Slogging through quicksand

Sometimes I feel as if I am working really hard just to stay in place and (hopefully) not lose ground. The past two weeks have had that flavor. I worked really hard to make my studio and gallery space presentable and uncluttered for the NH Open Doors event. I worked really hard to organize a garage sale for Honey on the same weekend. I worked really hard to complete two copies of Sorolla portraits for my class with Cameron Bennett that same weekend. I did not even try to post a blog entry that Monday–or Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday for that matter. I did get my own tax returns filed . . . finally!

But the only thing that really matters is the art. If I can produce something to be proud of, I feel good. If I can’t do that, I get that feeling of slogging in place–or worse. Even if this week I have nothing to crow about, I can feel virtuous about making a lot of effort, and sharing with you all those little mini-victories, which is sort of like celebrating getting out of bed.

Be that as it may, I have gathered evidences of effort: photos of my homework for the portrait course, report on a trip to the museum, and a landscape that resulted from a workshop on painting rocks and other textures. I will compare the new stone wall with one I painted last winter–will it show improvement?

But first, the portraits. I led off at the top with a shot of last night’s work on a copy of a Zorn portrait. I don’t feel good about it. To bring it to the point where I felt good about it, I would need more time. Plus I decided to use the Zorn palette of red, black, ochre and white, but I experimented with Perylene Red instead of Cadmium Red, just to see what would happen. What a surprising difference! Perylene Red is close to pure red. Cadmium Red has more yellow in it. Zorn, by using Cad Red, was actually cheating a little–it is as if he added a fifth color to his palette, that of cadmium yellow. The kind of black (ivory) I use may also make a difference.

Working backward in time, the day before yesterday (Saturday) I met with Peter Granucci and three other artists for an in depth study of the painting of rocks. Below is the stone wall that resulted, next to the stone wall from last January’s “snow camp” with Stapleton Kearns.

Not a fair comparison, I guess, since the January wall was covered in snow. Below is a natural stone wall running along the side of Jackson Falls, done in my carefree, untutored way:

Well, you know it’s a stone wall, right? And it was a plein air stone wall and thus may be forgiven much. The point made by Peter though is that, before you are done with a stone wall, you should be able to view each stone in three dimensions, with lighted side, dark side, and half-light side clearly delineated. And I have to admit, that kind of attention does make for a beautiful stone wall.

Friday I revisited the Sargent drawings on exhibit at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, in order to reinspire my drawings of hands. I discovered that the Sargent charcoal drawings I had posted here were not the same drawings. Perhaps I made a mistake (relying on memory, after all) or perhaps the MFA changes out the exhibit of Sargent drawings from time to time–they have over 5,000 of them! You can view them all here.

It would have been comforting to suppose that Sargent at the height of his skills still needed to practice hands. However, you can see from these sketches that he was not practicing; he was trying to decide the angles and placements of the hands and fingers, how they would grip a bow and arrow or the reins of a steed. (Gods mount steeds, not horses.)

If you are still with me, here are the homework portraits that I completed during the slow times of NH Open Doors. Both are copies of Sorolla portraits. I had intended to provide images of the originals found online, instead of nasty photos of the copy I had to work from, but I couldn’t find them online. You therefore get no chance to compare. Better for me!

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