Friday, December 24, 2010

Thanks for listening.

Here we are at the end of another year, and I wanted to thank everyone for their support and interest. Many of you took the time to leave some thoughtful and challenging comments on my work; I can not tell you how much it is appreciated. If I did not respond directly to your comment I assure you that my lack of response was either circumstances or procrastination. Which ever case, be assured I value each and every comment, again my sincerest gratitude.

The goal with my blogs (Studio and Pochade) has been pretty simple. To attempt to publish at least one article on each site per month, with some type of content that may be of interest to artists or art patrons. I make no claims to great expertise but do profess a great desire to learn as much as I can about the nature and language of my craft, painting. And I know the most important pieces of information I have been given have come directly from conversations and exchanges with other artists that are kind and generous enough to share their skills and knowledge. I hope I can share the creative wealth and pass along, in some small way those gifts.

Happy Holidays and have a great New Years.

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Explore - Question - Learn - Enjoy,  Jim

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Underpainting Techniques - Grisaille - Copper Pot

Work in progress- (WIP)
Update on the copper pot painting demonstration grisaille, ("griz-eye")

1.    Transfer the drawing and ink in the contour lines. I seal the drawing with a thin coat of umber and medium. (imprimatura) And allow it to dry for several days.
2.    Using my study in charcoal as reference and direct observation. I start the (grisaille) under painting. I model the forms in values with a mixture of raw umber- ultramarine - and flake white.
3.    The goal is to describe light and shadow, paying close attention to halftones, that area where shadow meets light.
4.    I finish the grisaille with passages of translucent mid tones to soften some of the transitions and allow the underpainting to dry for several days

Here is the finished grisaille before the color layer. It appears a bit darker I believe because the mid-tone glaze (velaturas) was not completely dry. That layer brings a soft focus to everything kind of as if in a fog.

This is a early shot of the beginning of the color stage. I'll post more on it as it develops. 
 I have been diligently photographing the painting stages as the work develops, so that the finale of this project will be a video tutorial of the entire process. I have gained a new appreciation for stop motion animation, and can not imagine how someone like Ray Harryhausen made hours of movies this way.

You can find more information on underpainting techniques by looking under "labels" in the side bar.

Explore - Question - Learn - Enjoy, Jim

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Prints Available

I am currently offering two fine art reproductions.

“Woodland Phlox” in a limited edition Gicl'ee.

“The Reluctant Gardner” as a fine art reproduction on canvas.

 Only available from my studio site. Just in time for the Holidays.
A creative and unique gift for all occasions.

Happy Holidays, Jim

For more information click the above Prints / Gicl'ee tab.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Charcoal Demonstration

Video Copper Pot Study

This study is for the studio painting, Copper Pot.
I like to work out the preliminary drawing in line and value before the commitment to the painting. Searching out the composition and subtle relationships between forms, for me is the real key to any successful work. Even if that sketch is not a full finished image just simply a contour drawing, it is the ground work on which I like to work. In this image, the copper, shell and gourd tones and palette are so delicate that I decide to work out a full charcoal value study for this painting.
Charcoal is a wonderful medium, very painterly in its feel. It can produce very fine lines as well as tone, it produces a wide range of values very quickly, achieves very dark blacks, corrects easily when understood, can be very loose and spontaneous to detailed and controlled.

My drawing process is a very traditional approach, with small variations that are convenient to me. The materials I used are very basic and for the majority of the drawing they are, a sandpaper sharpening board, (used to shape the vine charcoal to a fine point), soft vine charcoal, blending stumps and tortillions, kneaded eraser, tissue or a small chamois cloth. Also, charcoal pencils 4B and 6B mainly for the block out and contour and Strathmore 300 series charcoal paper.

Plotting the drawing and blocking out.

To scale the drawing you need a measuring device, something you can move your thumb up and down and make visual measurements from quickly, for comparison. You can use a piece of charcoal or a brush handle works. I like chop sticks as they have a uniform thickness up to the point. In the rest of this demonstration I will be referring to this device as your “scale”.

After setting up the still life and establishing a viewing point (the spot you will use to make all your observation from), establish a vertical axis through the composition. Use a plump line or scale edge held at arms length. I placed mine at the edge of the bell shape of the teapot lid as reference. Along that line, plot the high points and low points of objects. Moving the thumb up and down its length to get the distance I want and make a tick mark with charcoal on the paper. Next establish some basic widths with the scale at arms length and mark the distance between points. Compare measure and develop a set of points you can use as constant reference, establishing one measurement that you compare the next measurement to and so on, growing a set of ratios. As you develop the drawing you will check your dimensions often. After plotting all your reference points block out the basic shapes with simple straight lines. Keeping it as uncomplicated as possible, keeping them simple makes it easier to rearrange them until you have their placement correct.

The Contour

With the image plotted and block out you have already established a rough contour of the composition. Refine the drawing by looking for the variations in and character of each line. Working each contour from simple to complex and rechecking their positions with your plotted points and landmarks. Continue refining and measuring against your scale. Continue checking vertical relationships, horizontal relationships, direction and angles using the ratios you have already establish. At this stage I have a very accurate line drawing based on relationships, actually drawing what I see, not what I think I see. For some this may seem some what mechanical, but as you work through a drawing this way it does become more conceptual and automatic.

I would say it took me more time to explain these steps in text than to actually do them.

Massing in – light and shade

To begin building values or modeling stage I tone the entire paper with charcoal. One can either use the side of a piece of soft charcoal or powder charcoal and level out the value with a chamois or tissue. Avoid using your fingertips, they can transfer oil to the paper and as you layer the charcoal cause areas that will not take more charcoal. Use a stump if you feel you need the control. As far as charcoal powder you can purchase it, however you will sharpen the charcoal sticks and pencils with the sanding board and create powder. I do my sharpening over a small tray made out of card stock and tape; dump the unused portion into a small jar and save it for the next piece.

In toning the paper I want a single value, about mid way on the value scale.
Every shape will be questioned by my scale (chopstick measurement) and its position related to the value scale. Ten being the lightest and zero the darkest.

Next I state the light pattern by lifting out with a kneaded eraser and suggest the shadow pattern with more charcoal. At this stage all of the drawing is covered with some value on which I can start analyzing values and comparing masses.

Develop the drawing thinking shape and value not line. Blend and soften the gradations of value. The kneaded eraser is great for this, roll it to a point and stipple and lift. Add more charcoal and blend with a stump. At this point all the passages become a add and subtract, back and forth approach of making minor adjustments.
Next model the halftones, those values related to the light family (those values where a form is in line with the source of light).
In a broad way you have already stated or massed these in but need to refine them.

We must take a long look at these values for they are often the most descriptive and most subtle. How fast or slow (long or short) they progress will depend on the object. Again return to our scale and judge these. I made a handful of passages over the drawing at this point working over the surface and adjusting the halftones in small veils of charcoal.

Next I made any contrast adjustments by looking at the dark family (those values where a form is not in line with the source of light). Again in a broad way you have already massed these in but just need to tweak them a bit. You might realize that at this phase almost all the information one needs to produce an image is in the simple analysis of form, objectively looking at masses and relating them to one another and that very little detail is really required to create form and dimension.

The final stage of the drawing is looking at the subtleties of our contour, those areas that are lost and found edges (hard or soft) being certain that they help describe the form. I look at the highlights which is the white of the paper and adjust it. I look at all the reflective lights and when I think they help describe the form I call the study complete.

You could certainly push this work further, continue refining and adjusting. But as far as a study for a work on canvas, I have a great resource and a better understanding to go foreword with. This process is a lot easier to complete than read about; I hope I’ve been able to describe it well enough. I produced a video of the process that for some maybe more instructive. Sorry about the poor audio quality on the video, visit The Avett Brothers site and click listen now to hear the great music by these artists.

Hope this has been of some interest, anyway, on to the painting.

Explore - Question - Learn - Enjoy, Jim

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Red and Green Pear

Red and Green Pear / Bartlett pear
Oil on panel

Pears tend to be a theme repeated by me and, well many artists. Not sure what actually attracts artists to them; maybe it’s the organic shapes or variety of colors.

I have done several paintings of pears and have never been completely happy with any of them. Of the efforts, I am most pleased with this one. But I think it’s the background that really makes this painting, it gives a good sense of depth against the slight blush of the pear.

Thanks for looking.

Explore - Question - Learn - Enjoy,  Jim

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Red Apple

Big Red
Oil on panel

A small study focusing on the contrast of color complements. We describe form by the lightness or darkness of an object. When painting we use a colors complement to shade or shadow the form, to give it dimension. The complement green in this case must be seen in the red apple shadow and vise versa for the cloth. The lightest tones on an object are the highlights and even they have a slight influence of the objects complement color. Pumping a little green into the highlight gives it a real spark.

Using items that are opposite in color actually helps to see this feature of light. If a colors complement is not used in conjunction with it, the color looks flat or unnatural.

Explore - Question - Learn - Enjoy, Jim

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Catwalk 20x30 Oil on canvas

This subject interested me because of all the obvious patterns in the wood structure and secondary patterns of the cast shadows. Also the crazy looking braces, supports, the weathered look of the wood and the large antiquated graphics. I composed the image to zoom in on those elements and hopefully give the painting a sense of scale.

As you travel the highways you can not help but notice the old wooden billboards especially in the southeastern part of the states. Most of these old wood structures have been replaced by giant single pole metal structures that loom over the interstate like some enormous metal Colossus.  Many in fact, are pretty tacky and for better or worse have become a common part of the American landscape.

 For the artist I believe that the even most ordinary things are worth examining, and there is always something unique to be seen. If one keeps that maxim, you’ll never be Bill Bored.

( ok ,..ok… I know, really bad pun. )

Enjoy Jim