Thursday, 28 June 2012

Small Beauties at Art Exposure

Everyone is invited to Art Exposure Gallery tomorrow night, where I'll be showing the above painting ("The Profile") as well as the two below - the first of my New York paintings to go on show!

There will be nibbles and wine and good chat, as well as my paintings hung in a group (there are a few others going on show) and of course many other painters work on show.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

The Little Mermaid and The Frick

Also recently finished (maybe) is this one, which has also gone through many stages since it was begun back in Vytlacil. She is based on photographs I took of what appeared to be a model shoot at the Staten Island Ferry terminal. There was something about the light that was just magical as well, of course, of all the effort that had clearly been put into her clothes, make-up and so on.

Later that day I visited the Frick, which I heartily recommend for anyone interested in paintings of people. They have an amazing collection of first class paintings that span from Holbein's Thomas Cromwell to fine Degas , hitting various high points along the way. Almost all of the paintings are not only by great painters but are among the best of their works - the Raeburn's , for example, are top notch, which is quite impressive. Having such great works in close proximity makes it very easy to compare and contrast and try to have deep thoughts. There isn't the scope of the Metropolitan, especially as almost all paintings are portraits. This is, of course, also a strength.

So, after seeing all these three-quarter length portraits I wanted to have a go myself - and this is the result. She started out much darker but seemed to become more mermaid-like as she progressed. I had gone on the ferry as I was missing the water (having grown up by the seaside and having a view of the Kelvin from my front window) and every time I started painting it took me back to the pleasure of the ride, the mystery of the sea and rivers, and the unfathomableness of what goes on behind another person's eyes.

Monday, 25 June 2012

The Princess

Here is the (probably) finished version of The Princess - she was the last painting I started in Vytlacil, and was hung on the wall at the opening while the paint was still wet. Back then, she had a yellow background and grey clothing - originally she started as an exercise in using raw sienna as a background. That didn't work out - turns out the paint was both too opaque and too transparent for what I was after. Never mind, I'll try something similar on another painting soon.

So, now she surrounded by shades of green/grey/blue and is looking much calmer - originally she seemed to have a little bit of a sneer to her, which just did not seem right. A real example of the painting taking over and the reference material being left far behind.

Looking at her here on the blog it is clear I am very drawn to these types of blues - all my most recent paintings are very blue themed. Oh well. Guess I should keep experimenting with the colours . . .

Just spotted something I want to fix. A painting is done for me either when I run out of things to improve, fixing it means starting from scratch, or when it has to be taken to a gallery to be sold. How does everyone else decide?

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Ribera's Hands at the Brooklyn Museum

One friday I went paddling up the beach from Coney Island to Brighton Beach, ate some fab russian pastries then took the train back to Brooklyn Museum.

Despite a woefully rubbish cafe, I enjoyed my visit here, although I didn't bother with any of the trendy, modern stuff. Instead I spent ages looking at second rate paintings, with a few first class paintings thrown in. At my stage of learning this can be very useful - they are, of course, still way beyond me, but tend to show the workings and give me use-able ideas. Masterpieces are great to look at, very inspiring, but often difficult to assess for help in how to paint. It can be hard to use the critical mind when your jaw is hitting the floor . . .

These photo's are of Ribera's painting of St Joseph of the Flowering Rod. Seeing these hands were a jaw-dropping moment, although I can't saw I am too keen on the whole thing - Ribera for me is a first class painter but his subject matter can make him a little hard to love. But look at these hands.

I'd hoped that the photo's might help me show how to paint skin better, but I think that they are just going to be reminders of how important hands can be, and of how much distance there is between my paintings and a class act such as Ribera.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Curiosity at Washington Square Park

As may be clear by now, I spent a lot of time in New York hanging around the parks. Towards the end of the stay, I discovered Washington Square Park. It is easy to understand why the Fresh Prince chooses to live there in I Am Legend (beautiful, but rather stupid film. Much prefer the book . . . ) although I suppose he would not have the benefit of Caffe Reggio being nearby. The almond pastry I had there was very, very good - on my list of places to revisit.

One of the times I was there, a bunch of folks were sleeping on the benches near the arch (it was about half nine on a sunday morning). Attached to a lead was this absolutely gorgeous kitten - it was bigger than a full grown cat, despite being quite skinny and clearly not yet fully grown, so I have no idea what kind of cat it was.

Lots of pictures were taken, and this is my first drawing - I have a bug in my head about drawing movement which comes out every so often but does not seem to be anywhere near resolved. At some point there will probably be both more developed drawings of individual poses, and more work on the moving theme. Until then, this is it!

Friday, 15 June 2012

Patricia Watwood and Friends

Way back again to the start of my trip, I went to a talk organized by Patricia Watwood at the Forbes Galleries.

The talk was a panel discussion between Patricia, Nelson Shanks, Sabin Howard and Peter Trippi . I had a nice seat near the front and after a while began sketching. Sitting still for more than half an hour is a real trial . . . Obviously, they kept moving, Peter Trippi at the end in particular - while the others tended to go back to the same pose, he was always different. And the hands! They were absolutely fabulous, never stopping, very expressive - even when not talking. Odd that he was the one non-artist in the panel. He saw the sketch later (a very approachable chap) and didn't seem to disapprove too much.

It was Nelson Shanks (the first face in my sketch) whose viewpoint I understood most - he talked very much of the joy of painting what is in front of you and how expressive that can be, and how there will never be an end to the subjects to be painted. The others were more political and a lot of it went over my head - especially as I had not yet realised how very little representational art there is in NYC. It was a bit of a shock to me that my kind of art is seen by some as very old fashioned. But at the end of the day, does it matter? Only in the sense that the audience for my work may be smaller than I'd wish

Anyway, I got to meet Daniel Maidman, who introduced me to Joe Ongie (who is a big Raeburn fan), Nelson, Patricia and Peter, Karen Kaapcke (another great painter) and various other interesting folks. Wine was drunk, the party moved to the Salmagundi Club (which had a startling range of representational art on show, from the brilliant to the embarrassingly bad) and there was much talk of art amongst other things.

In the perfect world there would be many such meetings and we would all be better artists for them - it is hard to quantify how much talk enriches, but I have no doubt it does. Otherwise I wouldn't be blogging - so please comment, folks!

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Views From The Bus

An awful lot of my semi-awake time was spent on the bus - it was a minimum hours journey into the port authority bus station. Time I mainly spent reading (Fitzgerald's short stories) or dreaming. Occasionally I also did some drawing (pretty bad) and took some photographs (slightly better).

The view from New Jersey, just before the bus turned into the Lincoln Tunnel, is spectacular

At the weekend, the bus went across the George Washington Bridge, rather than through the tunnel. This gave a view at an angle down the island, but unfortunately it was raining pretty bad each time I made that journey, so the best I could manage was a shot of the bridge itself.

There are a few more photographs over at flickr

Monday, 11 June 2012

Art Supplies New York City

Now, as I mentioned in a previous post, Peter Cox sent me a very long materials list for his workshop - mainly of things I did not have. He had a list of preferred artists oil paint brands - which did not include Winsor and Newton. As you could potentially fail the classes I went to at University if you didn't have the right stuff, I just presumed I had to try and get it all - which took care of the first couple of days in New York. Then, on turning up to the class, it was apparent that virtually nobody had paid much attention to the list . . . that'll learn me!

View New York Art Supplies in a larger map

To look on the bright side, I now have a lot of bright new shiny colours, made by all sorts of different brands, so I can compare and contrast. In the process of buying them, I also have become fairly familiar with several art supply shops in New York, and had several fun hours wandering around them fiddling with all the lovely things on display.

Vasari Paints was the first I visited. I almost missed it, as it is many floors up and along a rather winding corridor full of various artist types. Not what I was expecting at all. Some galleries I never did find, possibly as they are similarly up floors and not clearly indicated. When I got there, there were two people deep in conversation, but the wall full of boxes of paints told me I was in the right place after all. So I had a look at the paints, until the conversation was interrupted for the chap to tell me off for touching his paints. Ooops. So then I stood and waited. And waited. And waited. Eventually I asked if I could buy something and suddenly he sprang into action, till was produced, paint was wrapped (red umber - in the list as absolutely necessary, and certainly seems a useful colour for cooler, dark flesh tones). Still not sure if this was a case of manners being lost in translation . . .

Next (after walking down the Highline and eating a NYC version of a double nougat - ice cream stuck between two cookies.) was New York Central Art Supplies. This place looked very ramshackle from the outside, and fairly dark and dingy inside. But had a more than adequate range of paints as well as some oil painting boards, so I was able to get get most of what I needed. Their specialty is paper - up some hard-to-find, narrow stairs there is a huge range of papers from everywhere, on two racks of boards that can be flipped. You decide what you want, then tell one of the many nattering staff behind the desk and bobs-your-uncle. That first day it was packed out (with about 3 people), so I went back during my last weekend - by then I knew I was at my weight limit, so wouldn't be able to buy any paper, but spent quite some time looking at them, and noting down the ones that might do in my eternal search for a good mid-toned watercolour paper. The one I did identify they didn't have in stock in the colour I wanted, but I do have an alternative to try out sometime soon. Will go back just for this place.

Near to it is an Utrecht store - which seemed to be aimed more at graphic designers etc. Didn't visit others in the chain (although there is one near Blick), so don't know if they are different

The little shop on the ground floor of the Art Student's League was the next stop, before the first class begun, as I hadn't had the strength to buy all the ingredients for the medium - or identified a bottle to put them in. They came up trumps, and indeed seem to have a very good, focused range of materials, all aimed at professional artists. Indeed, with the exception of Lee's Art Shop across the road from the ASL, I saw very little student quality materials at all. (Lee's was about the standard of Miller's in Glasgow - adequate, but aimed more at the craft market)

Another place I visited (for Noodler's ink ) was the Fountain Pen Hospital . If fancy pens are your thing, this is the place. And if not-so-fancy pens, or a big range of inks, is more to your liking, this is also your place.

Next up should have been Soho Art Materials , as it came with good recommendations from the rest of the class, but I couldn't find it. After looking twice. Oh well. So I went to Pearl Paints instead. Probably the biggest shop I went to, with a nice big range of sizes of oil painting boards (including ovals), as well as gessoed boards etc. Spent the best part of an afternoon there, looking at all the brushes/pencils/papers and so on.

My favourite of all of them was Blick . It was a bright, open shop, with plenty of room and clearly laid out. The range of oil paints was impressive, as were the watercolours - although they didn't sell pans and didn't have Daniel Smith's range (no-where I visited did. One of the major disappointments of the trip.) Even their bags seemed sturdy. If only the store was at the bottom of my road . . .

Obviously I have missed a few places out - does anyone out there have other recommendations, for the next trip?

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Peter Cox Workshop

To go back, my first week in New York was attending a Masterclass taught by Peter Cox. This was very hard work for me, for several reasons - firstly, I am not a good pupil, hate group situations and classes, as generally feel quite self conscious . Much rather have a book to read. Part of this is that I miss a lot, having problems hearing . Art classes are particularly difficult, as often the teacher is painting and I therefore have a choice between watching their face or their hands/the painting. Difficult - and why I avoid them. Being unfamiliar with workshops in general also made me more awkward, never mind getting used to a new city and a new culture. The dodgy shoulder meant I ended up sitting on the floor, which naturally limited my choices regarding composition and probably irritated everyone else. Getting in from Sparkill by the half seven bus was a trial, and meant missing the first 15 minutes of the class.

To continue with my woes, the materials list sent out (contact me if you want a copy) was huge. At least twice what I normally use - and that was just the "essential paints". Most of my first couple of days was spent finding the right shops and trying to figure out what I needed - so much was in another language (fl oz? turpenoid? coffee can?). And then once the class begun, we only used six colours. Bah. Much of the discussion was around anatomy (the workshop was meant to be on painting clothing. Peter's point was that fabric hangs and moves according to the underlying bony landmarks. These need to made obvious in the painting if it is to appear solid). Not what I was expecting - so as you can see, I got sketching to fill the time. The second drawing was from before he made his point regarding fabric, bony landmarks, and folds.

The first sketch was of the lovely model's head (She was really great), along with notes as to how he recommends laying out the palette - as you probably cannot see, he recommends putting white in the middle, paints at the outside, and premixing strings from red umber, red umber and cadmium red, burnt umber and ultramarine, yellow ochre or raw sienna. These can then be mixed with the adjacent strings, so the yellow ochre with the red umber/cad mix and the b.umber/ultramarine with the red umber. Not something I have continued with, but I have continued using a larger pallete, and premixing a much bigger range of tones and colours - and ensuring the whole thing hangs together before painting.

So, in summary, I hated almost all of it, and ended up with another ugly painting. But something at some point clicked and I now feel I have the basics so I will be able to paint anything I choose. There is a whole world out there . . . . Peter and his model were lovely people (even got a gift of a coffee can from them!) and the other students helpful. Much thanks to the lady who explained that half and half was not semi-skimmed milk, and to Elsa, who as a fellow european could actually tell when I was joking.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

The Open Studio at Vytlacil

On the 24th May, a special day for me, was the Vytlacil Open Studio event. Although I have attended many group openings, this was the first where I was on my own, responsible for the look of the whole thing and looking after my guests. (Although, of course, the other residents were also hosting their open studios. I will post about them some time soon).

For many reasons I had decided to work small during the residency - ranging in size from 10x10cm to 25x50cm. My subject matter was what I had encountered since coming to New York - especially the people in Central Park, where I had spent a fair bit of time, walking from the 57th St studios of the Art Student's League to the museums on the Upper East Side.

The following is my statement for the night - "Coming to New York from Glasgow has been quite a voyage, forcing me to reconsider attitudes and decisions as well as illuminating many possibilities. My first week was spent at Peter Cox’s workshop at the Art Students League 57th building in the mornings and strolling round the museums in the afternoons. Another place I spent a lot of time was in Central Park. Many of the people I saw there became the basis of my paintings shown here today. The museums (and the sunshine) led me to a realisation of how crucial colour can be in loving a painting and has encouraged me to be more expressionistic. Since then I have attended life drawing here regularly and have benefitted from critiques. Once back home my work is likely to experiment more with colour and composition – the journey has only just begun!"

The reward of night was the looks on folks faces - an entirely unfakeable look - and the many great conversations I had. Maybe I might even do it all again, sometime!