Painting Studio Blog

Welcome to my studio blog page where you’ll get the rundown on the production of works posted as well as any specific materials (hues for example) that were central to each work. For video versions on the development of specific works visit my YouTube channel.

Portrait of My Mother (a self portrait) -March 3, 2022

After having made the decision recently to begin at least an extended series of monochromatic works, or works with very limited color saturation, I thought a good place to revisit would be a charcoal drawing. This was intended as a portrait drawing of my mother, with myself sitting in as the model. While I do look quite a bit like her, it’s the pose that has her likeness more than anything.

I’ve always loved working with Conte, it has the richness of black ink, without the dustiness of regular charcoal sticks.

Initially this work was planned as a portrait of my mother, with myself sitting in as the model for the photos. Nine hundred plus photos later, I finally had the shot I wanted to work from. The messaging, however, the real guts of what interests me is the investigation into the web of influences that are at play in our lives, and for this work in particular, how those influences ultimately affected her decisions in life, and the consequences of those decisions. The first image is of the intermediate state of the work, I knew I would initially set out to paint it as a rendered portrait. Once arrived there, the elements and my objective moved into the next phase; crafting my statement based on the degree of mystery vs directness, using formal elements as parallels. In the end, the finished work surprised me, it arrived as a result of satisfying all the criteria I held it up to, with an image that sits squarely in the realm I am the most at home with and the most resistant to getting to.

I have often packed up my drawing and/or painting gear and set out for horse shows so I could work from life. I would set up my easel alongside the warm-up ring and do gestural images of the horses as they rode quickly by. It was limiting as you might imagine, to try to have elements within the work that were more rendered. As long as the horses and riders repeated patterns multiple times, I could get at some of the areas of their form I wanted to describe more, but what I really wanted was a solution that combined the control I have in the studio with the dynamism from working from life. I had thought one approach might be to project a video image onto my studio wall. However, there are lighting issues with that, as I need strong bright light on my palette. So for this work, I used a slow-motion video source on a small screen. It worked fairly well, as long as I varied the distance between myself and the canvas enabling me to see the entire canvas at one time while painting. At this size (48 x 58) that worked well, it kept me focused on line quality as my access to the reference image was still a bit challenging (due to its size).

Neutrals played an organizing role, and kept the image from appearing too fragmented or superficial, as well as keeping the weight with the major form in the work.

Primary hues were warm neutrals played against carbon black. Burnt Umber, Transparent Brown Oxide, Jenkins Green, and Graphite Gray. Pyrrole Orange, Bismuth Yellow Light, and Light Phthalo also played considerable roles. Long handled brushes were a key element.

Cedar View Dr. Mpls. 1970 Acrylic on canvas, 60″ x 75″- November 26, 2021

Getting to a place where I was ready to paint about my childhood has taken decades. I admit I have found what seems to be a countless number of detours until I was exhausted enough to face the avoidance. But in retrospect, many of the works I have done of political personalities and environmental topics turned out to play an important role in what I have to say about the era I was raised in.

In 1970, my mother, two siblings and I were living in a duplex outside of Minneapolis. My mother had gone through a divorce when she was thirty, during a time when divorce was far less common and divorcees were viewed as cheap or less than married women. She got a job with the airlines working nights, and the three of us kids darn near raised ourselves-not terribly uncommon at the time. She smoked heavily, by her own admission considerably more than two and a half packs a day, a habit that not only drenched our family home with second hand smoke, but eventually led to her cause of death in 2017.

When I look back at those years I can’t help but be struck by the irony of the fad imagery in marketing of the time; smiley faces and brightly colored flower motifs. The pattern of propaganda though marketing cycles over and over through the lives of American citizens. Our failure to recognize it comes in part by its chameleon like characteristics in combination with a limited understanding of our own ability to be influenced or persuaded.

The primary hues in this work were two brilliant greens, Turquois Phthalo and Phthalo Green (yellow Shade). Nickel Azo Yellow was the primary yellow. Primary dark value washes were Carbon Black, Jenkins Green, and Prussian Blue. Neutral Gray Number 3, Permanent Maroon, and Light Green (yellow shade) also played major roles.

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