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!
I got a commission recently from an unexpected source. A few months ago I started posting close-up details of my paintings & drawings on Instagram and Tumblr. I figured it would be an interesting opportunity to show off the details you’d see if you could see it in person. One such post was a detail of Statement VII (the doctor): specifically, a close-up view of his hands jotting down notes. This caught the eye of our friends Kevin and Allison as they both work in writing/journalism and they inquired about a commission. I offered to change up details if they liked (different colors? new photo shoot in the same pose with one of them?) but they opted for a painting from the original photo.
The detail I posted on Instagram is about 3″x3″, and the new painting I created is 12″x12″. When I checked the original photo, I realized I’d skewed it a bit more warm/orange on the original painting. I liked some of the purple tones so I shifted a little bit back towards that for this version of it. I also pulled the crop back slightly to show cuff details for both hands.
While I was working on it, my friend Jeremy saw it and pointed out that it had a distinctly different feel to it when viewed from different angles. I often adjust the angle on reference photos for new paintings, but it never occurred to me to try that for this one. I rotated it a bunch of ways and decided that there were two that I felt looked best, so when I completed it I added hardware to allow it to hang two different ways: the original orientation, or turned 45 degrees for a diamond shape. I’m not sure which I prefer: I figure that can be a choice made based on where it’s going and what they’re in the mood to see.
Enjoy your painting, Kevin & Allie!
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.