Saturday, July 30, 2011

Portrait Drawing Class with Lisa Semerad II

"Rupert Murdoch" (pencil and white chalk on scrap booking paper)

Drawing of a mouth (Nupastel on paper)

Lisa doing a demo of noses

My turn at noses (pencil on paper)

Eyes (pencil and white chalk on Canson Mi-teintes paper)

The portrait drawing class with Lisa Semerad at the Art League School in Alexandria, VA is over.  It went so fast that everything is all blurry.  One day we were learning to draw mouths, then in the next class, noses;  on Thursday, Lisa taught us what to do with teeth, eyes, and ears, and turned us out of the classroom!  I think this is definitely the case of "a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing."  She told the class to avoid art books that promise "tricks" of doing this and that easily.  There are no tricks in art, just good old practice.  Yes, ma'am!

I loved the technique of graphite pencil and white chalk drawing on toned paper that she showed us in the last class so much that, while I was watching TV last night, I did a drawing of Rupert Murdoch, who is embroiled in scandals in Britain for his News Corporation's nefarious phone-tapping, police-bribing deals.  His haughty, disdainful expression is something else, don't you think?  The choice of gray art paper with random Alphabet letters was serendipitous.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"Golden Light" (oil on linen; 12" x 16") sold


Reference photo

I took the photo above three years ago at Glass Beach in northern California and have been wanting to paint from it for some time.  I liked the sunset sky and its golden colors reflected in the ocean water.  But I was put off by the dark lumps of the rocks.  That is what a camera does when it takes a brilliant backlit view.

When I showed the picture to Bobbi Pratte in her class on Monday, she advised me that I paint the water first, then add the rocks as dark shapes, and finally sculpt them with lighter colors to make them three-dimensional and rimlit.  Brilliant!  She also told me not to get fussy with the waves and ripples.  There is no way that I can copy these hundreds of ripples; just make them believable and DON'T go back after I put down brushstrokes that go in the same directions as ripples.

I did exactly as she suggested.  The painting went fast.  As it was almost done, I finished it later at night at home to take advantage of wet paints.  I simply love the golden light that seems to glow from within.  Thanks, Bobbi!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Portrait Drawing Class with Lisa Semerad I

"Male Head" (graphite)

This summer I started my own portrait/figure drawing program at the Art League School in Alexandria, VA, not to become a portrait painter, but to become a better painter.  The first class I chose is Lisa Semerad 's portrait drawing class.  I took the same class long time ago; I don't remember how much I learned at that time.  Now I am soaking up Lisa's instructions like a sponge, perhaps because I have since become a better artist.

The class runs for four weeks; we meet twice a week for three hours each.  We are now into the third week.  The first two drawings from cast heads were done Tuesday last week.  We were supposed to go through 20 steps mentally each time we worked on a drawing, starting with an eggy oval shape all the way to simple horizontal/vertical planes for light/dark patterns.  I kept messing up the steps out of panic!  Lisa never gives enough time!

"Female Head" (graphite)

Last Thursday we moved on to Conte crayons with the focus on different head shapes.  We modeled, taking turns--lots of fun!  (No, we didn't pose naked.)   I titled the following two drawings "Cleopatra" and "Chinese Empress," inspired by the noble demeanor of the African-American and Asian fellow students.

"Cleopatra" (conte crayon)

"Chinese Empress" (conte crayon)

Yesterday's lesson was blocking (or modeling).  After toning the paper with pastel, we lightly established the shapes within the head.  With a kneaded eraser, we then  restored the light shapes.  We continued to refine features, with an ever light touch.  Finally, we introduced white chalk and darker color pastel to give the drawing more definition and punch.  As I joked in class, watching Lisa doing a 30-minute demo had given us a false sense of confidence; boy, it was hard to manipulate a kneaded eraser or use a darker color without messing up!  

Lisa Semerad doing a demo

"Male Head in Terracotta" (Nupastel)

"Female Head in Blue" (Nupastel)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

"Summer Wildflower Meadow" (oil on linen; 12" x 16") sold


Yesterday several friends and I went to River Farm in Alexandria, VA.  We met each other in Sara Linda Poly and Bobbi Pratte's classes at the Art League School, and as we are passionate about plein air painting, we formed a group.  We paint outside once a week; some of us, more often than that.  Summer in northern Virginia is not an ideal place for plein air painting with the temperature hovering around 90 degrees and about as high a humidity level as that.  We were lucky when we went to the National Cathedral two weeks ago; we got lucky again yesterday.  Painting gods--we appealed to all gods for a good weather (ha ha!)--have been kind to us!

I went down to the meadow, attracted by the sight of Queen's Anne's lace--my favorite wildflowers.  I had about two hours available, so I got to work right away.  After blocking in, I painted back to forward: the sky, Maryland, the Potomac River, a band of trees, the middle-ground wildflowers, then finally Queen Anne's lace.   I took care with the trees to get their shapes right.  Wildflowers, in contrast, were treated loosely as shapes.  If you look at the photo carefully, there are a couple of kids runnning toward where I was sitting.  As I was taking the picture, they suddenly appeared up the path and got captured forever!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

"Lotus and Dragonfly" (oil on linen; 12" x 9") sold


Reference photo

Yesterday when I went to the lily pond at Green Spring Gardens Park in Alexandria, VA, I took many photos, hoping that I might be able to use some for future paintings.  The lotus flower in the above flower caught my eye for the dragonfly it was hosting.  If you look at the picture carefully, there are two more dragonflies.  They were everywhere, landing on a flower briefly only to fly away to another.  There were no other insects--no butterflies, bees, or mosquitoes (thank goodness for the absence of the last).  Just these beautiful creatures, which do humans no harm.  I love them.  So I was thrilled to be able to capture their images in my camera.

Today, in the comfort of my studio on another miserably hot day, I painted "Lotus and Dragonfly."  I took care not to get too fussy, which is one of the biggest dangers of painting from photographs.  Another problem is, of course, the inability to see dark shadow colors.  Since I painted these sculptural flowers just yesterday, I could remember the colors of the pads and flowers pretty well.  The dragonfly was painted in last, quickly and gesturally.  So here we go--my first painting of a dragonfly.

Friday, July 8, 2011

"By the Lily Pond" (oil on linen; 12" x 9") sold


Despite the threat of a heavy thunderstorm, five die-hard plein-air painting friends including myself went out to paint the water lily pond at Green Spring Gardens Park in Alexandria, VA.  The thing is that we are not going to have a nice, balmy weather until September in the mid-Atlantic region.  We might as well brave the elements so that we can show off to our soft friends what we are made of.

Having said that, it was hot and very, very humid.  It would cloud up, making us all nervous, then the sun would return to cast gorgeous shadows on lily pads.  The fluctuating light and generally intolerable weather conditions somehow led me to paint decisively so that I could go home as quickly as possible.  If I may say so, I like "By the Lily Pond" very much.  Unfortunately, I lost the photo file, so I cannot Photoshop it to show you the true colors of the painting.

Monday, July 4, 2011

"By the Lake" (oil on linen; 12" x 12") sold


It was one of those vacations you always remember with fondness during which I took the reference photo for "By the Lake".  A couple of years ago, my husband's family rented a cabin on Gunflint Lake in northern Minnesota, and three generations--two brothers and their wives, four cousins and daughter-in-law, and a baby--spent a happy week together.  We canoed, rode horses, picked wild blueberries, played board games, cooked and ate in a cramped kitchen.  The only thing that was not so fun was the short hot water supply; we had to take turns and take very short showers.

My husband sprained his ankle on the flight to the Twin Cities and didn't get to participate in physical activities.  He also had work to do on his laptop.  Poor guy.  He ended up spending much time in one of the Adirondack chairs you see in the painting.  I sometimes kept him company, but he seemed content.  On the holiday weekend that celebrates the nation's birthday, it seems fitting to share with my readers this painting of a relaxing family vacation.

Happy Independence Day!

Friday, July 1, 2011

"Washington National Cathedral" (oil on linen; 16" x 12") sold


Yesterday, seven friends and I--the biggest group so far--went to the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.  We could not have chosen a better weather.  It was about 80 degrees, but with low humidity and nice breeze, it felt heavenly.  The place was not crowded at all; except occasional picnickers, we had the place pretty much to ourselves.  We felt truly blessed--well, until we started painting.

The National Cathedral is a 20th-century structure built in the Gothic style.  In spirit and manner of construction, you can say that it is medieval.  It's situated on a 50-acre ground, which also boasts a beautiful garden, called Bishop's Garden.  Last year when I painted there, I was absolutely overwhelmed by the sight of the cathedral.  So, instead, I painted a stone gazebo in the Bishop's Garden.

"Bishop's Garden, National Cathedral" (oil, 8" x 10")

The gazebo with eight sides was hard enough to draw.  When I was finished, I was so pleased with the painting that I emailed it to my plein-air-painting teacher, Sara Poly, to show off.  Yesterday, I bravely tackled the cathedral itself.  Oh, my goodness.  I kept saying this to myself.  As it turned out, I had more trouble painting the magnificent cedar of Lebanon on the left.  I chose this view on purpose, calculating that with so much of the cathedral hidden behind the cedar, it shouldn't be too bad to paint the main subject itself.  I don't think I will be painting the cedar of Lebanon any time soon.

The cathedral was treated suggestively; otherwise, I would be still drawing it out there.  By the time, the bones of drawing and colors were put down (as you can see in the second picture from the top), I had to quit painting.  The sun had moved and there was no point in continuing.  I finished the painting in the studio today.