26 June 2009
23 June 2009
During the second day of the workshop. Sean entered into some detail about his supports and his approach to alla prima painting. His "pieces de resistance" use wood as a support. He uses MDO wood or some panels form a provider which already come framed in the back to avoid bending.
1) He then applies an acrylic sealant that he lets cure for at least a week.
2) He applies several layers of gesso allowing drying between them and some texture to occur. No sanding. Chemicals from acrylic materials easily get in the air and can be dangerous.
3) The last step pictured here is using a big trowel to smooth a last layer of molding paste which gives the surface very smooth but absorbent.
The process takes minutes in every layer but it takes two to three weeks to complete as the layers have to dry and cure completely.
He then uses graphite rubbed on a paper to transfer the drawing onto the board. The graphite in this stage is loose so he will wash it very lightly with acrylic paints. he will recreate the whole painting using acrylics almost as if they were watercolors in very very transparent layers but with accurate local colors.
We then moved on to the "interactive" part of his demonstration. Painting from a live model he demonstrated that even in a larger format, the same principles can be applied. He used a Fredrix support with Belgian linen onto which he applied a wash mostly consistent of Burnt Siena. He then established as tight a drawing with his brushes as one could hope for and moved onto the darker areas of the subject with a mix of burnt Siena, Alizarin and Olive green.Right after this stage, he mixed his fluorescent light Manganese Blue+ White mix (something ,by the way, that also Jeremy Lipking is fond of doing) and his "main" tone. From then on, he systematically built the face form the darker to the lighter areas with some balancing in between. The result was "sorollesque" and loose. Never or very rarely did he go over trodden territory. I won't post my attempt at the same subject because I made a mess of it.
22 June 2009
For an excellent review on Sean's workshops click on this link and do not miss the graphic of his palette. This are some common weaknesses he points out:
*Starting to paint without a tight and accurate drawing. Impatience costs in time and it doesn't improve spontaneity.
* Starting with powerful darks maintains the luminosity of the shadows and allows the painter to not have to revisit them later and making them muddy.
*Transitions between light and shadow are more subtle than novice painters make them.
*An organized palette saves most of the guesswork as the painting progresses.
* Regular painting helps the artist remember and consolidate what he/she learns.
After Sean had placed all the dark areas with a rich mix of burnt siena and olive green, he made a large pool of mid-tone color and a smaller pool of fluorescent or cool light with manganese blue and white. He then carefully proceeded to add the mid tones. I think this might be one of the most critical parts as it forces to distinguish what is in light and what is receding. Depending of the degree to which each area is exposed to light, cooler or warmer tones will be used. Into consideration as well is the reflection of the background, clothes, etc. ..
Finally, Sean tackled the most luminous areas never for a second jumping to highlights or touches of "effect" which are so frequent in other painters which shall remain unnamed. For a more realistic effect, he used some of the more worn out brushes to blend the paint a bit afterwards loosening the almost graphic effect of the result. This sobriety and uncompromising approach is what makes Sean's paintings so appealing and contemporary as well as the subject matter which shuns the precious and picturesque. You just can't beat reality.
21 June 2009
I decided to take this workshop an hour before it was about to begin. Kind of in the "spur of the moment". Sean Cheetham is an artist I've admired for a while even though his style is quite different to mine. He paints in a realistic fashion with a very high emphasis on the drawing. His main influences are Michael Hussar and Antonio Lopez among living artists and anywhere from Holbein, Alma-Tadema, Waterhouse, Dagnan-Bouvert, etc... among old masters.
During the first day, he decided to paint a portrait of a sculptor friend in the manner that he usually approaches most of his "finished" work. He brought several non-glossy prints and a support which he had previously primed and already had the drawing of the subject. His palette is not unusual but there a couple of more "acid" colors that seem to go well with his subject matter and lighting of choice.
Cadmium Green light
Yellow Ocher Pale
Indian yellow (transp.)
Manganese Blue (semi-transp.)
Alizarin Crimson Permanent
Olive Green (dark, from W&N)
and a warm Grey from Rembrandt to neutralize.
He goes over the whole painting first with a light wash of acrylic. Very light so as not to create a layer of plastic between the oil and the support. He usually starts laying the darks first, very precisely and deliberately. He uses cheap University W&N nylon brushes of sizes 4 to 6 which tend not to last but fare well in the level of precision he requires. No big brushes here. He works with a tremendous amount of detail and focus. No rushing here. That's how you go quickly actually, by not making mistakes or adding random garbage.
Here is a picture of the painting after all the darks have been placed.
And here is a picture of the original print. Sean says he prefers to work directly from the monitor to judge color and is not against any technique to accomplish accuracy. Of course, he draws *really* well.
It is worth observing how organized he is in his palette construction. During the dark building process he mixes enough of a pool of dark. he also mixes the tone of the fluorescent lighting with manganese blue for posterior use. Like any good painter, his colors will remain almost miraculously clean throughout.
20 June 2009
As I explore the San Fernando valley I came across the Hansen Dam , an elegant structure in the middle of what the L.A. River might have looked like at some point in History. I explored the area around the Equestrian Center and came home reeking of manure. But it was worth it. No horses in the paintings but I took photos for future reference.
07 June 2009
We rarely see clouds here in LA . However, during the California Art Club paint-out at Griffith Park 06/06/09 , the sky was like a battlefield of beautiful, rolling and massive cumuli. I was so excited I *had" to borrow a bigger canvas from my friend Rod Smith least I was imprisoned in my usual 9x12. I did two paintings that day, I felt I couldn't let these storm beauties pass by unaknowledged.