Saturday, March 29, 2008

Butterflies and Poppies

This is one of Van Gogh's lesser-known paintings, and I just love it. He used a much thinner paint application than he normally did-- the only impasto (thick) areas are in the butterfly wings and flower petals. Also, much of the raw canvas shows through. I really like the simplicity of this painting and the way the black strokes look almost like calligraphy. Vincent was greatly influenced by Japanese art, which was very popular during the late 1880's.

Here are the steps I take to attempt to make an exact copy of a master's painting:

1. Print out the original proportional to my canvas size (20"x16"), in this case it required (4) 8.5"x11" prints taped together.

2. Cover the entire back with a layer of charcoal. This will serve as my "carbon."

3. Trace over the print, which is taped to the front of my toned canvas. I must be careful not to let any part of my hand rest to avoid smudges of charcoal. The outline of the painting is now transferred to the canvas. Van Gogh toned his canvas with an earth color which is typical for artists to do. I used a mixture of burnt sienna and sap green to tone my canvas (a week ago to let it dry). This shows a close-up of the drawing.

4. As usual-- every source has a different color palette. It is impossible to tell which one is the accurate portrayal of the original. I would have to see it with my own eyes. I'm using the picture from my book, "Van Gogh: The Complete Paintings II" which is part of a 2-book set; a catalog of Vincent's entire body of works he painted. The color palette leans more toward yellow than green and I like the warmth of this version.

Now-- to the easel I go!

The painting is in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, and I would love to see it up close and personal. Maybe someday...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Still Gogh-ing...

I've always loved this painting. I bought a framed print at the Getty and it hangs in my bedroom. Since we are still studying Vincent van Gogh, I prepared some 16"x 20" masonite boards for more practice in his style. I am also trying to work "alla prima" (all at once), thus as fast as possible. It is said that the way to paint like van Gogh is, "a stroke laid is a stroke stayed," meaning no blending! Put the paint down on the canvas and move on, with short, rapid broken lines van Gogh used to express his love for nature.

Here's my version:

No study of van Gogh would be complete without a sunflower painting. Vincent wrote in a letter to his brother in January of 1989, "You know, the sunflower is mine, in a way." He also wrote, "In 100 years the world will know the value of my art far exceeds the cost of paint and canvas." Little did he know just how valuable his art would be-- with one of his sunflower paintings selling for nearly 89 million dollars-- one hundred years later!

This is one of his first attempts at sunflowers, painted in Paris late in the summer of 1887:

My version is on a 16" x 20" gessoed masonite board, so I had to adjust the composition since it is not proportional to the original. I applied gesso to the rough side in order to capture the quality of his paintings, many of which were painted on coarse, raw canvas:

Another very fun exercise I did, was a portrait exchange with another artist on, Graham, who is also doing Vincent's paintings. He sent me a photo with his ear bandaged, taken in his studio with his own paintings and easel behind him. In return, his is doing a portrait of me.

Here is Vincent's self-portrait with bandaged ear, painted in January 1889 after the infamous incident of self-mutilation after his fight with Paul Gaugin... What were they fighting about? Their differing views of painting methods and styles. Gaugin was a neat-nik, Vincent a sloppy guy. Talk about taking things waaaaaaaaaaaay too seriously!

And my portrait of Graham, with bandaged ear:

Graham lives in Canada. Without the internet-- I would not be able to "paint with" such a vast number of talented artists from around the world!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

ISES Event at Fox Sports Grille

ISES is the International Special Events Society. The February mixer of the Orange County chapter was held at Fox Sports Grille at the Irvine Spectrum. Wow! What a great venue! I'd never been there before, but I will be back. We were upstairs, surrounded by a plethora of big screen TVs broadcasting all kinds of sports games, overlooking the bright green double-arched bar below. Great color and fantastic energy for a live event artist to paint by!! Fabulous folks and fantastic food, too...

Monday, March 10, 2008

Birthday Bash at Blue Room

Saturday was my first live event painting at a birthday party! What a blast, I was one entertainer among a caracature artist, fortune teller and balloon sculpter. The beautiful blond birthday girl had an outrageous cake, a Shiva on a lotus bed. The room was indeed blue with multicolored glass windows and ceiling fan, fur covered chairs, even a fireplace! She was thrilled with her gift of the painting from her husband, and I was happy with my first birthday canvas.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Self-Portrait a la Vincent #3

Here is the third attempt at a self-portrait in the style of (one of) van Gogh's self-portraits. This one I painted using acrylics, which I found difficult now that I have been working so much in oils.
I used this one of Vincent's paintings for my reference. And here is mine:

The comment I received was that it was nice to see me paint myself with "kinder eyes." I don't mean to paint angry or unwelcoming expressions. It's just that Vincent had an intense look, and I am challenging myself to capture the feel of his work in my own.
I would just call them "less intense." A softer expression, like Vincent's own portrait, which has a very "Rembrant" feel to it.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Pencil Drawing Practice

One of my favorite things is the pink flamingo. This image was a weekly drawing exercise on Wet Canvas ( ). It took me forever to do it, being busy with so many other things. Carrying a sketchbook is a really good habit for an artist who wants to constantly improve.

Even mundane, everyday objects have interesting shapes, lines, shadows, highlights and characteristics which are important to observe while making a realistic drawing. I usually print out the image and tuck it into my sketchbook for when I'm stuck waiting-- I can use my time wisely and work, work, work!

This was a quick sketch, and I was more interested in capturing this old guy's sad expression than every hair and wrinkle.

And here I combined two weeks worth of assignments (the front porch and the eye). I thought it would be kind of creepy and surrealistic to make the eye a "window" into/out of the "soul" of the house... ok-- a bit too over the top? That's the fun of drawing!