Back to Figure School

A major disappointment to me was the cancellation of a workshop with Dan Thompson at the Institute.   It was to be on the subject of painting the portrait from observation.  I took an earlier portrait class with Dan Thompson and I wrote about it in this blog.  (here)  So instead of advancing my practice of portraiture, I was dealing with a broken furnace that week.  It was a cold week, too.  I may have mentioned being too cold to sit very long in my computer room.  Lots of stuff got wait-listed that week, a fact whose relevance is hinted at below.  (Ending a sentence with two prepositions!  Exciting times!)

Our weather has shown dramatic improvement lately.  For instance, I haven’t been wearing a coat.  What have I been doing with my time?  Not painting.  Paperwork.  Meetings.  Reports.  Nothing you would want to hear about assuming I were free to tell.  I found only two recent paintings that you have not yet seen, and one of them I never intended anyone to see.  I dislike it for being too dark and sultry.  But in my desperation I have reconsidered, and hope it looks no worse than work that I have seen better artists display proudly.  To some, dark and sultry is a virtue.

Dark and Sultry

Dark and Sultry

No, it’s no good.  I still don’t like it.  Ironically, this is the same model whose face I tormented in the Dan Thompson workshop mentioned above.

My other painting I like quite a lot, just not sure why.  It’s accurate, it has good lights and darks I think, proportions good, skin tones good, composition good, etc.  But what’s it about?  Can I show it?  What the heck do I title it?  As you can see, for now the title refers to the light source.

Overhead Lighting

Overhead Lighting

The painterly quality may be what I like most about this painting.

The overhead light source is thanks to Jack, our newest member.  Jack retired from a career as a filmmaker and photographer, so he has some great equipment that he shares with us.  If I recall correctly, the overhead light is composed of 400 watts of illumination, covered by a diffuser so it doesn’t blind the artists

Well, tomorrow is another day, isn’t it? Scarlett was right.  But literally, tomorrow is Tuesday, another life group day, and I might, I just might do something worthwhile.  It keeps me going back.

Aline Lotter is currently exhibiting:

at the Hatfield Gallery and the East Colony Fine Art Gallery in Manchester (both are in Langer Place, 55 S. Commercial St., Manchester, NH); at the Gallery at 100 Market Street in Portsmouth; at the Bartlett Inn and Bernerhof Inn in Bartlett; at the Red Jacket Inn in North Conway; at the law offices of Mesmer and Deleault at 41 Brook St in Manchester; at the Manchester office of Congresswoman Carol Shea Porter; and at her studio by appointment (email: alotter@mac.com).

You may also view paintings with prices and order prints at my Fine Art America page. If the painting you are interested in is not there, or if you prefer to bypass that experience, you may contact me using this feedback form.

<a href=”http://fineartamerica.com/art/all/nude/canvas+prints&#8221; style=”font: 10pt arial; text-decoration: underline;”>nude canvas prints</a>

Slacker!

I only painted thrice last week, and it’s  thanks to my Tuesday and Friday morning life drawing sessions and the Saturday Life Group that I accomplished that much.  It made me realize how little time I have been putting in on studio projects, and on painting in the great outdoors.  I used to be a pretty decent, very enthusiastic plein air painter.  Without actually counting, I would bet I produced over 50 plein air paintings in 2011, compared to 25 this year.   I miss it.  But so much of my artistic energy has been absorbed by the figurative and portrait sessions that I haven’t been carving out time for plein air outings.  Now the weather is getting nasty outside.  My New Year’s resolution, adopted early, is to find more opportunities to get outside to paint–starting with our first ever Bartlett Artists Winter Getaway in January, followed by a visit to Mary on Marco Island, probably in February.

Meanwhile, the story of this week:  Since our Tuesday model and our Friday model and our next Friday model is the same person, those of us who do both Tuesday and Friday decided to make it a repeating pose, enabling a total of 9 hours on one pose for those who wanted it.  I will probably the only one of us who will use all three sessions on a single painting, although I expect not to use the entire final session on this painting.

"Huis Clos" ("Inside closed doors" or "no exit"?) WIP after 2d of 3-session pose

“Huis Clos” (“Inside closed doors” or “no exit”?) WIP after 2d of 3-session pose

One of the more interesting aspects of this painting is the background architecture.  I had recently watched a video, part 1 of Dan Thompson painting a figure, in which he recommended painting in the background, at least temporarily, in order to use it as a roadmap.  It works.  Before I drew in the Exit door on the left of the painting, I had drawn the figure’s arm too close to his body.  By situating the frame of the door where it intersected the body, I uncovered the drafting error in the arm.  The cubicle on the right (it’s the bathroom) helped me with sizing the figure’s left leg (leg on the viewer’s right).

Because I knew about the extended pose, I started this painting on a 16×20 sheet of primed linen.  I intended it to be a whole body pose, but allowed my impulsive first blocking in to change my mind.  What you see is the product of two sessions, and it is almost finished.    Some tinkering with the facial features and decisions on the background are needed next week.  When it is finished, I will roll it up and stash it away with so many other paintings on which I have lavished hours of time and effort.  And love.  Paintings that, unlike landscapes, no one else is likely to savor.

At  SLG (Saturday Life Group) I continued the experimentation with compressed charcoal that I had started in Larry Christian’s class at the Institute.  Here is the final pose of the session:

40-minute pose, view of the back

40-minute pose, view of the back

Yes, I do like backs.

There is another  drawing, from a 20-minute pose, that I wanted to include today, but for some reason, the photo I thought I took of it did not turn out.  Too bad.  It was a good one, and different from the one above.  I will include it next week if I can work it into next week’s topic, whatever that might be.  I hope next week’s topic will include work in my studio, inspired by the successful completion of my reorganization exertions.  Yes, that’s my excuse for no studio painting:  I have been laboring on moving stuff, and removing stuff, to create more space in my bedroom/studio for the studio portion.  Books, heavy books, had to be carried downstairs to make room for just art books on the studio shelves.  Underbed storage units had to be emptied to make room for  clear bags, saved drawings and such art-related, seldom-accessed items.  Dust bunnies had to be captured and disposed of (sneeze!).  Furniture had to be rearranged and some of it relegated to the guest room.  Today, I ache all over.  Well, that’s nothing new.  Arthritis.  Really slowing me.  Down.

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 her law offices at 41 Brook St in Manchester; and at her studio by appointment.

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.

Finding a Face

My day has started out badly.  My camera misbehaved in a way that has me stumped.  I was taking photos of three paintings that I intended to show you, trying out all kinds a strategies short of standing on my head to get one without glare.  I finally figured out that I had to get farther get away from the painting to avoid the shine, and zoom in on it.  But the camera went into some kind of zombie mode wherein the painting showed up as a blank gray canvas.   I loaded the images into iPhoto and increased the exposure, to reveal a ghostly image of the painting.  Scratching my head.  Did I change a setting by accident?  It’s a Nikon D70, if anyone out there has an idea.

underexposed

Meanwhile, moving on:  “finding a face” refers to the process involved in painting a portrait.  I contrast the two nudes with faces attached that I worked on earlier in the week, with the stubbornly unphotographable portrait with body attached that I worked on over the weekend.    Here are the bodies:

From Head to Foot

Larger copy of earlier pose

These faces are sketched in–not carelessly but not with any refinement either.  A little dot of paint placed in the right spot pretty much does the job.  Since the paintings are pretty rough overall, a refined face would look out of place anyway.  These paintings are in line with the fast and loose style toward which I am reaching.

Enter Dan Thompson.  I took a two-day workshop at the Institute with this painter, who hails from New York City (“the South”, as he refers to it) where he teaches at the Art Students League.  There were no beginners in this workshop.  In fact, two of the Institute’s teachers were taking part.  Whereas I have been mostly concerned with getting the features placed in the correct spot, Dan’s primary focus was on the shapes of things.  For example,  in Sunday morning’s lecture/demo, we explored, in great detail, every nuance of the nose, ears, mouth and eyes–in that order.  Before the demo of each feature, we received a lecture with diagrams. The following two photos show his roughed in portrait from Saturday’s morning demo/lecture, with the nose developed in the first one, and the ears in the second:

Nose

Ears

For the nose and ears, I made notes in my sketchbook.  Then I got a little savvier, and took pictures of the diagrams.  Here are his diagrams with lists of terms, one  for the parts of a mouth and the other for the eyes, followed by his demo of each:

Somewhere under all the arrows and embellishments, there was an outline of a mouth.

mouth

eyes

eyes

I loved it.  Every little bitty stroke had its own reason for color and direction, yet the product does not look overworked.  No blending.  I went back and examined my own work in progress from Saturday and was depressed; I didn’t even have the features in the right spots.

WIP– Halfway there?

But I pulled myself together and applied the thinking Dan had just demonstrated to us, and it got better–yet another portrait of Becky.  (For a few earlier portraits of Becky, see my blog titled “Becky”.  On his last go-round, he complimented me mildly, saying “nice job” as he left my station for another, and I have stored that memory in the place where I keep similarly encouraging statements, a place that I revisit whenever I think this whole striving to be great is just a foolish pipe dream.

umpteenth portrait of Rebecca

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.