Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Let's all just get along (link fixed)(insensitivity removed)

Dave and I love trolling as much as the next person, but frankly we’re getting bored of the same old debate topics that are so popular in our little art community. We have a proposition for you: let’s find new stuff to argue about for 2012! The current contentions are stale enough to use for fondue.

Witness Exhibit A:

Contention: Should artists attend a mainstream post-secondary fine art institution or a 19th c. style atelier/academy?

This contention already had cataracts and a creaky hip when I became aware of it in 2004, and yet it still makes the occasional, baleful appearance when a newbie to classical realism shows up to the party. The redundancy of this argument is underscored by the fact that both educational paths will lead you to the exact same seedy apartment with a cupboard full of Ramen noodles and saltines. Also, if you did attend an accredited institution for fine art and not an atelier, stop complaining that they wasted your time. And if you attended an atelier, stop complaining that they wasted your time.

Exhibit B:

Contention: Should painters work only from life, or is photography not entirely shameful?

I’m sure this has been around since the 1800s. I’m not going to say too much about this one, except that there are stunning works of art made from photo references, and appalling works of art made from life studies; and that Leighton and Tadema and all those talented jerks used photos; and that most artists can’t afford full-time models; and that any painter from the Renaissance would have given his left optical nerve to have photo references to help them plan their paintings; and that if you make the process of making art, the art itself, than you are in fact a POST-MODERNIST. No, indeed, I will not say anything about my stance on that argument.

These are just two examples and my blood pressure is strangely elevated, so I think I’ll try to skip briefly over some more examples. There’s the Fine Art vs Illustration debate, which is as relentless as an underground oil fire, not to mention the abstract art vs realist art one, which is really just for varsity level debaters. For the sake of brevity I'm going to end my list here, but I formally invite all readers to add to my list of contentions in the comments section.

I think in the new year we should be magnanimous and let old bygones be bygones. Let’s turn a leaf, art community; let’s leave old arguments behind us. Instead, I would like to proffer a brand new shiny argument for us all to enjoy in 2012:

Should we North Americans give up fine art since the Russians are handing our asses to us anyways?

(Click here to see what some teenage Russians are painting in the academies over there)

If you must continue the old debates, may we suggest that henceforth these arguments be settled in Thuderdome. Two artists enter, one artist leaves.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Holidays

Ivan Shiskin, "In the North Wild"

Maurycy Gottlieb, "Rabbi"

Norman Rockwell, "Santa at the Map"

Have a great Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, and/or Festivas.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I like purdy colors

So I have finished up the drybrush and ebauche and will soon be moving into first painting. You can already tell from a technical standpoint just how manly this piece is going to be. Watch out woodland creatures, you are about to get owned by this guy. The most challenging part of the piece thus far has been selecting the color scheme. The two color studies on the upper left were executed first, but after becoming indecisive, I made 7 more. I find that if you have any doubts, you may want to explore other options even if you end up selecting the first one anyway (people do the same for dating so why not). Like the famous illustrator Gomer Pyle said, even if the first one feels right, do another 49 to make certain. I did in fact end up going with a cooler color field as opposed to a warmer brown one. It gives more of a feeling that he might actually be outdoors as opposed to an interior. I am still playing with the idea of putting snow on the jacket as well.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Go look at someone else's blog for once

So I thought I would take some time to use my blog to talk about other blogs. Ironic I know. Today, I would like to talk about Will St. John and Colleen Barry's blog "A Classic Point of View." Like Kate and me, they are another artist couple living and working alongside one another. They are both instructors and graduates of the Grand Central Academy of Art in New York city. Will recently was awarded a Shapiro Grant to study in Italy for several months, and Colleen joined him there as well. Italy is one of the greatest places to study art. It is the birthplace of the Renaissance, classical architecture, terrible discotheque music, and goofy looking clothing. Their blog documents their time and projects while in Italy. They are a good reminder of how much I need to keep practicing drawing.

A little about Will. He was actually born in the same hometown as me during the same year. Seems odd I know. However, we have to look at the history of central PA during that time to truly explain this phenomena. You see, it was the same year of the TMI meltdown, and after the nuclear fallout subsided, we began to notice strange powers emerging. Some say this is where our artistic skills derived, leading us to become artists later in life. Of course, others say it came from hard work and talent, but the TMI explanation is way more interesting.

Check their blog out here.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Hunter

So I am continuing on my series of paintings about men trapping and hunting poor defenseless animals because they are delicious. This piece, "The Hunter" has the same model as the trapper, but will include a variety of hunting gear attached to his jacket, along with a double barrel shotgun slung over his shoulder. Unfortunately I haven't had a chance to import my shotgun and antique pistol up from the states yet because apparently Canadians want lethal weapons to be "registered" and "licensed" and gun owners should pass a so called "safety test." Pfft. Thats all fine and dandy until you have to protect yourself from the king of England marching into your house (yah 2nd amendment).

Here you can see the drawing study with the head more or less rendered. I set up a mannequin beside it (which is almost sight-size) with his attire. I am still waiting on a couple items from ebay to arrive however, like his bandolier. The only challenge with the set up thus far is that all I have is a female mannequin, and a hunter with man-boobs isn't really what I am going for. I had to do some clever re-structuring underneath the jacket.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Vanitas in progress

Wanna see some photos of my Vanitas in progress?
This is an early manifestation of the set up.  I find it neat how still life objects come together in paintings, and how they recur in painting after painting.  The turquoise table top is actually an old rotten shutter that I found in someone's trash while they were performing an illegal home renovation in Toronto.  I figure if they're already doing something illegal, how illegal is it for me to go through their garbage?  These same shutters appeared in my "Bottle Fly" painting and in Dave's Vanitas painting.  Which means that while Dave and I were purging furniture and kitchen ware to save money on our move across country, we decided it was necessary to keep a bunch of nasty old boards.

Here's a quick colour study.  It's kind of pointless.  I think I was trying to look busy or something so that I didn't have to help Dave with dinner.

Transferred skull.  This is a lovely panel that Dave made.

Wiped transferred outline away a bit so that it's easier to paint over.  The burnt sienna contrasts the turquoise and is going to make a neat underpainting.  I did this with my Bottle Fly so it's pretty much guaranteed to work.  When I apply the turquoise paint colour, I will do so with scratchy brush strokes and a palette knife so as to allow the underpainting to shimmer through.  The most important thing though, is to make sure that this underpainting is exactly the right value.  If you are tone blind, the monochrome setting on your camera can help you out.  But really, if you're tone blind, take up macrame or ice-sculpting or something.

If you look really close you might be able to make out two giant arrows that are pointing at two gobs of paint.  The gobs of paint are turquoise that I have mixed up to match the still life set up.  I have smeared them onto the still-wet underpainting to see if the values sit right.

Start of ebauche.

More ebauche.

I knocked back the underpainting for the wood a little bit.  There is now a motley of grey and red which I decided would work better.  It may not look like it because of the exposure of this photo, but I maintained the value when I scumbled over it.  The skull has been painted again and the flowers and shells are in place.

The skull was painted, oh, a couple more times.  For the final pass I switched to lead white.  As you can see I fudged the table top to make it about three times as thick as in the set up, and for interest's sake I added a keyhole, so ta-da, it is now a chest that the skull is resting on.  This is the first still life that I have completed from natural light and I finally have the warm-cool balance that I've been trying to achieve.  Time to go smash all my fluorescent light bulbs.

Not sure if these photos really show the full range of colour in the whites.  There's a lot of bouncing around from blue to yellow to red, which I think it kind of cool.  But that's the beauty of showing work online.  I get to say, "Oh, my camera doesn't really capture it, my work is so much better in real life," and you have to take my word for it.

Ho-hum, here are the pre-mixed colours I used to paint my "whites."

So the painting's done now.  Or is it?  I have this dead dragonfly just lying around, all like, "So is there a reason you've been keeping me in a tupperware in the freezer for six months?  Nah it's cool.  Don't immortalize me if you don't want to.  I'll be here the next time you go digging for frozen tater tots."


1. Painting from "The Goonies." "Give me a nice big lickery kiss."

2. Painting of Vigo The Carpathian from "Ghostbusters 2." Who doesn't remember Vigo, the 400 year dark warlord who missed his kitten? For me, this is one of the most memorable paintings from my childhood, and still reads today as a fairly harmonious and well composed piece. The actual painting was exectued by Lou Police and is currently hanging in Ivan Reitman's home

3. Painting from the "Royal Tenenbaums." Just as cool in its randomness as its awesomeness. According to imdb, "The monster-masked men paintings in Eli's apartment are attributed to Mexican artist Miguel Calderon and were part of his 1998 exhibit "Aggressively Mediocre/Mentally Challenged/Fantasy Island (circle one)", though they were not actually painted by him. Calderón took photographs of his friends posed on motorcycles and, after deciding the photographs were not realistic, hired a portrait painter to reproduce them on canvas."

4. Formal portrait of Biff from "Back to the Future 2." Biff is one of my favorite characters from almost any film from the 80's, next to Lo Pan of course. On a side note, my friend brought up a very good point about the conclusion of the first movie which never really sat well with me. It was rather odd that at the end of the movie, Marty's family history had been completely changed with his father's altercation with Biff at the "Under the Sea Dance." The weird part is, his family didn't find it strange that all of a sudden Marty couldn't remember the last 18 years of his life upon his return to 1985. Makes you think.

5. The Necronomicon from "Evil Dead 2." The Necronomican is really one of the very few books nowadays that is worth reading. Also, if anyone responds with "what about the Da Vinci code?" You need to take a good long hard look in the mirror...then slap yourself across the face.

6. Sculpture from "Big Trouble in Little China." This was Kim Cattrell's only good role before she took the part for the grandmother in "Sex in the City."

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Name these Awesome paintings from Awesome movies

I thought I would test everyones knowledge of art history and see if you can identify what movies these masterworks came from. I will post the answers in a couple days. (And if you are wondering why I didn't include the paintings from Samantha's gallery in "Sex in the City", it is because I wanted this to be a post about awesome movies with awesome paintings, not wussy paintings from estrogeny movies. If fact, if you have ever even seen "Sex in the City", please leave my blog and only return after you have watched "Commando" and "Deathwish 3" back to back to redeem yourself.)

Super bonus ID, name the movie this sculpture is from.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Shameless Plug

Spots are still available for our still life workshop at the Whidbey Island Fine Art Studio. In this 1 or 2 week course, my wife and I will take you through the various stages of still life painting and the creation of textural effects. This workshop is located in Seattle, Washington at the prestigious Georgetown Atelier. Sign up today and receive your choice of a free toaster oven, or take your chances and get what's inside the mystery box. Click here for more information.

Ok, I lied about the toaster oven and mystery box.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Big Trouble in Little China

The ACOPAL Grand Prize Winners and Finalists have been announced and as usual we found out the results from better informed third-parties over facebook. Dave's "Trapper" piece was given one of the three Grand Prize awards and will be making an appearance in China. He was away visiting family on Thanksgiving, and on the phone the other day before we got the results he was all like, "Psshh, yah, I wasn't going to enter, but then I thought what the heck, and entered in like the last twenty minutes before the competition closed, and my painting's not even dry yet, and after entering I emailed Paul McCormack and asked him to reject my entry, but meh, whatever, it's not like I'll get anything."

Because Dave's painting is just too fresh to ship and needsto cure for several months in a meat locker to reach full potency, itwill not be appearing at the Butler Institute in Ohio; it will be included for exhibit in the World Art Museum in China in 2012.

Monday, November 28, 2011


Dave and I were asked to each provide a Vanitas painting for a larger, multi-artist project.  While Dave already had one, I had to come up with something specifically for this project.  The problem is that I'm not really down with the whole "endeavor is futile, life is fleeting, moan moan moan," message behind the vanitas genre.  The vanitas painters were the 17th century's emo kids.  I understand the historical context, but come on, we live to like seventy these days, no one dies of leprosy anymore (not in my neighborhood at least), and all the luxuries and pleasures we enjoy these days preclude the woe-is-me-I'll-be-in-my-room-with-a-single-lit-taper-contemplating-my-skull attitude.

I wanted to do a new take on the Vanitas theme.  The thought of doing a dark and grim painting was not inspiring; I wanted to do something bright and colorful, even feminine.  I didn't want to present death as scary and hideous.  In addition to bright colors and flooding light, I included some seashells (representing birth) and white hydrangea blossoms (I don't know what they represent but they're awfully pretty and they make me think of spring).

Here is my vanitas painting as it was last week when I had an awesome camera on loan from a friend.  Mine will be back in action soon, thank god, but it will be like getting back together with a fat, lazy and emotionally distant ex after having a fling with a toned cabana boy on vacation.


Here's a close up of the chompers:

Saturday, November 26, 2011

One manly little girl

Here is a progress outline of how I painted a study/sketch/whatever you want to call it (just understand it's not a pro work) of my cousin's kid Emily.  My camera broke down part way through, but I've put this step-by-step together so smoothly that you probably won't even notice where a dozen steps are missing.

Step 1: Start drybrushing to place the features.

Step 2:  Succumb to boredom and dive into colour.

Step 3:  Keep going in spite of your instincts.

Step 4:  That's better.

Step 5:  Once dry, go over it again.


Step 6:  Out of curiosity I did something I tried on a project last year.  I imported a photo of the painting into my computer and compared it to the original photo by overlaying them in Photoshop.  I was doing this to see just how accurate my drawing was, considering I slacked on that part.  I was surprised to find that the only real error was that her left eye was a little far out.  See below for the correction.

Here's the face at the end of the orbital reconstruction:

Step 7:  Now finish it.

Looking at the picture here, her colour is a little saccharine, although pretty colourful for a palette with only black, white, yellow, and red on it, plus a cameo from Transparent Red Oxide.  I think I went wrong when I lost the half-tones in the cheeks, and also the whites of her eyes are a bit bright, but any darker and she didn't seem to be meeting your gaze anymore.  The white was necessary, but it kind of destroys the naturalism.  Actually I'm starting to feel revved up to do some more work on this painting.

I have a bit of a problem with how cherubic Emily looks here.  For one thing, in real life she's fascinated with all creatures slimy and scaly.  For another, in addition to being artistically inclined, she draws pretty manly subject matter.  Her granddad likes to hunt and she was recently caught drawing a picture of a hanging moose quarter.  Drawings don't get much manlier.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lucie and the Wind--DONE

Kate here after a long hiatus.  Dave did pretty great job running the blog there for a bit, although I might have to go back to my website and remove the link to this blog so that people considering buying my paintings don't stumble across Dave's Taco Bowel comments and get turned off by us.

Time to wrap up the Lucie painting.  I finished it ages ago but right when I was ready to photograph it my camera croaked.  Luckily I was able to borrow one from a very generous friend and so we'll finish this thing.

Here is the finished painting all greased up with essential oil of petroleum (a sneak preview of what it will look like with varnish):

I ended up repainting the face again.  The problem with titanium white is it changes colour, and I am not imagining this.  I used to think I was crazy but then a few years ago I talked to another stricken soul who had uncovered the truth (and actually had the most impressive swatch tests to prove it) and I realized I was not alone.  You are not alone either.  If you are having trouble matching your flesh tones from a previous day, or if when the paint dries and for some reason there is an obvious seam between different days' work, the solution is to bin the titanium already and switch to lead for the final pass.  And wear gloves, please

Right when I was finishing the painting I had this revelation that if I want people to know my name I should probably put it, instead of a monogram, on my paintings.  Yeah, I thought of that all on my own.

Anyhoo, I should explain the title.  The reason why this painting is called "Lucie and the Wind" and not "Lucie in the Wind" (which some people have called it), is because I had Robert Munsch's children's book "Millicent and the Wind" playing over in my head while I was developing the painting.  If you're not familiar with the story, it's about a girl who lives in the mountains far away from other children her age.  With no one to play with, she entertains herself with the wind.


(I'm suddenly French)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Trapper FInished

Here is a good image of the Trapper finally. I would like to give extra special thanks to our friend Angela for lending us her Canon 5D. This camera is good enough to shoot through time to capture images that haven't even happened yet. Thats how good it is.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Where's Repin

As you have probably figured out, I am quite the Ilya Repin fan. The piece above titled "Religious Procession in Kursk Province" is one of his most impressive narrative works that revolve around his social commentaries of the church and state. The work depicts the annual procession of the bearing of the Lady of Kursk from its home at the Korennaya Monestary to Kursk. The writer Richard Brettell described the painting as "a sort of summa of Russian society, diverse members of which move uneasily but restlessly together down a dusty path through a naked landscape towards a future that cannot be seen even by the painter."

Just to make sure people take a good look at the painting, I hid Waldo in there somewhere and you have to find him.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Happy 4th Anniversary

Happy 4th Anniversary honey. I would not be the person or the painter I am today without you.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Jason De Graaf got the answers right in about 30 seconds, and has proved his manliness among the art world. Congratulations. Our close second, who wins my infinite respect (valued at over 195 dollars), was Matthew Innis.

Answers to questions below.

Answer 1. Click here.

Answer 2. Belly of the pig.

Answer 3. Click here.

Trapper Finished (more or less)

Well, here it is in all its manly glory. Again, not the best photo but I wanted to show it anyway. I guess I should talk about some techniques but then I have to put some thought into this entry, and as my readers know, that's not my style. Instead, I bring you our first ever on-line blog competition (take that Underpaintings) to win the color study for "The Trapper". That's right, this is your chance to own a rather worthless non impressive original by yours truly.

Take a long hard look at the painting below before attempting to answer any of the questions.

Question 1

In "Commando", what did Arnold Schwarzenegger throw through Bennett to defeat him?

Question 2

What part of the pig does bacon come from?

Question 3

Which "Pantera" album cover features a man being punched in the face ?

email answers through here. First correct answers win. Please include mailing address with answers. NOTE: this competition is open only to individuals living in North America.