Saturday, September 29, 2012

Zorn Palette

As mentioned in my previous post, I'll be teaching an oil painting class at the Watts Atelier next semester beginning Oct. 8. The class focuses on three limited color palettes: Burnt Umber, Zorn Palette and Warm/Cool. Here are a couple studies from models I did this week using the Zorn Palette, which consists of Titanium White, Ivory Black, Cad Red Light (traditionally Vermillion) and Yellow Ochre. It always amazes me how flexible this palette can be and what a wide range of color effects you can achieve. I was able to accurately capture two models with very different complexions and hair colors. And, of course, the effect of doing a limited palette painting is that the work ends up being more tonally strong along with a better sense of atmosphere unity since there are no strong vibrant colors that take over.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

New 10 Week Oil Painting Class

I will be teaching a class next semester at the Watts Atelier, in Encinitas, CA, beginning Monday Oct. 8. It will be "Portrait in Oil: 3 Palettes". The class will run for 10 weeks from 7pm to 10pm. Here is the official course description:

The focus will be on a direct approach to painting the male and female portrait from life. We will work on application, indication and manipulation of edge, value and ultimately color to indicate the head in oil. This class will focus on three different palettes. Students will start with Burnt Umber Pickout, which is a monochromatic approach. We will then move into color using a four color limited palette know as the "Zorn" palette. For our third palette the students will then explore a full Warm and Cool Primary palette. Frequent instructor demonstrations and critiques are routine.

If you are a seasoned painter and want to start painting at a higher level, or if you are just starting out, working with very limited palettes is a great technique to learn to handle the complexities of oil paint while focusing your attention first on shape design, edges and values, rather than color. The first three weeks deal with burnt umber pickout, where there is only one pigment used along with turp/mineral spirits. Burnt umber pickout painting is a great bridge between drawing and painting, being more similar to charcoal drawing than alla prima painting.

Soon I will post some Zorn palette and Warm/Cool palette paintings. But for now, here are a couple recent burnt umber pickout studies I created from photos. Sign up today at the Watts Atelier website!

Monday, September 3, 2012

A couple new head studies

I recently joined the California Art Club and participated in a local paint out. We had a model named Briana who reclined on a cushioned table top as several of us set up our easels 360 degrees around her. I was toward the feet end of the table and wondered how I would do with my first greatly foreshortened head painting. I spent a good deal of time blocking in the head and features with a thin brush before starting to paint, and I'm glad I did. The pose was rather challenging, but I am pretty happy with the outcome. Even though I didn't have time to finish the hands and arms. This is on a New Traditions Panel with the L219 linen. The size is 12 x 16"

And here is a quick portrait study of a man from this year's Gaslight Gathering in San Diego, a local steampunk costume convention. I have several other photos from the Gathering which I hope to paint from. This is on a New Traditons Art Panel with the Claessen's 12 surface. 12 x 16".

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

This is a 3 hour oil study from a model under a soft light box simulating north lighting -- the final painting from Jeff Watts' lighting situation class This is on an 11 x 14" Fredrix pre-made oil primed panel that I wanted to try. I did not care for the weave of the canvas or how the paint handled. It was too difficult to move around. Nonetheless I am happy with the portrait overall.

Friday, June 29, 2012


I thought I would post some of my hand studies from a class I took several years ago with Jeff Watts. We didn't focus on anatomy so much as just jumping right in doing studies from photos and the old masters' before ending the semester by working from a live hand model. Hands can be difficult, but they don't have to be if you take the right approach and keep focused. I learned two basic approaches to painting hands: The classic/Rockwell style which used a more detailed line drawing to begin the painting, or the alla prima method favored by Sargent and Fechin, which was more of a tonal block-in approach where you paint colors and shapes and refine them as you go. I ended up preferring the second alla prima method. It was more enjoyable and I liked the results of those types of paintings better.

As I focus more on portrait painting, I need to remember the foundation lessons from my early training, like these studies below.

After Sargent and Bridgman


From photos

Quick paintings from a live model

Friday, June 22, 2012


This is a little study I did from a photo of a friend's daughter. I hope he doesn't mind! 9 x 12" Fredrix oil primed linen panel.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Here are a few new paintings from my extreme lighting portrait class at the Watts Atelier.

2.5 hours  12 x 16" on gessoed panel under blue lighting

2.5 hours  12 x 16" on gessoed panel under red and green lighting

40 minute gesture painting on 8 x 10" gessoed panel under white and blue lighting

Another 40 minute gesture painting on 8 x 10" gessoed panel under white and red lighting

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A quick time lapse of a portrait

Here is a little time lapse movie I made using still shots I took while working on the portrait I posted last week. Click the YouTube logo to find the high res version.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Extreme Lighting

I'm currently taking a class at the Watts Atelier taught by Jeff Watts in head painting with an emphasis on unusual lighting situations. There's a new model every week where the lighting is drastically different or theatrical. Each study had been a fantastic exercise in helping me break out of formulaic approaches to head painting. When there's a shadow running down the middle of the face, extreme backlighting or colored lights it compels me to take a fresh approach to not only mixing colors for the flesh tones, but how I build up the forms and how to balance halftones with shadows and highlights. Here's a couple 2.5 hour studies from this class.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Recent Commission

I just handed over my latest client portrait. This was commissioned as a gift for his daughter-in-law as a birthday surprise. She lives out of state, so they had a professional photographer shoot her in studio without telling her why she was having her photos taken. The client and I were then able to work together to choose the right piece of reference from the proofs (a funny side note: the photographer did a bunch of filtering and softening of the hi-res photo to compliment the model's beauty, which is what she normally does for clients. But it erased nearly every bit of surface texture and subtle plane change on the face, so I had to ask for a raw untouched photo, which I did get.).

I painted this on one of the New Traditions Art Panels that I mentioned in my last post. It was a very smooth linen with an almost undetectable grain. That made this piece very easy to photograph without capturing a bunch of little reflections off the surface.

This is 16 x 20 inches.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Small Head Studies

I recently bought a sample pack of New Traditions Art Panels to try out some different surfaces. New Traditions makes fine art canvas panels which can be ordered with a wide range of linens and canvases mounted to them. Since this was my first time ordering from them, I opted for the pack of six different canvas types at a size of 8 x 10" to take each one for a test drive with a small head study. They range from very smooth to very coarse. I really liked almost all of the surfaces, but my favorites were probably the A600 surface and the C15 surface. Both of those are acrylic primed linens.

For the past five years, I have been painting on nothing but smooth oil primed linens like Claessens 13 and Raphael's portrait linen. And I have gotten very used to the ultra smooth slickness of those surfaces. So these New Traditions acrylic primed surfaces were a surprisingly nice change of texture. I've been wanting to loosen up my finished style more lately, and rougher acrylic linens allow for a bit more flexibility because the tooth of the canvas holds onto paint a little more strongly, and I can do more effects like finger swiping, blending and thick impasto strokes at any point during the painting.

Smooth oil primed linens like Raphael's and Claessens oil primed surfaces are a bit more temperamental and require more layering and drying before being able to gracefully smooth out an area. If you brush too hard or try to swipe with your finger, you tend to rub off all the paint back to the original white of the canvas. But these NT panels were a little more friendly to me in that respect.

Check out New Traditions Art Panels here.

Anyways, here are a few of my recent 8 x 10" studies on the NT panels. I spent about 2 hours on each one.

Friday, May 4, 2012


People are probably my favorite subject to paint. I love still life and plein air landscapes, of course. But nothing comes close to the challenge of capturing a likeness in a portrait while still creating a dynamic composition with an instant appeal and impact that makes the viewer want to simultaneously step forward for a closer look while also wanting to stand back to take in the whole effect. That's what I love most about viewing good portrait art by the likes of Sargent, Zorn, deLaszlo, Lipking, Schmid and many others.

I will endeavor to keep this blog updated frequently with my latest works: formal portraits, informal studies, still lifes, landscapes, sketches or whatever else peaks my interest.