Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Finding the Square Within


A Flora for a Roma is a 14x11 oil done from life by Shirley Fachilla.

Inside every rectangle is a square. Well, of course, you can find many squares. But the one I’m referring to is the square whose sides are the same length as the short side of the rectangle.
As illustrated by the dashed line inside the rectangle below:



This sort of square is called a rabatment. Why this lesson in geometry?
Simple. If you put the major elements of your painting within the rabatment, you will have taken a big step toward a good and interesting composition. Cassatt used rabatments as did Winslow Homer and most especially Degas.   Rabatment explains some of Degas’ most elegant designs, those wonderful ballet studio paintings where empty floor space takes up a third or more of the canvas. 

Elements outside the rabatment often lead the viewer’s eye into the square and should be secondary to those contained within the square portion. There are many interesting things an artist can do with rabatment. With A Flora for a Roma, I’m just beginning to explore.

 


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

So Busy Composing My Thoughts!


A Bermuda Shorts Day is an 18x24 oil painted from life by Shirley Fachilla. 
On September 14th, I'll be teaching a one day workshop focusing on composition. When I began gathering my thoughts on this enterprise, I thought it would be very straightforward. I wanted to emphasize how easy it can be to achieve a painting you like (and might want to frame) when painting either in plein air or painting the figure from life in an open studio... easy if you pay attention to composition issues before you paint.
Of course, it won't always result in a painting you'll be proud of (too many other factors can intervene), but sometimes it does. And when it does, it feels very good. For instance, the guy shown above was painted in a morning in an open studio. He won a Meritorious Entry in the latest Richeson75 Figurative Annual Exhibit which made me quite happy.
Anyway, after I started planning and thinking, my lesson started expanding exponentially. I still plan to lay out my thoughts on quick composing whether in the field or open studio. And we'll practice what I'm preaching! But I do plan to include more, for the more I thought, read and looked, the more I realized just how truly vital good design is. Now I'm convinced that an artist's approach to composition is a big factor in that artist's style, and the effectiveness of that artist's message.
I hope and think our little group will have a very good and informative time discussing and planning good design. And I'm going to try to give everyone take-home thoughts to explore long after our day is done.
Here's a full listing of the day-long workshops sponsored this September by the Chestnut Group, here in Nashville. You just might find one or more that appeal.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Portraying the Human Spirit


Passage Through St. Lazare is a 24x20 oil by Shirley Fachilla.
I’m very proud to have work in the exhibit Portraying the Human Spirit at the Bennington Center for the Arts in Vermont. It’s a juried show of only 26 paintings which will be on display at the center from August 2 through December 21. I’ll quote the center on the theme of the show, “Our goal in jurying Portraying the Human Spirit was to find portraits that were more than portraits…”
Each artist was asked to do an audio for their work explaining process, inspiration, etc. For me, the audio may have been more difficult than the painting! However, I was delighted to have the opportunity to put into words what this painting meant to me. Finding those words? Definitely, a challenge.
A bit about the Bennington: This year, the venue hosted the national juried show of Oil Painters of America, and every year has an invitational wildlife art exhibit that is probably the very best east of the Mississippi, perhaps the very best nationally.
Again I’m so honored to have work at the Bennington in such a meaningful exhibit.

Here’s the link to the show.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Improbable Painted Daisies


Improbable Painted Daisies is a 20x10 oil done from life by Shirley Fachilla.

Actually I don’t know if the flowers were really daisies, much less the painted daisy variety. I found them at the grocery store and couldn’t resist the color combination of deep purple petals and neon green centers. I also loved that they were so perfect… well except for the one that I almost beheaded. That one had to be included in my painting in all its imperfection.
This particular still life let me utilize one of the perks of painting on an untoned white canvas.
See that sort of luminous red and blue in the middle of the vase? Using oil you can only achieve that sort of color if you are floating a transparent oil color (in this case permanent alizarin for the red and a combo of blues for the blue) on a white, untoned canvas. The white of the canvas shows through the transparent paint like the white of the paper shows through a wash in watercolor. But with oil, the color keeps a very high degree of saturation (definition found in ArtfulDefinitions). 
Every once in a while, I have the opportunity to make use of this little trick. I love the look it gives.

On the subject of still life (which rarely comes up in this blog), Brian Sherwin has something interesting to say in one of his latest ArtEdge emails. I think I may agree, at least in part, about the value of symbolism with still life though I do think his symbolic examples may be too straightforward. Personally, I find a great deal of very subtle whimsical symbolism in Carol Marine's little still lifes (whether or not they include her porcelain pig). How about you?

Monday, June 23, 2014

How is a Max Like a Carolyn?

The last painting I did in the Max Ginsburg workshop on day five.

I made a surprising discovery during Max Ginburg’s workshop, he paints like Carolyn Anderson. If you’re familiar with the work of both, you will realize that I’ve just made a rather amazing statement. For though both are primarily figurative artists, their paintings look nothing alike.
Carolyn’s are sometimes close to abstraction; Max’s are sometimes so polished and finished they might be mistaken for reality.
Both say that they are always drawing as they paint. And both work in the same intuitive way with a bare minimum of any sort of measuring. Instead they rely on the angles and relationships between shapes to get proportions right. Both strive to capture the gesture and to do it without losing the accuracy of their drawing. (much easier said than done and so important when painting the figure.) They both correct throughout the painting process and are always adjusting and refining brushstroke by brushstroke. 

Their method allows for precision with fluidity, accuracy with freshness. 
It’s what I also strive to accomplish. I'm just so lucky to have found two such different, yet similar, masters to inspire me.     

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Five Days with the Master, Max Ginsburg

My work from the first day 
I’ve just finished a wonderful learning experience, a five day workshop with Max Ginsburg right here in my home city of Nashville, Tennessee.
I knew Max was an amazing draughtsman, and artist friend Mike Sowers had told us that he was a good teacher. (Mike had taken a workshop from Max at the Art Students League in New York.) So I had high expectations, expectations that were not only met but exceeded.
Max’s work ethic astonished. We started early; we stayed late. Jeanie Smith, the creator of  Warehouse 521 Max’s venue in Nashville, brought in lunch and Max proceeded to lecture during lunchtime! He did demos for us almost every day, but the demos were quick so we would have time to paint and learn from his lead.  And he brought a stack of his beautiful little paintings for us to learn from as well. Some were quite finished and polished; others were very painterly.  All were gorgeous.

More about what I learned from Max in my next post. Some of that learning was quite surprising!  

Monday, May 19, 2014

Why I Should Be a Vegetarian


Sun and Shade is a 12x16 oil done in plein air by Shirley Fachilla.

I think cows, bovines, cattle (whatever the proper term might be) are one of the most appealing animals on the planet. They move with a kind of grace that is just a bit awkward like human teenagers at the gangly stage. And they socialize together for snacks and naps sort of like kindergarteners. They look out at the world with their big long-lashed eyes, taking in everything with a mixture of curiosity and innocence.
These attributes make them wonderful subjects for paintings as well as the fact that they often stay still for rather long periods of time as did these belted bovines who posed so nicely for me one glorious sunny day.

Yes, I definitely should be a vegetarian.