‘Glimpse of the Desert’; Oil painting from start to finish

It started with a square canvas which I built from wood. One of the first panels I ever made. It was the summer vacation in my Art school in Seattle and some of the students hired a model to pose for us for a long pose. 6 hours a day for 4 days.

I brought the canvas with me not knowing what the pose will be. When I finished the painting, working from life, it had an abstract background. I placed the figure in the center and I had no idea of what environment she might belong to.

Kat

I was really inspired by the pose but I felt that an abstract background did not fit it at all. A few months later, I realized what the right background for this figure is: It needed to be the inside of a tent, overlooking the desert at sunset, because the woman reminded me of some kind of Arabian royalty. The pose was very organic, and communicated confidence and relaxation at the same time. I imagined her being on a journey of some kind, and being royalty, the tent would naturally be luxurious and private.

So I decided to take the pose from the 4 walls of an art studio into a setting closer to a fancy bedouin tent. Having been in those a few times in Israel in the Negev desert, and getting a glimpse of that very simple, slow lifestyle, I wanted to paint something with that warm, slow atmosphere, something that adjusts itself to the pace of the desert where life moves slowly at the end of the day.

That new aspiration presented a challenge, because I had to invent the background and have it match the studio light – the light under which the model was standing.  At that point I started searching for references for different bedouin tent elements online. I tried to get an idea of how a fancy Bedouin tent might look like and what kind of items would be in it. I used photoshop to try to arrange them together to get an idea of an environment. After a while of doing that I realized the complexity of the scene requires a much more realistic model to paint from, if I wanted the background to match the degree of detail of the figure.
I went to a craft store, where I shopped around for a few hours, gathering items and getting ideas. When I left the store I had almost everything I needed and I sat down to build the tent.

I made a tiny little sculpture of the women to “calibrate” the light. Used a clamp-on book light to replace the studio light and used a candle for a lantern. Overall there were 3 light sources in the painting.

Tent Setup

I sewed the little pillows from various fabrics I bought wrapped around tiny pieces of sponge. I made the tent by sticking some wooden sticks into a corkscrew board. It was like building a tiny dollhouse.

I did a small value study to try to figure out the composition.

Once I had the tent, I was ready to paint. The first step was to do a perspective drawing. The strange thing is that here, I had to decide what the eye level is rather than it being decided for me, because I had to identify the original eye level according to the rendering of the figure.

Fast forward, I finished the background.

Lastly, I decided I had to change the direction of her head because to me, the meaning of the painting and the moment was in having this woman look outside, to the last remnant of light on the desert sand. So I drew a little diagram of the new angle:
Head_700px

Then, because I couldn’t have the original model posing for me again with the original light (though believe me, I have dreamt of it!!), I recreated the new angle based on the colors and values of the painting combined with this drawing (which was drawn with the aid of pictures). A note to myself was to always take notes of what colors I used in my paintings so that I can easily go back to them if needed.
Here is the study for the head. It involved a lot of interpolation since I did not have a model to paint from.
Head Study

Lastly I needed to seam the edges of the figure with the new background and to add hints of light to match the new environment. Add little objects, like the teapot and the carpet, a little thorn to decorate the table.

It was a difficult painting but I gave this lady the environment she belongs to, as I saw it and now the painting is complete. 🙂
‘Glimpse of the Desert’, 23”x24”, oil painting on board.

 

The many expressions of Sharon

Portrait of Sharon
Portrait of Sharon
Portrait of Sharon, 12”X17” Oil on Board

This painting was completed in June 2014 and I wanted to present it with some of its earlier stages and thoughts while I was painting it.

It started when my friend came for a visit and graciously agreed to sit for a portrait.
I set up and started painting from observation that day when she was posing for me. I later finished the portrait from her photo.

Here is how it started:
Portrait of Sharon  at the beginning

My medium was half linseed oil half mineral spirit. The mineral spirit dilutes the paint and oil and breaks the paint’s bonds, making the pigment flow similar to a watercolor and the oil keeps the pigment flowing and glossy and bonds it to the canvas. I really enjoy starting out with translucent paint and then building up paint on top of it.

I selectively rendered some parts more than others and left others simplified and flat. The idea was to create visual contrast between the rendering style of different parts thus drawing attention to the part I was most interested in, which is her eyes.

Throughout the painting process her portrait acquired a variety of subtle variations in expression. Here are some photos

Invented Dancer figure

'Dancing Through Fire'

8”X11” Graphite on Paper. I named this one ‘Dancing through Fire’. I started it while listening to the lyrics of a song I heard on the radio earlier that day. It was a pop song about self-empowerment, but the visual image of a dancer dancing amidst flames ignited my imagination and I grabbed my sketchbook and drew a sketch of how such figure might be.

Her body posture must reflect the nature of the flames; a wild, selfish, free force reaching up for oxygen but grounded to the ground where it begins.

It needed to be uninhibited and in full force of motion.
When I was done with the figure I added shackles, which I did not initially have in mind. The pose seemed powerful and she needed to be grounded, like the flames. A powerful force ignoring its external bonds.

It stands in my mind as a symbol of life amidst difficulties; a dance as a response to shackles, saying that one’s spirit cannot be bound.

I started with the gesture, then general volumes, then anatomy and lastly all the values (the lights and darks) had to be figured out. That was the most challenging part, to imagine a light source and how this light source would influence a figure, how to arrange it all to make the figure stand out and still allow it to have dimensionality (rather than being 2 dimensional).

It was a difficult mental exercise but satisfying nonetheless.

Passion for Anatomy

Archer

Anatomy has been a delightful pursuit for the last year since my graduation from Georgetown Atelier.

I am so enamoured with it; the human body, the biological machine, an absolute beauty; sophisticated and elegant, powerful and capable of executing our will as well as express our emotions. As social beings our bodies and minds have tremendous power to communicate and perceive our mood and character.

Every artist who studies anatomy does it for a slightly different reason, I believe. Continue reading

Tree Drawings

I had a fun day going out drawing with my new watercolor sticks and a black fountain pen, sitting in the street on the sidewalk and drawing trees.

It was a fun to walk going around “hunting” for a special tree I find appealing and a way to experience an otherwise somewhat familiar neighborhood through new eyes of adventure.

What sent me on this trip to begin with was my interest in harmony of lines, in patterns – and plants are the perfect subject matter for that.

They have the same blueprint yet every leaf and branch grows differently according to its surrounding, and together they form a structure that has similar patterns and sense of movement, yet the branches and leafs are different from one another, and each plant has a different pattern than the rest. It’s random yet structured. I find them really pretty.

Leaves on Translucent background

I did this small study of leaves for an art event this month.

I really enjoyed trying out something new; I use mineral spirit as a medium without using any oil or gel to make the paint flow. The result is that the paint becomes much like watercolor while still allowing thicker areas where mineral spirit is not used.

The nice thing about this is that it is possible to get very bright and very chromatic at the same time Continue reading

‘Observing’ and Form vs. Cast shadows

Observing

That picture and this painting of her face share the exact same principle as in this Georgetown Atelier Tutorial, which was really fun to discover.

The key is that the darkest dark is in the cast shadow. In the sphere it is the shadow right under the sphere. The core shadow is second in degree of darkness and lastly is the dark side filled with reflected light. The light on the model’s face was exactly the same. If you examine the picture bellow, look in the groove of the chin, under the top lip, right under the nose, and right under her eye in the dark side: Those are all the darkest dark. Second in degree is the core shadow, which is slightly less dark (like on her cheek), and the reflected light, which is significantly lighter here than the other shadow areas.
Seeing this principle clearly allowed me to paint with greater clarity, and better yet, I will be looking for the same principle next time I paint and every time I paint.

-Ifat

Some forgotten works…

Some paintings from this year I didn’t have a chance to post yet. I painted these as part of my education at Georgetown Atelier. Both painted from a live model.

On the left is a 5 day painting. It’s 16”X18”, oil on Linen.

On the right: A 2 weeks painting, 16”X20”, oil on Board, named ‘A Question’.

Female Portrait
Female Portrait
'A Question'
‘A Question’

-Ifat

My painting from January: ‘Contemplating’

'Contemplating'  Study, Drawing and painting

 

Here is the finished painting, with a photo of the earlier stages on the right.
The process of creating it started with a drawing, which I then printed on a small canvas and did a color study on, and finally, transferring the drawing to a canvas and painting.

I chose the name after the painting was done, by looking at it and thinking what it is that it suggests to me.
-Ifat