31 January 2008


Carbon pencil on Strathmore drawing, 10" x 14". 20 minutes.

next up is ciana, a texan very far from home. as always, i like to start with hands and i like to introduce a model with her hands ... so here she is.

i always leave the preliminary lines in a freehand drawing, rather than erase them (i only erase hand stamps or smudges). but rather than scrawl out a rough envelope or cloud of lines, i started by drawing the hands carefully, so that the final cut is on top of the preliminary lines over much of the drawing. i forgot to photograph this pose, but like it very much.

we did a life portrait and then got into photography, which we kept short due to the ongoing inclement weather (dark light). as ciana said, "in texas i'm used to it raining all day, but i'm not used to it raining and raining and raining ..." hey, us west county folks are not used to it either.

Fabriano Artistico CP 300 gsm, 12" x 9". 15 minutes.

at the end of our photo work i asked ciana to pose for another life portrait, facing me because she said she likes to watch.

i did this one without a preliminary pencil drawing; a nice feature of the fabriano paper is that paints which are still wet lift or blot easily, so i was able to sculpt the modeling on the fly, and then add details (nostrils, mouth contour, etc.) as it dried. hair and background were last.

ciana has spent the past four years cultivating a raging set of dreds, which will be a terrific challenge to paint ... even for a hair freak like me.

30 January 2008

weekly figure group

Carbon pencil on Strathmore drawing, 14" x 10".

the model this week was male, name unknown to me. i got some fairly good drawings off him; the group was also very small this week ... maybe the rains kept people at home.

this portrait view was made during a 20 minute pose. i could have spent more time sculpting the hair masses, but i wasn't motivated to do it.

Carbon pencil on Strathmore drawing, 16" x 12".

this is about the best figure drawing of the night, and it's not frontal so i can show it in a public blog. i know how america feels about these things. "go ahead, show me the girl eating yellow maggots, show me the girl flashing white titties, just don't show me a penis! anything but the penis!"

the background hatching didn't turn out as well as i expected it would. it's one of those things ... even after you discover it isn't really what you had in mind ... you started it, so you have to finish it.

29 January 2008

cassandra, two views

Carbon pencil on Strathmore drawing, 14" x10".

this is the second life sketch of cassandra, drawn after i'd done the survey photos of her face. (this is a series of photos in full sunlight, taken at the same distance but from different angles -- from full face to profile -- to show nose, mouth and bones in depth.)

below i've attached a freehand drawing (no transfer grid, no projective tracing) i did from one of the survey photographs that roughly matches the life pose at left. it's interesting to compare the two; they are very different.

Carbon pencil on Strathmore drawing, 14" x10".

i spent more time with the photograph, particularly to analyze the hair, which is the major problem with the life drawing. oddly, the facial proportions in the life drawing are more accurate -- the photo drawing makes her nose too long, though it's an interesting effect.

cassandra has very crisply defined features ... a brilliant smile, large blue eyes, a finely chiseled nose, translucent skin. she also has a dramatic, outgoing personality, which she shines through her face like sunlight through a prism.

28 January 2008


Carbon pencil on Strathmore drawing, 10" x 14".

next up is cassandra, a 22 year old from a town north of me, who is just coming back from a modeling hiatus.

this is my first drawing of her hands, which are among the most elegant and charming hands i have ever seen. i told her i could spend a month on her hands alone.

she'd written in reply to my ad, and we'd chatted on the phone and then met at the graton reception. i was talking to one of the gallery partners when she swam up in front of me, with a look of recognition that actually startled me. then she came over two days later to fill in for a model who had a scheduling conflict.

we spent two hours together in difficult light, and i got a general sense of her energy and range. i see her again in two weeks.

27 January 2008


Arches CP 300 gsm 14" x 10".

this is another pose of charlotte on the couch.

after the outline drawings, i start some color studies. these can go quickly or slowly, depending on the kind of problem i want to work with. it was a chill winter day and i primarily keyed off the cool blue greens out the window.

there is a genuine radiance and clarity in charlotte's demeanor, but also the turmoil and inwardness of her age. i am not yet sure how to wrap color around all that.

i had her on the couch and was bouncing the posing topic around a little; she would alternately laugh, smile, puzzle, ponder, daydream, or as here, roll up her pants cuff and make a scrutiny of me.

all wet

i regret the delay in resuming posts ... i am well and busy, scheduling one or two new portrait/figure models a week, learning acrylics, and celebrating at an invitational show.

at jan's suggestion, i have been sleeping in the studio for the past week as she has had a very bad cold she caught on our return flight from the caribbean. i've been staying up until 2am, playing loud music, sleeping in late ... it feels like a beach house vacation, and jan didn't pass the plague to me.

the problem is ... the rains. the skies got dark and wet about a week ago, and haven't let up since. i can't take good color photos without sunlight, but will get drawings up today and post paintings once the weather clears.

26 January 2008

invitational show

well, it's saturday and time for the artist's reception at the graton gallery. this gallery was kind enough to host 8 or so of my works last year.

jan came with and took this photo of me standing by my painting of siena (see posting for december 6, 2007).

the reception was very well attended. i had some wine, schmoozed some friends, met a new model, enjoyed myself immensely and went home happy.

25 January 2008

life mask (part 1)

another long delayed project was making a life mask of myself. this is the kind of thing i'd do as a kid, and i've been feeling rather kidlike lately.

here are the instructions:

1. find a studio with faux hardwood floor that will not be damaged. strip to the waist to prevent damage to clothing.

2. mix up a stainless steel bowl full of plaster of paris.

3. grease hair and face with petroleum jelly.

4. stand in tile bathroom and smear fluid plaster of paris all over face, leaving only eyes and nose. this starts out thin, but as the plaster begins to set the stuff goes on thicker and thicker and begins to form a cohesive mask.

5. when plaster feels masklike, go lie down on the cold floor with the stainless container over yer head, and scoop wads of plaster evenly all over your face. cover eyes and nose, making sure to insert straws into nostrils so you can breathe.

6. as plaster begins to harden, lie very still. remain stoic when your wife comes in, makes sarcastic remarks, and takes pictures of your helpless state.

7. once plaster warms up and becomes very hard, rip it slowly from your face, taking whiskers, scalp hair, nose hair and eyelashes along with it. (blow through mouth to release suction.) spend 15 minutes rinsing plaster grit from your eyes, nose, ears, hands.

8. clean plaster splattered walls, sink, counter, mirror in bathroom; scrape dried plaster from faux hardwood floor; chip plaster out of stainless bowl.

9. remove belt, chase mocking wife down the road.

for the finished mask, see the posting for february 8.

POSTSCRIPT ADDED FEBRUARY 12: i met an artist today in a sebastopol gallery who does life castings of faces and torsos. she recommended plaster impregnated gauze, the kind used by doctors to wrap broken limbs, for the mould; then a thick sheet of sculptor's clay, pressed into the mould by hand, for the mask. the clay can also be modified or ornamented with sculpting tools and glazes, then fired to make a finished piece.

24 January 2008

unknown model

Strathmore drawing 16" x 12".

this is another drawing of the model from wednesday's group. i don't know her name.

the fact that she could hold a pose so cleanly allowed me to loosen up my drawing technique. i spent more time on the preliminary, "searching" part, which consists of making light, loose scrawling motions on the page.

these are adjusted gradually to match the form. finally the scrawls create a kind of cohesion, and i cut the outline of the figure on top of them. the head portrait was done last, and very quickly.

23 January 2008

weekly figure group

Arches CP 300 gsm, 12" x 9".

this week the model was unfamiliar to me, but was excellent -- interesting poses, harmonious lines, rock solid discipline, placid demeanor. got great work off her.

i don't normally do watercolor in the drawing group but thought this back pose would look good.

first laid down the figure in carbon pencil, then tinted the form, then modeled it, then dropped in the background, hair, etc. it was a 20 minute pose.

22 January 2008


Carbon pencil on Utrecht bristol, 14" x 10".

i like to start intensive study with a model through outline drawings, some of them carefully done. this is charlotte sitting on my studio brown sofa, beaming a girlish glee.

my main interest in this kind of drawing is in the hair and the facial proportions. i don't care about modeling, shadows, textures and so on.

charlotte has a very complex mouth. i didn't capture it well here, but the overall shape is correct. she has perfect teeth and a stunning smile, as you'll see in later images.

21 January 2008


Carbon pencil on Utrecht bristol, 14" x 10".

i recently found a very fertile source for artists' models ... advertising on craigslist. with one ad, i have scheduled 5 models in as many weeks.

charlotte, age 18, wrote to me asking to model in exchange for a painting, because she loves my work.

this was a life drawing made at the end of a very long and productive session of portrait photography. her face is very austere and yet very expressive; it is a drawing challenge, especially in the mouth.

while she was sitting with me a snow or freezing slush began to fall outside on the deck and deck furniture, coating them in white. the mood was very still and mystical.

20 January 2008


Arches CP 300 gsm, 9" x 7".

hyacinths are early spring blooms, and the guess is that spring will come early this year, much as autumn lasted very late last year.

these flowers are from a florist who makes weekly flower deliveries to the house. (women especially are surprised to hear i have flowers delivered to my wife every week.) but jan also grows hyacinths in her garden, and those blooms will be in our home in a month or two.

jan bought the vase at the murano glassworks during our trip to venice last year.

i painted this early in the morning; i'd brought the paint kit and brushes up from the studio intending to work on it last night, but fell asleep before i got to it.

19 January 2008

my first acrylic painting

Acrylic on unknown paper.

i finally decided to get down to experimenting with acrylic paints. so i spent the day shopping around local art stores and finally got some paints, boards, prestretched canvas, brushes, etc. at riley street art supply.

of course i bought the secondary palette of six highly saturated paints, because this palette can match the color of any other mixed or pure pigment paints -- it's the most powerful and versatile six paint palette possible.

the pigments available in acrylics are a bit different than in watercolors, but i ended up with:
yellow: nickel azomethine yellow (PY150)
red orange: cadmium red light (aka cadmium scarlet, PR108; pyrrole orange PO73 is also good)
magenta: quinacridone magenta (PR122 -- accept no substitutes!)
blue violet: ultramarine blue (PB29)
green blue: phthalocyanine blue GS (green shade, PB15:3)
green: phthalocyanine green YS (yellow shade, PG36)
... and for convenience and technical reasons it is necessary in acrylics (and oils) to have:
white: zinc white (PW4, or titanium white, which is cooler)
black: carbon black (PBk6 or PBk9).

of course it is much easier to work with a larger number of paints -- in particular, some "earth" (iron oxide) pigments such as yellow ochre or burnt sienna. however one learns a great deal about the fundamental color composition of ochres, tans, umbers, browns and olive greens by mixing them from these saturated paints, adjusted with white or black.

i will be playing around with these in the background, as i have time free from other tasks. i should complete some paintings with them in a week or two.

18 January 2008


Arches CP 300 gsm, 14" x 10".

another "backlog" painting, from the series of torso portraits of siena started last november. as pose instructions i asked to use her body as a stage and her hands as signs or characters.

the background is a bright yellow blackened into green. green is the shadow color on the figure, tempered by mixture with magenta, perylene maroon, burnt sienna and a light tint of nickel azo yellow.

the erotic significance of the torso is minimized by its matter of factness, the masking of the face, and the physical ease of the model. the painting of the torso is sloppy but fine grained, with edges and color shifts visible all over it, symbolizing the complexity within.

the light appears dim, intimate and prolonged, because the shadow contrast is not extreme. deep shadow visibility is a sign that the light is ambient and that the eye has had time to adapt to it.

17 January 2008


Arches CP 300 gsm, 12" x 9".

another "backlog" painting of margaret, left half finished.

the face tones are just pyrrole orange and burnt sienna (no yellow), and the lips have been browned away from red. the eyes are cerulean blue charged with burnt sienna, which makes nice highlights of green and hazel. the hair is primarily burnt sienna and sepia.

this reduces the warm gamut of the face and enhances its contrast with the strongly saturated shirt and background.

16 January 2008

figure drawing group

Arches HP 300 gsm 14" x 10".

my first drawing group after the caribbean vacation. good to be back.

the model was familiar to me and had been to the group before, but there was something listless in her manner; worse, she let her poses drift, or sag, or puddle. this is a portrait drawing i did in a 20 minute pose. she was not actually asleep, because i saw her eyes blink now and then, but that was the only clue.

when i looked at the drawing the next day i was surprised at how depressing it was. sometimes models exert an influence on the drawing that i am not aware of until the next day.

shortly after this pose the model decided to lie down. and you know how i feel about that.

15 January 2008


Hahnemuhle "Albrect Durer" 10" x 8".

now that i am back in the studio i've set as one of my projects working through the large backlog of unfinished paintings that has accumulated over the past months (photo below).

this one of kimberly was originally in a set of paintings done on the Durer paper, which i abandoned for some reason. anyway, i put in the minimal effort to close this one out, mostly in the hair and face.

the backlog has portraits of siena, charlotte, margaret; a nice series of figure nudes with stefanie, and a few sonoma landscapes. i hope to clean through the lot by this summer.

14 January 2008

san juan fort

Arches CP 300 gsm, 7" x 9".

the morning of our last day we walked around the old district of san juan, starting with the massive old fort sitting at the mouth of the harbor.

the caribbean is full of forts, so why not end with one.

we then strolled the shopping district, brightly colored but empty of anything except tourists and bar flies; jan bought a pair of tourmaline earrings for $150, i admired some panama hats. then we took a taxi back to the hotel and to the airport, and the airport back to atlanta and finally to san francisco after midnight.

by the time we drove home it was almost 2am. we spent another hour downloading email and sorting mail, and went to bed.

12 January 2008

a great place to be

Watercolor on Arches CP, 9" x12".

while driving around antigua, or on any of the other former english or dutch islands we visited, makeshift bars or clubs were visible everywhere. these are not the picturesque and trendy places, like smokey's, that cater to the white shoe tourists; these are the down home corrugated metal places that cater to the locals, most of whom come just to sit.

this venue was glimpsed from our tour bus high in the hills of dominica, on the road to the parrot reserve, clean and brightly painted in parrot green and orange. i guessed the fruit plantation workers in the nearby hills were its principal clientele.

11 January 2008

sunset at sea

Watercolor on Arches CP, 300gsm, 9" x 12".

among the real beauties of this voyage were the many sunsets at sea, especially around the spate of rain we had in the middle of the trip.

here the last of the storm clouds are blowing off to the west, some of them visibly cut off by the horizon, sunlight streaming underneath them to produce a band of rosy glow.

10 January 2008

the amsterdam

Arches CP 300 gsm 9" x 12".

this morning we docked in st. kitt's; some folks went on the bus tour to a fort, jan and i walked around the town taking in the local color. or couleur.

then we lifted anchor and sailed out to a small cove for swimming. nearby the amsterdam, a sailing training ship, was anchored for the afternoon.

water is iron blue; i'm proud of the way i got the ripples in by stroking the paint with a moist brush just as it was about to dry. (the caribbean humidity was very forgiving.)

09 January 2008

clubbing on jost van dyke

Watercolor on Arches CP, 300gsm, 9" x 12".

here it is, the caribbean experience. dozens of bronzed expats from the east coast, miami and new york mostly, sloshing down painkillers and playing "the ring game", the idiotic caribbean challenge of attempting to swing a small metal ring, tied to a cord pendulum like, so that it flops onto an upraised hook buried into a post or tree.

i was sitting in a cabana, drinking my painkiller and attempting to paint the beach, but towards the end of the painkiller the painting began to seem unimportant and, eventually, jan tired of swimming and encouraged me to take a beach walk. this is what was left.

08 January 2008

virgin islands

Arches CP 300 gsm 9" x 12".

this day we woke to see the virgin islands off our starboard side. i'm not sure which islands these were, but they went by slowly enough to paint.

this is pretty much the scenery on a caribbean cruise: distant landforms, horizon, sky, lots of waves, clouds occasionally. then you dock and find an old fort to visit.

07 January 2008


Watercolor on Arches R 300gsm, 7" x 9".

the caribbean has lots of beaches, white and brown, and every beach worth bathing at has its beach bar. this is smokey's, the bar and grill somewhere on anguilla, our first landfall after leaving antigua.

i had two pina coladas, not bad, and a cheeseburger with fries, worth forgetting, while sitting in the shade waiting for the day's excursion to end.

jan and a few others trekked to a remote beach for snorkeling that was, i heard, not worth the effort.

the rest of the passengers who came ashore lined up on beach chairs under umbrellas, drank beer, swabbed tanning oil, and got acquainted.

06 January 2008


Arches R 300 gsm, 7" x 10".

today we boarded the luxury barque "seacloud ii" and set sail for the virgin islands.

as the entire day and night were spent under sail at sea, there wasn't much to paint. so here is the view northeast from shirley heights.

the peninsula ends in standfast point, which is strewn with a large complex built and owned by eric clapton. he's essentially his own little italy hanging off the mainland.

this painting went off really well. paintings are coming more easily and more consistently now. i hardly ever run into a catastrophe that spoils the whole work, and i spend much less time fixing outcomes i hadn't expected.

05 January 2008

english harbour

Arches CP 300 gsm 9" x 12".

this morning i got up early and drove to shirley heights, which gives a marvelous prospect of english harbour and all the ritzy yachts docked or anchored there.

i painted this in the dawn light, which accounts for the pale coloring, but i didn't have the heart to change it.

04 January 2008

standfast point

Arches CP 300 gsm 9" x 12".

our first morning in antigua i got up early and drove behind shirley heights to get this view of the cove behind standfast point, the end of which is owned by eric clapton. (see previous post).

i clambered up a gravelly hillside and sat among the grazing goats to paint.

despite my best effort, the terrain in antigua strikes me as monotonous. i can see why people came there to grow sugar cane, but otherwise the appeal was not to my taste.

01 January 2008


Velké Losiny Moldau watercolor, 30" x 22".

all right ladies, quit your grinnin' and drop your linen. time to make some paintings.

actually i painted this just back from the caribbean. but it's a good way to start out the year.

for those of you who haven't yet tried the "moldau" watercolor paper, you're in for a treat. the furnish is cotton and linen, with a bright rattle; the paper has a clean white color and a subtle but wide wove texture. holds the paint on the surface and all paints, even "staining" paints like dioxazine violet or green gold, lift easily. it is one of my favorites.

i clipped this sheet to a large plywood support and freehanded the portrait in the studio bathroom mirror. background is quinacridone gold (the real thing, not the "hue" substitutes), torso is dioxazine violet; i think the flesh mixture is pyrrole orange, burnt sienna and gold ochre but i can't be sure. red accents are cadmium scarlet.

bon voyage

happy new year!

this blog takes a two week hiatus while my wife and i cruise the caribbean islands south of antigua ... take our minds off the presidential election tide of bullshit ... enjoy the sunlight and sea air and freedom from all telecommunications ...

posts resume on my return. the rest of you -- keep on painting!