Umbrian Plein Air Workshop

Trevi Umbrian Plein Air Workshop

View of Trevi from the Bed and Breakfast.

I’ve posted the dates and location for the first of two plein air workshops I hope to do this June. The area around the town of Trevi in Southern Umbria really amazed me for it’s picturesqueness when I was in Spoleto a few years back. I’ve been back a couple of times since then to scout the place out and I feel it has incredible potential for a plein air painting location.

The town is also quite beautiful and without much traffic, if the group is interested in cityscapes.

Trevi2 Umbrian Plein Air Workshop

Picture taken in the center of Trevi this September.

For more information, head over to the courses page.

Dog Portrait

emma Dog Portrait

Emma. Portrait of the Artist's Dog. Oil on linen, 40 x 35 in, 2010.

For Valentines day (and our anniversary), my wife wanted a portrait of our dog, Emma. I’ve tried to paint her from life a couple of times but she tends to curl up into a little black ball and generally resists any attempt of mine to keep her looking even slightly picturesque. The other day I was photographing paintings in the studio though, and she hopped on a little stool next to me and struck different poses for about 5 minutes.

The dog was painted from the photo, and the background was painted from life. The sketches behind her are mostly from our neighborhood where she goes walking everyday.

Luckily my wife was pleased. In my experience, people are often much harsher critics of a likeness when it comes to portraits of dogs than of people.

Winter Sketches

I’ve been slacking on the blog, I know. But it’s because I have a few long posts I’m working on which require lots of research and learning on my part, and I’m crazy busy at the moment preparing for shows this year. In the meantime here are a few more plein air sketches from winter in Florence. These were painted with a set of M. Graham oil paints which I have been trying out:

P1040249 Winter Sketches

Corsini Garden in the Snow. 12 x 8 in, oil on panel.

P1040252 Winter Sketches

Piazza Demidoff in the Snow. 8 x 10 in, oil on panel.

P1040255 Winter Sketches

Christmas Lights on via dei Servi. 10 x 8 in.

P1040258 Winter Sketches

German Market in Piazza Santa Croce. 10 x 14 in, oil on panel.

P1040260 Winter Sketches

Boboli Sketch. 12 x 8 in, oil on panel.

Studio Lighting Part II – Artificial Light

artificiallight Studio Lighting Part II   Artificial Light

Our fake north-light window.

On the shortest day of the year, I thought it would be fitting to do a post about using an artificial (or electric, artificial sounds so pejorative) lighting setup for studio painting.

For many years I would only work under natural light, but I was losing so much painting time in the winters that I needed to do something. As I was used to painting with a north facing window, the solution for me was to create a fake north-lit window.

For our studio lighting setup, we built a light box with 3 florescent tubes of different temperatures  (4500K, 5500K, and 6000K) and covered the studio side of the box with tracing paper to diffuse the light. At the moment though the light is too yellow, so I would like to switch out the 4500 and 5500K bulbs with 6500K ones. When the light is too yellow, it makes it harder to see yellows while you’re painting (and any color mixed with yellow, i.e. greens and oranges) so for the time being I try to avoid working on areas that require those colors under our light box. For more information on specific bulb brands check out Steve Kim’s great blog post on the subject.

Eventually I will also swap out the tracing paper for a Barrisol membrane to diffuse the light.

The box rolls on a track in front of our real window so we can move it over our natural light source in the evenings to keep working without any change in the shadow pattern. At the moment it is installed a bit too low, next time I have access to scaffolding we need to raise it a few feet.

Another trick I use to paint in the evenings is just to use the clip-on desk light attached to my easel so that my canvas, palette and reference sketches are lit with a blue daylight bulb, and then use a projector in the darkened studio to project a photograph to work from.

While working from artificial light is never ideal, this is the best studio lighting setup I’ve come across.

(Part one was a post on using natural light).

Recent Cityscapes

Here are a few recent cityscapes around the Oltrarno (the south side of the river in Florence). Painted with my little cigar box set-up.
(Update: Here are a few more)
via romana Recent Cityscapes

San Felice in Piazza. 14 x 16 in. Oil on panel.

presso di san martino Recent Cityscapes

Scaffolding on Borgo Tegolaio. 12 x 8 in. Oil on panel.

della chiesa Recent Cityscapes

Via della Chiesa. 10 x 14 in. oil on panel

via del campuccio1 390x600 Recent Cityscapes

Via del Campuccio. 12 x 8 in. Oil on Panel.

via del campuccio2 429x600 Recent Cityscapes

Torrigiani Garden Wall. 16 x 12 in. Oil on panel.

P1040251 Recent Cityscapes

Can't remember the name of this street. 12 x 8 in, oil on panel.

P1040256 Recent Cityscapes

Porta San Miniato. 8 x 10 in, oil on panel.

P1040257 Recent Cityscapes

Via del Canneto. 10 x 14 in, oil on panel.

What’s in a Name?

The Contemporary Florentine Realism exhibition received some criticism for the title. Some of the participating painters objected to the term ‘realism’ and on the Rational Painting forums the title sparked a thread questioning the need to use the word ‘contemporary’. Granted I did not spend a great deal of time thinking of the name. I just needed to come up with an all-inclusive title to describe what we do in the least offensive manner to all parties. Sometimes talking with other realists reminds me of what some wise man once said: ‘there is no greater cause for ferocious argument than a subtle difference between two abstract ideas’ (along those lines anyways, I can’t find the quote).

Most art movements were given their appellations long after the fact but in today’s soundbite-driven world, we should probably have a catchy name. Its interesting to think that some art movement names were originally insults, such as Baroque, Macchiaoli or Fauvism. Odd Nerdrum has been going for this approach by adopting ‘Kitsch’ to describe his painting, you can read his ideas on the subject on his website.

When I was studying, Classical Realism was the blanket denomination for traditional painting. It always seemed too ivory-tower to me, however, as many of my favorite artists are painting very modern subjects albeit with traditional methods and much of the plein air work I admire has nothing really ‘classical’ about it.

‘Slow Art Florence’ was an early choice for the show’s title, especially as the Slow Food movement it pilfers the name from is very popular here. Greg Hedberg has already used ‘Slow Painting’ for his show at the Oglethorpe University Museum in 2006 (Aristos had an interesting critique of the name here). Though it’s a good idea, a quick google search for ‘Slow Art’ turns up a lot of stuff that has nothing to do with this show, and I paint pretty fast anyways.

Two of the best ideas for a title were from the Rational Painting forums. The first was Graydon Parish‘s ‘Post-Contemporary’ art, since the word has already been corrupted to mean a style and not a time. The other was Mark Diederichsen‘s ‘Reconstructionism’, a play on Derrida’s Deconstructionism which has influenced so much of Postmodernism. Unfortunately, once again, a quick browse through google turns up exhibitions of Post-Contemporary art (which appear to just be more of the same), and Reconstructionism is already a hard-core Christian movement advocating a return to Mosaic law.

Back to the drawing board. If anyone has suggestions, post them in the comments please.

Update: For the time being I’m using ‘Post-contemporary’ for the show title on the door, I find it too amusing to pass on.

Spam Filter Problems

Gmail’s spam filter has become over-zealous of late and is sending lots of real emails to the trash (including family and gallerists who I would never mark as spam). I’m aware of the problem now and have been digging through the muck to find your unanswered emails.

Just so you know I’m not ignoring people and will get around to replying very soon.

Contemporary Florentine Realism

Mia madre 349x600 Contemporary Florentine Realism

Mia Madre by Elena Arcangeli.

Tomorrow is the vernissage for the first show I’ve ever ‘curated’ (I actually chose the artists, but not necessarily the pieces). There is a lot of excellent work on display from the teachers and alumni of the three traditional painting schools here: The Angel Academy of Art, Charles H. Cecil Studios, and the Florence Academy of Art.

The opening will be from 6 to 8pm at the Cami Gallery so if you’re in the neighborhood please stop by. The address is via della Condotta 36r:

Here are some images from the show:

Update: Here is a very short time-lapse film of the evening, you can use pause to see frames individually (sorry for the lazy photography, but I didn’t want to run around with a camera all night).

Painting the Fall Landscape

inness early autumn Painting the Fall Landscape

George Inness. Early Autumn, Montclair. 1891.

It’s that time of year again.  Days are shorter, the rain is back, and the trees have all gone garish reds and yellows.  I’m not a big fan of Autumn landscapes, but as I still have to paint outside, I  thought I’d try to find some inspirational paintings to help me along. Inness was probably the greatest painter of fall, and by the sheer amount of scenes he did this time of year, it would appear he really enjoyed it.

inness early autumn2 Painting the Fall Landscape

George Inness. Early Autumn, Montclair. 1888.

The problem I have with painting fall scenes is that is very easy to end up looking like a Sierra Club calendar (no offense to the Sierra Club) in the sense that the views can be too beautiful. A story I often tell my students is about the time I watched dolphins jumping in the Pacific at sunset,  a stunning thing to see, and very moving, but under no circumstances would I ever recommend anyone try to make a painting of dolphins jumping at sunset. Some things can be inspiring and beautiful without being remotely picturesque and it is part of the landscape painter’s job to decide which is which.

Here are a couple of Levitans as well:

isaaklevitan5 Painting the Fall Landscape

Isaac Levitan. On the Volga. 1887-88.

golden autumn Painting the Fall Landscape

Isaac Levitan. Golden Autumn, 1895.

If anyone has more good Autumn landscape paintings to recommend, I’d love to see them.

The Fourth Dimension

I recently got a new DSLR camera capable of filming in 1080/24p full-HD (a Panasonic Lumix GH1 The Fourth Dimension) for some video projects I want to do. Having never filmed anything before (and I’ve only owned a regular camera for a couple of years), I’ve been using the forums over at DVXuser and youtube tutorials to learn a bit about shooting and editing the footage after.

Here is a road trip made last week with Leo Mancini-Hresko and Joe Altwer to find where Corot painted his ‘Bridge at Narni‘ in southern Umbria.

My hope is to start using video to do tutorials, so stay tuned.