Sunday eggs

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Last Sunday I found a little time to paint in between chores. My kitchen window faces north which provides lovely soft, white light on my kitchen counter. Every still life I’ve painted lately has started with me looking down at some food on my kitchen counter, bathed in that light.

There’s something there for me - looking at a single thing on the counter in the light. Maybe something about focus or domestic peace; Not sure. But I keep coming back to it.

I think these eggs will become raw material for another web painting I have brewing in the back of my mind. But for now they’re just eggs.

I found a nice trick for making perfect circles in Procreate. The app has several “airbrush” style brushes. They have hard and soft edges, really similar to the default brushes in Photoshop actually. There is one very large, very hard brush. I simply set the brush size to the size of the circle I need and tap the screen once (with a little pen pressure) and boop! A perfect circle.

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On Instagram someone commented about the chip in the side of the bowl being a nice detail. Of course I chose the bowl with the chip. I spent a few minutes rotating that bowl around so the chip caught the light just so and then sloshing the eggs around so they were in the right spot. That little imperfection seemed to ground the thing in reality, breaking up the perfect roundness of the bowl and the eggs.

Sunday portrait study

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I was a tiny bit worried last week. I got an email from the chap who organizes my Thursday night figure drawing sessions. He was emailing the group to see if anyone wanted to take over wrangling models as he couldn’t afford the time and the previous person needed to step down. Oh no! How would I get my practice in now? I’m in the same boat as most of the folks who come to these drawing sessions, I have a job, and a commute, and precious little free time. So I was of no use to help.

I went online and found some inexpensive stock photo resources for artists. A lot of the available poses are…dumb. Theatrical or overwrought. But I did find a few good portrait references. Now I can keep up my practice.

A couple of days later another email arrived and model wrangling had been solved. Figure drawing Thursdays are back on, starting in February. Lucky me.

I think portraits are some of the best practice you can get for drawing and painting. It’s immediately apparent when any thing is wrong or even just a little off. It’s difficult to capture a likeness, it’s difficult to capture light on skin. Faces have complex topology and heads are just shaped funny. When the results are good, though, they can be magical. You begin to empathize with the person in the picture, to connect with them as if they are real.

Here, this woman looks down and to her left. The pose and lighting suggest getting up early, before the sun, sitting in the light from a single lamp on a night stand.

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I learned, or re-learned, or remembered, recently that value - the light to dark - is more critical than color for creating an image that feels solid and real. After creating a thorough enough sketch to map out the geometry of the model, I focused entirely on value, painting entirely in greyscale. Then I came back and painted in color on top. This is a very old fashioned method but it applies just as well to digital painting.

Painting, underpainting, and drawing

Painting, underpainting, and drawing

Little Overripe

Painted with Procreate for iPad Pro

Painted with Procreate for iPad Pro

Tech notes

Littleoverripe.com is a web painting written with current web standards. Naturally, therefore, this painting will not work in Microsoft Internet Explorer or Edge. I don’t care. It should work on all current major browsers on most devices.

About

I keep coming back to this idea that an artworks are slabs of time. I think this is particularly true of paintings, but it works for websites, sculptures, or anything really.

A raw, unprocessed, unedited photograph might capture 1/16 of a second of time between the open and close of the shutter. There might be hours of time in post processing and editing. A photograph still reads as an instant. The time involved gets flattened out. I think this is why we pore over thousands of Snaps and Instagrams instead of looking at a single photo for very long.

But an artwork that is made over time - paint, pixels, whatever - carries with it a record of it’s own history. We can see that the author was there doing something for some amount of time. We can feel the weight of that time when we view art. I think that expenditure of our only real resource - time - is what imbues art with its intrinsic value.

Arthur Danto, in “What Art Is“, defines a work of art as embodied meaning - art is about something. But art is also made out of something, and ultimately, when you strip away all the material, art is made of time. Time invested in learning media and technique, time in observing and understanding the subject matter, and time involved in execution. If I wanted to stretch that definition, I might include the compound time of an artwork’s audience.

“Little Overripe” began as a quick reference photo I took while making lunch. It was December 23rd, right before we left town for Christmas. We made tacos. I sliced up avocados. The light was cool and white from the north. I love painting avocados. I could make a career of it.

These particular avocados were still ripe, just beginning to turn, black spots emerging from the yellow-green flesh here and there. These fruits were very temporary. I sat with the reference photo for nearly a month until I had a solid day to work on something. I had Martin Luther King Day off from work, so I took advantage of the time to make art.

I beamed the reference photo over to my television and painted from the couch on my iPad. I recorded and saved a time lapse movie of my painting, as well as a couple of early, sketches. When painting on the iPad I’ve taken to creating a “palette” right on the picture where I can easily grab a color without leaving my work to poke around in a drop-down menu. I dissected the layers of the painting into on my laptop and assembled the website in ReactJS. I included the video, the palette, and sketches in the final composition. I realized I was creating a painting which acknowledged it’s own history. Because it’s a digital web-painting I can include an element of time. The painting’s own history lurks in its background. This work became about capturing a moment (and a mood) and then capturing the moments which lead to capturing the moment.

Also avocados are fun to paint.