Sunday, January 29, 2012

Dewy-ness or Mess?

Girl With a Peacock Fan
9x 12
oil on linen panel
work in progress

I have always like the challenge of painting golden skin tones. So much more color to be seen. Pinks , mauves, oranges and yellows. Great chance to use yellow and purple color harmony. However, all that color can also turn into a hot mess.

This was my class demo at The California Art Institute this week. Those of you that know me, know I paint fast. A demo can be finished in an hour if necessary and look somewhat complete, albeit rushed. I decided to really slow myself down on this sitting, to try to go for subtlety in that skin. My sitter from Jamaica, really beautiful,  had a certain dewiness. I wanted to capture that 'ness' not 'mess'.

I think students were surprised to see how little I had done at the end of the session. I hadn't even got to the hair, yet alone the ravishing peacoack fan behind her head...I am working on giving myself the gift of time.

Another sitting next week...come back!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Figure Painting...For All It's Worth...

Oil on linen panel
$5 shipping

Been busy in the studio recently so here is a quickie. A three hour figure study. I was hoping for a second sitting but alas..

The life painting time is never wasted. A model before you is always a training session for the drawing/painting eye. I think the human form the biggest challenge of all to paint. I also much prefer,when a model/sitter is on front of me, to paint a portrait of them, rather than full figure. It just interests me more.

However, one must always paint it all trying to improve the BIG FOUR. Drawing/composition, values, color, edges.

Please go out and purchase the wonderful figure drawing book by old master draughtsman Andrew Loomis "Figure Painting For All It's Worth". He knew an awful lot more than most around today. His books remain among my favorites.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Going For Gold

"Going for Gold"
oil on linen panel
$5 shipping
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The lovely and ever so gracious Ms. Barbara Meister, this week's Face of Ventura sitter.

Read her amazing life story in The Ventura Breeze, online, here

The joy of portrait painting, making new friends!

Gold shoes set up.

"Vintage Lace"
oil on linen panel
$5 shipping
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A busy week in the studio. There was a portrait commission to really enjoy, gold shoes to paint, a new Face of Ventura in the press, and a model in a vintage black lace dress that just needed my attention - oh yes, and two FULL teaching days to contend with.

What do all these have in common? Nothing, except the enjoyment of painting it ALL from life, from portraits to gold shoes and black lace. My mentor Mr. Everett Raymond Kinstler, N.A., who I remain eternally grateful for, has always advised his students to paint everything. Not just portraits.

So gold shoes from my closet, a black lace dress I wore in 1984 to a nightclub (custom made for me and out of mothballs), a sitter, the delightful Ms. Barbara Meister ( a new friend), and a lovely lady by Koi pond, on commission, all demand my studio art eye this week.

I feel blessed. How about you?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

STOP The Presses... How to talk about your art...

Interviews, be it in the newspaper, on radio or TV, always make me a bit HYPER, especially if they are live. Pre-recorded is a wonderful safety net. Pubic art demos too get me a little fired up ahead of time.

This week's interview for KADY TV's "" with interviewer Annie-Gabriel, pictured, was a delight. I love it when interviewers do their research ahead of time and guide you well through the mine-field of live recording. Annie-Gabriel was very upbeat, colorful, welcoming and smiling, and had done her homework with a pre-interview over the phone with me. Her timing through the 15 minutes of uninterrupted air-time was as calm as a cucumber. How did she do that? I couldn't. I was impressed.

The jitters come in because who wants to have a verbal boo-boo? Not me. And you really don't know how it is going to go until that red-light is blaring at you, blinking like a cad. red beacon, almost saying "will she, won't she?..."

Will you be 'on'? Will there be a silent pause? Will you fluff your lines? Have a coughing fit? Embarrass anyone, including yourself? The charming show producer gave me a peppy prep. talk minutes before the interview mentioning something about the timing of things. I just took a deep breath and said to myself, just talk about what you know. That is the very best plan, seems to me.

So here are the few things I have learned so far...but when the"60 Minutes' TV show comes knocking I may need to reconsider:

*Have bullet points prepared. Five things you want to tell people about you and your art.

*Re-read your resume, artist statement, awards, in a clear state of mind shortly before.

*Have a sentence or two prepared for the very beginning of interview.

*No mumbling. Talk very loudly to yourself about an hour before, especially driving on the freeway. Who cares who is watching.

*Remember important names. Your own - and the interviewer - especially. Have a cheat sheet tucked away with those names on them.

*Eat a light, bean-free, meal ahead of time. No grumbling stomach.

*Plan a bathroom break just before hitting the microphone. Live air time is very expensive and it stops for no-one including a bladder break.

*Carry make-up powder, male or female. Shiny foreheads and cheeks make you look nervous.

* Remember to thank the magical people who got you to this point on the journey

* Remember to sell YOUR enthusiasm for art: inspire people who might be on the edge to pick up the brush!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Juicy Brushstrokes...

Ma Lo, 9 x 12, oil on linen, email me for purchase

Studio Diary
January 4th.

Busy day in the studio today. Get to start a new commission of a lady by a Koi pond although I have been sketching it up in my head for a while - and a TV interview in the afternoon, all of which I am look forward to.

Here is a sketch I did from life last night of Ma Lo, who I call the most beautiful woman in the world. I love juicy brushwork. The hardest thing is to put a brush stroke down that you kinda know is good and leave it alone. People say I am a fast painter. I think I paint fast because the more I work at something, painting from life, the more I seem to ruin it. I like to get in and out fast. A spontaneous look. Use the brush loaded with paint and carve out the forms, hoping to get the right color-value correct. That's the plan at least.

However, painters like Jeremy Lipking, who I was painting with last night, seem to be absolutely genius, at getting the slower, more considered finish, just right.

What do you think?

Monday, January 2, 2012

RESOLUTIONS - How to paint a multiple figure composition

A New Year. New Resolutions? What's yours? I don't have one. Here's why.

I will be forever reminded each January 2nd of the biggest resolution I ever took on in my art life, to draw every day of the year through 2010 ('365 Days of Drawing by Johanna Spinks') and post publicly about it all. I pulled it off without missing a single day but wouldn't want to do it ever again despite some glorious moments. A show, a book and a piece in American Artist Magazine. I am still receiving emails about this challenge BTW.

In Jan. 2011 I took on a slightly less ambitious project but a huge commitment, nevertheless, to paint 55 people from life, in a single sitting, representing the old mission town of Ventura, CA, USA, all recorded by the town's newspaper and local radio station, adding to the studio pressure somewhat. The job must be done in a timely fashion with a pretty good likeness at that, so the town can actually recognize it's well-known folks and I don't fall flat as day-old New Year champagne.

So as we all start afresh, taking on new projects, I am reminded and stimulated by a project of Christmas just passed, which I plan on doing more of this year in my studio, the multiple figure painting.

I post an enjoyable project I did toward year's end for a client on an Holiday deadline involving a multiple figure request for a painting around a carnival scene featuring the client's young nieces and nephews to be placed in little vignettes. I was given a completely bare canvas, around concept and execution. The only restrictions really being specifics of age, height and hair color of the children. I hope you find it useful to see how I approached quite a complicated painting in terms of situating the children nicely around good concept, value design, perspective and overall color.

I researched images and ideas for many hours, and sketched a ton, before finally settling on my plan which was then executed fairly smoothly. A rewarding journey I hope for both myself and the client. I was a little sad actually to see this painting ship out.

SCROLL DOWN to see the beginning.

The finished painting, shipped, and approved. A great feeling.
You can see here how much I use my original sketches to the end and inspirational board of master paintings and color swatches of light. I also visit a fairground carousel and take notes. This was really helpful.

More fine-tuning. I want to get left side of the painting full-realized before moving on as I feel the carousel is the most important part of the scene. I am holding on to the warm ground in many parts of the painting, little specs showing through at the finish. Try not to re-work too much, otherwise this effect will be lost.
Slowly start to build up color using the little girl on the lower left as my anchor for the rest of the figures and a color harmony of blue and orange, warms and cools.
The painting, 24 x 32, starts with a very warm ground for the planned night-time scene. I start out with a loose charcoal drawing on the linen canvas, then use burnt umber going over charcoal lines.
A second sketch is made for the client, really nailing down how the enlarged fairground scene is going to look, reducing the figures and making much more of the fairground. The children remain in their original vignettes. I feel it was worth taking the time on this and am very happy with the direction.

An rough oil sketch is made for the client to see, 16 x 20, drawing freehand from the cleaned up acetate. The client prefers the children smaller in the scene. Back to the drawing board, using what I have in this sketch and fine-tuning more.
I clean up my somewhat lively pen and ink enlarged sketch with an acetate sheet so I can see where I am going. I was going to grid up the original 8 x 10 drawing in my sketchbook, but decided not to in the end preferring the spontaneity of the original drawing, lost to my mind, when you grid up.
A few freehand drawings, from my research, in my sketchbook lead me to this concept. I studied as many master paintings of fairgrounds and carnivals that I could get my hands on. I make notes on the drawing about the children's ages, names and height. This is important.