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Purple Vase in Art Student League Holiday Show

Come to the Annual Holiday Show & Sale at The Art Student League  from December 5-23.  There will be 500 paintings and drawings and 50 works of sculpture from $100 to $1200.  It’s a great opportunity to buy a unique and special gift for yourself or that special someone in your life.  But even if you’re not buying, there are remarkable works in all media to be seen.  Come and check it out.

This year, my watercolor, Purple Vase, is part of the exhibit.

Purple Vase

Purple Vase

The purple vase and orange flowers were part of a complicated set up that is typical of Frank O’Cain’s classes.  Since you can’t possibly paint everything in front of you, you’re forced to choose very carefully what you want to include.  Not only did I exclude more than I included, I really tried to simplify the composition.  Just a few lines, bold strokes and some rich color.  You know what you’re looking at, but it’s not spelled out precisely.  It’s more interesting that way.

The Holiday Show is on the 2nd floor of the Art Students League, 215 West 57th Street, NY, NY 10019.  Tel: 212-247-4510.             M-F 9:00 – 8:00, Sat & Sun 9:00 – 4:00.

Hope you can make it.  Let me know if you want to meet me there.

Are Paintings Ever Finished?

Well, it sure didn’t take me a month to figure out that Dan needed something to pull it together.

Dan

Dan

The first thing that hits me is that the yellow background on the left doesn’t really connect with the rest of the painting.  Moving the green specks further to the right and maybe into the white area might work.  Here come the scissors and construction paper again.

I had other ideas: move the yellow blocks more into the left side;  create ‘shadows’ around the blocks to make them even stronger; completely paint over the current painting, maybe with gouache (opaque watercolor).  Of course, each of them might create other, new problems to solve.  Expanding the yellow and green specks to the right was the simplest solution.  When in doubt, try the easiest and least instrusive thing first.

Tada!  I like it.

Dan Final

Dan Final

I’m calling it Dan Final, in the hopes that it will be final.  Maybe I should hide the painting now.  That way I probably won’t think of anything else to do to it.

Abstracting Dan … a many step process

Abstracting from the model is not my long suit, but my late afternoon class at the Art Students League is all about just that.  It’s usually four 20 minute poses each class and ideally one of them will be worth turning into a real painting.

The last week of September we had a great model but one 20 minute sketch after another wasn’t going well. Miraculously, the 7th one showed some promise.  I brought the pad home, propped it up in my studio and kept staring at it, trying to figure out how I could “fix” it.

Dan Sketch

Dan Sketch

Dan’s left shoulder was too prominent and it was just too obvious what was foreground and what was background. I needed to pull some of the ‘background’ forward and push some of the ‘foreground’ back.  Maybe if I took the pattern of orangy yellow blocks and pulled it over his arm… So I started by painting ‘Dan’ and then cut up blocks of a file folder and laid them over the background on the right and then over his left arm.  That was better but the color was wrong.  So I painted a few of the blocks to see what would work. Then I painted them on the painting.  Much better. Next I tackled the left background.  I added a pattern of yellow flecks to try and bring it forward.  That helped, but it wasn’t enough, so I added green flecks to the pattern.  But then, it occurred to me to move the green flecks over part of his right arm, thereby pushing it back and pulling the ‘background’ forward.  I decided to test it by cutting up some old, faded green construction paper and letting it fall on his arm.  It worked, so I painted it.

When I showed the painting to my art friends, they thought the orangy yellow blocks weren’t strong enough to offset the dominance of his left arm (I had faded the blocks as they moved toward the center of the painting).  So I intensified the color and then also added a green border to some of the sides of the blocks.  That made the blocks come forward and his arm move back.

Finally, I showed it to Frank O’Cain, my teacher, who suggested I might want to do something to make the three burnt sienna objects (Dan’s two arms and his face and neck) less of a repeating pattern. Watercolor is a very unforgiving medium and erasing something already painted usually falls somewhere between difficult and impossible.  However, I have recently discovered that the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser (intended to clean walls and sinks) also will magically erase watercolor without totally damaging the paper.  So I wet the Eraser and started rubbing away the side of Dan’s face.  Many stops and starts and a day later, I’m happy with the result.  I signed it.

Dan

Dan

I suppose if you’re someone like Frank O’Cain with oodles of experience in abstracting from the figure, something like this might just sorta happen, all in one fell swoop.   For me, it takes a lot of planning and testing and trial and error and erasing.  Oh yeah, and painting.

And who knows?  A month from now I may look at it and think, “Aargh, how did I not see that?  I have to fix…”

Blue Vase is in Small Works Exhibit through December

My painting, Blue Vase, can be seen at the Riverdale Yonkers Society for Ethical Culture meeting house through December.

The Riverdale Art Association’s Small Works exhibit opened today.  The exhibit is open M-F 10:00-5:00 and Sun 12-1.  My painting also was included in the Society’s weekly newsletter.

Blue Vase

Blue Vase

The Reception will be Sunday, November 13 3:30-5:00pm. The  RYSEC is located at 4450 Fieldston Road, Riverdale, NY 10471 at the corner of Fieldston Road and Manhattan College Parkway.