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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Jules Bastien-LePage

One day I was meandering in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I turned a corner and there was Joan of Arc, life size, in this painting by Jules Bastien-LePage. I saw it again tonight in a show called Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum. THERE SHE WAS! Her eyes, a soft glowing blue, gazing into heavens we cannot perceive, her wretched clothing, the vision of herself in armor behind her ... all this glory, 8'4" high and 9'2" wide!!!! The reproduction is more brown than the painting, which has a lot of color. Thank you, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, for bringing this painting to visit us in Houston. I had thought of it all these years, never thinking I would see it again.

Puvis de Chavannes

"The cartoon* is the libretto ... the color is the music."
--Puvis de Chavannes
*Cartoon = full-sized drawing underlying a painting

Monday, January 29, 2007

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Values Check

Through the magic of Photoshop, I am able to see the values of this painting without any distraction from color, which confuses the eye and sometimes creates the illusion that some area is lighter or darker than it actually is.

So far, I think the values are fairly good. There is a complicated area in the left center where the value of the groom's shirt is almost the same as the value of the horse's nose, but that can be changed.

Hand of God --- Frontline

This film is the story of one case (among 10,000) of sexual abuse by a Catholic priest, and you can watch it online. It is very moving and tells of the victim's liberation from the secrecy, fear and feeling of stigmatization he suffered.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Let the Juggling Begin!

From this point on, I am trying to balance many factors in the painting. The basic composition is set. The palette is chosen. Essentially, the contrast is set up, but there are many small choices of value (value=dark vs. light) to be made. Plus the colors have to blend, yet let us see differences.

I have put in the sky color and some scribbled foliage in the trees, plus darkened the horse and made him have some red highlights. I also worked in the grass and the paddock path and shadows on both of those areas. Other than those areas, I have not done much painting, but the ball is now rolling!

Cleanup is Essential

I clean up my brushes in the bathroom. Because acrylic paints are water-soluble, I use water in these cut-down plastic gallon milk jugs to dilute the paint and to keep the paintbrushes wet until I am ready to clean them.

The tub is brush cleaner, which is great. You could also use Ivory soap in your hand. I used it for many years. the main thing is, to rinse out most of the paint, then swirl the brushes in soap, wash them and then let them dry. The dark cake of soap is for my hands, to remove those sometimes dangerous pigments from my skin.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Paleolithic Palomarian

See the view from my gallery in the Second Life area Palomarian, as it must have been at the beginning of time ...

Friday, January 19, 2007

Mass Observation

Thanks to Paul Oslo Davis, whose blog I visit regularly, I heard of Mass Observation, a study by everyday people of all the details of their lives. Here is the site, which I am adding to my website links as well.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

"Fort Erie I" Underpainting

With the exception of the tree on the left, which I left the color of the painting ground, I have mixed colors with the basic five I chose plus black and white, and used them on all the shapes in the painting.

As I am sure you can see, I have simplified all the shapes, and eliminated some of them altogether. The barn in the background is gone, there are no uprights on the paddock fence, and only the foreground horse and groom have features.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Negative Space RULES, Man!

I have started the underpainting with the sky and ground, what artists refer to as "negative space", and other people refer to as the background. Working with these areas first is really fun and helps refine the drawing even further. The tree shapes, especially, have become more defined. The colored ground is left visible in the "positive shapes" and in lines in the grassy area. The underlying color affects the tone of the underpainting, which is great, and there will not be any white areas anywhere to spook me =8-O.

Color Star

This is the Johannes Itten Color Star. Under the black piece there is a complete color wheel with primary, seconday and tertiary colors.There are various templates for anything from two to 6 colors (if I am not mistaken that is the maximum), with these windowed overlays for nice harmonious combinations. This double-split-complementary combination is one of my favorites, because I like a lot of different colors, but even with complementaries, you can make a LOT of colors, especially once you add black and white.

Palette for Fort Erie I

I am using five colors plus black and white as the palette for this painting. Blue-Green (BG), Red-Violet (RV), Red (R), Orange (O), and Yellow-Orange (YO). I had already used this particular palette so I had a mixture grid already.

As you can see, this combination yields a tremendous number of colors, and this is just the bare minimum of combinations.

I use the Johannes Itten Color Star to find nice combinations that are harmonious. J.I. wrote a book on color (I have yet to buy it ... bad Coyote), and there is a kit with it, to make combinations. I will have to scan that too!

Colored Ground

The photo has a lot of yellow-green in it, so I chose red-violet, the complementary color, for the ground. First I used fixative on the charcoal drawing, OUTSIDE to save my lungs and the lungs of the dog. Then I mixed Alizarin Crimson and Quinacridone Violet and diluted the mixture to be very transparent (both those pigments are naturally translucent anyway, which helps a lot), and brushed it on willy-nilly. There is a strong highlight on the top middle portion, because it was still wet when I took the photo.

I can still see the drawing clearly and when it is dry (like after I finish this post) I will begin laying in the first layer of underpainting.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Refinement of the Drawing

Because I don't care if the drawing is accurate, I don't always use the grid. When it is this complex, it helps me. Now I have erased the grid and worked on the drawing, reinforcing the lines I want and erasing the other ones.

Also, I don't usually use charcoal for the drawing, but start right in, putting in a wash of color on the gesso, then painting the drawing on the first color. This is a departure from my habitual methods. It is part of a new start for me in painting, so I think it will help.

I took this photo a number of years ago at Fort Erie racetrack in Niagara Falls, Ontario. I have a whole stack of photos from that day, so I may do a series of Fort Erie paintings. We'll see.

Anatomy of a Painting

I chose a photo, scanned it in, and put a one-inch grid onto it. I made a similar grid with charcoal on my 3-"x40" gessoed canvas, which is a different shape, so I had to cut off part of the photo image, and add on some on the top (just tree limbs and leaves) to make it work in the new format.
I did a charcoal drawing on the grid. The next step will be the underpainting.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


Sometimes we are together, sometimes apart, but we always care ... people are sometimes surprised how close our family is, because it is a closeness that is not dependent upon physical proximity. Our extended family is always in touch.
Now, Steve is in another country we call the land of the dead, but he knows it will only be a moment before we are together again, and next time around on earth, we will do things better. We learned a lot this time.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Mark Adams, Watercolorist

Mark Adams was a remarkable watercolorist who died in March of 2006. This is one of the works available through San Francisco's John Berggruen Gallery. His work has a marvelous delicacy and beauty.

Saturday, January 06, 2007


I bought three charms in Williamsburg, Virginia between Christmas and New Year's, a horse, to represent my son Patrick, who was born in the year of the Horse, a fan, for my daughter Laura, who is very feminine, and a tricorne hat, for my friend Osprey, who wears a tricorne in Second Life as her usual costume. As you may observe, the moonstone has fallen out of my central star charm :(.