Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Swarm of Snakes

Started the next painting for a group show at a well known gallery. I'm pretty happy with it so far. It's not guaranteed that this piece will be accepted into the show, but nonetheless, even if it is rejected by the gallery, I really am happy with the concept of this piece.

I did do a lot of initial agonizing over this one. I started out making it an 18 x 24 piece, but then discovered there was a size limit for the group show. Additionally, there was a great deal of empty space at the top of the sketch, which was accentuated when I transferred it to panel. I redrew the whole thing, proportionally smaller, and discovered that it looked better on a shorter, proportionally wider panel. I blocked in violet and veridian green acrylic underpainting yesterday, and put in thin oil under painting for the distant background today. The dark violet grey foreground will be covered over with lighter greens (clover and grass). The snakes on the ground are blocked in so that I'll remember where to have the grass indented from the weight of the slithering bodies of the serpents.

The skull has a cool greenish underpainting, and the floor of the skull is underpainted with blue-green. Eventually the cranium will be filled with writhing snakes, so any part of the bottom of the skull that shows through will be in deep shadow.

The snakes will be the endangered San Francisco Garter Snake. It's quite an attractive species, and I've used them before in my works.

2012 is already shaping up to be quite a busy period. I need to finish several watercolors of hybrid creatures for the naturalists' journal project, for solo exhibit in March; two pieces for group shows with the Beinart International Surreal Art Collective; the piece above for a group show in March, and a solo show in late 2012 at Bert Green Fine Art.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Painting Process - Watercolor

Many years ago, I learned how to paint using watercolors. I started out painting traditional subjects like floral arrangements and landscapes. As I began to explore different subjects, I found I was able to convey my vision with oil paints. I hadn't really done much with watercolors over the last ten years. However, it has been very enjoyable tackling this new project using watercolor.

The early conceptual stages are the same whether in oil or watercolor. I start out with thumbnail drawings to visualize the idea. Then I make a more finished preparatory drawing to transfer. When the painting starts, however, the approach differs. In oil paint, I work mid tones and darks first, and add the highlights last. With watercolor, you must plan ahead and "save" the highlighted areas. The photos above document the process of working starting with light washes and then adding darks.

I was quite happy with the rhinobeetle painting. I feel that I have captured the spirit of some of my favorite natural history artists who inspire me, such as John James Audubon, Maria Sibylla Merian, and John Gould. I also admire a modern master, Walton Ford.