Sunday, December 27, 2009


I got four whole days off for Christmas!!! Woo - hoo! My plan was to paint the entire time. Well, you know the old addage about mice and men. I'm not sure which category that I'm classified in, but I felt more like a mouse over the first couple of days of the vacation. I did get to visit friends and family on Christmas Eve and Christmas day ... but my confused sleep pattern and some sort of bug forced me to spend much of the next day and a half just sleeping.

With my brothers, Chip (on the left) and Mark (will the insanity never end?). Yep, that's me in the middle looking for all the world like a homeless guy that they brought in for Christmas dinner. Perhaps I should rethink the beard.

After my hybernation, I spent about twelve to fifteen hours painting ... and hope to get another eight or ten in tonight. I started a still life with the cello that I rented, and have gotten quite far with it. I have also been working on the nude with good results, and a few other projects (with mixed results, actually -- one of them has symied me a bit).

When I get some of these finished, I'm going to do one more painting with the cello. While I was working at the gallery the other day, Dennis Smith brought in a model for us to work with. He gave me enough of a heads-up that I was able to drag the cello along for her to pose with for photos. I'm looking forward to doing that one ... but I will be celloed out after that.

Cellos are not the easiest things in the world to paint. Like violins, they have a lot of strange angles and curves - not unlike the figure of a woman -- but with extra problems that are not easily solved; the neck doesn't just go straight up the instrument, it is canted toward the back, so, when seen from an angle, it looks like it leans if it's not done properly ... and the whole thing bows in the front and back slightly, making the proportions seem to vary from side to side when viewed at an angle. I don't know, it's hard to explain -- but they are fun to figure out. Sometimes the tougher a thing is to paint, and the more of a challange it is, the more fun it is to work on. In fact, I was talking with Del about that on Christmas, saying that one of the things that I was working on was very tough ... and that it was very comforting to me -- because I always worry when they are going too smoothly. "Every painting is a kind of sickness." Del said, quoting Valentin Serov, and nodding in agreement.
I hope to post a picture of something that I'm working on this blog later -- they are not ready to be seen yet, though.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Little projects

I rarely do cartoons/caracatures ... and it's even less likely that I'll share a peek at them ... but here's a look at one that I just finished and another drawing. They are little projects that I did as last minute Christmas commissions. I can usually do these kinds of things durring breaks at work -- and did get much of the cartoon done there ... but couldn't quite pull that off this time, so I had to work on these in stead of painting this weekend -- other than the session with the model.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


At long last, after talking about it for several years, I rented a cello (as you can see, I've learned how to spell it properly) and hired a model to pose with it. The session was three hours (roughly six 20-minute poses with a ten minute break in between each) and went by in what seemed like five minutes ... just long enough to get the basic drawing/underpainting done.
I wanted to use natural light -- and I have a big, wonderful picture window in my studio ... unfortunately it faces the street. To keep the amount of automobile accidents to a minimum for those traveling south on Alberta Ave, and to keep from having a yard full of gawkers, I put some clear plastic sheeting over the window. Actually, if it's darker inside than it is outside, it's almost impossible to see in -- but I wanted my model to be comfortable in her nudity.
It was not to be, though. It was not only overcast and cloudy, but we didn't get started until one PM. Monday is the shortest day of the year ... so yesterday was pretty darned short too ... and by two-thirty it was downright grey out there. But, I have track lighting -- and I used that to great advantage instead of the natural light that I would have preferred.
The model was nice enough to let me take a few pictures to work from in her absense - so, I hope to finish it before year's end.

Once again, Pfeffer showed her uncanny insight into the work and posed under the chair for a few minutes, just to add a little more depth to the work. How does she do it?
Unfortunately, I've got several projects that are due for the hollidays, so I'm going to have to put the "cellist" aside for the next couple of days. Dang. I'm itching to get at it -- and can see some definite areas where the underpainting really needs some help (for example, I made her face too big and will have to do some serious cosmetic surgery there). Stay tuned for updates.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Waiting for News from the Battlefield

There is a huge National park here on the fringe of Spokane that has an area where the Civil War enthusiasts (I don't know the organizations official nomenclature) get together every spring -- memorial day weekend, I think. I've been a few times and have enjoyed their mock battles and walking through their camps, meeting the participants, etc. These people are dedicated to making as much of it as possible like things were in the 1860's (minus the port-o-potties; I've noticed that they aren't over there aking in the bushes ... they step into those smelly blue-green plastic hot houses to do thier business). It's quite the experience -- one which I'm tempted to join in sometime (the camp-out, weekend --- not the business in the port-o-smelly thing). Perhaps I could play a war correspondant out there sketching away.

All that as it may be, I've taken a bevvy of pictures over the last three years and was just noticing the other day how many pieces of artwork I've done from the photos ... at least six that I can think of right off of the top of my head -- including the oil that I just finished working on. It's not quite there yet -- it needs some touch-ups, but I think that I need to give it a week of rest before I go back to it.

The camps are full of all a cocophany of diverget occupations -- people of all walks of life, as, I'm sure, that the camps back in the day were. There are also many families. Durring the battles some of the families hang out on the fringes, watching, but many hang out in the camps awaiting the return of thier loved ones. The young lady depicted here was not the nicest of people. I don't think that she liked having her picture taken and gave me a scowl as I did so. It occured to me then, though, that it was probably the kind of inner strife boiling to the surface that a sweetheart would show if they were, truly, in that position of awaiting the fate of their husband/brother/father/son.

This painting was quite a challange and a lot of fun. Determining colour temperatures was among the biggest problems. I was talking with my friend and mentor, Del about it yesterday and he showed me a magazine with a beautiful Fechin painting in it that was a simular composition (man, that guy could paint!). We discussed it at some length and I learned a few things - as usual. Thanks, again, Del. Any suggestions that you ever want to give me are greatly appreciated.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Cat's Eye Gallery Closure

Last Thursday (10 December, '09) was the last night for figure drawing at the Cat's Eye Gallery. They had to close their doors because the building in which they were housed has sold. There was some repreve, there, for a few months or so ... but now the closing is iminent. Conrad, the owner, is in search of a new building and hopes to resume his gallery elsewhere. I'm not sure if he'll keep the same name or not.

It was kinda sad, but I think that it's going to be a turn for the best. The gallery, as it was, had some real draw-backs. It was spacious, and in a convienient location, however -- the roof leaked, it was stifelingly hot in the summer, freezing in the winter -- and the lighting was not the greatest either.

The party atmosphere (most of the people in attendance brought food) was not very conducive to drawing, and my friend Dennis left in disgust (not the first time that he's done so). I've been tempted to leave many times myself because of the constant chatter and lack of professionalism in the past, but I brought my countermeasures with me; my ipod. I put those earphones in, turned that sucker on, set it to "shuffle", cranked it up, -- and still had to concentrate over the dinn --because I could still hear laughter, shouting, and crying over the music.

There were several people in the small room (we couldn't draw in the larger room because of the cold) who weren't even drawing, they had just come to party I guess. One even brought an infant who contributed greatly to the chaos (thus the crying -- it wasn't people frustrated with their drawings, as you may have thought).

In spite of it all -- we had the best model that I've seen there. Very professional, and very pretty. She didn't get drawn into the conversations (even when addressed), she held her poses well, resumed them almost flawlessly when going back to the same one after a break, and had some interesting poses, too.
Aparently she works as a photo model most of the time and takes trips to do work in Seattle and California. After conversing with her on a break, I hired her to pose for me privately -- to do the pose that I've been wanting to do for some years now.

Some time in the mid-ninetys I got a CD of the Russian Chellist, Nina Katova, and fell in love with her music -- ah, the sweet sound of a chello! There was a very lovely photo of her on the cover of the CD and I thought how cool it would be to have had her pose for me. Throughout my life I've been drawn to the beautiful lines on violins and chellos, etc., and have drawn and painted violins many times. In fact, one of my favorite paintings that I've done, is of my wonderful friend, Brenda, holding a violin. It might not be one of my best, exactly, but it was a sweet time in my life and that probably accounts for my sentimental attachment.

Anyway, I've thought that it would be real nice to paint a nude with a chello and wondered how, exactly to pull that off. I still haven't worked out the composition -- but I think that requires me to have both a chello and a model to figure out.
In the last few months the idea has been needling me for some unknown reason. So I stopped by a music store in town and asked about the price of renting the instrument. It's very reasonable. Renting the model -- that's the expensive part. She is not going to charge me the same rate that she charges photographers, but it's still a good chunk of change. I may have to do two separate sessions of about 3 hours each. The first will be next weekend. I'm both nervous and excited about the venture.

So, I guess that means I have to clean up my studio this week. Dang. Now, where did I leave that snow shovel, anyway?

Monday, December 7, 2009


While at CMU I was in a figure painting class during my last semester. There was one particular modle who posed for us at least once a week who was so slender and tall that none of the paintings or drawings that anyone did looked believeable - they all looked like they were disproportional ... like one of the figures in the sketches that can be seen on patterns for dresses and such. One of the paintings that I did of her turned out to be to my liking -- but I had some reservations about it ... so I reworked it. It still wasn't to my liking ... so, much later, I reworked it again. This has gone on for quite some time. Every year or two I break it out and take a whack at it, only to shelve it again.

The other day I took the charcoal that Pfeffer had ruined by rolling on it and was about to throw it away, when I noticed that the figure was in a simular pose as stick girl in the previously mentioned painting. I had one of those "eureka" moments when I realized that the best thing to do for the painting was to augment her womanly charms. The breasts in the drawing were just about the only thing not ruined by my crazy cat. So I used the drawing as a study for the painting and gave her a boob job. Much better -- she still looks somewhat disproportional -- but in an interesting way; not a disturbing one. I still need to fix some things, I think, but it just may be hanging in the gallery sometime soon.

Thanks again, Pfeffer, you're always such a big help.