Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Art of Watercolour magazine

I was thrilled to have my artwork included on two full spreads and to see so many of my watercolor idols in the latest issue of The Art of Watercolour! Thank you to Laurent Benoist, who edited my writing into something coherent and to Janine Gallizia, who asked me to part of this wonderful magazine.
All you watercolor nerds can order the print or digital versions here:

Monday, September 26, 2016

Getting A Likeness in Portrait Painting

To achieve a likeness in a painting, the values have to be accurate.Getting accurate values (lights and darks) can be tricky because a perceived value is relative to the other values surrounding it. For instance, when a value is surrounded by darker values, it looks lighter than it actually is. The reverse is also true, lighter values surrounding a value will make it seem darker.

Below is my painting from a weekly figure drawing session that I attend. The first image is before the values were adjusted. You can see that the face feels flat and the eyelids look to prominent.

In the second image, the values depicting the eye sockets and the lower part of her face were darkened and create a more realistic painting. The values on her forehead and cheekbones now look lighter because of the added darker values on her face and in the background.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Painting from Life: A Weekly Discipline

I try to get to Long-Pose Mondays as often as possible to work on getting better and faster with my figure paintings. It's a life-long journey but it's exciting to know that every single week presents a new opportunity to learn.

Here are a few recent paintings done in the 3-hour session, plus an additional hour back in my studio.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Never Stop Learning: Weekly Figure Drawing

I attend figure drawing and painting sessions most weeks. My favorite is Long-Pose Monday, where we draw or paint from a live model in one, long pose. The 3-hour session is broken up into 20-minute poses and 10-minute breaks, so the total drawing time is about two hours. The following day, I will tweak for an extra hour in my studio. I learn so much from these sessions!

Here are few recent studes:

Saturday, May 28, 2016

New painting "What Plagues Us"

When I posted this latest painting on FB and Instagram, many people asked the meaning of the symbolism and the figure so I thought I'd share that here.

"What Plagues Us"
30 x 23"

The painting is not 100% finished; right now it is sitting in a closet so I can look at it with fresh eyes in a couple of days. Let's say it is 90% done.

The title comes from an idea I had about modern-day plagues. Not the Black Death and Locust plagues of Medieval and biblical times, but the ever-persistent, man-made plagues like intolerance, inequality, and injustice. I was moved by the story of Malala from Pakistan, the little girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban because she wanted to attend school. It led me to research the most dangerous countries in the world for women.

The painting depicts a woman wearing a "plague mask", a mask worn by doctors to ward off the plague when visiting patients. In her hand is a rat, synonymous with the bubonic plague.

In the background are the flags of Chad, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Saudi Arabia; very dangerous countries for women for a variety of reasons. I could only fit six but obviously, there are more. I selected the ones that would best fit the design of the painting.

The girl with the raised fist is the ubiquitous image from the campaign,"Bring Our Girls Home", a reference to the Nigerian school girls who were kidnapped by Al-Shabab and most of whom are still missing.

Although the painting is not a religious painting, I used religious symbols of Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism to show the intertwining of political and religious issues.

There are two words--strength in English and freedom in Arabic.

The other parts of the painting were included to support the design and composition more than the message.

I don't usually paint such overt messages, mainly because I am no expert on the issues and I am generally interested in depicting eveyday stories of people and neighborhoods in my life. This time, I decided to step out of my usual and try something a little different. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Who Is John Reigart?

One of the more interesting projects I've worked on is an upcoming art exhibition called "John Reigart". It is part visual art and part performance art. Curated by artist Brett Yasko, the exhibition will include works by over 200 artists asked to create a portrait, in any medium or style, of the same person, John Reigart. Why John? That's what viewers will find out at the exhibition. John will be the docent for the exhibition, telling viewers about the artwork and about himself. My painting for the exhibition is below. To follow the project on Tumblr, click here.

SPACE Gallery
June 24 - Sept 4, 2016
Pittsburgh Gallery Crawl: July 8, 5:30 - 10 (free)

Hello, My Name is John, watercolor, 26 x 30"

Monday, March 21, 2016

Commissioned Dancer Drawing

This drawing was a commission for a dear friend. The challenge was to create an artwork featuring her two dancer daughters that was not a smiley, traditional portrait. This bird's-eye view made it necessary to add enough detail to their bodies so that the viewer would recognize the girls without seeing their faces.

The client was also interested in showing the mirror in the background. To keep the mirror image from distracting from the focal point, I kept the values close together; the lights and darks are not as contrasting as the lights and darks of the figures in the foreground. I also kept the edges of the mirror image less sharp and defined.

This is one of my favorite commissions.

The Sisters, 26 x 20, charcoal on paper

Monday, March 14, 2016

Pet Portrait Commission

I recently created a pet portrait for a former client. The initial idea was to only paint the dog. However, Eloise is very fearful and would not pose by herself. With her owner sitting nearby, she was much more calm. We decided it might be nice to include the owner in the portrait, but to keep the dog as the focal point. To do this, I had to keep most of the contrast and detail on Eloise and keep the values closer together and less defined on the owner. You can see that there are no real value extremes of light and dark on the owner, as there are on the dog.

Color study 1, brown neutrals
Color study 2, blue neutrals

The client wanted a very netural palette, so  I showed her two color studies with slight variations and we chose the neutral blue palette.

We were all very happy with the end result!!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Calling All Pittsburgh Artists - Design Art for a Historic Community Garden

The Olde Allegheny Community Garden, located in the Mexican War Streets neighborhood of Pittsburgh's Northside, is seeking to commission a new, or buy an existing, artwork for the garden. Below are the details and deadlines. 


Project Description
Olde Allegheny Community Garden is seeking to commission an artist or artist team to create a new work of art or place an existing work of art in the Olde Allegheny Community Garden, located between Sherman Avenue and Veto Street, just north of Gentry Way, in the Mexican War Streets neighborhood of Pittsburgh's Northside. Specifically, the artwork will be installed in an island rock garden in the main path. The island measures 4 feet by 5 feet, and the art must fit completely within the island. The artwork will be a focal point for pedestrians and garden visitors and will serve a functional purpose of slowing bike traffic and defining the thoroughfare for pedestrians. Aesthetically, it will complement the surrounding natural beauty and provide interest during winter months.

The artwork must be secure and stable and should be safe for pedestrians, with no sharp protrusions. Height is encouraged, though the design should respect the adjacent garden plots by not creating excessive shade. Materials may vary, but should be suitable for year-round outdoor installation and non-leaching. Use of recycled materials is encouraged. Artwork allowing for light planting around the base in the rock garden is also encouraged.

About the Site
The Olde Allegheny Community Garden was started in 1982 in the historic district of the Mexican War Streets.  Recently expanded from 40 to 50 plots, the garden is full and maintains a waiting list. Gardeners have chosen to grow organically. The site is open to the public, and the central path is used regularly as a pedestrian through way between two contiguous city blocks.

Deadline for applications                                         May 30, 2016
Selected artist notification                                       June 30, 2016
Artist deadline for proposal and timeline              July 31, 2016
Installation deadline                                                 Oct 30, 2016

The budget for the completed artwork is not to exceed $1500. The selected artist or artist team will receive 30% of the estimated cost upon approval of the proposal, with the remaining balance paid upon approval, completion, and installation of the project. This fee is for all costs related to the project, including supplies and materials, installation, and fabrication of the artwork.

Proposals from artists or artist teams living in Pittsburgh will receive priority over non-Pittsburgh residents.

Submission Materials
Interested artists should e-mail Jana Thompson at tailsonhigh@earthlink.net with the subject line “Community Garden Art” by May 30, 2016. Please include:
·         Name, address, phone
·         Up to 5 images of previous 3D artwork (images should not be larger than 1MB each)
·         Current CV, resume, artist statement, and/or biography.  No more than 2 pages
·         One or two paragraphs about why your style, aesthetics, and/or vision would be a good fit for this project

Selection Process
The Olde Allegheny Garden Art Committee will choose an artist whose work, style, aesthetics, and vision best fits the scope of the project.

The selected artist will have four weeks to submit a proposal and timeline of the artwork, including sketches or images. The committee will present the proposal to gardeners for approval or revisions.

·         All art and proposals must be the original work and concept of the artist and should not conflict with copyright laws
·         Artwork should be durable for long-term, outdoor use
·         Artist must adhere to timeline deadlines and budget. Failure to do so could result in termination of the project without compensation

Additional Information
A photographs of the installation site is shown below.  For any additional information or to visit the site, please contact Jana Thompson at tailsonhigh@earthlink.net.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Demo and Artist Talk at Gallerie Chiz

This past Saturday was a fun afternoon at Gallerie Chiz where I gave an artist talk and painting demo. I enjoyed showing my latest artwork and talking about my painting process, from beginning conception to finished painting. A Happy Hour followed and it was great to get to chat with so many of the attendees. Thanks to everyone who came out!

Here are a few photos:
It was great to see so many people show up for the event.

Demonstrating a watercolor portrait

Monday, January 11, 2016

Painting Demo at Gallerie Chiz

I will be giving an artist talk and painting demo at Gallerie Chiz on Saturday, Jan 30 from 2-4 pm. A cocktail hour will follow at 4. This event is free and open to everyone so please stop by and join in the fun. RSVP to galleriechiz@gmail.com.

Here are a few color studies for a new painting that I may be working on at the demo.What do you think? Which one should I use for my larger painting?

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Recent Watercolor Portrait Commision

Although commission work is not my primary focus these days, I completed several recently that were quite fun. "The Cellist" was one of them. 

My client was a graceful woman who had recently retired from the symphony. On a late afternoon, she played her cello while I took photos. I was inspired by how beautiful the scene was--the music, the lighting, her swift movements and fingering, her complete immersion while she played.

She wasn't sure if she wanted a descriptive background or something more obscured, so I prepared several color studies with different color schemes and backgrounds. In the end, we decided on a warm, neutral color scheme and an abstract background that suggested movement and music. 

Here are the color studies for her portrait:

The finished portrait, 

The Cellist, 26 x 20", watercolor

Monday, December 28, 2015

Creating A Painting

When creating a figurative painting, I often work with reference photos that I take myself. I never know when I will encounter a something that peaks my interest, so I always try to have a camera handy. (Easy to do now with cell phones.)

At the mall one day, I encountered these two playing chess. I stopped and watched for a while, intrigued by their deep immersion in the game. I was also intrigued by the age difference, making them unlikely pals. Here is the progression of the design and composition of the painting.

I liked the older man's pose in this photo,
but I liked the younger boy's pose in this one.

I combined the two, removed the color and posterized 
the image so that I could easily see the simple value shapes.

The background was problematic and detracting. I needed to create a space that was theirs; a place where they meet to share their love of the game. I created two value sketches to try out different backgrounds.

The first sketch shows the two players oblivious to the busy 
sidewalk setting but it wasn't quite what I had in mind.

Better. A quiet, early morning match, just the two
of them...and some pigeons.

Now to explore color options; a small color study will give me a roadmap to follow while I am painting. I knew I wanted a muted, neutral palette and I knew I wanted blues and violets as the dominant colors, so it wasn't hard to come up with an Analagous Blue Violet + Complementary Yellow color scheme. 

NOTE: Analagous colors are 3-5 colors on the color wheel that are right next to each other. In this case it would be Blue Green / Blue / Blue Violet / Violet / Red Violet. I used Raw Sienna for the Yellow Complement.

Small 5x7 color study

Here's the finished painting. I want the viewer to feel as if 
they are rounding a corner and discovering this scene as I did.


"The Challenger"
artwork size 19 x 26"

To view other artworks in this genre, click here.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Watercolor Artist Magazine

I was thrilled to find out that my little dancer will be on the cover of the April 2016 issue of Watercolor Artist magazine. The painting is called "Spent" and you can see it here. Here's a sneak peak at the cover:

Monday, December 14, 2015

Stories Without Words

This painting, "Last Visit", was one that I've always liked.

The story of this painting starts with a glance. I was shooting photos for my book, "Watercolor Made Easy: Portraits" and my model, Ron, was taking a break in between poses. I noticed him looking out the window and snapped this photo. Later, when I saw this image, I thought of someone visiting a person, place, or memory for the last time. I wanted to create a sense of longing, loss, or acceptance, depending on the viewer's own personal way story.

"Last Visit"
22 x 16" artwork size before framing
available at peggihabets.com