Sunday, September 4, 2016

Figures and Portraits of the Summer

Here is the best picture I've ever painted:


What do I mean by "best"?  My satisfaction here is both technical and purely artistic.  On the technical side, what fun I had working on my wonderful friend's skin tone, using a lot of quinacridone  red mixed with crimson, light red, and lavender for shadows.  I put on wash after wash in thin layers, building up the darkness and complexity.  And I was exceedingly careful--I am indeed learning to be careful, to know what to take care on, to get the details right.  Check out the hair clip.

Artistically, this painting is doing everything I want my paintings to do: capturing human beauty sculpted by light.  I love my friend's beautiful contemplative pose, the light caress of her fingers on her shoulder, the glints in her eyes.  I will happily paint forever, trying to evoke beauty in this way.

Here's another portrait of the same model, a very dear friend of mine:


I love this one as well.  The portrait is accurate.  I love the velvety blue drape.  This one is really all about the back, of course.  Backs are so graceful.

I am happy with pretty much everything I've done this summer.  Here's the most recent piece I've done:


Here too I am doing everything I want to do.  The "sculpting by light" here is wonderful--my friend's hands in particular looking beautiful, carried in a way that's very evocative of her "habitus," her natural ways of moving in her body.  The skin tone is as delicate as my friend's real skin is.  My tools for evoking the real texture and depth of skin are approaching my dreams and goals for that purpose.   Again I love the contemplative gaze.

 Here is another piece of the same model:


I like this piece very much as well--although the photos I have to work from are not up to my best standard.  I am still learning how to use a new camera.

Here are a couple sketches:



I am obsessively trying to paint a good painting like the one above of my friend and her fabulous back line.  Still not there, but this one is OK.  Finally, below, is another painting I am very fond of, particularly the tone on the fall of the model's lower back.  This one I will frame and hang in my studio.


It's been a great summer for painting.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

My First Show

I am gearing up for my first show.  In December, January, and February, my work will adorn the walls of the Unitarian Universalist church of which the family and I are members.  The show presents certain problems for me, the primary one being to determine exactly how much of my favorite art, my obsessional art, the art I have devoted most of the past ten years to cultivating--namely, pictures of naked people--to show in this religious space, to people I know and care for and people who know me but don't really know very much about my artistic obsessions.  Do I take this opportunity to "come out"?

Well, at the very least, I DO want to show other work, so I have been working on some non-figurative pieces lately.  Here's the best of it, one of my favorite paintings now, actually:


This piece is from a photo I took on the beach on the Ngapali Coast in Myanmar.  I really wanted to record the graceful native watercraft and the beauty of the calm sea.  The boat on the right was the one that the family and I got carried in across the channel to an island, where we snorkeled and played in the sand.  The painting was a fun challenge, requiring quite a lot of masking out before the washes went on: the boats, the glints and lines on the water.  I do love the foreground of the sea, with the wave and the sea foam.  
Here's another one of these pieces:


This is sunrise as we were sailing into the harbor in Mauritius.  When I show this to folks, they frequently hold it upside down, which I completely understand.  Painting this sunrise taught me one startling fact I had never taken in: that sunsets and sunrises, which we all love so much, are abstract art in the purest sense: pure play with hue, intensity, light, shadow.  

Finally, a portrait:


This is my son and a buddy, from a photo taken on a playdate at our house.  Really, I think I could paint children forever.  They are just so beautiful.  But to still the life of these lovely kids in an image almost feels like a violation: an intrusion of an adult artist's sensibility onto the free play space, the in-the-moment joy, of the world of childhood. I do like this painting, but in retrospect I should have left the background white.  The faces would have "popped" better.

I have some people who know my work telling me I should share some of the nudes in the show--to, yes, come out as the kind of artist I really think of myself as.  I respond to these suggestions in a number of ways: 1) Y'know, I don't really NEED to share this part of my artistic self.  I have zero ambitions in the way of commercial success or fame as an artist in general.  I paint because I love to paint.  2) I legitimately wish to preserve the privacy of my dear models, many of whom are members of the local community.  3) We ARE talking about a church here.  4) The hardest piece, the core of it for me: yes, I have shame.  I do not wish to be known as that guy who just paints naked women.  This anxiety comes from many old and ugly voices in my past, and I do wish to rally against them.  These voices teach me not to take myself seriously as an artist.  That's not OK.  So I will judiciously choose some figurative pieces to show, amid these and other pieces I have done, of fruit or mountains or ice cream.

I loved painting these pieces, and they gave me something of a new lease on artistic life: wow, I CAN paint something other than people.  A side benefit is that I actually get to share some of my work, at this show and on Facebook and so forth.  I got lots of likes.  That was fun!