Monday, February 20, 2017

Step One: The Inspiration

The next seven posts will explore the steps of creating a painting from beginning to end. The steps I follow are, roughly: inspiration; computer design; value sketches; color studies; drawing, painting; and framing.

This post explores step one, the inspiration. This is the "why" of your painting. Why were you draw to this particular image and why do you want to paint it? The answer to that question will guide your decisions through the painting process.

Here is the initial reference photo for my painting, Disconnected.

About The Photo
I was walking in Charleston, SC and saw this young mother and baby sitting on the curb. I was drawn to the loving way she held and looked at her son, as well as the beautiful lighting on her hair and arm. This was all I needed as inspiration.

Copying the photo as-is was not an option. The location, car, and vegetation detract from the imagery of the mother and child. How to incorporate the inspiration into a well-designed and conceptual painting? Stay tuned for next week's post.The next several steps will be focused on the design and composition.

Next week, Step Two: Computer Design.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Watercolor Workshops for 2017

Watercolor portrait and figure workshop for all levels
Nancy Couick Studios
Syllabus and supply list
Photo reference guide

Students go beyond mere portraiture and the goal of achieving a likeness. We will delve into the design and planning that are integral in telling a story or communicating an idea. The workshop progresses through the stages of a painting, from initial inspiration and reference material to value and color studies to final painting of a figure or figures. Although students may complete one or several paintings during the course of the workshop, the ultimate goal is not to create a masterpiece, but to experiment with new ideas and techniques and to make plenty of mistakes.

Watercolor figure workshop for all levels
New Kensington Art Center
Syllabus and supply list
Photo reference guide

This one-day workshop is designed for students wanting to incorporate more creativity and personal expression in their figure paintings using values, edges, and backgrounds.

Watercolor Master Class for all levels
Nemacolin Woodlands Resort
Sunday, October 15 will be a special private welcome reception for students and an
art tour of Nemacolin's world-renown art collection.

Learn to paint expressive and creative portraits and figures in watercolor. Enjoy three days of creating, learning, and inspiration in the brand-new studio space of beautiful Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. Bring a spouse or non-painting friend to enjoy the many amenities of Nemacolin and make it a getaway retreat for all of you.

Syllabus and supply list will be posted April 1st.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Drawing From Life

In Pittsburgh, there are lots of opportunities to attend figure drawing sessions with a model. The hard part is fitting it into your schedule. I try to go once a week for practice, camaraderie, and inspiration. Here is a sketch from the last session at Panza Gallery. The session was three hours, broken into 2, 5, 10, 15, and 30-minute poses.

Model Sara, charcoal over watercolor, 1/2 hour pose

Monday, January 30, 2017

American Watercolor Society 150th International Exhibition

The American Watercolor Society is a nonprofit membership organization that began in 1866 to promote the art of watercolor painting in America.

Each year the Society holds a juried exhibition of watercolors from artists throughout the world.

My painting, What Plagues Us, will be included in this year's exhibition. It will be held at the Salmagundi Club at 47 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY from April 3-22, 2017.

To find out the story behind What Plagues Us, click here.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Let's Paint Together: Upcoming Watercolor Workshop

I am headed to Charlotte, NC in April to teach a four-day workshop at Nancy Couick Studios. Workshops are a great way to immerse in painting, creating, and learning. You can check out the class description and supply list or register using the links below.I hope you can join us!

"Going Beyond A Likeness"
Nancy Couick Studios
Charlotte, NC 
April 5-8, 2017

Potos from my last 4-day workshop for the West Texas Watercolor Society:
Demo for the West Texas Watercolor Society
Watching the demo. You could hear a pencil drop!
Student portraits from Day 1
Student color studies for their next painting
Lots and lots of studies!

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