Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Mud and the Skin of Venus

"Give me mud and I will paint you the skin of Venus." Eugene Delacroix.

When I painted as a teenager, I was taught that there was a formula to create the color of flesh. Later, I forgot this "formula" and subsequently wasted a lot of time trying to rediscover the right combination to mix the color of our skin.
Now I recognize that there is no magic mixture. Our skin (whatever its shade) is so reflective of light that almost anything goes. It becomes a prism for the colors and the light surrounding us both in life and in painting.
So yes, the earth colors, the "mud," used by Delacroix and Titan can make the creamy skin of a Venus. And the saturated cadmiums used by many of today's artists can become the colors of our flesh as well. To see a contemporary kaleidoscope of skin colors, just visit Karin Jurick's 100 Faces.

Somebody's Dream is one of my more straightforward forays into the color of flesh. It's a 20x24 done in open studio.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Lost in Translation

I once saw an exquisite Rubens' drawing of a beautiful woman with long curly hair. The woman had what appeared to be a large, upside-down, black funnel on her head. What do I remember? The funnel-hat (which I could draw now), not really the woman at all.

Of course, sometimes a work is so wonderful that it rises above obscure or absurd inclusions. Such a painting is Pieter de Hooch's Maternal Duty. A contemporary of Vermeer, de Hooch was sometimes less skilled in perspective and proportion. But with this painting, his passages of light, his color, his gesture are all quite marvelous. Today almost no one would guess that the mother is picking lice from her child's head (a necessary practice even in spotless Dutch houses).

My painting has no funnel or (ugh) lice, but smack in the middle is a very unusual... birdbath! I bet you had no idea what it was. I so loved the maple and then the composition that I included an object I knew almost no one would understand.

Japanese Maple, Cheekwood plein air 8x10.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Three Amigos

Two friends and I are having a show and sale of our paintings in this lovely (yes, lovely describes it) old barn which belongs to Susan Harlan, one of the friends. Neither Gale Haddock (the other amigo) nor I have ever done anything quite like this before.
It's both exciting and intimidating, sort of like throwing a party and inviting way more guests than you've ever invited before.

The event happens this Saturday, Sept. 18, from 10 in the morning til 7 in the evening. The address is 1312 Lewisburg Pike, Franklin, Tennessee. It's off Exit 61 on I-65 south of Nashville and is easy to find if googled.

To borrow the phrase everyone seems to use in blog invitations, "if you're in the neighborhood," please come. It promises to be a good time.

Paintings above by: left, Gale Haddock; center Susan Harlan; right, me.

Friday, September 10, 2010

First Day

There's a picture on my studio wall that I love; it's a print of Peter Hurd's painting, Eve of St. John. Hurd was a noted "Western artist" though, sadly, he seems now to be known primarily as Andrew Wyeth's brother-in-law.

Hurd began his career as an illustrator, and I think Eve shows those roots with its strong sense of narrative. To me, the story it tells is one of becoming, like a "coming of age" novel or autobiography. I find it to be mysterious and haunting; it's a work I look at often.

After I finished First Day , I realized I was trying to tell a coming-of-age story, too. First days are always a beginning, when everything promises to be a surprise and nothing is sure. Growing up sometimes seems a series of first days... except for those times growing up when you think you might die of boredom!

First Day is an 18x14 oil done in open studio.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Under the Art Umbrella

Painters love umbrellas. Our beach scenes have them; city scenes ditto. Our women carry them to keep off the rain and when it isn't raining, to keep off the sun.

I can't fully explain the passion for parasols. Shape is part of it, that regular gentle curve that leads the viewer's eye to just where the artist would like it to go. The potential for unexpected color is another. A pop of orange can be excellent when at sea or in a painting of a grey, rainy day.

Umbrella advantages can be subtle as well. Faces shaded by umbrellas are often lit by soft reflected light with shadows that take on the color of the umbrella itself. The most famous painted lady with a parasol, Monet's wife, is such a mix of shadow and reflected light that she almost dissolves into the sky and clouds behind her.

My lady is warding off the last drizzle of a Manhattan shower; there's really more sun than rain in her forecast.

NYC Shower 8x8 oil on panel.

Is it too early to send an invitation?

Pieces by (clockwise from left to right) : Susan Harlan, Janet Garner, Shirley Fachilla, Mike Martino and Topper Williams. So many ...