Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Pond at Point Pinole

This was oil on a birch panel. It is an effort to paint the light and the colors in a landscape as I perceive them. In the process I use what some people call "fluorescent colors."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Interactive Entry

These are not all acrylics, there is one oil among them. Can you tell? They are all the same size, 11 x 14 inches. Two were done in the summer, and three in the fall. One of them took an excruciatingly long time to complete, it was a very difficult painting. Write what you think in your comments. I'll publish answers next week.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Tropics

Where else can you paint while besieged by mosquitoes, sand flies, and fiery ants? You become aware of the sweat running down your back while sitting in the shade. The smell of rotting matter ambushes you next to breathtaking vistas. Skyscapes change within minutes, and huge raindrops pelt whatever cover you've taken, along with your watercolor paper. You feel sorry you wore shorts. All of this and more awaits the brave tropical plein air painter!

I decided to paint ten days after I had arrived to Puerto Rico. I was too busy before, and Ike was passing through the northern coast. It wasn't until we got to Vieques, a little island off the eastern coast, that I was able to pull out my watercolors. Medialuna, a gorgeous beach facing the Caribbean sea, had been occupied by the US Marines until four years ago but now was deserted. Viequenses do not see September as part of the beach season, and there were no tourists but us. We had been careful to get there before 8:00 AM, because later on the combination of high heat and humidity (both over 90) would prove too much even for a tropical girl like me.

If you are a careful observer of color, you cannot help but feel overwhelmed the first few days of your visit, as you quickly realize that your temperate climate/polluted air color scheme will no longer do. In the tropics, frequent rain washes the air, and colors are more brilliant. Folliage near the equator irradiates and reflects light with such enthusiasm, you will reach for your shades. One strategy is to allow your brain (not really your eyes) to adjust over a few days of just observing. Your eyes may be busy registering the new environment, but it is your brain who decides the changes you'll make in your approach.

After a few days, you discover shadows are dramatic in tropical sunny weather, sunrise through sundown. Contrast is so high, those very dark shadows seem to swallow reflected light. They are also quite mobile because the sun seems to move much faster through the sky near the equator. Sunset starts at around 4:00 and by 6:00 you can no longer paint because it is too dark out there. I paint them like I would paint a solid object, but this means marking their position early on and not being shy with values.

If the weather suddenly changes, that is, if clouds obscure the sunlight, or if sunlight makes a brief appearance in an otherwise overcast day, I wait, sometimes until the next day. I've found it pays to start several paintings almost simultaneously in different areas, that way if one location does not work out you always have another. Because of the sun's speedy trayectory, watercolors involving architectural elements typically take me at least two days. If I draw and lay the first layers on the first day, I can focus on those fugitive shadows on the second day. I find that I can better convey volume with this method, instead of trying to "cram" everything in a two hour session. Just because it is a watercolor does not mean it has to be painted in a flash.

Area there any advantages to tropical plein air? Well, the high humidity level means a low evaporation rate. You can take your time with washes and other aqueous effects. You can actually think more about your wet-on-wet interventions. Your paint stays wet on the palette, facilitating color mixes and saving you paint. You don't have to worry about cold weather or temperature changes ending your session. And you can paint in your suimsuit if you'd like!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Packing and Unpacking

The packing was the hardest thing to do in preparation for the show. It required creativity, lots of math skills and stamina. Unfortunately there isn't an Artists' Depot where you can go and pick up packing materials for your artwork. There are services you can hire (Artex, Artpack), though. They will come, pack it, transport it and deliver it safely, for the price of a week in Sedona.

Some folks rely on UPS stores to provide them with hard-to-find boxes, and if they're in a pinch, the packing itself. Others go to places like Office Depot and Staples, where you won't find cheap or unusual boxes, but you can find packing tape, markers and wrapping foam. If you're a purist, there are a couple of companies (Ashley Distributors, Navis) who will sell you small amounts of museum-quality packing supplies for museum prices. I decided I would buy these materials from Uline since I was in it for the long haul, and I am already paying for storage. Prices are much better, but everything has to be bought in bulk. Because of this, many supplies have to be shipped by truck and this is more expensive. However, I have saved a lot of time with boxes that have the dimensions I need, and I can get ethafoam's cheaper cousin, plank foam, in many forms. Don't buy packing tape from them though, because you'll be buying a minimum of a hundred or so rolls and they do have a shelf life. Uline also makes crates in standard sizes and they do take orders for custom dimensions. I will always prefer making my own crates, but if you're in a time crunch, it's nice to know you can order them. One last thing about Uline: They make these neat shipping labels that you just slap on the box and can be reused. I use them to identify the artwork in each box. The alternative is too time consuming.

The whole thing took us three days. The first day was for creating the labels and assembling all of the materials together in one area. Each label included the packing and unpacking instructions, because the paintings will be going to other exhibits later on.

The second day was spent assembling the boxes and placing the paintings inside. This meant that the inside of the boxes had to be padded with plank foam. The plank foam came in 4 x 4" cubes with adhesive on one side, and I had to find a way to place them in a cost-effective way. I placed corner protectors on the framed paintings, wrapped them in craft paper, tied the package with string and labeled the wrapping.

The third day was spent transporting the paintings across the Oakland bridge in my Toyota truck. Sarah and I had to move the boxes from my studio to my truck, and lash all eight boxes together in a wind-resistant way. To give you an idea, I used a mattress box to fit the two largest paintings. Some of the boxes were telescopic and this meant they weren't closed in a traditional way. We were always concerned that the wind could lift the top of those boxes, but fortunately that didn't happen. Upon arrival, I pulled out my hand truck to move the boxes from the truck to the second floor of the building, where the gallery was located. Because the hand truck was brought in the same truck, I was careful to bring a hand truck not heavier than fifty pounds, the maximum weight I can handle. Good thing my puppy is about the same weight, I already had practice!

Needless to say, after such a weekend, I was exhausted and came to realize why packing services charge what they do. Even I could have used a week in Sedona after my packing adventure.

Monday, August 25, 2008

What a Success!

The exhibit held at CompassPoint, Undocumented: Latino Immigrant Portraits by Rebeca Garcia-Gonzalez, was a fantastic event. The VIP reception was earlier, to give the press a chance to see it before the rest of the public. Given the tremendous number of people who came (more than a hundred), this was a wise decision. Luckily for us, some came earlier and others late. Martina Ayala and her husband Alex Balmaceda, my friends from graduate school who did all of the public relations, are responsible for such wonderful numbers.

It feels wonderful to have received such support from friends, colleagues, family and total strangers interested in art. They asked very interesting questions. My only regret was to not have had enough time to go beyond, "Hi, thank you so much for coming!" due to the opening's popularity.

The Mission Vocational School's Culinary Department did the catering. I didn't eat, but I heard the food was excellent. They were very professional. We served wine, water and get this: vitamin water. This was another good decision, as the temperature went up with the number of attendees.
Curator Linette Morales spoke first. She talked about the impression the paintings had made on her personally. I thanked the incredible team that made it possible: my partner Sarah Calderon, in charge of the logistics for that day, the framing of all 16 paintings, and of helping me pack and deliver them across the bridge; Carmen Melendez, who did almost all of the graphic design out of her business Pitipua Graphix; Linette Morales, who volunteered her curatorial skills; and Vicky Lee, who supported us on CompassPoint's behalf. Bianca Serra, from The Centro Legal de la Raza, explained what they do to help undocumented Latino inmigrants, since this is the organization that will receive 30-40% of any sales.

I placed a "vote for your favorite" board on a column, and will use this feedback to decide which paintings should I reproduce as gliclee prints. We also asked those those are interested to give us their e-mail so that we can notify them as they become available. There was, however, considerable interest in the paintings themselves. We are working on a way to sell with an agreement to allow other exhibits even as new owners take possesion. We'd like this exhibit to travel to Los Angeles next, but I'd have to find a way to finance the shipping as it is a costly proposition, even if I deliver them myself.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Designs for the Show

My friend and former classmate Martina Ayala, who is promoting my upcoming show Undocumented: Latino Immigrant Portraits, preferred the boxed version of this postcard, now making the rounds among friends and colleagues. Carmen Melendez, the graphic designer who created this card, also liked the card because of the model, whom she found exceedingly handsome. They also said the green lettered version had a painting with a stronger, more intense stare. This painting made the posterfor the show, but the postcard's final version went to another painting I made much later, a closeup of a young man who perhaps wasn't as handsome, but who also had a very intense look. The colors in both are very bright, but perhaps I'm partial to work done on wood panels. Who knows? I like both. Which one do you like?

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Undocumented Series

She was the last model to pose who could have made it into the exhibit, and the only canvas I had left measured about 20 x 24." She was also the most forthcoming of all the people I have painted, in that she felt completely free to comment on my style and approach to her portrait (for example, she thought my colors were too bright). I explained to her that I had grown up in the caribbean, where colors are bright, and that this had probably affected my color perception. I also said I didn't think anything looked alive enough if done in a muted palette. So now you have an idea of our conversation. A completely self-possessed young person, she asked many, many questions about my training, interests and background.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Undocumented Progress

It's a team effort! My childhood friend Carmen Melendez is designing the bilingual postcard that will announce my August solo show at Compass Point, a non-profit organization on the second floor of a building (731 Market St) in downtown San Francisco. The opening will be on August 22, at 6 PM. The show is titled Undocumented: Latino Immigrant Portraits by Rebeca Garcia-Gonzalez.

Meanwhile, my partner Sarah is framing all fifteen paintings in my studio, no small feat if you consider we do not own professional framing equipment. Doing this is preferable to sending them to a shop, as a framing shop, even a discount one, charges four to five times as much. So we bit the bullet and got an early start.

Linette Morales will be the curator for this show. She will come to my studio mid-July to help me select the paintings that will make Compass Point's small space. My graduate school friend Martina Ayala, a producer and community activist, will promote the show in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

I have been working on both the series statement, and on a reflective essay based on the series's effect. The series statement will be available at the opening, but I am not yet sure of where I would post the essay other than my web site. I did read it to an audience gathered at the writing retreat I was recently coordinating and got some suggestions. However, I do need to start writing the press release.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Santa Fe Week

I've returned from Santa Fe, where I was coordinating a professional writing retreat for the National Writing Project. My colleague Lisa and I decided to take a stroll through Canyon Road before dinner at Geronimo, and got a glimpse of the art business as it is conducted at this point in the town's timeline. I must say we began our walk at 4:00 PM, toward the end of the business day for most galleries there, and as a consequence did not elicit much interest from most of the owners/attendants. There were three exceptions, all on the south side of the famed street. Its gallery attendants left what they were doing to greet us. Soon we saw they were not there to sell pieces, but to talk about art: Martha Keats, Selby Fleetwood and most notably, Darnell Fine Art. All were women, and all were very friendly, despite the fact that we were clearly tourists without loads of money. This was something I did not at all expect after visiting galleries in New York this last November. Their behavior was highly consistent with what the Art Dealers Association of America, in their collector's guide, says should be their primary mission: to educate the public.

We were very pleased with those interactions, but it was very hot and past 5:00 pm. After this time, all the galleries were closed, and so we looked across the street and saw Ed Larson's sign: "Jesus said buy folk art," so of course we found ourselves at The Stables, which turned out to be a collection of seventeen working artist studios. Ed's studio was closed and so were most of the others, but then we glimpsed an open door amid a few heavily impastoed canvasses hung on the outside walls. One of them was a giant rose. The paintings intrigued me, because they weren't folk art, they were not art school art, or self-taught art. They were a hybrid of all of the above. Nobody responded when we called, so I peeked in and saw... a grand piano, in a room just like I had seen in a book I have about Santa Fe artist studios.

David Vigil stepped out of the adjoining bathroom just before we were getting ready to walk into his studio. He had a Kool-aid orange mane, brown skin and abundant chest hair: The Lion King. Fortunately we did not hear a roar but a laugh (I can be charming when I need to), as we hurriedly explained we were curious. After a brief interview in which our provenance was examined, he engaged us in a conversation on the nature of his recent work as artist, writer and composer. I found him quite endearing, not jaded or cynical, in the way he addressed these two women tourists after so many years of selling art out of a studio. We talked quite a bit about creativity. After his young musician collaborator Victor arrived, he mentioned some video clips of his music on You Tube and said he was a happy person. Warning: do not click if you don't like jazz.

We crossed the street again and sat down at the bar inside Geronimo to ponder our encounters. Fiercely air conditioned, this restaurant had a very nice wine list, but that would be another blog entry.

Monday, April 28, 2008

My Learning Process Part II

As I was explaining in a previous blog, when I decided to engage in art full-time after 25 years of doing it "on the side," I confronted many challenges. Some were about my own insecurities, and other were more technical. As I have not yet resolved my own fears about "coming out" with my art, I will focus on the technical challenges in the hope that my experience may be useful to a reader.

One of the first strategies I used was to search for a "friendly medium." I was aware of my difficulties with charcoal, pastels, conte crayons, and anything else involving rubbing or erasing. I sought a medium with whom I was more familiar in an effort to even the playing field, as drawing the figure or a landscape with a time limit was overwhelming enough. I gravitated towards water media because it enabled me to cover large surfaces quickly. I knew how to mix paint and water to achieve the desired values. This is not to say I discarded dry media. I used charcoal for 1 minute gestures.

I also limited myself to value studies for a while, in watercolor and acrylic. In an effort to keep things simple, I did not use any color, just black and white paint, or ink and water. As I felt I was starting to achieve enough contrast and good midtones, I gradually I introduced ochre, red, and eventually blue. I still paint the figure with a primary palette. It is true you end up having to mix all the colors that you want, but it is a good way to quickly reach the values you want without a lot of fuss, and there can be quite a range of expression with just those three colors and white.

Larger paper sizes gave me enough room to work on the nuances in value of the bone and muscle structures I was translating onto two dimensions. This is specially true of the value studies, which required more space. Smaller sizes limited the amount of detail I could render, and thus made it easier to work in color. For example, I use smaller canvases when painting landscapes in oil and acrylic. I have come to believe that the more difficult or the less time you have to complete a piece, the smaller your paper or canvas has to be.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Rites of Spring

We have continued going out to paint on Mondays. This is despite the poison oak, class-cutting teenagers, and exceedingly friendly dogs (one, named Coltrane, gave me a bear hug). Our group now has three steady people and might continue growing. We tend to meet at trailheads or parking lots, and not stray too far into the park. We actually climb up sometimes steep hills looking for views or just some cool air. It's fun, even if we sometimes have to pass our equipment to each other while we negotiate narrow, slippery cow paths.

These have all been completed on location, with minor corrections done later in the studio. There are two oils and two watercolors. Can you tell which is which? I find that my oil painting influences my watercolor painting, and that my watercolors influence my oils. Watercolor definitely helps me do very defined, quick but finished work when I feel like it, (see the purple field of vetch behind my standing colleague). Oil is fantastic for its luminosity, and you certainly don't feel like anything is "set in stone."

With these paintings, I feel like I am taking advantage of all the green I can get before the summer heat turns everything gold. Green in our Bay Area just doesn't seem to last as long. As Emily Carr so eloquently put it, "As the woods are the same, the trees standing in their places, the rocks and the earth... they are always different too, as lights and shadows and seasons and moods pass through them."

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

My Website Has Been Updated

I've added paintings and watercolors I've done in the last couple of years, since I've been making the rounds trying to find a venue for a solo show and curators need to see my recent work. This oil was done last summer, but I had a hard time photographing it because of its unusual size (24 x 48"). It is our driveway in San Pablo, with my beloved Toyota Tacoma.

My Learning Process

These past two years I have been participating in more events with other painters and visual artists than ever. I regularly meet with other people to draw or paint. I have also observed people in a class context. At my age and later, many folks who've held a lifelong fascination with art decide to take the plunge. It is because of my interest in how different the process is for every person that I've decided to write about my own learning process.

My background in education keeps me eternally interested in how people learn. I keep several visual and written journals because I like to see if there is an evolution in my painting, because I want to keep track of ideas, and because I like to record what I think about other people's art. I see my own learning process as "strategic, " that is, as the search for approaches compatible with my values and ideas as a painter. Notice I didn't say that I see my art as strategic. It works for me to notice the approaches I use and why. Here's an example:

When I started to engage in figure drawing weekly about two years ago, I was very unsatisfied with my drawings. I had a clear idea of what they should look and I was not even getting close to what I wanted. I was so carried away with the excitement of having a live model that I would end up with distortions and missing body parts (the time limit is short). I could say that at this time, drawing the figure was exciting to the point of being overwhelming. After all, it had been exactly 25 years since I had drawn the figure with any kind of limit. Those who study standardized test performance will tell you that time limits will bring on anxiety and a decrease in the accuracy and quality of the response.

During those first weeks, my challenges were many. I had to draw a complete gesture in one or two minutes. I was expected to draw a credible figure with muscles in 5 to 20 minutes. The drawings had to resemble the model and convey the space and weight taken by the model's body and pose. During the next few days I will write about the strategies I used to assist my learning. Again, by strategies I mean the approach used to surmount a problem, more than a specific technique or material.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

20 Minute Oil Figure Studies

Let's say you are painting without first making a few thumbnails (to plan your composition) and without making a preliminary drawing in black and white (to understand the values). Let's say you gave nominal thought to your palette. You probably grabbed the colors you always use. To complicate matters, your time is very limited, about as much time as a professional model can hold the pose (20 minutes) without needing a break. If you put all of these conditions together, you've got yourself a study.
Artists engage in this practice for various reasons. Since materials have always been expensive, the most commom use has been to "try out" how various combinations of the above elements will work out together in a larger painting. A study can be used because its faster, looser style can capture the subject's character or the atmosphere of a place. You can use it to train yourself to catch the essential elements of what you're painting during the first few minutes.

This last purpose is why I put myself through the pain of sketching with oil in this brief period. It can be frustrating, because the medium was not created for this purpose. Try layering oil paint that has not dried. Try wiping off mistakes you've made in a strong color. Try finishing in 20 min. using a format larger than 11 x 14. Impossible! But so many decisions are made during the first 20 minutes of a painting, that it is worthwhile to learn to make them efficiently and successfully.

Monday, March 10, 2008

It's Been A Month

But I've been busy! Karen and I continue to go plein air painting every Tuesday morning. I am still figure drawing on Wednesday nights at the Richmond Art Center. And I have three paintings at the Prescott Joseph Center until March 31. The exhibit, titled Women Band Together, is in honor of the International Women's Day.

I've actually been busy recovering from (new official name) cubital tunnel syndrome. So I've had to take it easy with the computer. I've been transferring my inventory to GYST, and so far, so good. I like the layout and how everything is well-thought out and interconnected. I've also been measuring and re-measuring my paintings, photographing them, and choosing the ones from which we will eventually make prints to sell. You can help me with that. Just go to my web site, then e-mail me (or Sarah) and tell me which ones are your favorites.

Here's a little oil painting (12 x 16) I started while I had a horrible headache, but I finished it when I was feeling better a week later. As they say, "All's well that ends well."

Thursday, February 07, 2008

GYST Software

In my never-ending quest for professional improvement, I've decided to give this "artist-run company for artists" a chance. I've bought their software for $149., a filemaker database customized to the needs of professional artists. There weren't reviews on the web to help me pick this one from among four or five other contenders, so I had to choose based on minimal descriptions of the features on each website. Some companies had great screen shots to give you a sense of the interface, others, none. GYST had the most comprehensive and informative display on its web site, and what they offer seems to be geared at my needs for the moment, which are to set up and organize my art business. So stay tuned for an account of my trials and tribulations transferring my art inventory and mailing list to the program, as these are the first two tasks I will attempt.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Immigrant Portraits

I have been painting Latino immigrants for a few months now. Sometimes they bring each other, or I hire them from the neighborhood. They pick their clothes and the pose. I pay them by the hour. At the end of the day I take a photograph print it, sign it, and give it to them. They sign a release and take a copy home. Once they leave, I might finish the background, but I don't tend to work on their image much more. Each painting takes 1-2 sittings, and a total of 5-10 hrs.

I do it in part because they are underrepresented in formal portraiture. I have always done portraits of people of color in oil. But until I saw the portraits of African Americans that Beverly McIver was showing at a show in Sacramento, I did not understand what exactly was it that I was looking for. I wanted to give the sitters exactly the same choices someone with more means might have had had they commissioned a portrait from me, but I also wanted to have more emotional involvement in those portraits. I also wanted to give them the experience of sitting for a portrait in which they would not be treated as the exotic other.

This oil is the latest of seven I have completed so far, measuring 24 x 36". The 12 x 16" charcoal drawing was done as part of a figure drawing session, and not as a study for the painting.

Monday, January 28, 2008

No Cameras Were Harmed In the Making of This Piece

Rather than employing it as a supplement to active, conscious seeing, they used the medium as a substitute, paying less attention to the world than they had done previously, taking it on faith that photography automatically assured them possession of it.
Alain de Botton

I had spent three days last winter, making sure the same morning light passed through our deck door (the setup was on the floor), in order to paint them. This watercolor went to a group show with very strict size limits. Zillions of other pieces, not bigger than 90" in perimeter shared space with these pomegranates. However, at the show many assumed I had used a reference photo. Maybe I need to start placing a comment with the title and dimensions, "no cameras were harmed in the making of this piece."

There is a time and a place for reference pictures in everyone's oeuvre. In my case, I don't use them when the subject is accessible enough, stable enough, to withstand a couple of days of scrutiny. Too much is missed. Color in all its glory, and the "air around it," to use someone else's phrase.

On the other hand, give some of us a palette and a bit of time and the lure of all that detail and sensory overload will lead to seductive tangents. The inclusion of detail where none should have existed may become a detriment for the overall impression the painting makes. The choice is ours.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Two Looks At Inspiration

Inspiration Point is a rather beautiful (and conveniently located) part of Tilden Park. A friend from figure drawing class and I went at 9:00 AM on a blustery morning, and climbed up a steep little hill next to the main and paved path. I was going to take my oils, but it was just too cold to sit there for hours. I took watercolors instead, and a Lanaquarelle pad that is 16 x 20." As it turns out, the sun played hide and seek for a while and this helped me fight the wind chill (I was wearing neophrene gloves and many layers). I don't know why I don't remember that folding chairs don't work on hills (Karen my friend was sitting comfortably on the ground). An easel is what I should have taken, as the wind kept destabilizing my pad.
The sunnier view is of Mount Diablo, and the darker one is of Tilden looking south. The straight line near the top is the actual Inspiration Point parking lot. It looks like we did a lot of walking, but we did not!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Painting Altars

I intended this painting as an homage to my uncle, who passed away recently. A middle school teacher, my dad's brother was a beloved figure of my childhood. I was the eldest grandchild, and benefitted early from our conversations. He had the ability to listen to children as if their opinion mattered, and made his contributions in ways that could be understandable to a child. All of his life he wanted to play the guitar, and took up intermittent studies whenever time allowed. I never saw him get upset at anyone, in fact, he has a very positive disposition that made others seek his company. That's how I remember him.

This is one of the windowsills in my studio, and the seven objects are placed on top of the only bookcase. The unopened bottle of rose we bought at Domaine Chandon, in Napa. I took the grapefruits and pomegranate from our fruit basket, and the candle was given to me by a colleague when I worked at Sacramento State University. The black curtains were sewn by my mom because sometimes the blue window light interferes with paintings I have started indoors. I finished it two weeks ago.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Winter Still Lives

Last year I started a tradition of painting a few still lives indoors, between December and March. Our winter is very rainy, and here on the hills between El Sobrante and El Cerrito, it gets foggy too. All of which makes working outdoors unpredictable. So I turn the focus inward and work from my imagination, from dreams, or from something I can place indoors.

I seldom have the patience to find a decent composition, a skill I need to work on. But something I've realized is that it takes me an average of two hours to paint each object in a still life. This oil is 24 x 36," a manageable size. Still lives beyond these dimentions pose other challenges and as a result take more time.

Instead of cotton duck, the support is engineered birch. I am enjoying painting on this surface, but had to switch to sable brushes so that I would not end scraping 30% of the paint surface with each stroke of the hog bristles.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Background

Sometimes I am more interested in what's happening behind the scenes than in the foreground. I think it has to do with the need to feel some kind of release after my attention has been focused on rendering accurate depictions of a model or object. I did a series of ink drawings in our figure drawing lab (this is the best one) showing what I can see beyond the model, and they were fun.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Safer Oil Painting

Turpentine is banned from most collective painting spaces and classes, even with good ventilation. Turns out that they cause headaches, exacerbate respiratory issues in most people, and if rubbed onto your skin while cleaning brushes, you can end up with contact dermatitis. We don't even know what long-term exposure to it may cause.
Oil paints, while fume-free, should be treated as hazardous chemicals. No one wants to absorb cadmium, titanium or lead through their skin while cleaning brushes, or breathe its dust (if making your own pigments).

All of this has led me to adopt safer ways to paint with oil. I have an exhaust fan in my studio, but I seldom use anymore because I clean my brushes with linseed oil (surprisingly, it takes about the same time it takes with turps). An added advantage has been the cutdown on ferrule corrosion. I save the used linseed oil in cans and dispose of it as hazardous waste. I wear latex gloves throughout the entire process, until I wash the oil off the brushes with soap.

If I want diluted pigment, I use stand oil. In fact, I've been experimenting with a very oily and color saturated first layer. Subsequent layers are less fat and influenced by the fast-drying stand oil on that underpainting. I can usually paint over this first layer the following day. Here is a painting I did over two days in this manner. As with most of my models, this was all the time I had, about six hours.
David Rourke has excellent advice and many more ideas on safer oil painting techniques.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

More Figures

These are more figure studies from last year. A group of us, six to be exact, is meeting at each other's studios while the Richmond Art Center is renovated. Our lab will start again February 6. These are watercolors, but in a much smaller format, about 16 x 20". I've reduced my palette to three colors: Burnt sienna, cerulean blue and yellow ochre. I've been making a line drawing first with walnut ink and a bamboo pen. These are 20 minute scketches.

At Last

HP "fixed" my laptop, or so they say. The truth is, I am tired of sending it out for repair (yes, I fell for their extended warranties). I keep getting it back in the same state, minus my software, which I have to re-install. The screen went black sometime in November, almost two years after I bought it. So, for more than three months I've had to do without it while HP pretends to restore its original brightness. I can see the screen now, but the light is still dim, and the brightness controls have been disabled.
Oh well, enough complaining. I just felt I had to explain why had I not posted in such a long time. I can post from anywhere really, but my laptop is the one with Photoshop. Here's a couple of life drawings I did around that same time (November 07). I have been rotating between watercolor, ink, acrylic and charcoal, and I am now using a relatively small format, although it does take me the same time to complete a drawing.