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Half time painter

The paintings discussed in this post can be found on my main website in the fine art section of the navigation menu. Here is a direct link to the still life – portrait area where I have Mindy’s painting. Last weekend I updated my fine art section with a new mobile friendly gallery animation. I’ve also put all new pictures up there, of much higher quality than what used to be there. I pulled a lot of the old paintings out, and added my most recent portrait of Sue, my wife.  (8-14-14)http://websterart.com/html/still.php

I’m teaching 3 hours a day, 4 days a week this quarter. This means I have a lot of time to pursue my dormant art career. It’s been there waiting patiently for to return. I feel like it’s a greenhouse that’s been boarded over. Most of the plants had died, but the roof is still good, though the glass needed a good cleaning. And I needed to brush up on my gardening techniques…perhaps even try some new and unusual plants.

I took 13 new paintings down to my old gallery in Olympia today. Deb was very nice, as always, but I could tell she was impressed with my new work. It’s noticely better than my old work from the 1990’s. It was nice to get a professionals opinion on my work. As opposed to my friends, and my family. They appreciate good work, but Deb knows what sells, and I value her opinion.

We are planning a show in the future…but for now I’m going to continue painting new work. I rarely do a bad painting now. A lot of things have come together for me now that I’m working almost full time as an artist…assuming you count weekends, Fridays and before/after my day job.

Simple things that used to bite me like sun angle and low tide have become non issues. I anticipate where the tide, or sun is going to go, and start my painting knowing that I will have the drawing work done when the sun or tide is at the optimal direction, or height.

I’m also using Claude Monet’s trick of returning to the same spot at the same time multiple days in a row, weather permitting. As I write this I have two lovely paintings waiting for me to nail the same sun angle before they can be completed. I’ve even become better at tweaking paintings from photographs. Let me rephrase that…I never paint from photographs, but I will occasionally do touch up work to paintings after the changing light forces me to retreat to my “studio”.

For example, I painted a lighthouse from a rock at low tide. After I completed the stone structure of the lighthouse, the tide came in, and it started to rain. I still needed to finish the sky and the ground…but we were 300 miles down the coast chasing sunshine.

I finally got back to it two weeks later. I brought up the images I had taken on the scene while I painted and found them almost entirely useless. But seeing them brought back a few memories of the experience, and I was able to finish the painting. The sky started as just a gradient, but ended up as a bank of low, rolling fog. I must have seen it somewhere, because it came flowing out of my memory onto the painting.

A month ago I started a painting of Mindy. It was my second portrait in 4 years, the first being dad’s back in May. I love portraits because I can control the light better than plein air landscape paintings. I also love seeing a human being rise up off the paper and breath.

Mindy and I go back a ways. She is a climbing buddy as well as a guitar playing friend. When she very kindly offered to pose for me I thought we would finish it in a couple sessions. However, it took me three sittings to complete it. The last session/sitting was out in Fletches back yard. He and Lisa were harvesting honey from their bees. Sue was kibitzing around, watching me paint Mindy, talking to Mindy, or watching the bee action.

With all the commotion, I was surprised that I got any work done. But all the practice I’ve been getting lately has made me like one of those war correspondents hammering out a story in the midst of battle. Nothing interrupts my flow once the spigot turns on. Another way to say that would be: once I get in the zone, nothing distracts me.

Fletch would glide by and take pictures every half hour or so. I’ve not seen them yet, but I bet there are some good ones. After a couple hours I thought it was getting better but I can never be sure. I get so wrapped up in a long list of things that need to be improved, that I often can’t see what is done and good. But after 3 people said it was awesome, including Sue, who always speaks the truth, I thought maybe I should call it done, or at least take a break.

Mindy got up, looked at it and exclaimed in amazement, then promptly gave me a hug, said it was so beautiful I was going to make her cry. That was a very moving moment, and made me realize that portraits are powerful things. Or maybe, as Sue said later: “You made her look 20 years younger, of course she loved it!”

That got me worrying. It’s true that I’m not good with wrinkles. They are very hard to draw with blunt pastels, so I only draw the biggest ones. A more important issue for me is getting the underlying bone structure and major features in the right place. Once I get the major facial structure in place, I sculpt the fall of light across the shape. Then I rough in some hair,  bring light and life into the eyes, and model the lips…it’s basically done. At that point I could think about looking for wrinkles…but why bother? If I see life, and a likeness in the painting, I don’t really care how old or young it looks. Once it breathes, my job is done.