Thursday, December 13, 2012
Monday, December 3, 2012
Sunday, November 25, 2012
I shot this at sunrise and the background was very dark—dramatic
photo with brilliant flowers but I had a hard time painting the background
as dark as it was—too much color in the black or the wrong temperature.
I've had to do a lot of trial and error lately with backgrounds to set off
colors in the foreground. It would be so nice to just "know" which value
and temperature would work. The plastic container also looked jet black
but when I mixed an interesting cool black, it looked dead and cold.
It'll be fun to have a few more tries with this and vary the composition
Posted by Lorraine Shirkus at 7:52 AM
Friday, November 16, 2012
I paint everyday but not posting it all. I've learned so much from
observation, but find myself obstinately wanting to over-ride what
I observe in order to be more creative. My head is filled with so many
possibilities of what a painting can be it's hard to see what's best to do
at any given moment. The great thing is that I've become observant of
everything around me—even when I'm not painting—people, things,
the way the light falls—it's mesmerizing.
When I'm painting, I try to be faithful and get it all down and end up
with "right" but dull so I've changed my routine. I now start a few
small paintings and a few larger ones so I always have something in
some state of becoming so I'm not compulsive or desperate to finish
anything. I'm no longer faced with having "completed" something then
faced with the blankness of starting something new. My studio is too
small to keep a lot of set-ups so once I get the bones down, the set-up
goes down (or it dies or rots). And then I feel free to rely on memory or
imagination or whatever the surface asks to be. I have 4 or 5 surfaces
in the wings, so if I reach an impasse on one or lose focus, I can switch,
hopefully applying something I've learned to another. It's oblique, like
coming to a solution sideways, and so non-direct, but it aligns with the
way my brain works. I still have frustrating days but think: so what?
I'd rather spend my day doing this than anything else.
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Thursday, November 8, 2012
I've been spending more time looking at a painting, living with it
for a few days—trying to make decisions more thoughtfully. I painted
the rim of the glass the brown and yellow it was, originally, then
realized that it could be the liveliest part and wake the painting up a bit.
Saturday, October 27, 2012
Thursday, October 25, 2012
These were the most uncooperative models! I had started
this painting with another arrangement only to find they
had completely shifted overnight. I painted the rearrangement
on top of what was already there and focused on their unruly
personalities. It was an opportunity to practice leaving stuff out.
By the time I got to the flower on the right, it felt right to mix
the grays, then use a few bright strokes and decide it was enough.
Monday, October 15, 2012
Trying to work on getting a more subdued overall tone . . . I think I
forgot the highlights. I toned the surface with yellow ochre, then used
viridian to block in the shapes and wiped out for the lights—trying to
get away from filling in outlines.
Saturday, October 13, 2012
Very thick paint and a mindset to leave out detail and not "pretty
I love Stanley Bielen's work and visit his galleries' sites often but
have never seen this one before:
Friday, October 12, 2012
Monday, October 8, 2012
Saturday, October 6, 2012
Tuesday, October 2, 2012
When I woke up yesterday, I didn't feel my usual drive to paint.
But then the alternative would have been to clean house and there
was no drive to do that! I needed a shot in the arm and had read about
painting on mylar so thought I'd give it a try. The surface isn't that
different from gesso but for some reason, it gave me permission to
focus more on the paint than the subject—experiment rather than produce.
When I look at this, it feels like I didn't paint it. Which might be a good
thing to clear out old preconceptions about how my paintings "should" look.
Thinking I'll use PVA glue to mount this to a gessoed panel . . . if anyone
has experience mounting mylar, please let me know what works best.
Sunday, September 30, 2012
Friday, September 14, 2012
Tackled flowers again which are not my forté but in the learning curve with
figures, I realized I was painting thinner and thinner. Also dismayed at how
outlined and rigid I was making them. Learning to paint a figure in an accurate
way while holding an idea of how compelling it "should" look was too taxing
on my little brain. If I'm getting nowhere in a struggle, thought I should do
something, anything, different, tackle another subject. So I photographed these
coral glads against a coral wall. And lo! I was amazed that there were no
boundaries in the photo—nothing to outline! Kept assuring myself that I shouldn't
be able to see the blossoms up close, only from a distance. Just what I needed for
a tectonic brain shift! But then, I don't know if anyone else can see them . . .
Friday, August 24, 2012
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
I had set these tulips up outdoors to photograph because I feared they'd
die under the lights if I tried to paint them from life. I also seem to judge
lighting conditions outdoors with a camera better than I can with lights
and a light-box.
Thursday, July 19, 2012
I started this a couple of months ago and something seemed wrong
with it. Yesterday I was drawn to working on it again, changed the
background and tabletop colors, a few touches to soften the lemons
and it feels much better. My trial and error with figures has shown me
that I don't see (as in assess) my own work very well. I can leave the
studio in the evening feeling I'd done a good day's work and be excited
about getting to the studio in the morning, only to find that the painting
was so terrible I questioned why it excited me the day before. It makes
me not trust what I see when I look at my own work. After some time
passes and a little more work, I feel more confident in my judgment.
Does anyone else have this distrust or visual confusion?
This one's a push for less literalness and experimenting with color.
Friday, July 13, 2012
It was fun to paint a 6 x 6 after these past few weeks of trying to
paint figures. Working on the figures has made me realize how little
I know about value in color. Or, whatever I know is intuitive but not
clear enough to articulate in my head while mixing colors. I tried to
limit the values in this one.
Saturday, June 23, 2012
I almost gave up on this a few times . . . there was so much information
with orange reflections bouncing all over the plate, cast shadows, and
"wrinkles" of light and dark in the plate itself, I had to simplify a bit. The
fork had a very complex reflection as well as shadow and it got the best
of me—had to leave it out. My first version was very sedate and boring.
When I worked at it again, my intention was to break the boundaries of
the objects and the only way to do that was take the setup down and eat
the peaches. When I'm looking at something, I become a slave to the literal.
So I used the first version as a roadmap and painted over it focusing my
attention on the painting surface rather than what I was painting. It seems
to be the only way to go beyond my "little self" as Suzanne Stewart says.
Before I paint a still-life I usually spend a little time looking at Stanley Bielen.
The painting I've linked here is tiny—8.5 x 7 but in its simplicity, it feels
monumental. He's all about the paint.
Monday, June 11, 2012
I needed a break from wrestling with heads and grabbed an already-
painted panel of these two apples. It was a very bad, labored painting
with a dark background so a good candidate to paint over without being
attached to the result. I no longer had the setup or the apples and hadn't
photographed them so I used what was there as a base and decided to
make the rest up. I keep grappling with finding the intersection between
"paint what you see" and invention and now I had nothing to look at and
nothing to copy. I felt the earth move . . . it was so freeing to mix colors
without trying to match what I was looking at. Just loved mixing reds that
looked good to me, experiencing the tactile quality of paint, brushing it on
thick without being faithful to anything. (hmmm?) Whether it's a good
painting or not, both my opposing brains came together for a little while
and that felt really really good.
Posted by Lorraine Shirkus at 9:17 PM
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Alex Kanevsky is one of my most favorite contemporary
artists and I've forced myself to not copy him for almost
2 years but finally succumbed. It was pure joy! When I'm
looking at something in real life, I have such a hard time not
translating it literally, a problem I've never had before a couple
of years ago. It's probably because I've been so focused on
learning to see things as they are (well, as much as possible)
and now that I want to see in a different way, it's so hard to
make the shift. I am making the shift with still-life, but with the
figure, I've been hopeless. I've tried heads from my own photos
and always revert to smoothing the paint, ie. copying the photo. I
figured I had to do something very different to shift my brain:
learn from Kanevsky. (I've tried one of my own since painting
this and am still hopeless! It will take time and practice.) His
painting (a nude) appears to have some transparent areas brushed
over thick paint which is what I planned to do as well but when this
image starting emerging, it seemed best to leave it.
The painting I copied from is no longer on Kanevsky's site:
http://www.somepaintings.net but it's still under Some Figure Paintings
on http://www.powersofobservation.com. Click on "Grid View with
Artist's Names" under the slide show.
Monday, June 4, 2012
I used the same three-pear photograph as for the last painting and
invented a background of grays just to experiment and explore a
different light/dark relationship. Since I started to paint representationally,
so many aspects of making a painting flew out the window while I
struggled with modeling the subjects. I'm just beginning to feel that's
turning around so when I step back to look now, I really am looking
at edges, temperature, lights and darks and how or whether they
contribute to the whole piece.
Posted by Lorraine Shirkus at 9:38 AM
Thursday, May 31, 2012
I've been working really hard (struggling) with figures on 16 x 20.
Don't know yet if there's improvement with them but thought I'd tackle a
small still-life for a change of pace. I feel pretty pleased with this and it
gave me some much needed respite from struggle—wondering if the
figure paintings taught me something after all, even if they're not up
to snuff. I tried to work slowly, no swash-buckling strokes (but tried to
make them look like it), was judicious with a very narrow aim: just make it
look lit. It took a few tries with different color background darks to make the
lights pop but mostly it was fun!
Thursday, May 3, 2012
Monday, April 23, 2012
My second attempt is more refined and while it's not the direction
I hope to pursue, my figures in the past were more caricatures,
cartoon-like. I clearly needed a lot more knowledge and better
observational skills to inform my figures. I'm seeing so much more
in Jacob Collins' painting now than I did initially. His value changes
are so tiny and subtle that I'm realizing how lazy and impatient I've
been about mixing colors. There is so much information in his painting
that I would have been oblivious to if working from life at this point.
This is such great practice; hope it carries over when painting actual
models. (I think I overdid the temperature variations in her face but it
taught me a lot about painting whites.)
Collins has an atelier school in NYC with workshops as well as longer
Posted by Lorraine Shirkus at 5:22 PM
Saturday, April 14, 2012
I've been trying to work on painting figures but find it difficult
to work things out without models—like impossible. I've been going
to life drawing classes for two-hour stretches—not enough time to paint.
I'm approaching models who feel comfortable being photographed as
reference but need to have a sense of knowing what I'm after style-wise
and also how to protect them before committing to hiring them.
My goal was to work on temperature and thought it a brilliant idea to learn
from a master—use a pose done by a contemporary realist painter,
Jacob Collins, as a roadmap for cool and warm tones. I didn't try to copy
him verbatim, didn't use his colors or temperature, didn't attempt to emulate
his realism but I did use his pose. He's very much alive and his painting is very
contemporary so I'm hoping I'm not violating any copyright laws.
Here is the link to Jacob Collins masterful painting, Carolina:
Having temperature be foremost in my mind as I paint rather than achieving
any kind of faithfulness or likeness has really opened up the way I think about
painting. It feels like a good shift.
Saturday, March 17, 2012
I've been away from blogging for what feels like a long time but I have
been painting. I really wanted to post something mostly to thank everyone
for all the supportive comments! Still struggling to paint heads. My greatest
problem seems to be temperature, something I've never thought about
before and still don't know anything about. I decided to give up on getting
a likeness about 8 or 9 versions ago but found that my left and right brains
were having a tug of war—over and over, kept finding myself intent on a
likeness. In the end, I didn't get one. The model (from a photo) didn't have
this concerned expression. I think I painted my own feeling of concern
onto her face. Big learning curve . . . looking forward to doing more.
Monday, February 20, 2012
I've been trying my hand at painting portraits, figures and
landscapes while a voice in my head keeps saying "there's
something I'm not understanding here." So it occurred to me
that maybe drawing would help in that understanding. Those pesky
values are easier to see and compare and without color as a
distraction, it's easier to hone in on actual observation as the
thing to develop. My intention is to move towards abstracting
reality, but without a basic understanding of the figure, my results
have been less than satisfying. To see some really powerful drawings,
click here and scroll down to Older Posts and Nicolai Fechin's work.
There's a lot of good work there along the way, too.
Sunday, January 8, 2012
Still working to shift my focus to painting light and dark rather than
individual objects. I succeed pretty well in the early stages but then
get enamored of specifics and tend to lose sight of the bigger picture.
The bigger picture is right in front of me, whether a set-up or a photo.
But the bigger picture on another level is all of the things to be mind-
ful of: correct values to imply form, color relationships to make the
surface sing, spatial concerns, mark-making, texture, composition.
And yet there's an even bigger thing to be aware of: intention. There's
a wonderful lofty quote by Odilon Redon on the Powers of
“I would prefer to claim with Pissarro that the art of painting, for those who
know how to use their eyes, resides in an apple on the corner of a table.
What could be more stupid than painting an apple! And yet to make of
such a simple fact something that will be elevated to beauty, painting
will have to engage all of its means; it will have to be solid, flexible, and
rich in substance, suggestive too, so suggestive that it will have the luxury,
the grandeur of revealing man’s presence in the apple — the apple surrounded
with an atmosphere of thought.”
From "To Myself," Odilon Redon
If I keep sight of this one, albeit very large intention, maybe everything
else will fall in line.
From "To Myself," Odilon Redon
If I keep sight of this one, albeit very large intention, maybe everything
else will fall in line.
Tuesday, January 3, 2012
This time of year always feels like a hibernation period just when
I need to be energetic about a new year. I wanted to see if I would
paint a single object differently after working on multiple-object
paintings. I saw Carol Marine's latest post this morning and am
amazed at how beautifully she fits 5 apples into such a small area.
Another thing to add to my "to try" list.