Bones instead of blocks

Speaking of nude descending stairs, I appreciate how the artist retained the movement and overall feel, yet kept it a cubist experience. Trying to do same with leaning pose, movement replaced by weight–do we perceive certain colors as heavier than others? I guess I should show Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending A Staircase, No. 2:



So much goes into it…


I’m planning on doing a portrait and thought I’d experiment in refining technique and approach. It doesn’t look like much but took me a week to do it, four or five heads a day. For example, the approach to skin will be #8 from the top left. In art, I’m methodical and I try to put a lot of work into the final product. I guess that’s from thinking that the great artists did the same. I’m going to update this post as the image progresses, so that hopefully, I’ll see some things in the process that I can improve.

A week ago, in a conversation, I recounted a story about the painting of a rooster/cock, that I’ve heard or read several versions of (feel free to google Chinese Emperor Rooster story). Many centuries ago in China there was this Emperor, known for his short temperament, that sought a painting of a rooster to look upon, as an example of his virility. There were three great artists at the time, all of which were to accept the challenge to create this great work. Well, the first artist did a fantastic painting of a rooster, and the second one did an even better better painting. The third artist was slow in submitting, saying that he would have a finished work by the end of the week. At the end of the week, one of the King’s men was sent to his house; however, returned empty handed, but with a promise that the artist had considered it such a great challenge by his beloved King that he was spending extra time on the work. The King was not pleased but decided to show leniency given the artists’ reputation. Week after week the same result occurred, the King finally losing patience. Visiting his house, sword in hand, the King confronted the artist at his home, and demanded the painting. The artist agreed that by now the painting should be ready, and will present it forthwith, ushering the King into his studio which was wallpapered with thousands of paintings of roosters. Upon seeing these wonderful paintings the King wondered why he had been kept waiting and that’s when the artist said that none rose to the challenge set my his majesty; but that a new painting would be acceptable. Then the artist picked up his brush and made the most exquisite painting of a rooster the King had ever seen. Needless to say, that painting is still appreciated as one of the greatest works of art to this day.

Color charting…

mixing paints

A new practice: at least once a month I do charting. During art classes I did similar swatch charts, mostly to keep track of tubes I’d bought, borrowed, and otherwise added to my kit; but I’ve recently discovered that I’ve overlooked matching the colors in my mind with the ones I attempted to reproduce on paper. Why was yellow and blue ending up brownish? “Muddy” Why were the hue, tone and brilliance of my paintings off. Doing charting, studies focused on mixes, hue, tone, and brilliance are painful but necessary disciplines. As a result, I’ve found it nice to occasionally have paints come out of the brush as intended.

Resolved to undertake a better understanding of color, I went to a local art store last month to pick up a set of maybe 64 colors. “Two hundred and what dollars?” Needless to say, I sadly bought a $20 inch and a half tube of yellow. I could have tried a discount store, perhaps spending about $20 on a set of 12-24 colors and a couple of brushes; but going cheap means doing the math in your head, testing each pigment, and mixing colors till you see the right one before applying paint. You have to move like lightning because watercolor dries fast, and never forgives. Its a great skill set that I’d like to develop someday, but difficult to do so without a strong foundation in seeing color–an ability that can be developed by charting. Until I get to that point, I prefer the consistency, reliability and accessibility of a proven paint and brush manufacturer Winsor & Newton. If you get a chance, check out Gordon MacKenzie’s The Watercolorist’s Essential Notebook, $22 @B&N. I especially appreciate his list of pigments to avoid  (page 16). When I feel comfortable enough with my paints, his list will become a list of challenging colors. I also like his notebook because it has examples that explore color and techniques that I’d like to know and use regularly.