Sunday, December 19, 2010


I've been working long hours on the lizard skull. I feel like I must be obsessing over every scale that is placed on the lizards. I lay down some paint, then step back to see how the new application relates with other parts of the painting. Then I go back and adjust the value as needed. Large parts of the lizard bodies are done. I still need to put highlights and yellow stripes on their legs.

After hours of staring at the painting, when I try to go to sleep later that night, I can actually see after-images of the scales when my eyes are closed. Kind of like a phantom image, not as defined as when I am actually looking at it.

I also got some work done on the chimps last week. The dark tones are in on the chimp to the left. Made some adjustments to the proportions. I'm happy with how the shattered edges of the skull turned out. I used a shattered gourd as a reference to get an idea of how the light would glance off the rough edges.

I suppose the paintings are like children. Today I'm just a little frustrated with them. Tomorrow when I look at them at the beginning of a new day, maybe I'll be happy with them.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The de Young Museum's No Sketch policy

The SF Chronicle ran a story about a shortsighted policy at the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum. The de Young Museum prohibits visitors from sketching when they are in the "special exhibits" such as the current exhibit - "Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne and Beyond. " Click here to see the SF Chronicle article -

This policy stifles artistic development and is counter to the perception of San Francisco being a cultural haven and friendly to artists.

As all artists know, drawing is not simply an exercise in rote copying. Drawing is about seeing. I always sketch when I go to museums, so that I can really SEE what the artist did when he/she executed an artwork. Drawing the artwork prevents me from glancing over details that I need to really see. Drawing slows down your gaze so that you can really see. Further, many artists gain inspiration from studying the works of masters that they admire. The best way to really study a work is to sketch it.

I have sketched at the some of the world's most revered museums: the Louvre, The National Gallery, The British Museum, The Getty, London's National Portrait Gallery, and of course, the Musee d'Orsay. It is ironic that the artworks now off limits to sketching at the de Young can be freely sketched once the artworks return to their home at the Musee d'Orsay.

I have been to special exhibits at these museums, and not one of them prohibited sketching. I sketched Velázquez and Titian masterpieces at crowded special exhibits in London's National Gallery, and not one guard told me it was prohibited. I sketched from several Michelangelo drawings at a special exhibit at the British Museum, and was never told it was off limits.

I do not believe that the de Young is a world class museum, and unlike the world class museums, they discourage this time honored practice. They are all out for the revenue generated by the tape recorded guided tours. If an artist wants to sketch from the pieces in this exhibit, he will have to go to Paris, if he can afford it. Some would argue you could study a reproduction, but there are subtle details in the actual artwork that you would not be able to perceive in a reproduction.

Above are examples of sketches that I did at the Getty, Louvre, and the Musee d'Orsay several years ago.

PS the SF MOMA, which I consider to be a very fine museum, encourages sketching (in pencil) in its galleries. I enjoyed participating in some of their sketch Friday events a couple of years ago. I have never been prohibited or discouraged from standing in front of a work (even in special exhibitions) and sketching. Thank You SF MOMA.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Figuring out shadows

One of the tricky aspects of the lizard/skull painting is figuring out how the shadows would fall on the skull. I used my lizard models to replicate how shadows would fall inside of the cranium. I used a curved piece of white paper to simulate the curvature of the inner part of the skull, and shot reference photos. The lizard to the right has its tail coming over the front of the skull, so to figure out how that shadow would fall, I placed a clay "tail" over the front of my cast skull.

A long stretch

I've been working every day for 10 straight days. (My last day away from the studio was Thanksgiving). But I did make pretty good progress on the two skull paintings. The skull containing the chimps is practically done except for touches of highlight and the broken edge of the cranium. I will probably start working in earnest on the chimps this week. The skull and lizards have been blocked in on the other panel. This week I will be working on getting the skull finished on that one.

I also got some higher quality photos of the last four BDSM skeleton paintings done for Bert Green.

Today (Monday) will be my day "off" but I'll probably still do some drawing at home.