3rd Portrait Swap at WetCanvas

7th Annual Portrait Swap is underway over at WetCanvas.   The deadline for signing up was the end of October.  And once that passed, the admins paired up folks randomly and you got a partner to exchange photo references, paint and swap portraits with.  The work this year and feedback has been of a high standard.  This link will take you to the fabulous work in their various stages on display in this thread.

My partner on this adventure is Max and you can see his take on me on his blog, Silver and the Birds.  He’s done a fabulous job and soon it will be winging its way to sunny Colombo!

Here’s where I’m at today on his portrait.   I had great refs to work with.

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And I’m almost done.  I’ll put in some more work on the hair, sweatshirt and background over the next few days.  Below are some progress shots so that you can see what it went through to get here.

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Beautiful Colombo

Shops and restaurants are well appointed in Colombo.   Well, not all of them but enough to give you a sense that this is a part of the city.  And while I wait for my batteries to recharge I thought I’d share a couple of pics from Friday.  The first was taken in a flower shop

flower shop

and the next a restaurant.

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At 100 I shall be a marvellous artist


Cast several lines and hopefully despite turbulent weather you’ll have a catch!

“From the age of six I had a mania for drawing the shapes of things. When I was fifty I had published a universe of designs. but all I have done before the the age of seventy is not worth bothering with. At seventy five I’ll have learned something of the pattern of nature, of animals, of plants, of trees, birds, fish and insects. When I am eighty you will see real progress. At ninety I shall have cut my way deeply into the mystery of life itself. At a hundred I shall be a marvelous artist. At a hundred and ten everything I create; a dot, a line, will jump to life as never before. To all of you who are going to live as long as I do, I promise to keep my word. I am writing this in my old age. I used to call myself Hokosai, but today I sign my self ‘The Old Man Mad About Drawing.” Hokusai

Every time I come across this quote it makes me happy.  It reminds me that drawing and painting are interests where the scope for improvement and learning is endless.  And when I came across it again recently it helped me redouble my efforts in thinking up ways to get rid of an old friend, who has overstayed his visit – Procrastination.  While I may not be sitting down to draw or paint everyday these are activities I think about daily, more so on days when I dont pick up that pen or brush.  I’ve been feeling guilty.  I believe both are common when you’re procrastinating.

31 Emily O'Marra

I’m putting up a fight and trying to push my friend out the door.  I’ve added two more portraits to Julia Kay’s portrait party collection.  Came across a post on Lines and Colors about a new weekly column on drawing on NY Times that I hope to follow.  There are some exercises on colour and values that are awaiting attention.  I hope one/all of these will make me forget the reasons that’ve kept this friend here.  Another friend earlier today told me to get off the pity potty and get on with it!  So here I am with this drawing from a couple of days back and the long overdue post.

Still Life is exciting

At the beginning I avoided drawing and painting Still Lifes.  They were boring and dull.   Paintings of flowers, apples and egg plants just didn’t excite me at all.  I was impatient and couldn’t wait to get started on Portraits.  But then to my surprise as time went by I found many pieces that I did enjoy.  It was the colours, the composition, the brush strokes, play of light that appealed to me.  I also knew that working on them would improve my painting and felt that I must try them out again.

homitzky - 3I signed up for Peter Homitzky’s class Painting from Life, Still Life and Landscapes hoping to experiment and learn.  When I walked into class that first day I saw the set up for the still life was an egg-plant and a few onions.  Eggplants?  Onions? I promptly ignored my plan to try out new things and made a beeline for a spot at the pose on the other side of the class where there was a tall Russian posing.

In the middle of the week that followed I noticed that a large part of the class had moved to the still life section.   And rightly so as there was an absolutely gorgeous set up with electric blue bottles.  But by the time realisation dawned there were no spots available.

For weeks 3 and 4, I made sure that I asked for a spot at the Still Life setup.  I was not disappointed.  Peter’s setups were outstanding and I loved working on them.  I’m sure that the onion/eggplant one was not by him!  The piece below is the second one and it remained incomplete as mid way there was an accident which broke the pitcher and the bowl into several pieces : )

While that did happen I’m just using it as an excuse here : )   Peter made sure that the Still Lifes were not marked so that each day the setup was a bit different from the previous day. He wanted us learn to be comfortable working despite the changes. The truth is that I missed a couple of classes that week and was hoping to finish using ref photos that I’d taken : )  I’ve left the painting behind so I guess I’ll just have to start another one!

Great fun was had making these and I enjoyed the freedom that came with letting go of the expectation that everything would stay exactly the same in the setup day after day.  This even helped me in my morning class.  I also learnt to add elements to my painting which were not there in the setup.  Peter is a great teacher and I do hope to go back for another class with him when next I’m at the League.

See Sorolla at the Hispanic Society of America

After admiring paintings by Sovek on the web I looked him up and discovered a website full of beautiful paintings and useful information and lessons for an artist. And when sifting through the material I discovered that Sovek was a fan of Sorolla. I read the article he’d written on him and like most others who see Sorolla’s work had fallen in love with it.

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Later I discovered that books with his work were out of print and available only at exorbitant prices.  There was hardly any of his work to be seen on the web.  A couple of years back his work started getting more visible on the net and now you can find high res images at several locations.  Then there was the retrospective at the Museo Nacional del Prado last year.

I couldn’t  see the exhibition but with the help of my sisters I had the catalogue in hand by December last year.

Exhibition Catalogue

And then there was this year.  An unbelievably exciting treat lay in store for me.  I got to see Sorolla’s work IRL!  In my afternoon class at the league I was told both by Peter Homitzky and a fellow student, Mary about Joaquin Sorolla paintings at the Hispanic Society of America’s Museum in Harlem.  The paintings that had been out on loan for three years to the Museo del Prado had recently returned.  I couldn’t believe that the paintings had been in the city all along!!  And I couldn’t wait to go see it in person.

Visions of Spain

His series of 14 paintings, Visions of Spain are now installed in a separate gallery adjacent to the main one.  The canvases are huge and the paintings marvelous.  You can easily see why he’s known as the Painter of Light.  It was a treat to be able to view the works at leisure without waiting or feeling rushed as you would if you were making someone else wait.  There were just one other group of people at the Museum that Saturday.  I feel extremely lucky to have had this opportunity.  The entry is free and while the collection is small it is definitely worth a visit and if you’re a Sorolla fan it is a must.  And if you havent seen enough of Sorolla’s work you can have a look at it online here.

An interesting tidbit that Peter Homitzky shared with us in class was that he’d actually worked on restoring one of Joaquin Sorolla’s paintings!  I also had the opportunity to go through his copy of the catalogue printed during the 1989  Sorolla retrospective held in the IBM building.

Follow this link for a great collection of his work on the Artchive archives.

At the Art Students League once more

I’m back again at the Art Students League after a 2 yr break. This time instead of the usual evening class I’ve signed up for one in the morning with Mary Beth McKenzie and in the afternoon with Peter Homitzky.  Time is moving along swiftly. The morning class is in a small studio packed with easels forming two semi circles around the two models and poses are held for two weeks. The afternoon class is in a much larger studio also with two set ups, one for still life and one a model.

I now have lots of sketches, gesture drawings from both classes and today I did several on large newsprint. I found that having worked on smaller sizes these past two weeks, working big was very difficult!! I wish these skills could be like riding a bicycle, once learnt never forgotten!

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The piece above is where the painting is at after 5 days. You can see the progress pics below.   One of things that Mary Beth reminded me to do was to keep making corrections at every stage.   She was amused when I said that I found it difficult the longer I’d spent on the painting and said that it was common for an artist to be in denial but to overcome that and step in and make those corrections.   As that had been my first day with this painting I had no qualms enthusiastically jumping back in and making corrections.  Then I spent a few more days on it and up until yesterday I was in denial and kept pretending I wasn’t by making tiny adjustments.  I didn’t want to make the required drastic corrections.  Today with the teacher in class I decided I might as well make them before they get pointed out to me 😛  And there were many to make. For example the white patch just below the eye was where the previous eye was painted!!  This change allowed me to make the nose longer : )  I do actually like it like this, corrections and all, more than the over scumbled stage it was at before. I could keep going in this manner but we have one more day left in this two week long pose.

This is the 4th piece that I’ve worked on in the morning class.  For the first 3 paintings,  I spent 4 days and one of those will remain incomplete as it was based on a substitute model we ended up having for just a day.

Found out today that one more of Mary Beth’s monotypes has been acquired by the Met bringing her count with them to 19 monotypes, 3 paintings and a few prints.  Wow!!

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In Peter Homitzky’s class instead of working on still life compositions as I had planned I went for the model.   We have a really tall Russian model whose size just doesn’t seem to fit into any sized page I start her on.  You can see what I mean quite clearly in the second piece where she grew beyond the rectangle space I’d demarcated for the painting.  I liked the effect of her feet sticking out and decided to leave it as it is.  Used two values mostly for the areas in light and shadow as an experiment.

I can see that amongst other things I have to improve my painting planning and measurement skills.  Peter also said that I should plan the colours that I intend to use in a painting before I start and also about making thumbnail sketches for selecting a composition and improving those skills too.

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I had initially decided to use oils in the morning class and acrylics in the afternoon. I found that I was struggling with the Grumbacher acrylics that I had picked up mostly because of its liquid consistency. The first Homitzky piece here was made using acrylics. When Peter found me struggling he asked me to switch to oils and now I’m using oils in both the classes and brought the acrylics back home with me today. He related the story of how acrylic paints were developed for murals by the Mexican artist David Alfaro Siqueiros and brought by him to America. A point it seems forgotten as some fine art paint company stepped in an applied for the patent in the US back around then in the 50’s. He is of the opinion that that’s where they were and still are best used.  I do enjoy the talking and interaction with the teacher in this class.

I’m updating a set on flickr with this months output, scribbles and all.

Picasso at the Met

Picasso : Jacqueline with a Headband III

I had a wonderful treat yesterday with a visit to the Picasso exhibition at the Met.  While I have seen paintings by him in several museums I have not seen so many (486) all displayed in one space and the huge collection of drawings and prints and some of the actual plates in terracotta with black slip (!!)

The Dreamer

I also enjoyed the 3 videos put together on 12 paintings with the results of the forensic work undertaken by the conservators.    The videos showed the (sometimes many) earlier paintings under the surface and also the changes made to the painting before it got to where it is at now.  Fascinating!  Unfortunately I cant find links to them online.

And of course there were several paintings that I had not seen earlier even in books.   And as always I’m surprised with the impact created by the actual size of the work – small or large – which can never be felt through the image seen in a book or online.

While hunting for links for this post I discovered that you could enjoy what I saw from the comfort of your home.   You can start with the video about the exhibition by the curator of the show, Gary Tinterow

followed by viewing the pieces on display through their wonderfully detailed online catalogue.

I did go and see the Impressionists Collection again and enjoyed it even more this time around.  The only exhibit that i was a bit disappointed with was the one they have on American Women.   I plan to head back there at least once more to see their Modern, Asian, Japanese and African collections.

Portrait Party over at Flickr

Julia Kay’s hosted a Portrait Party over at Flickr and my painting has come to a halt : )  I have done a few portrait swaps in the past, for Rama Hughes blog, The Portrait Party , the annual Portrait swap at WetCanvas and more recently the ones organized by Karin Jurick.  But in terms of sheer number of people participating with one another, none were in the league of the current party that I’ve jumped in to.

24 steve huison

I’d first read about them on Rama Hughes blog where he had written about how his family used to throw Portrait Parties and draw each other.   He’d suggested others organise their own.  For me it seemed out of the question as I couldn’t imagine being able to round up a party worth of guests who’d be willing to spend an evening drawing portraits or posing for each other : )

11 Giorgio Bordin

And then along came Julia Kay with this brilliant idea to throw one on Flickr.

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There are 260 members at a party which will continue for as long as you want it to.   I’ve made 24 portraits so far and have had 16 of made of me.  Have a look at the wonderful portraits being exchanged on flickr by this group.

Flickr Portrait Party

SoFoBoMo 2010 is here!

I’ve signed up for SoFoBoMo again!   Now all I have to do is select a 31 day period between June and July and click some pics.   I’m looking forward to it but have yet to fine tune the subject!!   It’s nice to have a project and a deadline, one that I cannot change!

Pony Rides

You can see last years books here – all participants and mine : ).  It’s an interesting project to sign up for and you’ll learn a lot.   It’s open to everybody and has very simple rules – 31 days, 35 pics and 1 pdf.  So check it out, sign up and join me!

Galle Fort