Painting Workshop – Sean Cheetham Portrait Painting Alla Prima

Earlier this month I took a short painting workshop at the Bay Area Classical Artist Atelier in San Carlos, CA. It was taught by Sean Cheetham who is one of the most incredible painters out here right now. BACAA_outside

The goal of the class was to complete at least one painting with the alla prima approach. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, alla prima is a painting technique usually associated with oil painting in which you are working wet paint onto wet paint. The idea of it is to paint fairly quickly, while the paint is wet and fresh, usually finishing a painting in one sitting. I love this technique because I think you can come away with a piece that looks painterly and spontaneous.

The workshop was for three days, the first day being a demo by the instructor. The palette was reviewed and the class was given step-by-step insight into how to use the colors and how to break down your approach to an alla prima portrait. Maybe to a lot of people that sounds boring, but to an artist it’s such a valuable step in instruction. It helps to be able to get the visual of color mixing and application from beginning to end. I always come away from watching a demo really hyped up and thinking that I will be able to produce something just as good as the instructor. Never happens.

From left to right: Permanent Green Light, Burnt Sienna, Cadmium Red Light, Yellow Ochre, Indian Yellow, Titanium White, Maganese Blue Hue, Cobalt Blue, Dioxazine Purple, Alizarin Crimson, Olive Green (M. Graham)

The color palette. From left to right: Permanent Green Light, Burnt Sienna, Cadmium Red Light, Yellow Ochre, Indian Yellow, Titanium White, Maganese Blue Hue, Cobalt Blue, Dioxazine Purple, Alizarin Crimson, Olive Green (M. Graham)

The final two days were for the rest of the class to paint. We all tried our best to follow the approach that was showed to us in the demonstration. It was definitely challenging! At least for me it was. I just want to do great work, have confidence in my abilities and push through the hard parts of the process. But even with that in the back of my mind, I still get stuck! Luckily our instructor was very involved and helpful. He painted with us each day and walked around to each artist and guided us through different stages of our paintings.

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One of the demo paintings by our instructor, Sean Cheetham

Overall I liked the workshop and the way it was set up. I liked BACAA, the staff and its mission. Even though it was only a 3-day workshop, I could tell that the school fosters an environment conducive to learning and mastering the human figure.

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Some anatomy pointers from a different class

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More anatomy instruction from a different class

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A message on the main door as you exit the studio

My finished piece definitely didn’t turn out as great as I had hoped, but I still think that I did alright. Especially considering that I haven’t been in a classroom environment in a long time and have changed my style considerably since then. It was a fun learning experience and shined a light on the areas where I need improvement. I was also able to see things that I’m getting right, that’s progress in itself! Here is my work:

My initial sketch of the model

My initial sketch of the model

The final piece

The final piece

It’s certainly not what I would consider my best work, but better than what I expected! I did a full 2 part entry about it on my personal blog so definitely check that out too:

Sean Cheetham workshop at BACAA part 1
Sean Cheetham workshop at BACAA part 2

I will be keeping an eye out for another class that I can take at BACAA, it’s not that bad of a drive from Reno and it felt good to be in a classroom for a little bit. If you were ever curious about taking a course at an artist atelier, I definitely recommend trying it out. I think you will be challenged! You really can’t beat the experience of working with a live model and being surrounded by others who are serious about their craft. Any chance you can take to learn, improve and share is worth taking.

Color Mixing Recipes

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So in an earlier post I mentioned how I became really frustrated during the process of painting my Queen Nefertiti. Well I thought it’d be good to share what helped me get through it. It’s a little book I bought from Amazon by William F. Powell called Color Mixing Recipes for Portraits. I only bought the book years ago as a back up for when I get too stuck and can’t paint my way out of it, and finally I got to refer to it for the first time with the Queen Nefertiti painting.

The main part that I struggled with was the color of the skin. Normally I feel in control, but this time it just wasn’t coming together. I kept mixing muddy colors and then destroying them further when I tried to fix it. I think it was particularly troublesome for me because I wasn’t working from a subject or a picture, just from my own head. Honestly I don’t usually use these kind of color recipe books, because I don’t want to get too attached to using them as a crutch. I need a certain element of spontaneity when painting. The idea of using “recipes” where x paint+x paint+x paint= y color sounds way too technical for my tastes. And not to mention expensive! Who needs all of those particular shades of paint? Where are you going to store it? Is there REALLY a big difference if I just use an orange that I mix up versus the cadmium orange hue scarlet that the book says I need? I think I’ve made decent paintings with a lot less colors than some of these books mention.

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colorbook3All jokes aside, the book was actually helpful. I used it as more of a jumping off point and a visual aid rather than some kind of cut-and-dry resource. I took a break, came back to the painting with fresh eyes, and the book became my guide when I just couldn’t really think anymore. So the book, coupled with my own knowledge about color, allowed me to achieve much cleaner shades and tones for that particular painting. If you were ever curious about buying a color mixing book, I definitely think it’s worth it as a backup – especially if you’re already in school or taking private classes. If you’re just starting out and don’t know much about paint and mixing colors, these books can be a bit overwhelming so I wouldn’t recommend you get one until you get more comfortable.

Thoughts? Have you used any color mixing books? Love them or hate them?

Check out my art from 2013!

"The Garden" Acrylic on canvas, 20" x 24" 2013.

“The Garden” Acrylic on canvas, 20″ x 24″ 2013.

Finally updated my album of work on the Purple Paintbrush Facebook page! I just added a few things that I created earlier this year, plus a few pieces from recent years that I’m just getting around to publishing. Full descriptions are included for most of the work so you can get an idea of the inspirations behind the pieces.

Please feel free to peruse the album and let me know what you think! Find it here.

Thanks for viewing!

Art Basel 2012 Pictures!

Finally! I’ve posted pictures from my visit to Art Basel Miami back in December. Trying to get all caught up by sifting through some of my backlog here.

I was only able to attend one day of Art Basel, and it definitely wasn’t enough! For those that don’t know, Art Basel is the biggest art event in the US and is held annually in Miami, FL. People from all social classes from around the world, even celebrities, gather together in South Beach to participate in the week-long celebration of art and creativity. If I ever go back again, I’ll be sure to try to stay a lot longer than just a couple of days, there’s way too much to see and experience out there! Here’s a taste of some of the things that I saw:

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For the full album, check it out on Purple Paintbrush’s Facebook page – Let me know what your favorite pieces are!

Bloody Heads

copyright, Marc Quinn

Happy Halloween!

I thought that I would take the opportunity to share something that creeps me out and fascinates me at the same time, yet also fits right in to the Halloween holiday. A while back I found an article on Huffington Post Arts on British artist, Marc Quinn and his series of self-portraits made entirely from his own blood. Yes you read right. It certainly elevates the concept of a self-portrait that’s for sure! He has committed himself to creating a new head of himself every five years. Each head has to be kept frozen in order to preserve it, a few degrees off and you start to have the beginnings of a bloody mess. Then the piece is ruined for good. But maybe they’re not supposed to last forever anyway? Well it’s that very idea of life and death, and the impossibility of immortality, that Quinn is exploring with his blood portraits. Ever since I saw the work, I have been a little bit obsessed with it to be honest. I love the idea of someone putting so much of themselves into their process, in this case literally the artist’s own blood. When I read the article on Marc Quinn’s portraits, it made so much sense. It made me explore thoughts about my own mortality, and what exactly my comfort level is with the topic of death.  With 2012 seemingly the year people want remind others that “you only live once”, could Marc Quinn’s blood self-portraits also be considered a modern day memento mori?

copyright, Marc Quinn

copyright, Marc Quinn

For the original Huffington Post Arts article, read it here. And for more about Marc Quinn and his incredible body of work, check out his official website.

Playing with color

I have a few days off this week, but the work doesn’t stop.

I spent most of the day working on this study for a larger painting that I want to do. I thought that I would practice the technique I learned in a painting class I took in the spring, where you set up the painting by over-exaggerating the colors in light and shadow and then paint your way out of it. The instructor called it a color study. I think the whole point is for me to achieve colors that look like actual skintones by the end of the painting, but so far when I’ve tried the technique I keep ending up with these rainbow tones. Doesn’t look bad though! But for the big one, I think I’m going to try to push the colors a bit further so I’ll end up with some colors that look a little less saturated and more like some skintones.

Here’s the progression:

Anyone try this particular color study technique before? Feel free to leave feedback!

Portrait/Figure Painting Class Week 6

So last week I left off at with an oil sketch in brown of the next pose in class. Today we continued on, and I added color to it. The color combinations of the skintones may look strange, but trust me I’m on the right track. haha…This technique is so new to me, but with this painting I think that I’m starting to grasp it better. Already I can see how my handling of the paint, and of color, is getting fine-tuned! Excited to see how this painting is going to turn out! Here are some photos showing the progression:

This was where I started today.

Added a Cadmium Red Light+White mixture for the skin in light.

Filled the skin in shadow with a Dioxzinine Purple+white mixture, then began adding other colors I saw in the skintone to show the planes in the form. (or tried to do that at least! haha)

This is where I ended class today. Deepened the colors and continued trying to show the turns and planes in the form. Hopefully I can keep it up for next week!