Monday, July 25, 2011

Painting: Portrait of two children

Portrait of Two Children
24" x 36" 
Acrylic on Canvas
(Original source photo by Vanessa Day, photographer extraordinaire and a good friend of mine)

This painting has been such a challenge and a reward, and I'll be honest, some of the best portraiture I've done in a while. (Not being said in a self satisfied way, more of a half surprised tone of voice considering that I haven't been as prolific as years past)

I started this painting off really strongly, got the base painting layers down in one wonderful day of loud music and alone time. Had most major issues figure out at that point. Now normally, I just keep going, fueling myself on the little victories and the build up of progress until I complete the entire piece. I have no problem painting for hours on end, listening to the same album to keep the progress going.

This time was different. I got the base layers down and then life kind of exploded into a juggling act of my job, my family, training for a race and preparing for Africa. The painting sat. First on my easel, then relegated to the less visible spot beside my couch (so it wouldn't keep making me feel guilty) I knew that I still had some major questions of "how am I going to visually resolve this" to answer and some of those potential answers were not there yet or I knew would take an investment of a chunk of time I knew I did not possess in a large enough block to keep momentum going. So it sat.

I wasn't forgotten and it wasn't being completely neglected. Often when I'm puzzling through those questions, I'm working on other, smaller pieces and things that happen in those pieces answer the questions in bigger pieces. That was the case with this work. I kept doing painting and overwrites in my head for many weeks.

I had set aside my first weeks of summer to tackle this finally and when the first session came, I was surprised at how easily I fell back into the engagement level I had in the base layers. I hit some frustrations on problem solving that I had not anticipated. In a moment of frustration, I laid down some thin washes of off white to tone the entire piece and unify it somewhat (this is a veeeeeeeeery old style for me to work with, one that I had abandoned for many years) and I was surprised at how that one irritated move unlocked the entire painting. It fueled the fire to keep moving.

Anyways, I'm pleased with this piece. It was a reminder of why I love, love, love portraiture. Thanks also to Vanessa for the source photo - that was such a treat to work from. My source photos are usually terrible.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Painting: African Landscape

36" x 36" 
Acrylic on Canvas

This is the first finished painting from my trip. I went back to the good ol' square format. There are a few things that are new, and a few that are old. 

Some new: 

Red Oxide as my base colour. Yowzers. Not Yellow Ochre? What? But all your other paintings from the beginning of time have a Yellow Ochre base! I know, I know. Africa changed me. 

Look at those unashamed greens. This was a real exercise in bringing the vibrant hues in line with the clouds. I kept bringing up the green, then toning it down in thin layers. 

Some old: 

No texture. As mentioned previously, there are lots of thin layers. This reminds me of how I painted when I was in high school. Thin wash over thin wash. Almost painful in some ways because change takes a long time to become apparent. 

I've been trying to strike a balance between the thin washes with thick daubs of paint in some areas (no texture though) I'm going to keep tinkering with this idea to see how it progresses. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Painting Study: African Woman Cooking

While in Bulembu, we did a few walking tours, taking in the town, the enterprises and the people. We came upon this woman who was cooking lunch for a group of local children who were spending the day at a track meet. I was so pleased to snap a quick picture of her assortment of pots and utensils. Her full skirt was pretty too.

As you can see, the greens and the rusty red earth are more predominant here in this painting. Since it is just a study, it isn't as refined as other paintings. I kind of like the rough brush strokes.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Spring in Review

Hello again!

I'm safe and sound, back from Africa and I've survived my spring.

Things turned super hectic once I came home and while I kept painting, blogging really fell down the priority list.

Some things to note:

Swaziland and South Africa was a lot to take in. Considering that I'm still digesting my trip to Turkey in 2010, this one may take a while to emerge fully. Let it suffice for now that the people were amazing, the landscape was breath taking and all the preconceived notions I took with me were dismantled one by one. I understand Africa less now than I did before I went. It was awesome.

My palette is changing. The colours in Africa were so rich and vivid. I'm noticing stronger greens and oranges. This is unusual. I've also been tinkering with different brands of paints and mediums. For those of you who know me well, you will understand this is a big commitment change.

I've been working on developing some skills again. My two big things right now: portraiture and clouds. I'm trying to express something and I don't have the chops to do it yet. So I will keep plugging away until I figure out the language.

I was bummed that I didn't do an Easter Egg post. So here it is:

This year we had Easter near my daughter's tenth birthday party. Naturally we expanded our production to include a whole lot of creative girls. It was super, super fun.

Here are some pictures: