Lessons Less Enjoyed

Sometimes I struggle and I’m not sure why.  Flailing is probably the more descriptive term.  Such was the case this week.  I was painting from life one of my favorite models, and I thought I was doing all the usual stuff, noting proportions, juxtapositions, etc.,  getting all the puzzle pieces in place.  But the result was not coming out right.  As Dan Thompson says in one of his videos, if the measurements are correct but it doesn’t look right, it’s not right.  The eye is the final judge. That is true of all painting from life–I have heard myself make that excuse (“hey, that’s the way it was for real”) and simultaneously cringe, because I do know that reality is not a justification for failing to satisfy the eye.  But in this case, I really, really want to understand why my usual tools were not working.  I still don’t have the answer, but I have perhaps a theory.  But first, to deal with the most glaring mistakes, I made some repairs back in my own studio.

Seated Nude, WIP

Seated Nude, WIP

Easy to fix was the arm in the back (her right arm), which was too large.  Because that arm was farther away, it must look smaller than the one in the foreground.   The bigger problem was the length of her torso.  While amending the right arm I also brought it down a smidge, thereby shrinking the torso the tiniest bit.

Seated Nude

Seated Nude

I think this helped, but it didn’t solve the puzzle.  Perhaps the figure is just too skinny?  My model is rather thin, but she is not particularly long limbed.  My guess now is that everything is too long (or not wide enough), but only in the torso does that exaggeration jar the senses.

As if to make up for that struggle, the gods of painting blessed my effort on Sunday to paint a portrait of Grace wearing her glasses.

Portrait of Grace

Portrait of Grace

Keeping the glasses on was Adrienne’s idea.  I painted around them until I could no longer avoid them.  I tackled them very delicately, framing them in with mere wisps of paint.  But one of my goals was to show the reflections as well, so I could not stay timid.  One thing about glasses:  you’ve got to get real accurate to matching one lens with the other–more so than with the eyes.  The eyes are often seen from different perspectives, one going round behind the face while the other is in full view.  But glasses are pretty much right there, perched on the nose, and aside from perspective, should match up exactly.  Well, almost exactly.

I am most pleased with the mouth.  Doesn’t she look alive enough to plant a kiss on you?  I worked and reworked the mouth, until it is almost where I want it to be.  Grace will be back in two weeks to enable Adrienne and me to finish our respective starts.  I want to perfect the philtrum (that groove between nose and upper lip), the nose, perhaps the eyes, and the hair.  And the background.

Aline Lotter is currently exhibiting:

at the Hatfield Gallery in Manchester (Langer Place, 55 S. Commercial St., Manchester, NH); at the Bartlett Inn in Bartlett; at the Red Jacket Inn in North Conway;  at the Soo Rye Art Gallery in Rye NH; at the law offices at 41 Brook St in Manchester; and at her studio by appointment.

4 responses to “Lessons Less Enjoyed

  1. Hi Aline…
    In my opinion, you are not working quickly enough to capture the essence of your subject….If you are able, ask your Instructor to arrange , or time the class so that you are doing some quick GESTURE renderings, such as 3, 5,10 & 20 minute poses to help you loosen up before you actually begin a more lengthy pose.
    Perhaps you could start with charcoal gestures and then move on to your painting.

    Sometimes, I am very, very sincerely wondering if the Manchester area actually has any art Instructors worthy of their salt, so to speak!
    I have seen an awful lot of artwork from “artists” around here , especially YOU Aline, that have been paying for quality Instruction for …what?

    The object of ART is NOT to paint ,”a pretty picture” BUT , to creat (perhaps) , an image ( if you are trying for some kind of an effect of ‘realism’) or perhaps what is sometimes considered to be, ‘abstract’….. a WORK of ART.

    Let me ask… what is the essence of that lifeform before you when you are trying to honor your own sensibilities?
    Hope this helps, Janice 🙂


    • Dear Janice, these efforts are not the product of class instruction. A group of like-minded artists to get together once a week, hire a model to take one pose for the entire session. Another group meets sporadically, and does engaged in the quick gesture drawings that you talk about. And up until last week, I was taking a course at the Institute which concentrated heavily on the quick gestures. Look at my blog post for the week before. Remember, one failure by me on a particular day does not signal a failure by all of my past teachers!


      • Aline Good Morning,
        Please think that , YOU have not failed but are surely becoming sensitized to the ‘issues’ so to speak in where the credit or blame should perhaps be leveled.

        The Currier…is YOUR ONLY goal in this life? 🙂

        I have a particular philosophy that I have long held…and that certainly can be looked at as , simply , the words you are expressing , a certain … critical…perhaps…BORROWED…,unbiased –opinionated attitude OR the actual RESULTS , of my own critical ability in helping you resolve the areas of seeming difficulty by just looking at the artwork you present.

        “Good, Better, Best; NEVER let it Rest, until your Good is Better and your Better, Best”

        Notation: they, you are causing the truth of your creative self…your Spirit… to be sublimated to to much detail AND the control of a Human Soul which is Aline Lotter,
        ( yes, self control IS absolutely necessary and mastery of the medium to be taken into account please ) to be OVERWORKED and thus, creating artwork which is below her natural abilities, Aline’s artwork has diffinite VISION , she is extremely CAPABLE and I am sure ALINE will find herself achieving what she would not even consider …Far greater results than she could ever imagined within the sphere of the artworld.

        “when the student is ready, the Teacher 🙂 Read Ecclisiasties ? Janice