Recent paintings and thoughts about modern Art (Weekly #24)

Long time no see, Blog. Don’t ask, I’ve been sick for a week and had a lot of other stuff going on, but I’m back, ready to provide you with some fresh content.

First is the painting I did at my Atelier last week, working from a live model for 5 days. This was done in 4 colors: Redish brown, Yellow, Black and White.

I would get cool tones from mixing black and white to make a gray, or from mixing black and yellow to create a green, warming it up with red as necessary.
I was able to achieve a peach-brown by mixing my brown with white, or leaning more toward an orange by mixing it with the yellow, neutralizing it as necessary with the black and white. Wooha!

I also started working with a new palette which I absolutely love. It’s a glass palette. The neat thing about it is that I can control the background color against which I mix my colors, which allows me to see what I’m mixing so much better.

I decided that from now on I will start using a paper color that matches the average color of the skin tone of the model in the light.  It really helps.

Here is the painting, done over 5 sittings of 3 hours each.

One of the things I learned here was how to solve the problem of cropping a figure against an abstract background. In this case, for example, I wanted to emphasize the triangle shape his arms created and end the painting there without painting the lower body part. The reason for this is that I felt that the core of the pose for me was the strength created by the two joined arms and that it was framing the body nicely. I liked the strength of it.

But then the problem was how to get rid of the rest of the body mass without making it looked chopped off. At first I simply didn’t paint it, which gave it a lovely Cheshire cat look, where one sees only the head of the cat. As lovely as that was, I decided against it. And painting carelessly and mostly using my subconscious the idea came to me to paint the beginning of the other parts in the right value, but with the background color instead of the flesh tones. This allowed me to then dissolve it at will into the background without making it feel like a strange operation was involved.

If you’re not an artist, this might bore you to death. And it might still bore you to death even if you are an artist, I don’t know. But it doesn’t bore me! Which is why I keep talking about it. ūüôā
But anyway, indeed, it’s time to move on.

 

I also painted a few still life paintings. I am painting them quickly, one every day or two, with the purpose to practice and learn paint handling. Here is the result:

  

My next project is going to be a group of glass objects. It’s going to be longer than these studies – a 2 week project or so.

My next figurative project is going to be 2 weeks long, working from a live model again – a male model. I don’t know what the pose will be because I have no control over it. I will choose the angle and how I render it, but that’s about it. I hope it will be something I like.

 

I actually have a lot of thoughts about art and about my art, but they have not grown deep enough roots yet in my mind to articulate or write about.

I find that usually when I have an idea, it is not isolated – it is part of a generalization which relates to other areas of my life, and the process of forming the generalization and making the connections takes time and thinking which spans over years sometimes.

I was thinking about what art IS. I believe if you ask someone who has been through art school they will tell you that everything can be made into art.
If you asked what a spoon is and someone told you that a spoon could be anything and everything you would think they are nuts. Why? Because a spoon is a specific object, with a specific shape-family and function.
But the same does not apply to art. Why? Because the identity of art involves a high level abstraction. Forming the concept of what art IS involves identifying a lot of abstract qualities about art. In our modern age where people are taught not to trust their own mind, performing this level of abstraction on our own is extremely difficult, borderline impossible.

Similarly, the question “what is a spoon” is much easier than “what is justice?”. The later involves a chain of abstract concepts which need to be retained and which have no immediate physical manifestation. You don’t “see” justice in the street the way you might see a spoon.
The essence of “justice” is hidden in actions, in seeing similarity and relating them to one’s existing spiritual values. It’s harder to do.

 

In the last decade there has been a resurgence of classical realism. In the last 10 years over a dozen ateliers have opened across the United States and Europe where none existed earlier on. The only option for artists seeking training was an art degree, which was a pile of wishy washy intellectual crap without a single course offered as a saving grace to develop actual rendering skills. Pretty much, that was it.
The leading premise was that to teach an artist anything concrete would be to destroy their artistic freedom and identity – to make them into a mold. But actually, what this idea mean is that to have an identity means to lose freedom. In fact, if something has no identity, it does not exist.

We are conceptual beings, but to form those concepts and concretize them we need a visualization of them. Something like “Pride” may only be understood when seen on a human face or through some action (like soldiers, going to war). There is an inseparable connection between the tangible and the abstract. Take away the tangible and you “art” is a pile of materials. It is no longer ART. It’s a piece of no good junk. (OK, I may be going overboard here, but I couldn’t resist. I just love calling things a piece of no good junk, especially in a southern accent for added emphasis). It’s true of most of them anyway, if not all. I wouldn’t know because I find them too boring to pay attention to.

Believe it or not, I got my share of hate for my belief. As if that’s gonna stop me. If you want someone who supports modern art you only have the rest of the world to talk to. Don’t take your insecurities in your opinion out on me. ¬† You don’t see me torturing you because of what you believe, right? That’s because I am confident I am right.

Anyway now that this issue has been settled, I’d like to talk some more about something else on my mind.

As my “About” page mentions, I model in order to pay my tuition and living expenses. (By the way, buying any small piece of art off my hands would be SO appreciated).
I’ve had some thoughts about modeling. I absolutely love doing it. It involves standing still in a pose or several poses while a room full of people creates art based off of you.
I realized that what I enjoy about it resembles very much my motivation in making art.
When I am motivated to draw, paint or sculpt, the subconscious, underlying motivation is being able to communicate something to someone. Something which I feel very intensely about and which is unique to me. It’s as if a voice in my mind looks at the subject I want to paint and says to the future viewer: “Look how wonderful it is. See what I mean? See?” and then I am able to show what I mean by emphasizing all the things I see about it through rendering it. The way I would render an expression, or contort or stretch the body, or emphasize a certain light. All those things come together to show a vision, and the satisfaction is from having that vision understood and admired.

Modeling is the same in some regards. Through the way I hold my body I am able to communicate a vision. It is then up to others to interpret it or capture it as they like, but I do my part in describing something. The difference is that in this case the model’s body becomes the medium and he or she are a flesh and blood sculpture of their own vision (in case they decide on the pose). I enjoy this part of the job, which is otherwise physically demanding.

I’m all out of things to say tonight and so I’d like to end the post here.

 

Lastly, I’m happy to announce that I will be giving an interview about my art to The Objective Standard magazine. My deep thanks to Craig Biddle.

 

Wishing you a happy, productive week, and a fun holiday season,

 

Ifat

 

 

Short paintings and thoughts (weekly #23)

Here are the two studies I did this past week. The photos have some glare, but they will have to do for now.

   
Getting back into painting after several months of not painting proves to be challenging. A lot of times it feels like I am learning more about what NOT to do with oil paints rather than what TO do with them.

One important thing I must learn to do is to trust myself and move on once I painted an area. But I also realized that trusting myself must be earned – I cannot simply convince my subconscious to “trust”. If I am sufficiently thorough in my method of painting, trusting will happen, but if I’m not, I will not “trust”.

It is very easy, early in the morning, being tired, to be tempted to mix a paint that is “just close” and say to myself: “I will adjust it later”.
It takes a lot of discipline to slow down, consider the place of a particular area in the painting in relation to the global values and global color scheme.
It is much easier to try to mimic that particular color that you see in that particular instance and move on. But great paintings have that analysis completed before the painter starts painting. This way, every part makes sense as part of a whole color/value scheme and is not just copied.

I think a lot of modern works are more “copied” than arranged around a value/color scheme. They look more photographic, but less harmonic.

I’m afraid that if I will attempt that level of discipline I will go mad, maybe even not be able to retain the complexity, yet I think this is what I need to attempt to do. I know that over time, something that at first appears difficult becomes automatized. It’s just a matter of pushing yourself through the initial difficulty. The effort is worth it because it will make my paintings better in the long run.

During the first week of painting I felt unusual lack of control over the behavior of the paints.

It took me a week to realize that the problem was that I was using only one brush to paint and constantly cleaning it with mineral spirit, which made the paint very runny.
Oy! Everything I tried to apply would instantly get mixed with everything else and it was impossible to assert the power of a new brush stroke.
I was also reminded again how quickly a painting can fall apart when you use the existing paint on the canvas and move it around instead of adding new paint. Oy.
Then I also realized that with a palette that is too light, it is near impossible to distinguish the hues of dark colors. They all look the same – simply dark.
My thoughts dangle between “YES!! I got it! I can succeed!” to “I will never be good at painting. It’s not my thing!”.
My painting¬†schizophrenia¬†ends when I remind myself that I have the right motivation, that I love what I want to create, that I have already accomplished some good paintings and therefore, just to shut the hell up and keep practicing. It usually works after I use some harsh language. ūüôā

Getting sleep also helps with mental stability and calmness and an overall positive approach.
On that note, I will do just that… go get some sleep.

Have a good week and glad to have you as a reader on my blog.
-Ifat

 

 

 

Weekly #20

Due to shortage of time I will only post some of my drawings from the past week, without discussing what’s on my mind.

This week while working from the model I challenged myself to use the model as a looser reference; to draw the gesture but with a different body type than the model’s. I think the idea popped in my mind because the model had great poses that I found very inspiring but she herself was in her 50’s or 60’s and I wanted to draw a younger body. So these drawings are all 20 minute poses and are based on a much older model. I used my knowledge of anatomy to do this. This first one, right bellow, is my favorite.

    

 

Another thing I started working on is creating a drawing from imagination based on general knowledge of anatomy and perspective. This is actually part of my curriculum although I do it on my free time as well. I love drawing from imagination. Love it love it love it.

Here are the preliminary sketches:

Here I started developing the underlying anatomy:

  

There’s something about this pose I really like. It is very powerful with, even, a hint of violence I would say. It looks like even though the figure is holding the stick lightly behind her back with one hand, she could easily swing it around to use it as a weapon. Not that I think that beating up someone with a stick is the ultimate symbol of strength, but I do respect the concept of a warrior. A¬†warrior¬† to me, is someone who fights for their values when they are under attack from others. And let’s face it, in today’s world everything comes with a struggle, with people getting in your way one way or another. Guarding what’s important to you is an important skill, and a stick is but a symbol of that loyalty to one’s self.

In any case, I like it. I like it better than the right-most figure with which I started and in the next two weeks I will develop it some more.

Cheers,

YIf’at

Weekly #19

Working on anatomy mornings and afternoons for the past 3 weeks at my Atelier. Let me show you some of what I’ve done.

More skeleton drawing from the model:

Some block-ins and rendering, just to remind myself those things still exist:

  

And finally, more anatomical drawings, this time building muscles and a skeleton after drawing the figure in a certain pose:

I am working on this one with an anatomy book open beside me, putting on one muscle after another, taking note of their function and appearance in key areas.

And an early stage: Analyzing the perspective of the figure (how the planes and volumes of the figure are oriented in space in relation to the viewer):

 

I find anatomy fascinating. I have such reverence to the human figure and how our bodies work. 3 more weeks of anatomy – the next ones will cover areas of anatomy I know less about. I expect it to be a difficult and interesting learning experience.

Cheers!

YIf’at

P.S. I decided to start spelling my name this way sometimes¬†instead of “Ifat” to help explain its¬†pronunciation.

Weekly #18

This week was more anatomy. This time the exercise went beyond just drawing blocks for the torso and pelvis and got into muscle groups.

We worked from a skeleton and then put muscles on top of the skeleton, and from a live model, trying to figure out where her torso and pelvis would be located and then putting the muscles on top, using knowledge of certain anatomical landmarks.

Here is one example in photos that show the progression:

        

Here is some from a live model:

        

This week we will cover a different muscle area. I think it will be the legs.

Cheers,

-Ifat

First Week of School

I’m back, full time at Georgetown Atelier after a summer break. This is the beginning of my third and final year. I will be painting with a full palette.

Last year was mostly monochromatic – black and white, so having all the colors I need at my disposal will certainly be a big change.

 

Following the curriculum, I spent the first week drawing simplified versions of major anatomical parts as simplified cubes, showing their orientation in space from a skeleton and a live model. It was a mentally demanding exercise. Here is an example of it I found online (Link).


It brings up an interesting point about drawing. What does drawing involve? How is it accomplished? What does the artist think of when drawing – do they simply copy the lines they see?

The answer is no – believe it or not, but copying the lines as you see them will rarely lead to a coherent drawing, even when given a long time to work on it. This is because the lines of the figure (or objects in general) are a result of the volumes that generate them and the angle in which these volumes are viewed, as well as the result of the way the figure is lit. The contour created is complex, and the only way to make the drawing “work” is by considering not just the line in isolation, but the relationship of each line to other lines. For example, when drawing an arm, one must never copy each contour¬†separately, but always consider the other side when drawing one side, or even draw both at the same time. But more is involved – the arm must also make sense with the torso and not appear disconnected from the body. It should have the right length in relation to the body and so on, so while looking at one particular line or object the artist has to simultaneously consider other parts.

As an artist, I was taught to use multiple “lenses” through which I observe the figure (and other objects) that help me convey what I find interesting in a realistic way that also stays true to whatever it is inspires me about the subject.

This way of analyzing the figure as blocks in perspective, is one more “lens” which artists can use to make sense of the figure.

Other lenses are the abstract shape of objects, gesture lines (identifying the overall flow of the figure), planes (analyzing the diferent planes of the figure), value shapes (such as shadow shapes), anatomy, angles, volumes and more.

The more an artist practice, the more they learn to automatically use all these lenses at the same time.

For me, I find that the most important thing is to cling on to an emotional response I have about a certain aspect of the pose and then start the drawing focusing on that part. I would therefore start with the general line of the gesture, or with some part of the contour that I find most essential to the gesture (what I find charming about the gesture), then I would build the volumes while keeping proportions and perspective in the back of my mind, looking for connections of one body part to another through lines that go through the figure and measure angles. Especially angles that play a critical role in the gesture. Many times I would also exaggerate the gesture to make it more expressive of what I like. ?Then, when considering the parts of the contour that are a result of muscles, I consult my knowledge of anatomy.

Anyway… I’ll be returning to my weekly posts starting this week, now that I have more content to post.

This year will include more personal projects, instead of just such that follow the¬†curriculum. My main focus is to learn, with self-expression being a secondary. I don’t think it is actually possible to work and be motivated to work if self expression is completely¬†absent, but my point is, unlike independent practicing artist, I will still not choose my subject matter most of the time and most of the art I produce is an exercise of some sort, in which I am aiming to learn something new. However, I never shut down the door on inspiration and when I find something that inspires me I go for it (sometimes at the expense of focusing on the exercise aspect of when I should be doing), but that’s OK. If I weren’t this way I wouldn’t be an artist now would I…

 

Next update: a week from now.

Cheers,

-Ifat

My weekly post #14

This weeks was a rather frustrating painting experience for me. I hit a road block and spend part of this weekend searching for answers.

The painting I’m working on is of the study I shared in the past 2 weeks. I selected a large canvas for this one so I don’t feel “crammed”, but that turned out to be a bit more than I can swallow for this period of time. I run into a lot of problems. For one, working on a large scale makes it impossible to see the whole picture all at once while working on one particular area, unless you step back.
It is easy to become so involved with the painting process and forget to do it, resulting in a well painted area that does not match the rest of the painting.
Yes, big bummer.

Secondly this size introduced me up close to a problem I was having all year long: the style or method of applying paint.
See, oil paint, is by nature a very “blendy” substance. It is rather easy, in my opinion, to make a seamless smooth transition between two paints on a canvas by smooshing them into one another with a brush. However, that creates a surface that is unnatural since most surfaces in real life are not stiff and perfectly smooth. They have small variations in them. This raises the question, how should one use paint, a might mooshy substance but achieve that slighty rough effect?

Here is a painting by William Adolf Bouguereau, a masterful painter (1825-1905):

(Click to enlarge)

You may think it is perfectly blended, but you’d be wrong. Take a look at this digital model to see how a truly seamless blend looks like (Link to the artist’s Deviant Art page):

It looks like plastic (though in this case it was probably intended).

In contrast look closely at the shadow on the neck in¬†Bouguereau’s painting:

You’d notice that the shadow does not have one color, but actually 2: it seems like the darker one is on top of the lighter one without covering it uniformly. This repeats throughout the entire figure. This is what I want to learn to do. I’m not quite sure how he actually achieved this, but I would guess that he softly scumbled the darker paint on top of the lighter one after the lighter one was dry or nearly dry.

Here is an example of a painting that I find very “smooshy” (by a contemporary artist named¬†David Kassan).

This is what oil paints will naturally do for you if you don’t learn to manipulate them to meet your goal.

Working on a large scale, every patch of skin is huge, making it harder than normal to achieve a play of color throughout. But my little research has helped and I hope to overcome the time pressure and other issues and produce a painting that matches my vision, because this one, I really like and want to see done.

Finally, as I mentioned last week, 2 weeks from now my Atelier will have a graduation party. If you live in the Seattle area, please come and feel free to bring friends and family. It is a very nice event & don’t forget to introduce yourself to me.
Here is an invitation featuring my painting on it!

-Ifat

Current project and thought on Anatomy (weekly #13)

I am now working on the final painting of the year. It is a long, 4 week pose, from a live model, as always.

I showed the color study for it last week:

It is now transferred to a big canvas (linen on wood panel), 18” X 32.5”
Pretty much life-size. I’ve never worked so big before, this should be interesting (or at least, a very humbling¬†experience to go through in the 2 weeks remaining).

This one is my favorite subject matter from the 2 years I’ve been studying at Georgetown Atelier.
A second close would be This one, with a third fourth and fifth for This, This and This.

In fact I like this one so much I already picked a frame for it, which is pretty unusual for me.
If I am satisfied with my painting when I’m done with it, I will be displaying it at my school’s end of the year party, June 30th (in Seattle).
More about this party at the end of the post.

I recently bought an excellent anatomy book by Elliot Goldfinger, which I’m using to study the underlying anatomy for this current pose.

I’ve asked myself yesterday what is the point of studying anatomy? ¬†My initial answer is that I have natural curiosity to understand why something appears the way it is: what’s under the skin that makes the skin look a certain way. Then I thought to myself, “is it really necessary? After all, you can see that there is a bump here, skin fold there – is it really important to know what’s under it to be able to describe it?” And I answered myself “yes”. Because knowing the underlying elements (muscles and bones) help the artist see connections that he wouldn’t otherwise notice, as well as allowing him to notice subtle yet important changes in the skin’s curvature because knowing that a muscle is there helps the artist know to look for it via value difference or something like that.

For example, look at a shoulder:

For someone who doesn’t know anatomy, it would be mighty intuitive to describe it like this:

Then, if they had to replicate that line from memory it might look something like this:

Yes. The notorious Mr. Noodleman.

However, the shoulder area is composed of several main structures which give it a more specific form:

The spine of the scapula, to which the deltoid muscle is attached, and the trapezius muscle, which forms that diagonal shoulder line coming out of the neck. If one looks closely, there is an angle break where I drew the arrow, between the trapezius and the deltoid (link to illustrate).

This is so subtle and can easily be missed without knowing that it’s there. And once you know it’s there, you can no longer draw noodleman anymore, because you know that that curve should be broken down into more segments than 1. ūüôā

The more I know anatomy, the more it will free me to be able to work from imagination and the faster I can draw and focus on more important things, like what inspires me about a subject.
I don’t mean “knowing anatomy” in the sense of memorizing every bone and muscle under the skin, but rather knowing practical anatomy – practical for artists, that is, not for doctors.

 

Now a bit about where I’m at with my education: I am now finishing my second year of training, after which I will have one more year to go.
I study at Georgetown Atelier in Seattle.
Next year I will be the senior student and the only one in my year, painting in full palette.
Other than me there will be two more painters in the school, which are just starting out and the rest of the students (9 of them) will be drawing.
I am a little nervous about that. Up until this point I always had more senior students to consult and learn from, but no more.
All 6 of them will be graduating in 2 weeks after 3 years of hard work.

Our graduation party showing everyone’s work, including mine, will be held at the school, on June 30th, 5-9pm.
It will have lots of art, music, refreshments, people and a really neat ” busy art studio” environment.
If you are in the area I would be happy to meet you and show you around, everyone are invited to the party and I will be very happy to see anyone who has interest in my art. Feel free to invite whoever you’d like. Here is the event on Facebook: Link. I would be delighted to see you there.

-Ifat


 

 

 

My finished portrait painting (weekly #10)

Friday I finished my 4-week painting. Here is a picture of it that I took with my cellphone:

(Click to Enlarge)

I’ll post a high quality picture after the painting is dry enough to varnish (which revives the color and reveals finer details).

I had fun painting this one.
Because of the subject, I felt comfortable painting more loosely than I usually do. The reason for that was that an unblended brush stroke would end up looking like a wrinkle in the skin and stay true to the subject.

This means that I did not make an effort to blend brush strokes into existing paint on the canvas and just let them sit on top. Another aspect of this is that I built up my paint in layers working wet into wet. So, suppose I wanted to paint the feather, for example, first I would put the background, then I would put the colors of the halo of the feather (I wanted it to have a bluish halo), then I put some dark brown, which is the average dark part of the feather and finally built up the lighter paints on top, letting them sit there without blending them into the canvas.

I will try to continue the same method of working on the next long pose – we will have a young woman.

 

I find that I really like finding similarities among objects, as much as I like finding the differences. I may think of the structural separation between the nose and the cheek, but then find that they are similar in value because the light is hitting them both equally, creating very little separation between the two planes. It is a challenge to describe the differences and the similarity at the same time. I enjoy this challenge and I am curious to see to what balance I would eventually arrive to in my style of painting.
Finding differences is more of my natural inclination and I hope the balance will end up being more on the “similarity” side.

For a reason I don’t yet know,¬†subconsciously, I think of being “true to what I see” primarily as being able to find distinction between things rather than similarity. I think that deep down inside, I think that it is the separation from other entities that gives something its identity, even though its similarity to other entities is part of identity just the same. For example, an apple is an apple because it is different than a banana (it’s green, firm etc’), but also because it is similar to a banana (it’s sweet,¬†edible¬†etc’).

Or to pick an example that relates to painting: An object in a bright light is distinct from a neighboring object in the light (they have different shapes and colors), but they are similar in that they are both in the light. The question is, which should takes precedence when painting them – The similarity or the difference?

My answer is: It depends on what the theme of the piece is (I think of it as the “actual subject”, as oppose to the subject matter, which is a different thing). If these are just background objects to the “actual subject”, then it is better to describe them as just “things that have bright light hitting them” and play on their similarity. If these are the actual subject, though, it would be better to emphasize their difference.

The challenge is, then, not to obsess over any particular object and describe it to perfection if it is not the “actual subject” of your piece. This sort of obsessing is easy to do, since when painting it, it is the center of the artist visual focus (Last week I quoted my instructor about this).
I think the key to avoiding the error of over describing something is to keep in mind the actual subject of your artwork at all times. This is achieved by staying emotionally connected to what it is you find appealing in the painting you are creating at all times.

I am discussing this a little too soon, though. I am still an art student and what I create are studies, not art in the full sense. I learn to see and describe value, color, paint handling and so on. As such, they don’t necessarily have an “actual subject” – not a subject I chose and not one I am necessarily emotionally attached to. This is OK, this is the way a school should work, in my opinion, since the primary focus should be technical.

Next year, which will be my final year, I plan to work on a project that would involve more of working from imagination and putting a figure in an environment. That project will be one where I will apply the above thinking more.

Have a good week and I appreciate your interest,

-Ifat