Thursday, July 31, 2008

Blanche Ames National Art Exhibition

I am very pleased to announce that my piece "It Comes Down to This", shown above, has been juried into the 2008 Blanche Ames National Juried Art Exhibition. The exhibition will take place at the Ames Mansion at Borderland, from September 16th through October 4th. More information about the mansion and the exhibition can be found here:

I created this piece as part of my Hands Collection, and my goal was to convey the frustration that many artists feel when submitting a 35mm slide as a representation of a work that took countless hours to create. Of course, many juried exhibitions also allow digital entries, but the reproduction never quite measures up to the original.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Thank You

Today is my wedding anniversary, and I wanted to take a moment to thank my husband for all of his love and support. I could not have made the leap from engineer to artist without him! He has also been a very patient subject (one of my first portraits is shown here).

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Portraiture and Reference Photos

“Photographs lie.” I’ve heard several artists use this phrase to describe the phenomenon of photographic distortion, and how the artist must learn to interpret the limitations of photographs in order to create realistic pieces. I think that this is especially true with photographs of people, as the subject is in constant motion, and the photograph may capture an uncharacteristic expression, or poor lighting and harsh shadows may conceal important facial features. Obviously, this problem can be overcome by working from life, and when this is not possible, partially overcome by taking hundreds of reference photos while paying careful attention to lighting.

Sometimes achieving this is not possible, as in the case of post-mortem portraits or when working from client photographs that are less than ideal, but I have no such excuse for my current portrait. The portrait in progress is shown in the center above, flanked by two of my reference photos. I took the photos in a museum with limited spotlights from above in order to preserve the integrity of the textiles on display. The photos are very poor in terms of clearly displaying the subject’s facial features, and I do not like the lighting in either of them. However, they do reveal some information about the subject’s facial contours and expression. Also, I was able to spend a good amount of time talking with subject and I was able to study her face and also gain insight into her personality. This time spent with her enabled me to clearly see that the photographs do not capture her spirited personality, though they provide decent roadmaps to work from.

This is where I think the true artistry of portraiture comes in. Though I used the photographs as references, I also spent a good deal of time stepping back and examining the face, using my memory to determine what needed tweaking to really capture her likeness. I also changed the lighting in the portrait so that it is not coming directly from above. Though I will make sure to obtain better references in the future, I don’t think of this challenge as a complete setback as I believe it has enhanced my understanding of what it means to create a portrait.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Summer Distractions

Since I didn’t blog at all last week, and I decided to take the time to write about some of the summer distractions that have been competing for my attention. Here are a few of my favorite places:

York Beach, Maine: Probably my favorite summertime destination for its low-key New England feel and two beaches: “Long Sands” for the serious surf and sand seeker, and the more quaint “Short Sands” surrounded by charming shops including the Goldenrod, famous for their salt water taffy.

Ogunquit, Maine: Another favorite beach, with a scenic mile-long walk along the coast leading to Perkins Cove, which is lined with boutiques and restaurants.
Newbury Street, Boston: This is my pick for the ultimate in shopping, people-watching, and al-fresco dining.

Watertown, Massachusetts: Culturally diverse, Watertown is rich in ethnic food markets and bakeries; I go to pick up Armenian goodies like lahmejune and baklava. Watertown is also home to the Armenian Library and Museum of America (ALMA), containing the largest collection of Armenian artifacts in North America. (This is also related to the piece I am currently working on… more about that soon.)

Mystic Country, Connecticut/Rhode Island: I have not been yet this year, but I am looking forward to going back for the beautiful beaches and the numerous wineries, some of which offer tours.

Kittery, Maine: Besides being close to York and Ogunquit (see above), this town has some of the best outlet shopping I have ever seen. I figure I can do some early Christmas shopping, and get a little something for myself with the money I have saved.

Hampton Beach, New Hampshire: When I have a craving for a crowded beach complete with a boardwalk lined with shops selling fried dough, pizza, ice cream, and fudge, Hampton hits the spot. Also located on the boardwalk is the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom where I recently saw comedian/impressionist Frank Caliendo (if laughter is good for your health, I’m pretty sure seeing this show added 10+ years to my life!)

Well, I could go on and on, but I should get back to art. Readers, please feel free to add comments about your favorite summertime destinations!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Why I Don't Use Detailed Line Drawings

In my last series of blogs, I provided insight into my process for creating detailed realistic art using water-soluble pastel crayons and colored pencil on board. You may have noticed that the first two images were very rough, and that my initial line drawing did not have many details. This is for a very important reason – I strongly believe that meticulously measured line drawings of a person can inhibit the artist’s interpretation of the subject, and lead to uninteresting portraits.

This is one reason that I like to use water-soluble pastel washes under the colored pencil – it forces me to apply color loosely, and leave the careful rendering to the final stages of the painting. In every portrait that I create, my goal is to render the subject as they see themselves (or as the client sees them), and also to inject some of my own interpretation into the piece. I’ve noticed that some of my favorite portrait painters follow a similar practice, starting with loosely painted blocks of color to define the contours, light, and shadows, and moving the paint around to refine the portrait until it is not only a realistic rendering of the subject, but also one that seems to tell a story.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

"Coming Clean" - Done!

Here is the finished piece! I ended up adding more warm tones to counteract some of the strong bluish-purples on the lower portion of the hand, but the reflections are still cool overall. I also smoothed out the texture in some areas, and added water dripping from the fingers. This was a fun piece for me - I really enjoyed all of the detail in the hands with the veins and water droplets. It's amazing how many colors go into skin other than just the typical peach, tan, and brown!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Hands Progress 8

Now that I've done some work on the fingers below the hand, I think that the cool tones on the hand are appropriate. I may still add some brown to tone down some of the blue tones, but in general I think it looks realistic, along with the cool reflections on the fingers. Next I will work on the water dripping from the hands. After that, I will evaluate the piece as a whole, make finishing touches, and then it will be ready to be photographed and added to my Hands Collection.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Hands Progress 7

As I mentioned yesterday, I am adding cooler tones on the bottom of the hand, which are reflections coming up from the water below. Here you can see the cooler tones, which look unusually bluish-purple next to the unfinished fingers. I will move on to working on the fingers next so that I can evaluate the colors in context, and then I might adjust the tones a bit.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Hands Progress 6

Today's update on my latest Hands piece shows some my progress on some of the darker shadows. The light is coming from above in this piece, and also is coming in from a window, which is why the highlights are cast with a bluish tone. The shadows, on the other hand, are warmer. When I reach the bottom edges of the hands and fingers, I will add cool reflections coming from the water below.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Hands Progress 5

Well I did end up making some progress today, mostly because I have so much free time being unable to do much at all with this injury! I've worked on the water spilling over the hand, and also the top portion of the right hand a bit. Sometimes when drawing hands I force myself to move on to another section because I can get carried away with the detail in the texture of the skin!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Hands Progress 4

Well, here's a small update - I'm starting to work on the thumbs and water stream. It will be slow-going for the next few days though, because I have an ankle injury that requires rest and elevating my leg, which makes it very difficult to work on art. I hope to be back in full force after the 4th of July though, so stayed tuned!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Hands Progress 3

And now the fun begins! I've started using colored pencils in the wrist area toward the top left-hand corner. As I mentioned earlier, I want the skin to look more realistic, so the tones are significantly subdued from the neocolor painting shown in the previous entry.

As a side note, my hands and wrists do look pretty veiny in warm weather, but I also like to magnify the intensity of the veins and skin texture in my hands artwork.