tone down into the valleys of the canvas weave. Often when painting, a gentle brush stroke will apply paint only to the high-points of the canvas texture, (the threads and crossovers of the woven linen) leaving the valleys (the space between threads) untouched, revealing the white acrylic (in the case of this Classens 166 acrylic-primed Belgian Linen) priming. The result is an unpleasant bright speckling, especially in darker passages. Direct from the tubeWorking very quickly due to the extremely quick drying time of acrylic tube paint, with my left hand I spray a mist of water all over the surface of the canvas to wet it, then with my right hand I squeeze random squiggles of Cobalt Blue and Raw Umber Liquitex Acrylic. These are both compatible with the existing acrylic ground, and subsequent oil paint will adhere to it safely. Acrylic Brushed OutIf this were oil-primed canvas, I would have to use these colors from my oil paint supply, since acrylic cannot be painted over oil and expected to last long, if at all. Using acrylic saves waiting time. Without even taking the time to cap my acrylic tubes, I begin brushing frantically to gain an abstract thin coat of acrylic all over the surface. I do this with a moist, cheap, 1.5" house painting brush (the $1.25 kind from the warehouse hardware store whose name rhymes with Foam Depot). The already moist bristles will help the paint flow, and not grab hold of the hairs of the brush, instead. Dabbing on a textureQuickly, I grab a paper towel and start dabbing and wiping, patting and dragging. The purpose here it to gain a "natural abstract" effect, with dissimilar textures throughout, while lightening the value of this tone so that it is not too dark. This texture can add interest to areas of transparency, but will mostly be covered by the final painting. Tone CanvasIt needs to be light enough to draw on with charcoal... which is my next step. A careful drawing is done with a 4B General Charcoal Pencil. The softer charcoal pencils draw darker with a lighter touch, and are easier to erase with a kneaded eraser. In the case of this painting I erased my first completed drawing after "sleeping on it" for a night. No, I did not sleep on my painting — I did the drawing in the evening and purposely did not start the painting that night, for two important reasons: 1) I wanted to give myself a mental and visual break so that my fresh eye in the morning would warn me of any corrections that needed to be made, and 2) I wanted to have a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. Charcoal UnderdrawingBefore I retired for the night, I took one more look at the drawing and decided the figure was just a little too big for the composition, and having learned to trust my instincts, went to bed knowing that in the morning I would erase the whole thing and redraw it. I went to bed a little frustrated. Stage One PaintingThe next day I began the drawing all over again, and when satisfied that I have a good road map for beginning my painting, I start applying the darkest of the darks, wherever they fall, and begin building a shadow pattern, constantly working wet into wet. Click to view a movie of t progress so farFor the curious, I have created an audio-free, short movie of the progress thus far. It's just a few aligned still-shots cross-dissolving. Note that none of it is in a finished state, even though I appear to move from section to section somewhat thoroughly. (Quicktime 7.0 or higher required. Some browsers may force you to download the entire movie before playing. The file is 2.7MB, and you may have to right-click [PC] or option-click [Mac] to properly Save the file). The entire painting, so far, can be seen here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Still Painting Everyday...

If you have noticed a "slowing" in my postings, it is because my time is almost completely eaten up by a 32" x 40" commissioned oil portrait that will take the bulk of the rest of this week to complete. I am really enjoying this larger piece after a year of postcard-sized paintings. I wasn't sure I would. At the risk of sounding unsure of myself, to the contrary I knew it was just going to take some mental gearing-up, and didn't want that process to take too very long.

Frankly, the larger size kind of shocked me when I set it on the easel and got the drawing done. Doing mostly small works over the year, I had forgotten what such a large canvas 'felt' like staring me in the face... so much so that, in addition to the 8" x 10" sketch I did earlier, I decided to do a same-size practice (shown above) just to whip my brushes into shape and let them know we're going to be covering a lot more canvas-real-estate over the next few weeks, and dragging lot more paint here and there.

Fortunately they were listening, and caught on quickly.
Actually, the final painting, underway, is larger than the sample shown above. That canvas, shown with the quick charcoal sketch on it, and then rapidly painted, is on some cheaper canvas stock I had laying around, stretched on a smaller frame than the final, but the head and hands — my area of concentration — are same-size themselves. The scribbling off to the lower right was going to be a study of the lower hand, with the canvas rotated to 90-degrees CW... but I decided, rather absentmindedly, to just continue painting freehand down to the bottom instead of rotating to my earlier drawing.

What did I learn? Hands are harder than faces, for me. That hand area was a total mess for at least three hours, including an hour's work I just wiped right off. I guess the best part of being an old, seasoned painter is that you just know you'll get it eventually, so 'just hang in there.'
I'll be posting "segments" as I approach finish.

Friday, March 23, 2007

More Please

More, Please by David R. Darrow 6" x 9" (15.2cm x 22.9cm)
Oil on Panel SOLD Collection of Jeanne Piorkowski
Newton, NJ – USA

About This Painting

An entire bouquet of these deep magenta tulips was sitting on the kitchen counter overnight, and uncharacteristically for us, the large wooden blinds had not yet been opened, though already 8:30am.

This one tulip had stretched out from the bunch and nestled itself comfortably near the opening between the horizontal slats, comfortable enough, or nourished enough, from the morning light sneaking in that it had begun to unfold while the rest of the bouquet huddled together in the shadows, petals tightly wound in from the evening before, sleeping in.

This little optimist was already up and ready for the day, drinking in the reflected light but hoping for more.  ◙

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Uncorking A Moment

Uncorking A Moment by David R. Darrow 10" x 7" (25.4cm x 17.8cm)
Oil on Panel SOLD Collection of John Reynolds
Noblesville, IN – USA

About This Painting

Have you ever taken a nice bottle of wine to someone's home, or along for a nice, beach-side picnic — only to discover when you arrive at your destination that you have forgotten the corkscrew?

We have.

It's the kind of event that makes you think that the most important thing about a nice wine isn't the year it was bottled, the variety, the shape of the glass or even the taste. None of those are as important as a corkscrew.

I painted this corkscrew portrait of one of our favorites — the red one (we have many, since every time we forget one we have to buy another). It's a work of art itself... sleek lines, shiny chrome, rich red finish.

To the moment!  ◙

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