Monthly Archives: August 2009

Color Study of Geneia and Pelee

I have been working so much lately that I haven’t painted as much as I need to. A while back I blogged my Black and White Study from the Equine Painting Workshop. I’ve repainted Geneia’s face since then because I wanted it to actually look like her, so I’m posting it again. I’ve now finished my color study, at least for the moment. I may end up making revisions after I’ve had a chance to live with it for a few days. I added a rock outcropping to the background, because the field in the original photograph was too boring. I’ve left the rocks unfocused-looking, so ithey don’t distract from the main figures, but Geneia’s face is entirely in shadow, which makes it a challenge to draw attention to it. I will ponder the problem.

Now, I will go back to my Orpheus painting and another of Circe, Odysseus and his men turned to swine. In a few weeks, Matt and I will be traveling to Maine and Quebec. I would sooooo like to hit the Boston area on the way there. I’ve always wanted to visit the haunts of Nathaniel Hawthorne (click on link…..hello), especially the actual House of Seven Gables. The novel fired my imagination in highschool, not all of it perhaps, but definitely the riveting chapter about Alice Pyncheon, where she is hypnotized by the handsome grandson of the man unjustly accused of witchcraft and burned at the stake by Alice’s grandfather. (I’ve always wanted to see House made into a movie, where Rufus Sewell plays both the mesmerizing Matthew Maule and the daguerotypist, Holgrave, and Ian McShane plays his father, Thomas, who is done out of his land and his life by the greedy Colonel Pyncheon.) Hawthorne wrote the novel as a sort of expiation because one of his ancestors was involved in the Salem Witch Trials. I also want to visit the Old Manse, where Hawthrone lived with his bride (lucky girl), Sophia Peabody, one of the intellectual Peabody Sisters, the one who was an artist…..

There’s been no poetry of late in my blogs, so I will get back on track with Edna St. Vincent Millay:


Once more into my arid days like dew,

Like wind from an oasis, or the sound

Of cold sweet water bubbling underground,

A treacherous messenger, the thought of you

Comes to destroy me; once more I renew

Firm faith in your abundance, whom I found

Long since to be but just one other mound

Of sand, whereon no green thing ever grew.

And once again, the wiser in no wise,

I chase your coloured phantom on the air,

And sob and curse and fall and weep and rise

And stumble pitifully on to where,

Miserable and lost, with stinging eyes,

Once more I clasp, — and there is nothing there.

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Geneia and Pelee, Black and White Study

This was so enjoyable to do, like drawing, only faster. In the photograph, certainly the most vivid portion is the shine of light on Pelee’s haunches. However, applying the principle that the greatest contrast and detail will draw the eye, I heightened the contrast between Geneia’s hair and the cloudy sky behind and played down the deep color of the horse against the sunlit background. This technique of painting in black and white was often used by magazine illustrators, so it was easy to be thinking of a story to go along with the picture. Perhaps she is the lovely, blond Annabelle from The Ivy Tree, a superb horsewoman who rode the Yorkshire Dales.

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Equine Painting Workshop, Day Two

After sight sizing yesterday, today we made a comparison drawing in charcoal from a smaller photograph. The idea was to take comparative measurements on the photograph, such as the distance between the ear of the horse to the heel of the boot of the rider and compare it to some other distance, such as the hock of the right hind leg to the coronet of the front right hoof, then maintain the same ratios in the drawing. We were working with vine charcoal of a medium softness. I haven’t done much charcoal drawing, so this was a learning experience. I now own a charcoal sharpener (which is a bit like rigid sandpaper on a handle) as well as a tablet of charcoal paper. It’s very useful to do a preliminary charcoal drawing to establish the tonal values you will want to maintain before adding the element of color. As you can see, I didn’t work much on Geneia’s head. I was concentrating on getting the horse down accurately.

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Equine Painting Workshop at The Atelier, Day One

(I blogged the Workshop backwards so that you can read about and see the pictures by scrolling down…….)

Our instructor, Lynn Maderich, began our workshop with a lesson in “sight sizing.” I knew what that was, more or less, but had only never really practiced it. Briefly, sight sizing, whether done from life or from a photographic image, is the process of taking measurements of a subject and marking one’s paper identically. We stood at a distance of six or eight feet from our easle, which we had adjusted to a perfectly vertical position, and used a plumb line to measure the topmost point of the picture, after which we walked up to the paper and made a mark on the adjacent paper, then stepped back to measure the bottom-most point, stepping forward to mark our paper. A plumb line or weighted string hung veritcally in front of the photograph. We held another plumb line in our hands to measure the distance (again, from our vantage point, marked by tape on the floor where we would place our toes) from the plumb line to the muzzle of the horse, then stepped forward to mark our paper at the same distance from a plumb line we had drawn vertically on the paper. Back and forth we went. One can do this whether one’s paper is positoned adjacent to the image (or object if drawing from life) or at some distance from the subject. The key is to step back further, so one can look at both subject and drawing at the same time and make the comparative dimensions precisely the same.

Lynn had provided a number of black and white images to work from. I chose this foal because I liked the play of light over it’s haunches and the way it was looking back over its shoulder. Subsequently, however, I worked from photographs of Pelee and Geneia I had taken myself, because one cannot sell drawings or paintings that are copied from a professional photographer’s image without that person’s permisssion. Anything I did in paint, I wanted total copywrite of, so this was the only non-Pelee picture I did.

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Lynn’s Demonstation of a Black and White Oil Study

On Day Three, Lynn demonstrated doing a value study in black and white oils. First she did a line drawing by “sight sizing.” Then she established a “bug line,” a term I was unfamiliar with. A Bug Line is the line where light striking a curved surface, divides into light and shadow. In the photograph Lynn was drawing from, the bug line was complex. Both Nanci Fulmek and I were doing side shots of our horses, so the shadows were mostly on the underside of the horse. It’s a little more difficult to see on my painting owing to the fact that Pelee is a bay rather than a chestnut and the sun was lower in the sky.

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Lynn’s Studio: Atelier Workshop Day Four

Lynn’s Studio was full of images from her days as a student at Atelier Lack. Honestly, I have never seen figurative paintings this good outside of a museum. I am sooooo jealous. I will also add that the Studio was well-organized and immaculate, unlike mine, which is a mess. It was painted in an interesting taupe color that can look warm or cool, depending upon what is next to the wall.

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Lynn’s Color Demonstration Day Four

(Hint: Click on any of the images to enlarge them.)

In a color demonstration from a photograph, Lynn showed us how she delineates the basic contours of her subject, creates the “bug line,” where the light striking the curved surface divides the image into light and dark parts, blocks in the light and dark, then begins to lay in the relative tones of light and dark with the approximate colors. She checks her drawing regularly to make sure her proportions are correct and the shapes of light and darkness are correct. Sometimes, it is useful to look at the image upside down in order to “see abstractly.”

On Thursday evening, the night the Minneapolis Art Institute stays open until 9:00, we went to see an exhibit of William Holman Hunt paintings. Hunt was one of the three original members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood or PRB. I was so excited to hear his paintings were in Minneapolis that I could barely contain myself until Thursday. I have been a Pre-Raphaelite junky since I bought a poster of Waterhouse’s Lady of Shalott in college. (It is still probably my favorite painting in all the world and I still have it up in my bedroom.) Pre-Raphaelite paintings are not easy to see unless one travels to England, where they are scattered about with the greatest concentration being at the Tate Gallery. I have known these paintings for years, but many of them I have not seen in person. Among the paintings available for viewing until September 6, are Hunt’s The Lady of Shalott, The Awakening Conscience, Jesus Found by His Parents in the Temple, the sheep painting (for want of its real title) that I had pasted in the cover of my Far From the Madding Crowd, Il Dolce Far Niente, for which his mistress Annie Miller (ironically also the model for The Awakened Concscience) originally posed, over which he painted the “coloration” and features of his wife, Fanny (mmmmmmmm….She still looks more like Annie Miller to me), The Flight of Madeline and Porphyro from Keats’ Eve of St. Agnes, Valentine Rescuing Sylvia from Proteus from Shakepeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona, this one, the title of which I can’t remember, but that lace on the dress is beyond belief! and The Boy’s Choir Singing from Magdalen Tower on May Day Morning.

The PRB originally exhibited in 1851 and were roundly condemned. Their work, painstakingly copied from nature was painted into a wet white ground with small brushes, one square at a time, in imitation of fresco paintings. The colors are brilliant. Some of these huge paintings were painted en plein aire! It’s difficult to imagine setting up so huge a canvas outdoors and not having it blown over by the wind. One of the other founding members, John Everett Millais, always my favorite, eventually gave up this painting method, but Hunt persisted throughout his life. I do believe the flora of Millais’ painting of Ophelia was painted outdoors. His model, Lizzie Siddell, floated in a vat of water warmed only by candles burning underneath for hours while Millais painted her. Little wonder she later died of consumption. The incredible vibrance of their frescoesque technique shows in Millais’ paintings of Marianne and Christ in the House of his Parents.

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