Over the last year I’ve slowed down on new paintings in the Statement series in favor of other projects, but there was one more I hadn’t posted yet. This one is my photographer friend Jillian who took the reference shot for Statement I. During a different shoot for reference photos I noticed she was wearing a white shirt while I saw her reviewing photos. I asked to include her in this series, and here she is!
Since this was in her studio, there was a large white background on one side of the image. It had very subtle shadows and lighting which was interesting to pin down. It was so bright relative to the rest of the scene that I opted to put a warm tone on the rest: the crates on the floor, the stacked reflectors on the left, and the wall and floor. I kept the dark details in the blue-ish range to stay soft while still providing sufficient contrast from the warm background.
It’s always satisfying to find a few small high-contrast details to paint. The reflection on the camera screen was a fun piece to do as well as the embroidery on the shirt. Nicely balanced!
Since starting the Statement series I’ve been on the lookout for interesting variations on white fabrics. It occurred to me that there are a few occupations that include uniforms or articles of clothing that fit the bill. My friend Will, who currently pursuing an MD/PhD, has the accoutrement of the practice and kindly posed for me.
This was a fun shoot because it touched upon some of the style I use for user interviews for my experience design projects. I asked him to imagine he was conducting a patient interview and tell me about how it happens. It was interesting to see how he stayed attentive while taking notes (and the occasional teasing about me taking photos). The notes he was jotting down related to a patient interview he’d conducted in a class earlier that week.
When painting this one I tinkered with the order of what to paint when and am pretty happy with the results. I end up using a dry brush type of technique on both skin and the white fabric to eliminate hard edges. Knowing this, I worked on the skin and shirt first (after the initial tones) so I could allow myself a little overspray that I could tighten up when refining the background.
Working on the skin early is also a good way to reduce that antsy low point that comes during a half-finished painting. If the skin looks good, it’s okay to have the abstract/unfinished look to the clothing or the background. The core of the figure grounds the whole thing. I’ll probably play around with this more in the future when I’m ready to mix figurative work with other styles.
I particularly like the chiaroscuro effect in this one. The lighting adds an extra gravitas to an interaction that already feels serious. This painting feels familiar and friendly to me because I know who it is but I imagine it’ll feel very different for anyone else viewing it.
Got this lovely late afternoon shot for the latest painting, part of the Statement series.
My friend Teresita is renting a room in a house with this fabulous master bathroom. The windows overlook trees surrounding the property, and was too good to pass up. She had a white (well, cream) towel, so we tried a bunch of shots here. This was one of the last ones we took, and the best of the bunch due to this great casual hand gesture.
The sun was low enough to highlight just the towel. That towel highlight had particularly nice lighting that matched the tealight. The tiles also had some interesting reflections that took a little effort to figure out – some were from the sun, some from the tealight, and others are reflected light from her. Overall, it’s pretty close to how it looked except that I ended up toning down the wallpaper a bit. It was some kind of 80’s glamorous and very, very shiny. Quite happy with how this turned out!
Another collaboration in the Statement series – this one courtesy of my friends Jennifer and Dave. Dave is a connoisseur of bowties and has written an eBook all about them. He had this great photo for the cover, so in exchange for borrowing it for a painting, I created a few layout options for the cover.
What you see here involved a little Photoshop work on the layout and colors. Though I liked this source photo best, it was opposite of the orientation I hoped to use. I flipped the photo and adjusted the orientation of the hand (right hand = no ring) and the shirt placket so they would be accurate. I also shifted the color of the tie from an executive red to a stylish purple. I came up with three cover variants, and they chose the third one.
Go check out the eBook and elevate your bow tie game!
I ran into my classic dilemma with skin tones here. I usually end up skewing them too pale to counterbalance the warmth of the underlying tones. Those are the middle awkward steps.
The texture of the bowtie fabric was particularly fun to paint. Not only did the fabric weave run perpendicular to the stripes, it also had a little bit of a sheen that created some interesting highlights and shadows. One comment I got upon showing this to a friend: “I just want to run my fingernails across it!”
The Statement series is mostly individuals, but this lovely pose was too good to pass up. This photo is from Hannah & Amanda’s commitment ceremony and was either taken by me or Alan. Only the metadata knows for sure!
This was shot outside in the sun which was a cheery change from the indoor lighting of previous images. I think I was still in indoor-lighting mode, and realized partway through that it was a little too cold and blue-ish. I ended up doing a sweep of warmer colors to fix it. It was also a group shot originally. I blurred out the background as I painted but opted to keep some of the tone changes for variety, in particular to highlight the hand around the waist.
Sometimes I can’t tell whether I’m done unless I let a painting sit around for a bit. On this one, I decided that I had wrapped it up a bit too early. After looking at it for a few days, I ended up coming back to the black/blue details on Hannah’s dress this morning to touch it up. Glad I did!
The latest in the Statement series, with a fun variant on the white fabric: leather! A friend of mine has this neat leather motorcycle jacket, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to paint a different type of material.
Due to the color of the materials, I did something I don’t usually do on these painting: I used black paint. Carbon Black, specifically. I can usually get a good rich dark color out of mixing Burnt Umber and Ultramarine Blue, but I felt the colors in those would take away from it, and mute some of the matte vs shiny goodness here. I kept the rest of the colors pretty muted to balance it out…hence the grayish speedlines of the background.
There were a few interesting and tricky parts to this one. The jacket has a series of fine perforations on the bottom half of the chest and the inside of the sleeves. The helmet has mix of matte and glossy areas. Surprisingly, the jeans ended up being the most difficult part of this to get right in terms of the color and texture. I may need to find more photos with jeans in them for practice.
Also fun here: painting logos. The logos and color scheme reminded me of painting a 3-4′ wide piece of wood with a Nascar auto on it for a kid’s room decoration years ago. At some point I may try my hand at making a font.
Another figure & fabric Statement exploration, this time where the drape of fabric comes from the surroundings. This pose presented some fresh challenges that can be hidden in drapey clothing: how to capture its natural balance and ease, and getting the right colors and tones in the shadows.
The sheets had a nice subtle damask stripe which was very handy for defining the shapes. When I first started into the shadows, I used a consistent gray until I noticed little patches of other colors. I realized there were two light sources: a prominent yellowish light (probably a ceiling light), and a much lighter bluish source (probably from a window). Separating these helped create more realistic lighting on the sheets and pillows. The wood was awfully close to the base burnt sienna color (with streaks of burnt umber), so the background was quite easy to clean up along the way.
My “despair” moment on this piece was making the error of using washes to lighten up the figure. It sucked out all of the color, and I ended up repainting over almost all of it. However, in the process of that, I came up with a stippling dry brush style that created a nice texture. I also found it better to gradually move towards progressively darker (or lighter) colors and mixing them as I went.
I think my first instinct when painting is to gravitate towards watercolor-style effects, but they just don’t work as well in acrylic on this fast-drying claybord. The drawing-style effects like stippling or hatching turn out better. The dry-brushing is pretty hard on the brushes, but if it looks good, it’s worth chewing up a brush or two along the way. I’ll just be sure to get the cheap ones.
I’m starting a series of paintings to explore two things I’ve wanted to work at more: figures and fabric. I’m always drawn towards art that has people in it, especially people with a distinct mood. I also wanted to build up more technical skill in drawing/painting fabric with realistic weight and drape. I’ve been paying more attention to white walls/fabric in particular to get more attuned to subtle influences of light color and soft reflections.
After some thought I’m going with the name “Statement” for these. I’m looking for poses that communicate a point of view, and I’m challenging myself to not rely on facial expressions if at all possible. It’s also a nod to the role of fabric: not just a thing for comfort, but a thing that reacts to our shapes and reflects our stance.
This one is the result of a collaboration with a talented photographer friend, Jillian of Epoxy Studios. She recently took headshots for Alan, and they were good sports to try some artsy poses that I could paint. I really liked the balance of this image.
I’m also trying out a new surface: a smooth masonite-like board called “claybord“. I don’t particularly like the texture of canvas, so this is a nice change. It’s smoother than I’m used to, which is both good and bad. The paints seem to dry much faster on it too, which can be challenging. Overall, I like the size and how solid they are.
The fabric was particularly challenging. Two things in particular helped:
I’m looking forward to more paintings in this style, hopefully with a range of people.
This moody piece came together from many different sources. I found this gothic (or possibly medieval)-looking frame at a Goodwill attached to a beaten-up print from JCPenney. Around the same time, I was working on a UI design that needed sample content and had picked the phrase “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” to use. It occurred to me that both this Alice in Wonderland riddle and Poe’s poem “The Raven” reference the same themes: writing, ravens, and a touch of madness. I envisioned a frustrated writer toiling in the late hours by candlelight – a good fit for the heaviness of the frame.
While making the initial sketch, I decided it would be interesting if the writer was himself a raven and was using his own quills to attempt to write. I liked the idea of arranging the pose so this wasn’t obvious at first, but a closer look at the back of the head would look more like feathers than hair, and what could have been seen as the arm would actually be a beak.
I gathered up dozens of photo references for desks, candlelight, and ravens, but I knew it’d be tricky to get the perspective, pose, and lighting right without a proper mockup of the full scene. I briefly considered getting a 3D program to set up a scene and ultimately decided it would look too artificial. Instead, I built a scene out of a shoebox, a tiny flashlight, a 9″ posable model (the excellent A9 Ranger from Digital Double), a few odds and ends, and lots of paper and cardboard. After taking about 50 photos from every conceivable angle, I whittled it down a winner and enlisted my husband and frequent model Alan to mimic the pose for additional clothing/lighting reference.
The frame is pretty shallow so I tracked down a 24″ x 30″ canvas on panel for the painting. The beginning process was pretty similar to my other paintings. I’ve come to realize that after my tone layers & ultramarine blue, I often go to either greens, purples, or whites as the next few layers. These are usually the ones that start bringing individual areas much closer to a finished state. I also set the frame around the painting in the later stages to make sure the tonal range matched.
Like previous paintings, I’d restricted myself to using ultramarine blue for the dark areas initially; it, combined with burnt umber, can often make a rich and interesting dark color (to see this in action: every painting in the Statement series uses this blend except Statement III, which uses a carbon black for the helmet and jacket to make it stand out). Near the end the overall tones still looked a bit too soft, so I browsed through paintings of candlelit scenes for inspiration. This helped me shore up the candles, and this painting by Pehr Hilleström in particular made me decide to use carbon black to make the figure and feathers stand out.
The back of the painting is papered over with a copy of Edgar Allen Poe’s poem. I ended up leaving out references to “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” but will leave you with the solution I’d come up with and still prefer most: because they both have inky quills.
Here are the rules I’m following: pick one person from the excellent Facial Expressions reference book, and each week, focus only on that person and draw a different expression every day. The book is a wonderful reference of people of a mix of ethnicity, body type, and gender, from 20’s to 80’s.
This week I chose Roshan, a 47-year old woman. I started off by penciling first and then inking. I’d barely started on the eye when I quickly realized that the Uniball Vision I was using put out too much ink for the notebook I’m using (a blank thin-paged paper-cover Moleskine). I switched to a Micron 02 (0.3mm) since the paper is so delicate. It’s much easier to draw creases and wrinkles when drawing with thinner lines overall. It feels slightly like cheating to me because I’ve been drawing with thicker (more unforgiving) lines. I figure if I do this for a while I can get more confident about working back to the thicker lines. I felt like it lost a bit of the expressiveness by drawing it in two stages (pencils & ink) so for the rest I used ink only. Week 1 is done!