"Blue" Gouache on board © Joanna Zeller Quentin 2009.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Work in progress- "Horsepower" or "Power" or something else altogether

Recently I met with a prospective portraiture client who wanted me to capture her two beloved horses.  In talking with her, it became apparent that she had looked at my portfolio pretty closely and was concerned about my use of exhuberant color against her neutral walls.  One of the nice and refreshing things about doing commission work is the chance to tailor the style of the painting to the client's liking.  Some people like crazy abstract bright color and others prefer softer more naturalistic tones.  Feeling pretty confident I could give her what she wanted, we started discussing poses, and I moved on to studying her horses.
But the idea- and her concern-  stayed with me.  What is the fine line between "too much color" and "looking like a photograph"?  Where is the balance between muddy brown and vibrant sienna?
Now, I know full well I will never be able to do a portrait with just a palette of browns- nor do I recommend anyone try to do so.  Oil paintings glow- and one of the reasons for that is the buildup of color.  Some artists (and even myself, occasionally) build up paintings over several weeks or months, layering each color carefully on top of the other (scumbling is the art term) and can speak of color mixtures as science... or alchemy.  Other artists (and I confess to being one of these too) can complete a painting in 2 hours using nothing but globs of paint straight from the tube with no glazing or drying time- just carving the image out of paint.  (art term: impasto).  And some artists (usually these are the ones hanging in museums) can do both- layers of color painstakingly built up ... and then straight from the tube acents on top of everything else (ie Rembrandt- the most amazing painter in the whole wide world- imo...)
As I mentioned in my other blog entries, I started working on a piece for a promotional postcard on Friday night.  Tonight I hit the first of what is usually 3 or 4 roadblocks- the paint is finally on the canvas, it's got this great buttery consistance, I'm jamming along, and suddenly... WHAM.  I just messed the whole thing up.  Disaster, calamity.  Should never have been an artist, should have been a dental hygenist, this is awful, what am I going to do????  Overcoming my first desire to pour turpentine over the whole thing and begin again- or at least get back to Friday night's beginning layers, I gritted my teeth and soldiered on.  And, a mere two hours later (my husband gave up and went to bed some time ago) I've managed to pull it back from the brink.  It's not right, it's not perfect... but it's a place that the painting and I can live with- at least for tonight.
And here, as promised, are the stages of the painting thus far.  I'm trying to keep the color restrained yet vibrant... and I have no idea what to do with the background yet.  Any suggestions?

(some glare on this one... darn retouch varnish!)

Monday, September 7, 2009

postcard options...all out, I think. Maybe. Maybe?

Choosing a marketing image is really tough- I want something that will appeal to all equestrians and horse lovers- not just dressage people or jumper people or western pleasure people- AND it has to look good, AND the printer has to get the color right, AND I have to want to look at 1000 of them at a time.  If I can't get the new painting done (see tonight's earlier blog entry- I'm on a roll!) I may choose one of these four options.  (I know there are only 2 on here, but I can't get the other two to load properly- the colors are all crazy when I move the jpegs to the blog.  Anyone know why that is???)
Any and all opinions are greatly appreciated!  Would you like to look at either of these on your wall?
Blue- gouache on paper
I really like this little gouache.  If I can't get my new painting done this week, this may become my new postcard.
LOPE- graphite on paper
This is the piece that was selected for the AAEA Fall Open Exhibition in September.  It also sold more giclees in the past three months than the other prints.  Not my first choice for a postcard... but people seem to like it?!?!?!
Also in the running- but not able to get up in the blog for some reason-
Hindsight (altho the colors are tricky to reproduce- I do all of our giclee printing in house and I'm not even happy with it, so I cringe to think of what could come back from MP)
Technicolor (I like this painting, but it doesn't fit on a postcard without some weird cropping, which could look really edgy and cool- or just incredibly stupid.)
If you want to see what these paintings look like, they can be viewed on the website- www.MoosePantsStudio.com
(See what I mean about the colors getting all funky?  This is NOT what it looks like...)

I'm painting! I'm painting!

Well, my self imposed three month hiatus has officially come to an end... with the flourish of a paintbrush.  Despite (or perhaps IN spite of) staying out of the studio for the past few months, I've managed to land three new portraiture clients, sell some giclees, get accepted to a few shows (including the AAEA Fall Open Exhibition- first acceptance- YEAH!!!) and distribute the remainder of my latest set of postcards- a fact I discovered when I finished compiling my latest mailing list, hit the print button and then happily trotted off to the box where the postcards live... only to discover there were only a handul left.  So... in desperation I went through my portfolio looking for a new postcard piece, but nothing really jumped out at me... can you guess where this is going????
A few months ago (three, to be exact) I drew out a really cool charcoal of a horse- head on- with the most amazing lighting.  It was from a photo I'd taken at the HITS show in Ocala of this amazing, drool-worthy jumper who was doing (get this) half passes and canter pirouettes in the warmup ring before his round.  (I know, jumps 5' easy AND does upper level dressage????? Good for his owner!)  Anyway, I was going for more of an edgy look, heavy lines, deep shadows on rough textured gessoed Masonite, and I had some sort of vague notion that I wanted the charcoal to show through the oil.  Maybe.  But I drew it out and was so pleased with it that I sprayed the thing down with fixative... and then became completely scared to touch it.  It was so cool, so nice, so... ALIVE... that I was immediately screwed.
(Side note- Marshall Arisman came to RSAD to do a few master classes while I was a student.  We sat with him in a figure class and watched as he deftly carved out an amazing figure drawing with just a few strokes of charcoal in about 15 seconds.  He stopped and stared at the drawing for a moment, and with one sweeping movement ripped it off the newsprint pad and cast it aside.  The moan that went up from the surrounding class was audible -I know I groaned, as did everyone else around me- at the sight of this gorgeous drawing being thrown down on the floor.  He turned around to all of us goggling students and said, "That was a really nice drawing, huh?  I really liked the nose."   He paused and added, "Do you know why I threw it away?"  We all shook our heads, aware that we would give anything to be able to draw so confidently and vibrantly as that.  He went on, "Once I realized I really liked the nose, it was completely ruined for anything else.  I'd be so afraid of ruining it, destroying that perfect nose, that nothing else I did would even come close.. and I WOULD ruin it."  That happened maybe 8 years ago, and I have not forgotten the lesson.  For the record, he then went on to produce another three or four fantastic gesture drawings.  Sigh.)
So, with Arisman's dire warning ringing in my ears (I really like this, I really like this- CRAP, I'm going to screw it up!!!) I set it up next to my easel and stared at it for a few days.  Days stretched into weeks, and finally I tucked it aside so I wouldn't feel guilty every time I stepped in the studio.  And there it sat... until Friday evening, when I pulled it out, threw a bunch of paint on it and got to work.
And... here it is on Sunday night.  Paint is on, background roughed in, even a few patches of "Hey, that's really kind of nice" are peeking through.  If- and this is a big IF- because I haven't hit the dreaded 90% done/throw everything away and become a dental hygenist phase- I can get it done this week it will be my new postcard.  After all, I'm going to Kentucky at the end of this month (show opening, third wedding anniversary AND my first trip to the Bluegrass State- I'm so excited!) and I don't think my 20 or so postcards will last for the whole trip.  At least, I hope not!
I can't get my digital camera (HP and ancient) to talk to my new Mac (shiny and pretty) so I can't post a picture yet.  But I will figure it out, and since I've been taking pictures of this thing step by step as it progresses (just for fun... also so that if I do totally screw it up I still have a really nice charcoal drawing there) I'll post them when I can.  (And when I figure out how to post pictures to this blog site!
Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Blogging- part one

So, I haven't written much on here, I know.  Part of that is quite simple- this is a blog devoted to artwork (mostly my artwork) and the day to day struggles of being a painter and creating art- and I've been on a self imposed hiatus for the past few weeks.  The main reason most of us get into art in the first place is because it is something we enjoy, and I just wasn't enjoying myself.  Between mailing out prints to customers (thank you!), organizing upcoming show deadlines and entries, and creating an excel spreadsheet with all inventory, prints, originals, sales, prices, etc- I was just wiped out.  I finished a painting, worked my a$$ off to get it done, and then decided, out of respect for my already precarious sanity, that I needed to take a break.

Well, I've been thinking about art.  Haven't actually DONE any- yet- but I've been thinking about it.  My husband is also a professional artist (animator) and he stays very busy, so there's always art making going on in our house anyway- it's impossible to get away from.  But over the past week I've been getting little flashes of inspiration, moments where I think of a work in progress or one that I've wanted to start and go "aha!".  Then I remind myself that I am on a BREAK... and it goes away, kind of.  A lot of it has been sitting in my head- the way I would depict a photo I took the other day- how it would look in graphite- how I would do it, etc.

So, all in all, I take that as a good thing.  Art making is hard- no doubt about it.  Making a living with it is even harder.  And there is always the debate over commercialism vs art for art's sake- something a potential customer may want vs what you are trying to say from the deepest pit of your heart and soul.  Problem is, not a whole lot of people want your pain and anguish hanging above their couch.  I paint what I love- what interests me, what I know, what strikes me as important to convey- and I've been pretty lucky in that I have an audience.  Niche market, maybe, but a good one.

But I'm not quite ready to pick up the brush just yet.  The fact that my mindset is changing though- from last month's exhaustion borne"I never want to create a piece of art again" to "hmmm- that might be a really cool painting" gives me hope.  Heck, maybe in another two weeks I'll even pick up a pencil again.  Maybe.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Progress for the sake of progress?

Well, this is it.  My very first blog entry.  I have officially joined the Blogosphere.  Take a deep breath and...

We'll talk later, ok?