Monday, February 25, 2008

Iris Chair, Wheatfields With Crows and Second Self-Portrait

My "Iris Chair" is finished and hanging on the studio wall along with the "Wheatfields With Crows." Here are some detail photos to see the brushstrokes. I really study Vincent's paintings and try to emulate his style. Although, when viewing the 10-year span of van Gogh's work-- you can see a number of different styles he experimented with, and the different artists he studied and styles he attempted to emulate.

"Iris Chair" oil on canvas, 20" x 16"

I really like this painting, and not sure I'm going to sell it.

"Iris Chair" detail

"Iris Chair" detail

"Iris Chair" detail

"Iris Chair" detail

"kwg Wheatfields With Crows after van Gogh" detail

"kwg Wheatfields With Crows after van Gogh" detail

And here is the second in the series I am doing, based on Vincent's self-portraits, each in a very different style. This one really pushes the dark-light contrasts, also painted in very thick, quick impasto strokes.

That is the bed on the left and piled-up laundry on the right. Could have something to do with the look on my face!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

More on Vincent

I've always been taken with (what is thought to be) Vincent's final painting, ever since I saw it at the "Van Gogh's Van Goghs" exhibit when the large collection from Amsterdam visited LACMA (LA Co. Museum of Art).

The original canvas measures almost 20" x 40" and was painted during a prolific spurt in the last weeks of his life, in which he produced dozens of paintings and drawings. My canvas measures 10" x 30" so it is not proportional to Vincent's, nor did I intend to paint an exact copy, but rather I attempted to paint "like a madman"-- fast and furiously.

I woke up this morning at 3am, started the painting and worked for about 6 hours. Later this afternoon I spent another two hours and I think it's finished. This one was really fun to paint, although I couldn't help but feel a certain ache in my heart knowing the artists' state of mind during the time he painted it.

He told his brother, Theo he felt "sadness and extreme loneliness..."and "... continue to feel the storm which threatens..."

Painted in July of 1990, it was never signed. On July 29, Vincent died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

kwg Wheatfields With Crows After Vincent , 10"x 30" oil on canvas


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Speaking of Vincent van Gogh

Self-Portrait, Saint-Remy, September 1889 oil 15 1/4" x 12 1/4"

The cyberspace artist community I've been hanging out in regularly since I discovered it, is called Wet Canvas . In one of the oil painting forums there is a thread called "Master of the Month." January-February 2008 the Master just happens to be Mr. Vincent van Gogh. All the participating artists (who are big VVG nuts like myself) have been doing copies of van Gogh paintings, and paintings in van Gogh's broken-line, impasto style.

I decided to do a self-portrait, it's been years since I've done one. My inspiration is this painting; Vincent's very last self-portrait, one which he gave to his mother. Interestingly, he painted himself much younger than he was at the time, and tried to prove his "improved state of health."

But still, he has that intense, forlorn look in his eyes. I tried to emulate the look with my own reflection.
This is the photo I used for my reference, taken last summer in Washington.

And here is my van Gogh-style KWG Self-Portrait; the sketch and painting (looking younger than I really am):

0il pastel on canvas board, 9" x 12"

I'm doing a series of four, each one based on a very different van Gogh self-portrait. I also plan to use a different medium for each one. The first is oil pastel; I'll do an oil painting, an acrylic, and something else; not sure yet for the fourth.

This one looks like he modeled it after Rembrandt. It will be very good practice for me to do a painting in this style.
Self-Portrait With Dark Felt Hat, Paris, early 1886 oil on canvas, 15 1/4" x 12 1/4"

With the very dark lighting, stark contrast, and the dull colors he used-- this one does not even resemble the work Vincent is so well-known for. Again, good for practice-- to really push the darks & lights.

Self-Portrait, Paris, early 1886 oil on canvas, 18 1/8" x 15"
This was painted at a cafe in Paris where he was allowed to exhibit some of his Japanese prints, which so fascinated him. One geisha is in the background on the right. I love how loose and simplified this is. It looks like a sketch with big, fat crayons; rather than a painting!

Self-Portrait With Japanese Print, Paris, late 1887 oil on canvas, 16 15/16" x 13 3/8"

Here are the other sketches I've prepared for this series, from the following photo reference (with my new do), and that same intense glare:

Had a problem with the lips and the nose is too long on this one! Pencil on cheap paper.

This is in the bedroom. Better likeness here. Ink sketch on canvas, prep for painting.

And in the studio. I used conte crayon on this one. Cheap paper again.

I put some more paint on the Iris Chair. I'm pleased with how this is shaping up. I plan to detail the irises a little bit more, but not too much.

Here is my easel set-up showing my references.

oil on canvas, 20" x 16"

If next month's Master is Michelangelo-- I'm doomed!!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Finally Finished!

I'm finally finished with Judy's Chagall and I shipped it to her last week:

Acrylic on gallery-wrap canvas, 20"x16" with sides painted

I really struggled with this one, and Judy was such a dear, sweetheart to remain sooooooooo patient with me!! Thank you and God bless you, Judy!! I hope you are pleased...

Friday, February 15, 2008

"Pay It Forward" Mural


(Flashback to early January, 2008)

The Objective: create a mural in the play yard and transform the drab block walls into a colorful, happy environment for the children served by the Playhouse at Children Today's new North Long Beach location.

I wanted to create a magical world to resemble a fun, grassy, garden-like place from a bug’s eye view through the eyes of a child. My inspiration for the design style came from two of my favorite artists; Henri Rousseau, known for his very stylized jungle scenes; and Eric Carle, a beloved writer and illustrator of children’s books, with whom many kids are already familiar.

Illustration by Eric Carle from, "The Very Quiet Cricket"

"Exotic Landscape" by Henri Rousseau, 1910
In working with a crew of teen volunteers, the approach needed to be ”cool” enough to engage them, yet simple enough not to intimidate the inexperienced artist.

I made the renderings to scale divided into five sections, and outlined the drawing onto the wall with a fat Sharpie. The kids spread out in front of their favorite areas, and we went to work.

As the result of five boys who gave their dollars to finance the paint, and the beautiful brushwork of more than a dozen volunteers– parents included– the “Pay It Forward” mural came to life.

It is my hope that the children will feel the sense of joy and comfort,

when being greeted each day by their familiar “friends”

upon returning to their safe haven at Play House North.

And that the teens who so generously gave of their money and their time, will remember the plight of homeless children as they grow into young adults.

May we all grow in gratitude and a continued spirit of charity!

To find out more about Children Today and how you can assist families affected by homelessness, go to:

To those who are already helping support Children Today, thank you!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day!

Last Friday afternoon I received an email with an acknowledged last-minute request to do a painting of giraffes. A dear friend from childhood wanted to give his wife, who collects giraffes, the painting for Valentine's Day.

"You bet," I replied. I rarely turn down requests which are within reason. It would have to be acrylic on canvas, the fastest-drying option.

I immediately did an image search for giraffes, and suggested painting two of the beautiful animals together, since it was the day to honor love. Mark asked for a mother and child.

"Great idea!" I enjoy painting the mother-child subject, whether human or beast.

First a pencil sketch on paper. This helps to familiarize myself with the details of a giraffe, and really study my subject matter.

Then I "sketch" the composition on the canvas with paint and block in areas of color for the background. The photo I worked from had an almost entirely black background. I wanted suggestions of foliage, and glints of light here and there.

I began adding Payne's Grey (an almost-black color) to the background and bring darks into the animals. The paint was very wet at this stage which caused glares in the digital photos.

Here I began focusing more on the details of the giraffes. It's important for me to get the canvas covered with color, so I am not painting subjects against stark white (the total absence of color). Color is effected by other colors; and especially black and white.

At this point I realized that I had the shape of the heads wrong, and had made them too squared.

So I rounded out the jawlines and added some blue to the background (which is the direct compliment to orange). Notice how the oranges in the giraffes seem so much brighter with the addition of blue. And the foliage now has a richness and a better illusion of depth.

Painting is just constantly adding more detail, adjusting edges, and layering color; in a back and forth dance between brush and canvas.

Mark was very pleased with the finished painting, and excited about surprising his wife. I can hardly wait to hear about her reaction. The "mother and child" came into being so quickly and were with us only briefly, but I miss them already...

They lived on the wall next to my Toucan for about 2 hours and made nice pals, I think!