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Evolution of a Portrait

 It was another portrait, but of many children of different ages.

I met with my client, who gave me the opportunity to meet and take photos of my own of each child, and she optimized my starting materials by lending me photographs collected of each one, some by her daughter-in-law, who is on a professional level when it comes to photography.

We discussed the positioning of each child, and the setting for the group portrait. My client loved the idea of having them around a campfire. I would need to imagine the sculpturing shaping of each face but one. The smallest boy was already lit from beneath his face. We agreed on canvas size, who would provide the framing, and the price.




The first sketch is rather cartoon-like, but served only as an arrangement of the children for my client's approval. I emailed it to her. She was enthused, so I continued with the second sketch in a larger size, and with tighter relationships between each child. Shown here, the paper is laid out on the canvas so that I can see how I will change the relationships a little on the painting, and enlarge the children so they approach about 75% of life size.

You can see from the 6" x 8" painting below the sketch, that the 30" x 40" size was right for the project.

Using the sketch and photos as a guide, I rendered the faces carefully on the canvas to keep a good balance going, using small brushes and thinned burnt sienna. Then came the big brushes and the sweep of sky across the top to unify each child into the same values. I taped each photo to an untouched (or dried) segment of the canvas, with non-residue tape, and started painting the portraits from left to right, reserving a period of time at the end of the project for correcting mistakes.

I usually left the eyes until I had shaped and painted the face and let it dry, so that the clear gray-blue of the whites and the brilliance of the irises and pupils do not pick up flesh or eyelash colors. I also did not re-shape the girl's face, but formed the intention of moving the fire away from her. I felt that bottom-lighting would have flattened her lower face in the position it was in. The closest I came to alla prima with this group was in the smallest boy's face, which was already bottom-lighted.

The almost finished image in this last photo shows how I corrected the leftward girl's waistcoat to the actual article of clothing, and added some detail work to her brother's tee shirt. clothing details were also added to the three on the right. I made some additional improvements to the faces and painted the boy's hand. Now I was ready for fire!

This is the finished product, also shown in "works/portraits and people" on my homepage. As usual, I didn't want to let go of it, but my client was eager to get it onto her wall, and it's now where it belongs!

Nancy
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The Wall


I hope you all had a great Labor Day Weekend. I know I did, because I actually got some work done and really feel good about it.

You say that's not what Labor Day is for? Well, if your "work" is actually a combination of play and work, as art is, you can get away with saying that. 

This photograph of my own not-for-sale work has earned the title of "The Wall." It's likely that nickname applied because the first painting on the left is lightly called "Hole in the Wall."

I'm going back to "work." Just dropped a line to say Hi!

Cheers,
Nancy

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Use the Best Always!

Paintslinger

Only the Best


After sending out my newsletter yesterday, I was getting ready to re-frame the two paintings I showed in it  They were older paintings. I noticed that "Oklahoma Symphony" had mold on the back of the cotton canvas. I removed most of it with vinegar, but I think the canvas is still not reliable. I want my paintings to hang in people's homes for at least a few generations, so I've taken this painting off the website, and I will destroy it.

Too much time as an "amateur" artist can fool you into thinking of your work as always being there. Just as you would assume your talent and skills will always be there. When you start selling it full-time, you realize that your reputation as a professional hinges on using the best materials and the best substrates for your work.

That moldy canvas was one of the prepackaged three-fers that I should only have used for studies, not finished work. I have no complaint about cotton canvas if it's high-quality. I started some works on linen canvas this summer, and I like it even better. But I should have thought about the organic qualities of paint and canvas, whether cotton or linen.  Both the oil colors and mediums I use  have individual qualities. For instance, Titanium White  was what I used before I started using Permalba White. Titanium White is wonderful for its softness and non-yellowing quality. But Permalba's richness and creaminess dries to a luscious finish and is great for knife painting.

The second assumption is that I would always be a terrific artist.
Too much praise, and too many awards, given too early, can convince anyone of this. By the time I retired from my commercial art career, I thought I would just leap into being a professional artist without further training. After all, I had finished a life of marketing my art -- although it's much easier when your client pays you for work that will make him money. I had a surprise in store for me -- If people are buying art for love, for decor, to impress, or for personal reasons, it's a whole different kind of marketing.

I was surprised to see that, while I was doing still doing fashion art and designing ads, my gift for art had been overtaken by quite a few absolutely fantastic professional artists, who obviously had worked on their skills in order to enhance their natural talents. I've also seen those with little talent, and much hard work, excel as much as those born with it.

Not only that, but these artists with a capital "A" had taken further training and workshops from even more celebrated artists, in order to keep their education and skills current. My conclusion was:

1. Use only the best materials for your painting, just as you use quality frames to enhance it.
2. Work every day on your art, even if it's just to steal a few moments sketching. The housework will wait for you!
3. Invest in continuing education with the best teachers possible.
4. Take time to learn the newer marketing skills of this age. Word of mouth may be the best advertising, but your reach, and impact, is enhanced with a web presence.

I've enrolled in a workshop this fall with an excellent portrait artist. I will be all eyes and ears! I've found a source for linen canvas, pre-stretched, and I've ordered a book on learning HTML, so that I won't be left behind in newer communication skills. I'm my worst critic, so I hope I brush up enough to impress ... myself!

Nancy Park
http://nancyparkfineart.com
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Lazy Cats

Cats, among other things
Cats do not believe in work, whether you are doing it, or futilely trying to get them to do some. One thing they excel at is sleeping, sometimes at full alert. It's necessary for them to be at full alert because you might start to use the fact that you are trapped as the cat's bed to actually do something like sketch them.

They never sleep quite as long anyplace else as on a lap. Trying to turn this to advantage, I used some of my "down" time in August to sketch two of them, shown herewith. The first is Nova, or as we sometimes call cats here, a meatloaf.




This one below is my tortoise-shell cat, Twinkle. We call this sketch "Lapwarmer."

What these critters do is eat and sleep, which is why their little white tummies puff out when they lie down. I think they call that fat. We try to encourage them to exercise, but you can't really put them on a leash and walk them around the block. You're reduced to running around the house with various cat toys, which actually has them up and interested for about 5 minutes, after which they start giving you that cat-look that says, "Why is this human acting like an utter idiot?" Later, sometime around two a.m., they start racing around the place and chasing each other as if they'll never get another chance to run. I think people like cats because, possibly, they are the only creature stranger than humans, and they're definitely from another planet.

Links to other Artists
I'm putting some new links up on my Links category, and I would love to share these other artists and their talented writing and artistry with you. Many of them give helpful tips on their blogs, which is really terrific, because I'm always needing help. As a matter of handiness, I'll give them to you right here, because they're not up yet.

http://marsharobinett.com/blog  Marsha is the most incredibly talented pencil artists I've ever seen. Her black and white renderings are as dramatic as most paintings. She also has some lovely watercolors on the site.
http://ktanabefineart.com/blog My old friend in San Diego loved this link, as Keiko Tanabe does many of her paintings in the San Diego area. Her paintings are exquisite and her blog is very open and practical.
http://woodwardsimons.com/blog Lori Woodward Simons is a well-known writer for several media, including Watercolor Magazine, and she gives wonderful advice to artists. She has taught workshops and is currently writes regularly on marketing your artwork on her blog and for Fine Arts Views. Confucius said a painting is worth a thousand pieces of gold (I know people always quote that wrong, but a painting is worth a lot more than a thousand words! Don't take my word for it; look up the quote.) and Ms. Simons' advice is worth real gold in your pocket.
Cheers,
Nancy
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