Art Videos on Youtube (and TED)

I’ve been meaning to post this for a while. Here are a couple of excellent art-related videos on Youtube.

Vilayanur Ramachandran on Neurobiology and Aesthetics (Skip to 21m:45s):

Roger Scruton on Beauty (6 parts):

Denis Dutton: A Darwinian theory of beauty:

There is a great wealth of information online these days, but so much of it is hard to find. If anyone else has recommendations, please post them in the comments.

Boom, Headshot

I don’t often post portraits on the blog as the commissions don’t get posted and I rarely paint models anymore. Here is a 6-shot head painted while teaching a short course in my studio.

tania Boom, Headshot

One thing I’ve often found interesting as a portraitist is how some people are more beautiful when they move, and others just glow when they are still.

Update: Here’s another. This one was just a couple of hours.

P1040564 Boom, Headshot

Plein Air London

Here are some sketches from my trip to London. The weather was great the first few days but then got brutally cold (at least it was if you were standing outside in the wind and rain for hours at a time).

st margarets Plein Air London

St Margaret’s Church. 12 x 8 in., oil on panel.

battersea Plein Air London

Battersea Power Station. 8 x 12 in., oil on dibond.

It was a very productive trip nonetheless, and I was helped greatly by painting with two fine plein air painters, David Bachmann and Roy Connelly, who knew the turf inside and out.

hungerford Plein Air London

The Thames from Hungerford Bridge. 14 x 11 in., oil on dibond.

trafalgar square Plein Air London

Trafalgar Square Lions. 6 x 8 in., oil on panel.

trafalgar lions Plein Air London

Trafalgar Square Lions. 11 x 14 in., oil on panel.

I really liked the lion statues in Trafalgar Square, though painting there after 10am was difficult with the crowds.

I didn’t have time to see any museums, and a great regret was missing the Edward Seago centenary in March as I’m a huge fan of his plein air work.

Landscape Drawings

Something that is not discussed often enough in plein air landscape painting is the importance of landscape drawing.  Looking through books on Corot or Levitan, you will see pencil, chalk, or ink sketches for nearly every painting they did, and a lot of landscape drawings that never became paintings. The Uffizi gallery in Florence has a large collection of landscape drawings. They used to allow people to copy directly from the original drawings for every artist except the major Italian Renaissance painters. I spent hours copying Corot’s landscape drawings as a student.

venice2 Landscape Drawings

San Gorgio Maggiore from the Società dei Canottieri, Venice.

Often when I travel I’ll spend the first few days just going around with a sketchbook and pencil to scout out places to paint later. It is obviously much easier to move around, but I also find drawing the landscapes first helps me work out the compositions and also makes it quicker when I paint the subject later, having already done the drawing once.

morocco1 Landscape Drawings

A page from my Moroccan Sketchbook. Palm trees in Marrakech and the Fort at Essaouira.

The sketchbooks are also fun to look back over years later as many of the paintings are long gone (or were never painted to begin with).

For larger work I will often do multiple sketches as well as small thumbnails to try to figure out the best balance for the final composition. Since I can’t trust the perspective from photographs, drawings are a much better source for large studio landscapes.

sosta del papa2 Landscape Drawings

Sketch for Sosta del Papa (over two pages in my sketchbook).

battersea Landscape Drawings

Battersea Power Station, London.

My favorite sketchbooks for landscape drawings are the 112 page, 8 x 11 inch Kusnt and Papier hardbound sketchbooks, I usually get them at New York Central Art Supply. I like the paper they use, they’re very durable, and the small amount of pages make the books very light and portable. The pocket-sized, blank-page Moleskines are good too. I use a kneaded eraser, any brand of HB pencil, and a small plastic retractable x-acto knife to sharpen it. Having a long, tapered, insanely sharp pencil lead is the trick to getting drawings to look decent (and lots of practice, of course).

Big Sur and the Failure of Sight-Size

Here a few of the sketches from Big Sur this week. Local painter Mark Farina showed me Garrapata Beach where I ended up painting a number of pieces (Garrapata means ‘tick’ in Spanish which is rather ironic since I spend most of my summers trying to avoid Lyme disease on Shelter Island).

garrapata Big Sur and the Failure of Sight Size

Garrapata Cliffs. Oil on linen. 14 x 10 in.

garrapata morning Big Sur and the Failure of Sight Size

Morning, Garrapata. Oil on linen, 10 x 14 in.

Big Sur has huge views. To get a decent composition you often need to capture about a 90 degree viewing angle, which is impossible to paint on a small panel using sight-size, even with one’s nose pressed up against it. Most sketches I do on small panels occupy about 30 to 50 degrees of my field of view (normal human filed of view is 160 to 200 degrees), and sight-size works perfectly in those instances.

garrapata surf Big Sur and the Failure of Sight Size

Garrapata Surf. Oil on linen, 8 x 12 in.

To sight-size a 90 degree field of view would require about a 6 foot canvas to work on at a comfortable distance which, in high winds coming off the Pacific, would lead to a whole ‘nother set of logistical problems.

The following two sketches of Pfeiffer Beach, for example, completely fail to capture the grandeur of the scenery.

pfeiffer beach Big Sur and the Failure of Sight Size

Pfeiffer Beach #1. Oil on linen, 10 x 14 in.

pfeiffer beach2 Big Sur and the Failure of Sight Size

Pfeiffer Beach #2. Oil on linen, 8 x 12 in.

That last one especially would have been the guest of honor at the after-painting turps party, if it wasn’t for plan B: I’ve been doing detailed drawings at all these spots to figure out compositions and hopefully, between that, the color sketches, and reference photos, I’ll be able to make something of them in the studio.

In the meantime, I’m back to focusing on smaller views.

monastery beach Big Sur and the Failure of Sight Size

Monastery Beach. Oil on linen, 10 x 14 in.

point lobos Big Sur and the Failure of Sight Size

Point Lobos Sketch. Oil on linen, 10 x 14 in.

I’m using very the very nice (and expensive) Classens-mounted-on-dibond panels from New Traditions, and a mix of M Graham, Old Holland, and Williamsburg colors. I find that some colors are better than others across brands.

Carteret County, North Carolina

missgina Carteret County, North Carolina

Miss Gina. 14 x 11 in, oil on panel.

These are some of the sketches from my week in North Carolina. One of the more picturesque spots I’ve been to recently and some of the nicest people on the planet. I had great weather and was very fortunate to have an excellent guide of the area with the local talent, Jimmy Craig Womble. We also had two great plein air painters from Tennessee Kevin Menck (who has one of the more entertaining blogs out there) and Jason Saunders paint with us for the first few days.

atlantic4 Carteret County, North Carolina

Atlantic, NC. 8 x 12 in, oil on panel.

beauford2 Carteret County, North Carolina

Beaufort Sunset. 8 x 12 in, oil on panel.

elise9 Carteret County, North Carolina

Elise 9. 6 x 8 in, oil on panel.

redneckyachtclub Carteret County, North Carolina

Red Neck Yacht Club (I'm not being derogatory, that's the name of the boat). 6 x 8 in, oil on panel.

We were talking one evening about great places to paint, and I mentioned that in Morocco the locals will bring you mint tea whenever they see you painting. At the above spot in Atlantic, the locals gave Kevin Menck a bushel of oysters when they saw him painting their boats.

boatlift3 Carteret County, North Carolina

Boat Lifts, Marshallberg. 6 x 8 in, oil on panel.

shrimper2 Carteret County, North Carolina

Shrimper, Radio Island. 11 x 14 in, oil on panel.

I was hosted wonderfully by Lee Dellinger and her husband Charles Jones and the paintings will be on exhibit (as soon as I can get frames sent over) in their galleries, Carteret Contemporary Art and Vision Gallery.

joeysboats Carteret County, North Carolina

Joey's Boats. 8 x 12 in, oil on panel.

worldtraveller2 Carteret County, North Carolina

The World Traveler. 8 x 12 in, oil on panel.

The Two Galleries also have a blog with some action shots of the plein air group.

(Update: I was listening to OCMS while painting for much of the trip, so I thought I’d throw in a plug for them).

Il Giardino Italiano

annlongevite 700x571 Il Giardino Italiano

There is a reception this evening (Thursday, March 4) for my small solo exhibition at Ann Long Fine Art in Charleston, South Carolina. The show is called Il Giardino Italiano and it is based on a series of sketches I did for a commissioned piece last summer in Florence, as well as a few paintings from my September trip to lake Como. If you’re in the Charleston area stop by for a martini.

After the show, I’ll be in the U.S. for a month painting landscapes in North Carolina and California so my blogging schedule could be erratic.

Oltrarno Exhibition

oltrarno Oltrarno Exhibition

I’ll be having another exhibition for charity next week at the Osteria di Santo Spirito. The paintings are all sketches from this winter painted in the Oltrarno of Florence and a portion of the proceeds will go to the Amici di Santo Spirito association. The opening reception will be on Thursday, February 25th from 6 to 9 pm. You can see some of the work here.

Artists for Africa

pokot hut Artists for Africa

A Pokot Hut. 25 cm x 30 cm, oil on linen.

I have a couple of small pieces in a charity show in London called ‘Artists for Africa’. The exhibition opens on the 23rd of February at the Oakham Gallery in St. Jame’s (27 Bury Street, London SW1). For more information on the Friends of Africa charity, visit their website. The reception is on the 23rd from 6:30 to 8 pm (I won’t be making it though, too much work here at the moment).