Monday, June 28, 2010


Speaking of detail, this one's appearance seems dramatically different with the latest additions.  (Eyes and eyebrows tend to do that.) As more of the actual model is referenced, her features seem to convey more youth and earnestness.  The animal's arrival is long overdue.   If you could only see what she and I are seeing...

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Devil's In...(Goat 6,7)

When painting a goat, one is aware of it's more sinister connotations, but I'm not really thinking of that devil.  I'm thinking of the old saying, the "Devil's in the details,"  which usually refers to some small, missed, detail that can wreck an undertaking.  In finishing a painting, I find myself more and more concerned about the detail that gets added, of overworking.  The unwanted added detail amounts to the same effect as the detail overlooked, failure, but my meaning is an inversion, a reminder to avoid the trap of detail. Distraction helps. Luckily, I've been either stretching or priming a canvas each day, so new paintings will join the cycle as these near completion. 

Here are the two latest sessions, with the right showing the current state.   More light has been built up over the face and arm, adding more solidity to the form.  A little youthful roundness has left, the eyes are more tranquil with information added.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


I've made a lot fuss over the cat in this painting, so when it comes to a title, I had thought of simply calling it "Millie."   I tend towards pretty dry titles, in the Modernist vain of "Sleep no. 1" and "Sleep no.6.  Such work makes sense in a title formal series and leaves the viewer to wrestle with looking at the painting without an easy lifeline.    After all, shouldn't the painting to do the work without having to being completed with a title?  I'm also keen on a little bit of mystery. People are infinitely complex and a good portrait just scratches the surface, telling you little more than the sitter's name.   For observed portraits it seems pretentious to make up something literary, so I usually go with something obvious like "Beata and Sadie."  Things are getting a little stranger with the narrative paintings, however, and stranger still when I'm inventing the sitter.   There's a history I'm digging through, someone I'm discovering, and a new working title comes to mind:  "Leonora's Venetian Tendencies."  I'll live with it for a while and see if it sticks.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Rough, Smooth

Between the relative ideas of rough and smooth, I would say my surfaces tend more towards the rough, but only if you compared them with a highly varnished panel.  (A Dutch still life comes to mind.) With regards to the image, most people would still see the image as smooth, thinking of the roundness of the form, even when looking at at painting with a lot of impasto, and general crusty paint. (Monet's haystacks, as an example.) I tend to let surfaces mostly dry and allow opaque layers to show one over another over many sessions.  This latest layer had a lot of direct painting into a wet surface and it felt uncharacteristically smooth. (Previous layers.)   With this series, I am really trying to keep the surfaces as thin for the very practical idea of getting them to Poland.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

4,5 Enlargement

The goat had been bothering me.  When I was laying it out, it seemed overwhelming to paint it in to adult scale.  In a series featuring relatively small animals, a real goat seemed huge.  For weeks, I left it under the premise that it was a baby goat. The goat actually owned by the woman in the portrait is much, much larger, but if I rarely worry about an exact human likeness, why fret over a goat?  It's the painting that matters-- its truth trumps nature.  Well, it was a cute goat, and if unblemished beauty has a rough time making the cut in one of my paintings, cuteness doesn't stand a chance. It's still not to actual scale, but I'm satisfied with the compromise--currently. 

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Enter: Millie

Thanks to my mother and sister for responding so quickly to my plea for a cat reference.  And the winner is-- mom's Millie from Nashville!   So, I've got her blocked in after only one false start.   Reminds me that it's been too long since I painted a cat--eight years!  Yikes, but since I put three in that painting, I still average one cat every two years.  On a side note, I'm not sure what it implies when I've made up the human in the painting and then referenced an actual animal, who's almost a relative. (Step cat?)       

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Another new one;  I snapped a few pictures during the drawing process so you could see me working with an idea.   Something I tell young students, a painting isn't started until all the white (in this case, pink)  is covered. I mainly tell them this to give them something very simple to achieve in the first class to break through the intimidation of starting a painting.   I don't ask for quality, just coverage.

I often use a toned ground for the same purpose and to see value relationships more clearly, yet I become just as reluctant to see this new clean surface disappear. Drawing on canvas is so beautiful in itself that it could be tempting to just leave it as it is.  When the ground is covered, that energy of a start does die a little, but it leads to a new, quieter, level of process. 

Monday, June 7, 2010

That Monday Feeling

I'm always quite excited to pull an abandoned painting out of the pile, so if it a less-than joyous image, it is a joyous occasion.  Not content to simply have five canvas portraits in the works, I had to pull out a panel to have a nocturne to tinker with. 

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sunday to Sunday

Here's what happens in a week to over the start I shared last Sunday. I liked the initial composition enough not to push the figure around so much as I tend to do with my usual starts, so the composition and image look pretty much the same.   What is harder to notice is the layers being built over what was a very thin oil sketch that makes it into a painting.   My type of painting is almost low relief; building the surface and projecting the forms feels like making sculpture.  Still, the image is evolving in minor ways, it is a bit more male now from its somewhat androgynous start, and the owl is certainly fluffier.  

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Goat 3,4

The changes are getting more subtle in the middle stages, might be a bit boring from a new image perspective, but this is where all the work gets done. To keep it just a little interesting, here are different sessions that I have not posted.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

For Want of a Cat

When I last left off with this painting, what I'd always imagined to be a small cat was starting to look a lot like a Gila Monster.   I was actually imagining it in closer proximity to the figure's neck.  With all the nurturing going on the rabbit painting, I started pushing this painting in a different direction.   I'm now imagining a more the cat far more upright and confrontational, and a bit larger, with its mouth open.  Alas, I've hit the limits of my imagination since I lack a cat.   Oh yes, and that troublesome window has been removed and we now find ourselves outside?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


The rabbit has arrived! Somewhere, someone might recognize their bunny, if they can see through all the violet.  (I nicked it's head from a photo on the internet.)  As you could see in the previous post on this one, the figure has been wholly imagined, but I'm starting to recognize a bit of self-portrait.   Even though I haven't painted myself from life in years, I think most artists use themselves as the default for idealized forms.