Sunday, October 23, 2011

         I am continuing to read Aesthetics and Painting by Jason Gaiger. I am on the third chapter, called Surface and Subject which begins with an introduction to how painting can be seen and analyzed.  He uses the image below to describe his ideas.  The first way to see or describe this piece, Giager says, is to observe it as “a series of marks on a flat surface.” This is accurate, but too shallow of a description, so he goes further to say that we could also analyze it in terms of what we see, such as the form of the seat supporting the woman, the white dress she wears, the metallic-gold quality of her binoculars, the position of the viewer: above and to the right, and the beige background with a simple shadow under the woman.
        Gaiger says the reason why he uses this image as an example is because it is easy to distinguish in it the difference of these two forms of perception. Here's where the philosophical thinking comes in. He says on page 39, " Both seem to be necessary to depiction. For unless you were aware that you were looking at a marked surface, you would not be aware that you were looking at a picture; and unless you were aware that the experience of looking at the picture is in some way like the experience of looking at its subject, you would not be aware of what it represents." Having made this distinction, he asks how these two ways of seeing are related to each other. "How does our visual awareness of the drawing as a physical object with a discrete set of properties enter into or inform our awareness of what it represents?"  Jeesh, Heavy stuff  : p Essentially he is asking the question of how me knowing it is a painting affects the way I see the painting. 

Adolf Menzel's Lady with Opera Glasses from 1850

          Giager brings a book, written in 1960 by Ernst Gombrich, called Art and Illusion, into the conversation, but more on that later.

           I am learning all sorts of techniques in this awesome painting class. It almost makes taking French bearable. Our next project is to paint the nude from life.  In the past, I have had a lot of trouble with capturing skin tones.  I tend to use too many greys, making the figures look zombie-ish. One of the most awesome tools my teacher Hollis has given me is a pallet of compatible skin tones. This knowledge is carrying over to every piece of art I am working on right now, which is a lot, by the way.
           I am researching different artists so that they might help guide me through the process. Jenny Saville (1970-) is a contemporary British painter; best known for her large-scale paintings of  women. I enjoy the skin tones she uses. They are vibrant and realistic. 

      Andrew Newell Wyeth (1917–2009) was an American realist painter. I've been studying his Helga paintings from the 80's  which are amazing. Close inspection of these pieces reveal many abstracted colors and shapes to create a very life like image. There are dots of pure cobalt and green in the skin tones when looking closely, but pulling back a step, all of these seeming abstractions form a thoughtful and alive reality.

       Here is another in-progress image of my self portrait. Photoshop has been a useful tool for comparing the reference to the painting.

Jeesh, I am still so far from being done. 

         Here is an example of how useful Photoshop is. I copy and paste certain problem areas side by side so that I can stare at them until I figure out what's wrong. Like here, the eye is shrunk down and the area on the right between the eyebrow and eye lid doesn't have enough volume as it wraps around. Geoff and I were talking about how Rembrandt would have killed for Photoshop.

           Here is an in-progress shot of my still life.  This was done mostly from life, but then I got desperate and took a picture. The bottom ellipse of the table-top is still way wrong, bur I'm on it.

       Here is me learning how to draw with my tablet. I am getting a little better. It's frustrating because my replacement tablet for the one that broke doesn't have pressure sensitivity. It's lame, but I am working around it.  When I can afford a better one, I'll be better off with the experience of drawing on a low-grade machine. It's just like learning to play on a cheap violin.   When You finally get to a well crafted instrument, you sound like a pro.

         Here is a design I made for my friend Joe Adler for his 11-11-11 album. I wish it was more animated.  My feelings wouldn't be hurt if he used it for a poster instead of the cover : )


            In other news my mother is seriously ill and it's ripping me literally in half. If any of you people who are my friends have sensed distance, this is why. I don't know what to do, but send money I don't have and hold long hours of therapy sessions with her on the phone. Her doctors are all completely incompetent due do a lack of good health care in Florida. There simple aren't the funds for the poor to get proper treatment. And I feel so inadequate to help. How shitty to have to watch my loved ones wither, while people all around me swim in wealth that they aren't grateful for. I hate that to get quality health care in America, you have to be loaded. If you are poor, you get pushed through as quickly and cheaply as possible. It makes me sick to witness this favoritism. America, you have your priorities all inside out and I am sick of it.  


  1. Love Jenny Saville. Also fond of Andrew Wyeth. I've been told to look more at NC Wyeth in the past (I think for some of the dramatic poses) but always preferred the vibe of his son.

    Good work on the self portrait. Although I think access to all tools are a great thing for artists if used judiciously, try dramatically lighting yourself in a mirror reflection and go at it on site with no other reference. You might not get the teeny details of eyelid just so, but the overall color, markmaking and energy of that exercise is a really valuable learning experience.

    I'm so sorry to hear about your mom. I just went through that and it is the most difficult thing I've ever been through. Not having access to proper health care--oh man I can't imagine that on top of everything. I don't know if it would do anything but perhaps set up a donation page using paypal? Also, not sure what she has but there are research studies for people with various conditions where they can get free treatment if you look around. Good luck to you.

  2. Thanks Jeanne : ) Yeah, J.S. is great. I had never seen her stuff before last week. I want to do a portrait from a mirror. I've done them in pencil, but man color is so tricky :P the assignment in class first called for one from life, but the lighting definitely was not dramatic. I think that makes such a difference. The classroom had lots of overhead light. It made it hard to see. Her face looks like raw meat right now. I just am barely learning skin tones, starting to get it, but have a ways to go I'm afraid. I Think I'll do some white/brown/ochre washes to get rid of some of the steak color. I already tried to dull it with payne's grey washes in the shadows. It's still a a step up from the zombies I was churning out before. I see the potential there though and consumed with perfecting it. Any suggestions? What are your favorite skin tones? I was feeling for you too when I read about your family on your blog. I hope everything is ok with them:) Yeah, life is just sad sometimes, I guess. I think the donation thing is a good idea. I'll try that: )

  3. Yes, definitely light yourself dramatically. Get some clamp lamps (super cheap at the Home Depot) Put a bright contrasting color fabric up behind you too.

    Try this for a palette: a warm and cool of each primary so 1) a cadmium red medium, and alizerin crimson 2)cerulean blue and ultramarine blue 3) lemon yellow/cadmium yellow light and cadmium yellow medium or even cadmium yellow deep (bordering on orangey) if you want. One neutral like burnt or raw sienna, and white.

    no grays, no blacks** (they really can pollute the overall color when working from life) and no secondary colors.

    use brushes (especially) at the beginning in relation to the size of the canvas. If you have a 8"x10" for instance, no brushes should be smaller than an half inch wide and have some as wide as an inch and a half. Get the big broad areas of color. If you concentrate, you should still pick up "you" even if the teeniest of features are not focused on. Shapes of color against color. Only go smaller when you've broken down the biggest shapes down to the next level and the next level after that. Try to resist micro brushes though. maybe a quarter inch or a round with a good tip and leave it at that.

    **I know--I use black sometimes, but those are on very deliberate flat, decorative, patterened sort of dreamscape work. I never use it working from life--with the possible rare exception of a very very limited pallette of a white, black, burnt sienna and ochre and then it takes on a bluish tone in relation to that. But for full pallette work from life, avoid it.

  4. btw--I never think about skin tones when I work. (I just love those tubes of "flesh" color at paint stores...huh? Its all percieved reflected and lit tones) Just what the colors are in the lights and shadows whether it be blue, green, or warmish orangey. I just got a set of alkyds I need to break out. I want to use it on a still life or portrait. I know I left that other piece unfinished but perhaps I could work on a painting portrait of you with that kind of stuff I mentioned about the pallette and brushes to see what I mean.

  5. Thank you! That's some seriously helpful info :) We'll have to have an art party soon.