Friday, January 31, 2014

Three Birds. Many Lessons.

Snowy Junco 8x10 oil on cotton canvas panel
One of my goals in early Jan was to start the year off by participating in Leslie Saeta’s painting challenge. But due to travel and other conflicts this month it was not to be. A big kudos though to all of you who did participate—I greatly missed the camaraderie and look forward to the next one. 

My return to the easel was challenging--For most of the month I had “polar vortex” bronchitis that just wouldn’t budge. The reality of being a “dedicated” artist is that you may sometimes paint in less than ideal conditions. When this happens, or you have limited time, I recommend keeping everything as simple as possible. 

Cheery Chickadee 8x8 oil on Raymar linen panel
Bird no. 1: Cheerful Chickadee
For me this meant a small (8x8 square), limited palette, and enjoyable subject matter. This cheerful chickadee is not bad for a quick study but I can tell I’m not 100%. (That’s a nice way of saying I was coughing so violently that the brush was hard to hold on to at times.) That being said I believe every painting provides us with valuable self-instruction.

Rosy Robin 8x10 oil on Ampersand Gesso panel
Bird no 2: High Key Robin
Moving on the next day for my robin painting, I chose a slightly larger (8x10 Ampersand gesso board) and somewhat more complicated high key value structure. You just don’t have the bold value contrast that can hold a painting together. So again with my robin painting a perfectly respectable study but I think I can improve on the composition, shape interest, edgework, etc.

Bird no. 3: Snowy Junco
In today's post you can see the junco has (in my opinion) more interesting shapes and paint quality ans well as better color harmony. It’s not a perfect bird painting by any means but I think it’s going in the right direction.  Best of all, I feel much better and am not starting February cold--no pun intended. Happy winter painting everyone!

P.S. I'm usually painting during foot ball season but but this Sunday as a proud Denverite I have to say Go Broncos!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Horsing Around: Soukup Demo

Art Jill Soukup demonstrates her approach to painting a buffalo in oil.
Thankfully, I’m back in the studio and feeling fantastic after some travel and being quite under the weather from said travel.  I always miss being away from my easel (it’s my anchor) jumping back in to studio work can be like diving into icy pond. 

This past weekend though I got an almost instant energy and inspiration boost from attending a demo by one of my all-time favorite painters.

If you’re lucky during your art life you discover other “aspiration artists.” These artists can really help keep you motivated. You just know this will be an artist you’ll happily follow for years to come. You can’t wait to see their next show and what they’re working on.

For me that artist is Denver representational oil painter Jill Soukup known for her fantastic equine paintings as well as her buffalos and urban scenes.  (I’ve been lucky enough to take a few classes with Jill and she’s also a talented and insightful instructor.)
Jill Soukup Equine Painting
Over this past weekend, I attended Jill’s demo at Saks Gallery in Denver where she currently has a nearly sold out one woman show.  (As nice as the paintings look on camera, they are even more impressive in person.)

Her demos are always fascinating--She often layers the paint (for example an earthy yellow green over a warm dull orange red) using a variety of tools including hefty well-worn brushes, large hardware style putty knives, etc. 
Jill "drags" a cooler cool blue over a warmer area with a putty knife.
Jill's brushes (many large or with very long handles) and other painting tools.

Interestingly, as you can see, Jill uses a variety of references for her paintings: A photo with more detail in the lights, one for the darks, a black/white value photo and sometimes several small color thumbnails where she tries different color options. In this case, she had decided to push the greens in the background of this wonderful buffalo portrait.

Detail of buffalo side of head--note the large textural planes of oil paint.
Jill Soukup oil painting palette--When asked she said her favorite color is that yellow green.
Finally, I'll be back soon with some abstracts I've been working on for Leslie's 30 in 30 January Challenge. Yes, I know only 7 days to go but better late than never!