Sunday, February 21, 2010

Mardi Gras Masks

Happy Weekend Everyone! I was so busy last week with my out of town travel, I didn't have a chance to post this watercolor painting of masks in honor of Mardi Gras.  As some of you may know, these are actually a collection of Venetian Carnival masks but I added some Mardi Gras beads for extra color and sparkle. Trying to work with the Mardi Gras color triad of gold, green, and violet was also an enjoyable exercise.  On the white mask I added some additional paint "bling" with a touch of metallic gold gouache. 

Since I usually struggle a bit with painting facial structures, especially in watercolor, I thought it was a great exercise.  I also thought the black and white striped satin would also be a challenging and interesting background with all the sharp value changes and reflections. Maybe I've got a bit too much going on here, in retrospect, but Mardi Gras (though I've never been) seems to be a colorful and exuberant celebration. So given that, maybe it's appropriate. Now I just need a sugary beignet to go with my coffee.....    

I'm looking forward this week to having more painting and teaching time. As always, welcome to my new students and have a great week! Et toujours, l'aissez les bontemps roulez!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Polar Bear Express

Happy Monday everyone! In my continuing theme of honoring beautiful Canada and the Winter Olympics this week, I thought I'd post a water color study of a polar bear from our Denver Zoo a few years back.  I just love their sloping bodies and heads. If you enjoy painting animals and wildlife like I do but only have cat or dog "super models" at home, it goes without saying that zoos can be a helpful resource for artists. 

I recall that day I also ended up with an interesting giraffe and elephant sketch as well.  I took a ton of reference photos and while it's a bit tricky because the animals are often behind glass or partially hidden, it was still fun to paint subjects that one wouldn't normally paint in the studio. Plus it's great practice for painting a variety of textures like fur, scales, etc.  

Looking for more animal sketching ideas? Here are just a few interesting examples I found from art blogs about zoo sketching and drawings from the zoo.  

For more information about my watercolor, acrylic, or oil painting classes, please drop me a note at the studio email in my blog header.  Have a great week all--happy painting and enjoy the Olympics!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

North by Northwest Still Life

Happy Weekend everyone! In honor the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, I'm posting a rather "moody, muted" still life oil painting that was inspired by the Canadian post impressionist painter and writer Emily Carr.

I first discovered Ms. Carr's work on a trip to Victoria and Vancouver a few years ago. It was also my first time on a sea plane and I can't wait to return one day.  The combination of water, mist, dark forests, and mountains is a landscape painters dream. 
As some of you may know she is known for her paintings of symbolic totems and the moody and mystical landscape of Victoria Island (where Carr was born) and British Columbia.  
I find her trees paintings (like this one) have amazing personality and always inspire me. Carr was also associated with the Canadian Seven, a group of primarily landscape painters who worked around the 1920's.
I'm not sure where this odd wooden yoke (if that's what it is) came from--I think it may have been from the collection of a former instructor, but I do know I enjoyed painting the combination of weathered wood and rusty metal.  The next time you paint a still life you may want to include an unexpected item like this, I promise you it will become one of your favorites.  
Quick welcome to all my new February students, I look forward to working with you on your art goals and will see you in the studio soon.  This upcoming week some out of town business takes me to Indianapolis and am hoping the weather will be good enough to take some decent landscape photos. Have a great weekend--enjoy the Olympics!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Painting with Extra Sprinkles

Happy February everyone! When students (or fellow artists) ask me what is it I like most about oil painting, I can't help but think of the buttery texture.  In fact, as all you know who bake and paint, fresh tube oil paint is quite a bit like icing...

Perhaps, because of Valentine's Day (which is also my Dad's birthday) approaching I found myself thinking about California pop artist Wayne Thiebaud (now 90 years old), aka the  iconic"cake and pie" painter. 

As some of you may know, I've read that Wayne struggled at first with his series of dessert paintings, until he found a Manhattan gallery who was interested in showing them. In the era of Warhol and Lichtenstein, he was an immediate sensation and the rest, as the say, is icing on the cake. And today, I recently saw that one of Mr. Thiebaud's cake paintings sold at Sotheby's for 1.7 million dollars--not bad for a cake.

In honor of Valentine's Day, Wayne, and desserts in general, I thought I'd do a quick cupcake study. I had a blast with the sprinkles, which were done with a knife.  This made me think about Sprinkles--the LA cupcake chain coming to Denver and I hope it's soon. If you've been to a Sprinkles you know what I mean...

Also, over the weekend I was lucky enough to get to give a brief talk about the Denver art scene to a great team of KSU Students--If any of you stop by it was great to meet you and and good luck with your project!  Go Wildcats!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Snow Day in the Studio

Happy Snowy Monday everyone! While not my favorite weather, it does lend itself to a warm, cozy day for  some extra painting time in the studio.

I live just a few blocks from the beautiful Cherry Creek in Denver and so last weekend I decided to take a few landscape reference photos.  It can be rather "scrubby" looking this time of year, but with the snow drifts partially melting, I thought I'd find some interesting patterns and textures. 

Initially, I had in mind something very dramatic with light and shadow, but this quick oil painting study (12 x 12) didn't quite end up that way so I'm going to have to tackle that again today. 

That being said, I enjoyed playing with the color mixtures using a bold but limited primary pigment palette of one cool blue (Thalo),  two yellows (Indian, Ochre), one warm red (Perm Rose), and cool/warm white (Permalba).  While I like some of the color mixtures here, I think today I'm going use some Ultramarine for more cool/warm blue balance next time.

Also, I think the overall painting  will be more successful if I really exaggerate the complementary contrast between the warmer grasses/branches with the cooler snow patches and ground shadows.  Several of my current students really enjoy landscapes and I thank them for reminding me how relaxing they can be to paint, especially in the winter.  If you like landscapes, you may want to take look at the work of  Texas painter Nancy Bush, who I recently discovered thanks to a student. Amazing compositions and color palette.     

Before I go, a quick shout out to my friends and fellow artists on Daily Painters Abstract Blog for launching their new website Contemporary Fine Art International be sure to check it out.  For more information about my classes please drop me a note or visit me on Teach Street (search word: Scarlet Owl).

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Painting White Now

 You may have read my previous blogs about painting white objects and how helpful that can be when starting out painting, in any medium really.  Painting white (or near white) objects allow you to focus on the value and subtle temperatures changes.

This is an still life oil painting from a few years ago from a workshop with Boulder painter Linda Lowry (check out her amazing interior scenes) where we we're assigned an all white still life.  The swan dish is from a tag sale and I thought it would be fun and challenging to paint the feathers.

Just for fun, I "cheated" a bit and added a pop of color in the focal point. I believe I painted this entirely from neutral mixes of Burnt Sienna and Prussian or possibly Thalo Blue, since I rarely use a tube black like Ivory Black. (I do recall that I found the very dark background challenging from a brushwork standpoint.)

Here's a short video of Craig Nelson painting "white" eggs as well--you'll see he uses quite a bit more color.

Also, if I ever win the lottery I think the first thing I'll do is order every single paint color from the current Daniel Smith Catalog. (As some of you know, I already can't live without my Daniel Smith "quin" colors.) I see now they have some amazing looking new pigments (PrimaTek) based on gem grade minerals that I can't wait to try one day, like Tiger Eye, Lapis, and Turquoise.  Just browsing through this catalog brightens my day!
For more information about my beginner or intermediate oil painting classes, please write to me at the email in the header. And for my current students, be sure to practice this week--"Owl" be seeing you in the studio!