Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Good times in Charlotte, NC.

Well, after months of working on two large portraits for one corporate client, seeing the paintings shipped from your studio, praying they get there  (Airfloat Systems - the very best for art boxes!)  but you still never know. Fex Ex is great most of the time but I have also seen some boxes returned to me in terrible shape from competitions. I had one painting sent to the Royal Portrait Society in England lost in customs. No-one knew where it was...even with a tracking number! Numerous high anxiety transatlantic phone calls.

So it was a lovely moment to fly to Charlotte  a weekend or so ago and see these portraits unveiled in a delightful warm ceremony for the Reformed Theological Seminary, RTS, a group that trains ministers worldwide.

As I was sitting there at the unveiling surrounded by new friends I have made through the long process of making a portrait out of state, it reminded me of what an absolute privilege it is to be a portrait artist. To have someone place their trust in you to record an important person's time in place. I know it sounds cliched perhaps. But I take this honor very seriously. And it makes me feel humble actually.

I think of the greats that have gone before me, Sargent, de Lazlo, Rembrandt, et al, who  had many great unveiling's, more than I will ever have in my lifetime,  and SURELY, much better paintings than mine will ever be, but it is the same process we go through as a portrait artist today. A time-honored tradition that still exists. Ahhh.....pass the warm and fuzzies to me right now. A full plate of warm scones with lashings of Devonshire clotted cream

 But INCREDIBLE really when you think about it. We live in an age of fast-fix deliver, everything at the push of a computer Photoshop button. Great that this art form is still wanted, relevant, and appreciated.

It makes me want to work harder and get better. I will never be close to a Sargent or a  Rembrandt, or even modern masters Everett Raymond Kinstler, N.A., and Jeremy Lipking,  www.jeremylipking,com, but I think I still take pride in this incredible art form that I am lucky to be part of.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Food for thought -French sauces! A La Zorn.

So much discussion goes on in my teaching class about color! What palette is best? How do you get that green on the skin just there? And why did you put it there? How come we don't see it there? Should one keep it simple using a Zorn-like palette or not? 

I have students come in with a beautiful full rainbow palette and possess an equally lovely color sense and application that I admire. Then I find they have studied with Sharon Burkett Kaiser , www., one of the best around, herself trained by Russian painter Sergei Bongart,, unfortuanately no longer with us. Then I have had others who simply were too dazzled by that full palette to know what to do with it. Others who were getting comfortable with their palette to be then completely thrown by all that Zorn black in front of them. I had this happen just last week in class and it was interesting as a teacher. Simple sometimes is complicated. 

Anders Zorn, 1860- 1920,  was a Swedish painter,  with a wow factor bar none. Great restraint and great juicy soft painting. He is credited for this very limited palette but anyone who paints knows he put other colors out there sometimes. You can only achieve a certain amount of blue tones with black and ivory white next to orange.

The main palette I use is the one taught to me by my teacher Mr. Everett Raynmond Kinstler N.A., aformentioned many times in this blog!,   Still fairly limited at nine colors or so, but it does work so well around a light and darker value for each of the primary colors. Just look at his paintings for proof. There is no-one better for the study of color in this lifetime. Sorolla in the last!  And actually, I do think Ovanes Berberian, this lifetime, really rather damn good.

Mr. Kinstler's color palette is Permalba white, cad. yellow pale, raw sienna, cad. red light, alizarin crimson, cerulean blue, ultramarine blue, burnt sienna, burnt umber (I prefer raw umber), sap green OR chromium oxide green. I like NO BLACK.  As all my students know, burnt sienna and c.o. green make some beautiful shadow colors that you can enhance any way you wish, a bit of purple/blue here, a bit or orange there.

However, I have found much value to experimenting with the Zorn palette, yellow ochre,vermillion and black. There is a certain harmonious restraint that happens.  And also experimenting with other three color palettes around the primaries.

Look to the beautiful work of artist Dawn Whitelaw,,  to see what can be done with a three color palette. Her landscapes are magnificent as is her portrait work. GREAT color! She studied with Mr. K. for many years and has really made his teachings her own. Impressive. I admire this lady a lot. She is also very generous with her advice and teaches much in demand workshops. 

But really, you can choose any yellow, red and blue, plus white and black and have some fun. But go steady with the black. See if you can tone down with compliments first before dipping into the big black hole. YOU will learn a LOT about color mixing and color temperature. I know I have during the last several years of experimentation. I can now see a color before me and KNOW which way it leans temperature-wise and how to mix it.

A recent thought of mine has been to use the Zorn palette most of the way through a painting, SEE THESE TWO IMAGES, and then add some brights on top around the color wheel theory, limiting your 'brights" to the color compliments. You have to tread carefully but it is FUN. And I kind of like how it looks.

It reminds me of what an a wise old artist/sculptor said to me over lunch recently: "A painter needs greyed color much like a french chef needs a good sauce as the base for his food". 

Let me know what you think???? Just the painting, not the sauce stuff. I know the sauce I like. Cream with peppercorns all the way.

I teach Thursdays at the stellar Los Angeles Academy of Fine Arts in Van Nuys, CA., Visit the site for  more information about its' curriculum, including an impressive atelier training program in the academic tradition which Zorn would have been proud of.