Sunday, February 12, 2017

Against the Wind

In late autumn I cleaned some dead flowers from the garden.  The tempests had already begun: rain, wind and ice storms.    As I looked closer at the beaten chrysanthemums plants I began to see little people.  There were heads with wild dried-in-place hair, adults, and children.  I sketched the battered branches and then wrote the following poem:

Against the Wind

Chrysanthemums dry in the fall,
Face driving rain
And freeze in a windblown state.
Just like us sometimes.

But with God,
We bloom again! 

Friday, February 3, 2017

The Watchman, Zion's National Park
December 2016, Acrylic on paper.
In the private collection of Jared and Deborah Lee, Southern CA

The white glows are not UFOs but overhead lights.  Debi and her family, Eric and his family and Rog and I enjoyed visiting Zion National Park again during our Thanksgiving vacation.  It never fails to amaze!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Painting the DC Temple

Living in Potomac, Maryland, gave me the opportunity to have the DC Temple just 15 minutes away (traffic permitting) in Kensington.  I painted on location and from photographs I took.  The temple is a particularly challenging subject because the shape is a hexagon, rather than a rectangle.  It also challenges because of the various heights of the spires and the way the light bounces between them to make back glows.  I've made over 60 studies of the temple in pencil, watercolor, and oil.  Included within my blog are many of my favorite images.

"September Evening", 24"x36", watercolor, in the private collection of Geoff and Susanne Huguely.
I now have the honor that a full-size giclee of this image was selected in 2016 to hang in the Barlow Building,
which functions as the home of the BYU/Washington Seminar.

"For Time and Eternity", watercolor.

"Serenity at Sunset", watercolor, in the private collection of Mac Christensen.

"Temple Snow" was one of my first attempts
to depict the DC Temple in watercolor, painted in 1993.

Spring Dogwoods at the DC Temple

Sometimes a work of art just flows.  This is one of those times.  I started with a canvas toned red.  I dashed in some guiding lines to structure the painting.  In contrast to many of my works, painting this felt like a dance.  I finished it in four hours--a record for me.  I got to a moment of satisfaction and I put the brushes down.  

Spring Dogwoods at the DC Temple.  1995, Oil on canvas, 22"x28".
In the private collection of Robert and Marilyn Brinton. 

Morning Mist

It's fun to play with the DC Temple image.  This represents morning mist through which the temple spires rise.
The media is cut tissue paper. 

Chevy Chase Ward, Maryland

This 8x10" oil painting was painted on location.  The Chevy Chase building served many long-time members in the Mormon community in the DC area.

The b&w above is just a fun variation I made using Photoshop.

The Blizzard of '96

One of my best paintings of the DC Temple is a watercolor depicting the temple in a snowstorm.   It was painted during the Blizzard of 1996, thus the name.  Carol Harding bought the original for Ralph as a birthday gift.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The DC Temple in Springtime (Moorehead)

Kathleen and Alan Moorehead stand next to the picture of the DC Temple that they commissioned.  March 15, 2014. Kathleen wanted the temple and reflection, the driveway removed, not so many trees, a springtime look plus the color mauve.  This angle of the temple is based on a photo of my son an daughter-in-law on their wedding day.  Because of it's 6 sides, getting the temple structure correct is more difficult than one might expect.
(Rest in Peace, Alan, my friend!  May this temple image bring you hope dear Kathleen.)

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Awesome Brennon

Brennon, on 2/2/2011.  Three-color chalk on toned charcoal paper.

Our grandson Brennon is one of the sweetest guys you'll ever meet.  He played football for a season but loves to wrestle most of all.  He's great at asking questions and being interested in other people.  This drawing was a birthday gift for his 12th bd.  He is now 14 and I'm shocked at how tall he has gotten and how his voice has changed.  (We haven't seen him in 2 years because of our mission.  He didn't keep his promise to not grow while we were gone.)

Friday, March 22, 2013

Floral Fantacy

Golden Moment Still Life.
Oil on canvas.  18"x24", 2011

"Red, White and Blue Arrangement"
Oil on canvas.  18"x24", 2011

Here are some quick still life paintings I did at a three-day workshop in Midway, UT.   I do "people" so often that it was refreshing to do a still life, which is nice because it stays "still" for the entire painting.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Symbolism in Art

"The Holy Family" (mixed media, sienna oil stain on paper.  Click to see enlarged view.)

Brennon recently became interested in symbolism contained in artwork so I posted this as an example of work I've done which has additional meaning that one might not notice at first glance. Of course many, if not most, classical works are filled with symbols that give deeper meaning to the works, such as items included in the picture that suggest who the subject is or what is happening in the story.  Mine is a modest example.

This painting is a sketch I did to work out a plan for a more complicated painting I intended to do.  It's based on a live Nativity located on the Washington D.C. Temple grounds each December which solemnly and lovingly reminds visitors of the holy night in Bethlehem when Jesus Christ was born.  The Temple Presidency selected the full colored version of this image to use as their 1998 Christmas card.  Since the painting contains many symbolic images,  I like to ask interested people if they can list them all.  Here are some:  the family group itself – a sacred unit; branches on the right and left symbolizing life and death; the child’s eyes looking not at his mother but at us--He said that His work and glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man (& woman)!   His finger points to remind us that only He marks the path and leads the way to eternal life.   Also, you may notice the sign language expression in the child's hand.  There are more.

"A Rose ARose" (oil on canvas)

Here is another painting with symbolism.  With the permission of Ellie Colton who had ordered the flowers, I took home a pink floral arrangement from the funeral of my dear friend Janet Larson.   Working through the painting was like a stream of thought or a doodle.  Every time I came to an edge I decided to do the opposite of what I might naturally do.   It was a joyful painting and I invite the viewer to draw his or her own interpretations.  I have mine.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

"How to Paint a Masterpiece using Verdaccio"

DETAIL ALERT: if your time is limited scroll quickly past this one!

        I gave a four-minute PowerPoint Presentation today on one of my favorite subjects:  oil painting.  It was called "How to Paint a Masterpiece" and was based on my 200-hour effort to learn how to use a technique used by many Old Masters called "Verdaccio."     (Note: The Verdaccio technique includes making a green-grey under-painting in perfect values upon which the artist applies color, often leaving the gray-green showing in the shadow parts of the subject, landscape or architectural areas.)   
       It probably wouldn't take most artists 200 hours to do one painting, but I did it the hard way: after getting well into the process I sanded down the whole painting and starting over a few times to push myself to make the most identical likeness and best quality product I could.  Since I took a plethera of photos along the way it wasn't hard to find examples of most of the key steps in using the Verdaccio method, as I learned it from a talented instructor, Lynn Melman Weidinger.

Step 1:  Select a master piece to "study".
This is a wonderful portrait by the master French painter Ingres.
Step 2:  Cut an untempered Masonite board to the size you want your painting to be.  I chose to make the painting 16"x20", a nice standard size.  Roll white gesso on to create an acid-free barrier below your paints.   I used gesso containing marble dust to allow some carving and building up of the surface.

Step 3:  Enlarge the portion of the photograph that you want to study to the exact size of the painting you want to produce.  This takes careful calculation to get the head large but usually not larger than life.
Step 4:  Take a clear sheet of plastic the size of your painting and draw a grid on it with a red fine point permanent marker.  Draw an identical grid on the gesso-ed board using a sharp charcoal pencil.  Position the plastic over the to-scale print of your subject matter (See step 3).  Make at least one cross-hair symbol near each of the corners of the plastic sheet and the enlargement print.  Later put cross hair marks in the corners of the painting as well.  These cross hairs should always match up when you are checking for accuracy.  Carefully trace with a black fine point permanent marker the location of the important proportion points of the original painting.  Clip or tape the plastic at the top edge onto the gesso-ed board so that it can be lifted up and down and folded behind the painting without it's shifting position.  At first when I learned about making this reference on plastic I wondered if this step was cheating.  As I went through the entire process I realized that if a person does not know know to paint humans well through considerable study and practice, this reference guide will only take them so far.  Making this pattern becomes your reference guide to keep you from getting off track as you go through the painting process.  You will pull it down over your painting to see if the eye is too small, the nose off center or any other important line off.  In portrait work, unless you've done it yourself, you can't imagine how much difference a tiny mark in the right or wrong place makes.  You must be an obsessive perfectionist to get a likeness.  
Guide lines on clear plastic to help bring you back when your painting strays...and there are so many opportunities to do that with this technique..

Step. 5:  Draw your subject with India Ink on the board.  Use the guidelines for accuracy then erase them.

India Ink on gessoed board

The next step (6) is one you hate to do.  You are supposed to paint thin gesso over the inked drawing until you can barely see the drawing beneath.  That locks in the base drawing in case you need to sand off some of the later layers and  go back to your most accurate drawing.  We don't want the strong ink to show through light areas of the subsequent layers of paint, therefore we tone it down.  You may want to build up the gesso to give a three-dimensional quality to the painting.  In other words, give
more gesso to the parts that are closer to the viewer:  the right cheek, side of the nose, the lips, forehead, tip of shoulder and side of the hand.

 Step 7:  Draw the subject as accurately as possible using charcoal.  When it is ready, spray it with fixative.  I actually repeated steps 5, 6, and 7 a couple of times after not being happy with the way the drawing and the 3-D gesso were going.  Starting over doubled the total painting time.  You've gotta love it.  It's not a race.

Charcoal layer
Step 8:  Paint with verdaccio, which is a mix of black+white+green oil paint.   Specifically, I used Chromium Oxide Green, Mars black and Flake white as they are less oily paints.  These colors are mixed to give a full range of dark to light values.  You match the value of the paint to the value of the drawing as you paint.  It's harder done than said.  You can use a hand value chart to identify a value number in part of the drawing, like the shadow of the hair could be a 2, and match that to the number of your paint piles.  It felt a little like paint by numbers and I had a hard time disciplining my self to use this system.   I don't have a photo of my verdaccio pallet, but this one looks much like it, only this is more blue and was used when painting the dress.  The value chart, that I ordered from Frank Covino's company in Colorado, is covered with a piece of glass cut to fit.

Each time I moved the painting to a new stage: ink to charcoal to verdaccio I would lose the likeness and had to recapture it again.
Verdaccio layer.

Step 9:  Begin adding oil color--what you've been anxious to do-- matching the values in the verdaccio underpainting.  Leave the face to last to avoid using too bright colors in the face.  Here I start with the dress then go to the hair.  The room light changes the color in the photographs.

Step 10:  Finally!  I can start adding the skin tones, what I've been anxious to do from the beginning.  As is the whole point of this exercise, I'm trying to match the colors to the gray verdaccio values in the underpainting.  The mixing of the skin tones is quite complicated and I cannot give you sufficient information here. I'll just give you enough information to convince you that it is complicated.   There are four rows of colors you have to make for the skin:  Gray Row, Complexion Row, Flesh Row and Extra Blood Row.  Keep in mind that we are learning the technique of the Old Masters.  My set of colors were recommended for the flesh palette for some "Mediterranean complexions" such as my Princess.

A.  In making the skin tones I first made a "Gray Row" (A) in a value scale from 1 to 9 using Ivory Black, Titanium White and Zink Yellow.  It is later mixed with paint from row B to create Rows C & D and make them more palatable for the face.
B.  The "Complexion Row" on my palette is made of Winsor Orange (more red) and Cadmium Orange (more yellow) + Burnt Umber + Burnt Sienna in the darker values and +Titanium White in the lighter values.  There is no gray in this row.
C.  The "Flesh Row" is a mix of paint from the Complexion (B) with the corresponding values from the Gray Row (A).
C.  Then there's a "Blood Row" of paints which is used for the warm portions of the face:  the nose, cheeks, lips, ears, etc.  My Blood Row began with Burnt Umber and Alizarine Crimson in the dark values and moved to Naphthol Red Light in the 4.5 value to white in the lightest value.

At this point I am feeling confused, rebellious and I suspect I'm being snookered by Left-Brained color-chart fanatics who own stock in oil paints.  My nature is to just mix colors as I paint and not have any left over at the end of the day.  I prefer to choose colors intuitively.  Painting in Verdaccio is causing me a major angst:  I am taking too long and my paints are drying between sessions.  If I go for a few weeks without painting my paints dry and I have to mix more.  I hate wasting paint!  To help preserve them I put drops of olive oil and plastic wrap on my piles of paint after each session.  I also put the paint palette in the freezer between uses, but I still found myself remixing.  I tried putting the gray in numbered syringes with some success (see below).  I also put my oils in empty paint tubes that I labeled, (you can see one below).  Lesson:  once you start, keep moving to completion.

These rows are not in the correct order.
I would guess that this sequence from the top is Gray, Flesh, Complexion and Blood.

These dabs were taken from my palette so that I could know what the paint was supposed to look like
 each time I had to re-mix it.

Flesh is being applied.  Notice that green remains in the shadow areas.  Watch for green the next time you visit a gallery with classical figure paintings.  In my final version I had made so many changes that I regretted the green was mostly obliterated.
You can see the flesh paint being applied,
especially to the arm and I've also started adding blood.
Adding blue to the eyes was fun.  The color looks
bright after all this time working in gray.

Step 11:  Do the background.  I struggled with this and tried out many variations before stopping for now with the one below.  Overall, I'm pleased with what I learned and feel I grew in skill and knowledge of how far I could push myself.  I look forward to doing verdaccio again.  I am in awe with the talents of Mr. Ingres.

After 200 hours, this is the final painting (for now). I wouldn't be surprised if I work on the background again!
Any suggestions??? 

The marble gesso base for the painting is actually 3-dimensional.  You can feel the changes in height for the parts of the face that are closer to the viewer, such as the tip of the nose the lips and the cheek and forhead on our right.  You can also see that the eye on the right, because it should look closer, is both brighter and darker than the one on the left.

And below is the original photo I was studying.  My work didn't come out exactly like the original, but my Princess has developed a personality of her own and I'm OK with it.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Sketching and the News

"Asian Girl with Ruffled Blouse" was drawn on 9/11/01 while I was glued to the television watching reruns of the unbelievably shocking news reports.  The notation says "World Trade Center 9-11-01.  9 (am) - first plane hit WTC. 10:28 (am) second tower collapsed."  (The full sketch is found in an earlier post.)

As I sketched "A little Boy playing in a Stream" I took notes during President George Bush's Speech to a Joint Session of Congress on September 20, 2001, which was about 17 days before the US attacked Afghanistan.
Here are some quotes written in the margins:  To the Armed Forces he said, "The hour is coming when America will act, and you will make us proud."  "An attack on one is an attack on all."  "In the last nine days the world has seen the state of our union, and it is strong."  "We will rally the world to our cause."  "Freedom and Fear are at war."  To Americans he said, “Live your lives, hug your children. (Go shopping.)  Be patient and have faith in the American economy and strength.”  “Don’t single people out because of their ethnic background.  Pray for us.  Faith and fear at at war.  We will rally the world to our cause.  We will not tire, falter or fail.  All countries must choose to be with us or against us.  God is not neutral between freedom and fear, cruelty and justice.  To the Taliban: hand over the terrorists or suffer their fate.  The emergency workers at the WTC who gave their lives probably saved 25,000 people…the greatest evacuation ever accomplished.”  

Above you will see my "The State of the Union Address given by President George Bush" on January 28, 2003, which was less than 60 days before the United States attacked Iraq and began the 8 year Iraq War. 

[First, please forgive my misspelled words.  I don't spell well, and if I am writing quickly, I spell even less well.  ]

 In this speech President Bush gave justification for going to war against Iraq, as well as some of his economic plans for the US.  He said: “Trusting Saddam Hussein is not an option.”   “I have a message for the people of Iraq:  the enemy of your country is not surrounding your country.  It is ruling your country!  “(An attack by us) will be your liberation.” “This nation fights reluctantly.”  “The liberty we prize is not America’s gift to the world; it is God’s gift to humanity.” (Roger and I opposed the war at the time for many reasons, but first of all, because it is against our religion to attack a country that did not attack us.)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pencil Sketches of Children: Beautiful Sierra

Three-color chalk drawing on toned paper after
the technique of the Old Masters. About 11"x 14".

Today is Sierra's 14th birthday and she finally opened the gift (this drawing) that she had sweetly asked me to make for her. It was so fun to do and I hoped she would like it. She did!

I explained to Sierra that a portrait doesn't have to look exactly like a person -- if that's what you want you should take a photo. Instead, a portrait is a record of what the artist sees and what the artist feels about the subject. It can be a picture of the inner spirit of the individual. I see Sierra as a pure, sweet, full of faith and loving young woman and that's what I attempted to capture in this portrait. To me she is beautiful inside and out.
I finished it last week, on 1-11-11 (such a fun date) but I dated it with her birthday (Jan. 18) -- a great day for our family because she joined it.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Pencil Sketches of Children

One of my favorite subjects is Children. I have to draw from photos because kids usually stay in one place for a nanosecond and I'm not that fast! These are all family photos. Thea took the ones of the little Japanese girls, which I drew while watching the tragic and surreal events all day on 9-11-01.

The sketch of the girl standing in water is called "Getting Her Feet Wet." It's the preliminary study I did for the painting "Little Wader," which was posted earlier.

The little boy and girl are sketches of my grandchildren, Grant and Claire.

Sketches at a workshop

I attended a wonderful portrait workshop run by Paul Davis in April 2008. Here are some sketches in oil and charcoal, drawn "from life" as opposed to drawn from photo references.