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Posts tagged ‘abstracting_from_the_figure’

Waste Not Want Not

As an artist, more than I’d like to admit, “waste not want not” has a lot to do with how I function.  It took me a long time to decide to switch from watercolor to acrylic, partly because I already had tons of unused watercolor supplies: paper, brushes, paint, etc. which would all be “wasted” if I didn’t use them.

Now that I’m using acrylics, I’m careful not to buy too much paint, because you never know what you might want or need in the future.  Maybe I’ll ultimately decide not to continue working with fluid acrylics, or whatever.  In my abstract sketch class, I continue to use my watercolors to do the sketches (it will take me forever to use them up this way) and I sketch on both sides of the paper, because I’m never sure at that stage which sketch will turn into a successful acrylic painting.

Then, once I’ve done the painting, if it’s successful and I like it, I might still decide to do the painting of the sketch on the other side. Hey, it might be even better than the one I just finished. And if not, no harm done.

If a painting isn’t completely successful, I have a couple of options.  For example:

Wishing (initial painting)

Wishing (initial painting)

I actually like this, but that red swoop at the top right is just too dominant (and the yellow and orange squares), and everything just sorta gets washed out at the bottom.  So my first line of attack is to crop it vertically (you can see the pencil line telling me where) and horizontally.

Wishing (cropped)

Wishing (cropped)

This is much better, but I’m actually only cropping it digitally, not really cutting it up.  And that’s because my second line of attack is to paint the sketch on the other side and see which I like more.  Either way, whoever buys it, gets two for the price of one.  And that really is “waste not want not.”

Dorjee Points the Way

Dorjee is a very sketchable model at the Art Students League.  One of her 10 minute poses turned into this Dorjee Points the Way painting.  How I got from a relatively quick watercolor sketch to this completed painting … well, let’s just say it involved a color wheel, a big round brush, red, green, blue and yellow acrylics, lots of squinting and standing back, not a few groans and a significant amount of perseverance.

Dorjee Points the Way

Dorjee Points the Way 12 x15 $800

Using the color wheel, I picked the red first and then the green and blue split complementaries.  Yellow was the accent added at the end. Warm colors come forward, so I made the large shape on the right red.  I made the green go behind it by adding shadows.  Etc. Etc.

The end result is the painting almost rotates, with the right side coming forward and the left going behind or underneath what it abuts.  Even though this is obviously a 2-D surface, there is a fair amount of push-pull going on.  This was fun.  It’s so motivating when things work out.

Date: 2016.  Size: 12 x 15.  Price: $800.

O’Cain Class Show has wonderful, varied work.

We just finished hanging it in the Gallery at the Art Students League, and the O’Cain Class Show has wonderful, varied work, if I do say so myself.

Some examples:

My paintings on Yupo

Three of my acrylic paintings on Yupo.


O'Cain Class Project

The O’Cain Class Project

The O’Cain Class Project was painted horizontally but hung vertically.  Of the paintings on the left, the bottom one is mine.

And a further example of the varied work in this show:

Varied work in O'Cain Class Show

Varied work in O’Cain Class Show

The show is pretty impressive.  It will only be up for a week (Jan. 11-18), so don’t miss it. The Gallery is open generally from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm

From sketch to painting

Two months ago, I set up a process (for learning how to use acrylics) of going from sketch to painting.  In my LPM abstract sketch class at the Art Students League I use watercolor to create a quick sketch of the model and the fabric, chair, stool, easel, etc. set-up.  A day or a week later in my afternoon painting class, I take the sketch and add acrylic to create a painting.

A recent example:  First the sketch…

Jason Sketch

Jason Sketch

This is a quick watercolor sketch of Jason, one of my favorite models at the Art Students League.  The first thing I did was rotate the sketch counterclockwise. I then picked green and blue colors I liked and added purple.  Red became the accent.

Unfortunately, the bright green large rectangle was just too dominant, so I made two thirds of it a dark blue-green. But then the red became too strong, so I added a pale green wash to tone it down. When that wasn’t enough, I added the green line down the middle.

Here’s the final painting:

Big Green Lo 936

Or, at least, it’s finished for now…until I think of something else it needs.

And don’t worry if you can’t pick out Jason.  It is, afterall, an abstract.

Acrylic is affecting my watercolor

Trying my hand at acrylic is slowly teaching me that paintings can be changed: if you don’t like something, paint over it.  What’s interesting is that painting with acrylic is affecting my watercolor paintings as well.  I now look at my watercolor paintings with new eyes: maybe there is something that really could be changed.

A perfect example:  Earlier this year (June) I painted David X 4.  Our model, David, was very creative in his poses and props, and I combined 4 different sketches of him into one painting.  And I thought it was finished. And I guess it was … then.

David X 4

David X 4 v1

This was the original David X 4, which I am now calling version 1.  It’s fine as is, but the new version is better.  In retrospect, I decided the left side of the painting was a little blah. It needed something more, but at the time I didn’t know what.

Somehow, the freedom to paint over things (with acrylic) is affecting how I look at my watercolor paintings … even though this time I didn’t even need to use acrylic.  I simply made the changes with watercolor.

David X 4

David X 4     12 x 15     $800

The changes are subtle. They make the left side of the painting more interesting and emphasize depth.

Who’d have thought that playing with acrylic would affect my watercolors in this way? The painting is rotating: the right side comes forward, the left side recedes. I’m much happier with David X 4 now.

My favorite model is back…

Well, it’s a different day and a different color scheme, but the process is the same. Quick watercolor sketch the day before in the LPM (late PM) class and then create an acrylic painting using the sketch in the next day’s afternoon painting class.  And my favorite model is back… (Jason is one of the best models at the Art Students League).

Jason's Poncho

Jason’s Poncho      7×10      $500

I did the sketch using green watercolor (you can still see some of the lines) and then created the painting the next day using acrylic. After I’d already painted the outside shapes blue and red, I decided it would be better if the outside were white and the main color shape were in the center. Putting white on top of a color but letting some of the original color show through is something I’ve often wanted to do. But it’s the kind of thing I couldn’t do with watercolor.  Acrylic is so liberating!

And no, Jason didn’t really have a poncho or a red hat … that’s just the way the painting turned out.

I’m starting to get used to this acrylic thing.



Still no clue, but making progress…

Okay, three weeks into this experiment with acrylic and … still no clue, but making progress…

I’ve settled into a routine.  Well, it’s only been a week and a half, but it’s working so far.  In the LPM class (5:00 – 7:00) I do quick watercolor sketches from the model … five or six of them.  Then the next day, in the afternoon class (1:00 – 4:30) I create acrylic paintings from the ones that appeal to me the most.  The results are definitely mixed.

The beauty of this arrangement, however, is that in the LPM class I only have to worry about the composition.  And in the afternoon class I only have to worry about picking the colors and using acrylic paints.  And I’ve even started organizing my color choices: each week I pick a color combination and see what happens.  This week it was the split complementary of purple, yellow and orange.  Not a combination I would normally like but, hey, it’s a learning experience.

So… here is one of my quick watercolor sketches.  I haven’t painted it yet, so it’s just the sketch.

Jason Sketch

Jason Sketch

And here is one of my purple-yellow-orange paintings (the various shades of brown are different combinations of purple, yellow and orange).

Jason in White

Harumph    7 x 10     $500

You can still see in spots the blue of the initial watercolor sketch.  In some places I followed the sketch outline, in other places I ignored it or combined shapes.  The time delay from evening sketch to day(s) later afternoon painting makes it easier to forget what I had been looking at to make the sketch and simply focus on the painting itself.

Making progress.

A creative model

David was a very creative model at the Art Students League. In addition to the unexpected poses, he draped fabric around his head, created a shawl, a skirt. Every pose was something unexpected.

So I decided to take advantage of his creativity to do something different myself. For three 5-minute poses and the subsequent 10-minute pose I simply sketched in light brown (raw sienna) watercolor the basics of the 4 poses on one piece of watercolor paper. One on top of the other. Occasionally turning the paper around.  With no attempt to make something coherent. Hence the title: David x 4.

Then I used the last two 20-minute poses to pick out shapes and develop the painting further. What fun!

David x 4

David x 4, 12 x 15,  $800

Even I now have trouble picking out the four different poses, although here and there I see his knee, his head and back, the stool on which he was sitting, the pattern in one of the fabrics.  What do you see?

Mostly I remember how creative he was and how creative he helped me be.


Dancing Pirate in Red Dot Exhibition

My collage, Dancing Pirate, is in the Red Dot Exhibition at the Art Students League, 215 W 57 St., NYC, NY.  This is an exhibition of the best of the best at the League: red dots go to the best in class in each of the class exhibits at ASL. And these are all the red dot paintings, drawings, collages, sculptures, etc.

And wonder of all wonders, my collage, Dancing Pirate, is included.

Dancing Pirate

Dancing Pirate, 18×24, $1400

The reception is Thursday, June 4 from 6:00 – 8:00pm.  Hope to see you there.

The exhibition goes from June 1 – June 14, 2015 in the Phyllis Harriman Mason Gallery on the 2nd floor; M-F 9:00am-8:30pm, Sat. 9:00am-4:30pm. Free and open to the public.

It’s the model, stupid.

Some days are better than others. Well, duh.  Some days in my sketch class it is all I can do to put brush to paper. Other days, well, feel wonderful and everything seems almost effortless. To paraphrase Bill Clinton, “It’s the model, stupid.”

Last week, we had a model who was very good, but uninspiring (at least to me). (Other people seemed to be doing fine.) And my sketches were ok, some better than others, but none of them inspiring, wonderful or even, (to my eyes) very good.

Fast forward to this week with Connie, a young (everyone’s younger than I) black woman with attitude, great poses, and a wardrobe of abstraction inspiring stuff. It’s like night and day.  Suddenly, my sketches are looking better and better.

Some examples?

From Day One, Connie and her abstraction inspiring shawl/skirt:

Connie 02

Connie 02

Connie 03

Connie 03













From Day Two, Connie and her dress/skirt and attitude:

Connie 05

Connie 05

Connie 04

Connie 04










Did I mention attitude?  It’s wonderful to have a model with attitude.