29 July 2010

Kate, Emma and Jahna, part 2

Here is painting number two of these three lovely ladies commissioned by Emma and given to Kate and Jahna as birthday presents. It's similar to the last, but this time it's night and it appears that the moth infestation has chased away the birds.

Let me tell you what I know about Jahna and Kate.  Jahna Peloquin is a freelance fashion writer and stylist. Kate Iverson is the editor for L'etoile magazine and arts editor for Secrets of the City. I've never met either of them, but look forward to it.

I started these two paintings with different background colors, the first one yellow and this one dark blue. On this painting I put the lights in on top of the dark. This is a technique usually reserved for iconographers and trippy black velvet artists. I did some sanding, used some black ink. When I was done, I wiped a cloth covered with phalo blue over the image to darken it and a give it a liquidy quality. (...and, yes, I made up the word liquidy but you know what I mean, right? ...Merriam-Webster can sue me if they need to.)

It was hard to get a good image of this painting because it is very dark. When I adjusted the colors on this digital image it always pulled out too much yellow when the blue was right. So too much yellow it is... and the softness gets lost here.

My intention with both paintings was to make them expressive rather than photographic. I thought it would be disappointing if I took the out and didn't make them literally representational of the subjects. Tricky stuff to make tiny... but all painting is tricky.

As I mentioned earlier, I will be writing a regular monthly review about artists exhibiting in the Minneapolis area for www.mplsart.com . The first will be up in mid-August. It will be similar to my writing here but about other artists. It's going to be fun!

...and check back here next week. I have another painting up my sleeve...

26 July 2010

Emma, Kate and Jahna... part 1

This is the first of two paintings commissioned by Emma Berg who is a fashion designer, curator, and founder of the best visual arts calender in the Minneapolis area mplsart.com. (I will begin writing monthly reviews for mplsart starting in August... but more about that later).

I've known Emma for many years but not very well. We often will end up at the same openings and we usually just wave to one another. She is always so fashionable...  it's a little intimidating. I do try to look good and current but it doesn't always work for me. My look ends up being more like a Eastern European who still thinks Leif Garrett is cool. But that can be hot! Right?

Emma asked for two portraits of her and her close friends Kate and Jahna as birthday presents for them. When I asked Emma about her friends, her first response was that they all like to be in control. I wasn't sure what to make of this. (Another arm wrestling painting?) I asked if she wanted an actual portrait or if she had something less literal in mind. It was up to me...

It's tricky to paint people small. Details have to be sparse and accurate. If you are one millimeter off on an eyebrow or mouth, a face goes from cutely smiling to crazed with rabies. It's also tricky to paint people you've never met. You can look at as many photographs of a person as you want and never really understand what they look like. Photographs play tricks and two pictures of the same person can look very different. Ask anyone who does online dating.

My first concern was to make a reasonable resemblance of the three ladies, and I instinctively worked the rest out from there. I decided not to go too refined with the figures, but leave them slightly rough. I didn't want to over paint and make it feel stagnant and inactive.

I also decided to add the flying animal motifs to give the paintings another poetic layer.
(In retrospect, I think this was subconsciously under the influence of my friend Scott West's newest paintings which all have people with animals. (He recently did a fantastic painting of my son Theo with an owl). So, consider this a form of flattery, Scott.)

This post is a cliff hanger. I'll put up the second painting, which is darker and softer, later this week with more chitchat. And we'll talk about Jahna and Kate.

... feel free to leave comments and go to the Panda Facebook page for more updates...

08 July 2010

Goodbye Moldy Pallet... Hello New Paintings!

It's time to start fresh for a couple of tiny new paintings. I've taken about a month away from the Panda to work on some larger paintings in my Signals series, but now I am beginning two new commissions which will be variations on the same subject matter.They will be a two portraits of three friends. I'm excited to be starting this today!

As I've written before, I use a Sta Wet pallet to extend the time my paint stays usable.With it's strange spongy technology, the pallet makes my paint stay wet (or Sta Wet) for what appears to be an eternity. But there are drawbacks. The pallet surface feels suspiciously like damp Twinkies and the paint becomes furry after about 2 weeks. Then you have to either feed it or throw it away. This one I was was using while it was moldy... and it still worked fine... but it's gross.

For the last year and a half I've been studying which color molds first and certainly burnt umber always wins! This is followed by alizarin crimson and then ultramarine blue. Mars black hold strong to the end.

So here is my new pallet all set up and ready to go:
You can see the tiny boards prepared to the side of it. The size ratio between pallet and painting is ridiculous! But that's how I roll...

I'll post my progress very soon.