Sunday, May 28, 2017

One Plane At A Time

"Hope Floats", Oil on Linen, 16 x 20 inches

I have been learning a step by step approach to color painting at Grand Central Atelier that I used in creating my painting "Hope Floats".  This post outlines steps I used in the process of this painting.

I began the process by making a small simplified color study of the model and background.  In this color study I applied broad planes to describe the form and light effect.  For each plane I interpret its color based based on 3 aspects, Hue, Value and Intensity (Chroma).

Hue -  Includes colors that range from yellow, red, purple, blue and green.
Source: Wikipedia
Value- Lightness or darkness of a color.
Source: Wikipedia
Chroma - Intensity of a color from neutral to most intense.
Source: Wikipedia

More examples of how I adjust colors according to these three properties is described in a previous blog post I wrote here.

Color Study
I use the color study as a map for the organization of my final painting.  In my final painting process I work slowly on one form at a time and reference the larger organization of the color study to help me stay on track.  I use the colors of the planes in my color study to set up my palette.  I use a palette knife to mix piles of paint that match the large planes of color for a form on my color study.  The range of these colors can be viewed as stepping stones along a path of form.  I often match my mixtures to the color study by not only holding my palette knife up to the study but also by placing a dab of paint onto the study to see if it blends in.

Setting up the Palette

I refer to these mixtures on the palette by considering that if in the color study the large planes were the average of a given area then that color mixture on the palette is at least as light and chromatic as the average color.  Of course I will extend beyond that average mixture as I paint but having it on the palette helps me to stay organized.  Keeping this in mind I set up a string of color, seen in the middle, that links the stepping stones of my mixed piles of paint to create a range of intermediate values.  Below this middle string I use the same mixed colors and add a bit of Raw Umber to the string to neutralize the colors for the option of needing more neutral versions of a color while painting.  With these two strings and the tubed colors on my palette, which offer more opportunity to  adjust aspects of color, I have all the range on my palette needed while painting.  I use the space above my original string to adjust the colors from my premixed piles accordingly to changes I observe on the model.  I often make this area more red in hue and more intense in chroma.

Painting One Plane at a Time

I proceed by starting with the original string on my palette, in the middle, and adjust it as I observe the model.  Although I often stay a bit more red in hue and chromatic in color, for the most part the changes are not drastically different from the original string and I more or less go up and down the premixed original string as I paint the values of form.

To make the process of painting more manageable I approach each form by considering one plane at a time.  Often I first apply the color of the shadow in the shadow area of a form.  Then I begin modeling with the plane on a form that is most faced towards the direction of the light source.  So I start at the top of my premixed string and with each subsequent plane along the curve of form I work my way down the string towards the shadow color.  I consider how much each new plane should bend away from the previous plane to represent the specific curve of form on the model.  With each new plane that tips away from the light most facing area its value and color are adjusted in relation to how much it is tipped away from the light.  I consider the value, chroma and hue of each new plane as I apply them.  I place a priority in focus on value while adding new planes.  The pathway of planes generally continues to curve progressively darker and less intense in chroma until it reaches the shadow edge.

I repeat the same analysis of planes along a new pathway of form just below the previous pathway.  This process continues until I create as many pathways needed to reach the bottom of a form.

 Once the complete form is laid in I can reflect on the larger context of the form and can adjust individual planes that need to bend towards or away from the light, or that need to shift in hue or chroma.  I try to approach this stage of the painting carefully by determining the change that would best refine the form and adjust one plane at a time to move towards improvement.  Although I still struggle with controlling what to anticipate in how much my new decisions may alter the wet paint on the surface I have realized that I have more control over my intentions.  The more clear I can be about what needs to change in an area the closer my intentions are to the painted adjustment and using a system of organization on the palette has made controlling my intentions more manageable.  During this stage I often bend the original larger planes I used on the pathways into smaller planes to refine the curve of form.  But I have found that by focusing on one plane at at time I can focus more on the specificity of changes in color while turning form.

Thanks to the help from all my teachers at Grand Central Atelier who taught me so much about modeling form in value and color this year, Jacob Collins, Ted Minoff, Will St. John, Colleen Barry, Patrick Byrnes, Katie Engberg, Anthony Baus, Scott Waddell, Tony Curanaj, Brendan Johnston, Devin Cecil-Wishing and Justin Wood.

Applied One Point Perspective

Noble Shepherd (in progress), Graphite on Paper, 22 x 15 inches.
This drawing in progress displays a shepherd with an Oryx gazelle standing before Mayan architecture based on a building at Chichen Itza, Yucatan.  He is grounded on a Mexican style rug ready to ascend a staircase. I used one point perspective to create an environment in this drawing.  A summary of the general process I followed for creating the ground grid and objects in the scene is described in this post.

After completing the block-in of the model I began the ground grid by drawing a square around the model's feet.  To do this I first established a horizon line by determining how high my eye level reached on the height of the model from my point of view.  Then I established the vanishing point along the horizon line by determining my position from left to right in relation to the model from my point of view.  

I drew the square around the model's feet by first establishing a horizontal line for the front of the box and then drew lines from each end of the front of the box to the vanishing point, labeled VP.  To determine how far to place the back of the box I drew a diagonal line from the front left point of the box to a point of distance along the horizon line, not seen in the picture because it is off the page.  Generally, the point of distance is about 2 to 3 times the height of the model to create perspective without distortion.  

I was so close to the model while making this drawing that I was tilting my head up towards the portrait and down towards the feet to see the entire model. So when I used the measurement for the distance that  I actually was away from the model to create the box it resulted in a distortion of the box appearing to tilt too far up towards the viewer's eye, as if the box was not resting under the model's feet but instead tipping forward.  I settled on using a further point of distance to make the box appear tilted further away and appear less distorted.  I checked the box to see if I could believe that it was tilted far enough away for the model's feet to stand on it or if it seemed that the model would fall off, thinking of the box as if it was a surfboard.  I adjusted how far to place the back of the box accordingly for the perspective to appear more believable.  
 Here is an example of the first stage of drawing the box.  I used a 90 degree triangle to create horizontal and vertical lines.  For the drawing of the model I used a level to establish a vertical line to base other lines off of.  In this example, the point of distance is labeled, D, along the horizon line.  The further to the right the point of distance goes the more the line for the back of the box comes closer to the ground line and makes the box appear to tip further away.
 In creating the grid along the ground in my drawing I extended the original box by using the point of distance.  To create each new box I connected a line from the back left point of the box to the point of distance and found where this diagonal met the line going back to the vanishing point.  Then I just drew a horizontal line to this point to create the back of a new square.  I repeated this process for each new square going back in space.

 To create additional tiles towards the right or left I just used the unit of measurement along the base line of the front of the box and slid it over to the right. I extended a line from the right end of the front of this new square to the vanishing point.  Then I extended the horizontal lines from the original path of tiles so they cut across this new path of tiles.  I repeated this process for each new path of tiles to include along the ground.
 To create objects on top of this grid one can raise the height from the ground line as far as needed and extend lines back to the vanishing point as far as needed to establish the depth of objects.  The units of the tiles on the ground can help in measuring the dimensions of objects.

  I used the measurements of the tiles along the ground to assist in establishing the dimensions of a rug.

I used graphing paper to determine where important points of the design would meet points along the square tiles for the rug.

I placed many point of the design onto the rug initially and continued some aspects of the design more freely by roughly following the tilts initially established in the design.

Thanks to all the help in learning about perspective from Anthony Baus in this drawing and in his perspective class at Grand Central Atelier.  I also utilized concepts of one point perspective described in G.A Storey's book the Theory and Practice of Perspective.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Grand Central Atelier 2017 Salon

I will have two pieces on display in Grand Central Atelier's "2017 Salon" through May 21st, 2017.  This exhibition will display classical artwork realized in a traditional manner by artists from the Grand Central Atelier.  Please visit, www. for more information.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Process behind "Explore"

I recently have been taking some linear block-ins drawn from life and utilizing applied perspective, working from imagination and referencing master paintings to create narrative works.  This post describes the process I used to make my drawing "Explore", graphite on paper, 6.75” x 5.75” inches.

A summary of the narrative:

This vast city which once was the home of an advanced civilization still hosts relics of its former greatness.  A journey that was led by readings into the ancient world has led our protagonist to wondrous territories.  As she walks through the eternal city she collects flowers that are growing.  Transporting them to a new home.  

This piece began as a linear block-in at Grand Central Atelier last year.  I rendered the drawing by referencing master paintings, conceptualizing light on form and imagining some elements of the piece. 
This is the  linear block-in I drew from life during a two hour portrait sketch session at Grand Central Atelier.  I lost some information after I transferred the drawing in the next stage.  I will have to pay more attention to retaining the shapes in my block-in while I develop my modeling in the future. 

Modeling the Portrait

 I transferred the block-in to a piece of Artistico Fabriano paper, 140 lb. hot press paper and began modeling the portrait one form at a time.  I filled in my shadows and started modeling on the nose.  Since I only had my linear block-in to reference I utilized the concept of light decreasing as form turns away from the direction of the light to guide my modeling.  I still used strips of form to assist in simplifying the process of conceptualizing form while modeling the portrait.

 I thought of imagining the modeling on each form based on how much each area of the form turned towards or away from the direction of the light.  An exercise I have often practiced is to render a sphere from imagination.  This exercise requires an awareness of the structure of a form to determine how to describe the curve of form with value.  Imagining the modeling on different forms in the portrait, such as the nose, was just an extension of this exercise to differently shaped forms.

The Contour as a Guide

 Because a sphere is equally round in all directions, as seen in the equal curve of the contour, the sphere is modeled from imagination by turning the form away from the light most facing area equally in all directions until it meets the shadow edge. According to this concept the form becomes incrementally darker as areas turn more away from the light most facing area.

In the example for the ball of the nose, the structure of the nose was described by the shape of the contour in the linear block-in. The nose is similar to the shape of a sphere but slightly more angular, which is reflected in the more angular curve of the modeling of the nose.   Essentially the linear block-in described the structure of the form and I tried to follow the information it portrayed to imagine how to describe the volume of form with value while rendering the portrait.  From the outer contour I could imagine the interior contours that would relate to those outer contour tilts inside the form.  I proceeded modeling by sculpting the form away from the light most facing area by incrementally making planes darker with my pencil and responding to the angular plane changes on the nose.

Additional Master Painting References 

I also utilized referencing master paintings that portrayed a similar light orientation and  pose to the portrait I was drawing.  One of the portraits from Leonardo da Vinci's painting "The Virgin of the  Rocks" and a painting by Scott Waddell, seen here, were some of the paintings which were helpful to reference for modeling forms on the portrait.

 I proceeded one form at a time until I had modeled the entire portrait.  During the time period I was modeling I began thinking of  different narratives to include with the portrait and loosely sketched in some elements of a composition.

Composition studies
 I loosely had an idea of the portrait portraying a traveler.  To finalize a specific narrative idea and composition I made numerous small composition sketches to explore the potential of different background and foreground elements along with their placement.

 This is the composition sketch that I used to develop the final piece.  At the time of creating this piece I was very interested in the architecture and art in Italy.  I looked through various books on Italian architecture to research buildings I wanted to include in my drawing.  I really liked the curved elegance of the facade of the Santa Maria del Popolo, reworked by Bernini in the 17th century, because it reminded me of a fairy tale so I decided to base the building in my drawing off of its design.

Value Study
After settling on a composition I made a value study to reference while I rendered the background.  I took a picture of my drawing, which at that point only had the portrait rendered and printed it on a small scale to use for my value study.  Through working out value relationships on a small study first I could experiment with large changes that would be much more difficult to adjust while applying values with washes of diluted graphite on the final piece.

Reference Sketches

 Additionally I made studies of flowers and stems from life to use as a reference for those objects in my final piece.  I made use of these references generally for the shapes of the forms and the light effect revealed.  I did allow myself to bend and curve the stems and flowers more to adhere to a sweeping gesture I was striving for in the composition of my final piece.

Applied Perspective

 I  began drafting the perspective of the building in the background by loosely sketching the building based on the placement of the building in my composition sketch.  Even in this stage I loosely made sure my lines receding in space converged at the vanishing point in the face.  While making the initial block-in of the portrait I did not mark my vanishing point, so for this drawing I just imagined where the vanishing point might be vertically based upon how much it seemed like I was looking down on the features of the portrait.  It seemed that I was generally looking a bit down on the nose so I estimated that my vanishing point would be a little above the nose.

After loosely indicating the placement of the building I proceeded to use one point perspective in finalizing my lines and including more aspects of the building.  I ended up moving my vanishing point a bit more to the right so that the perspective would not appear as extreme.  This new vanishing point that I used is circled in red.  I drew one structure at a time, generally placing the larger structures first and then subdividing those spaces to determine the area and geometry for smaller structures.  Note, Douglas Flynt has an excellent technique for finding multiple points while drawing ellipseson his blog here, such as the ellipse for the window in this building, .

The arrow in the upper left hand corned of the drawing described the direction of the light source.  I drew a right angle from that direction to use as a guide for my triangle in making the angle of the shadows on the building.  As for the distance of the shadows, I based that upon the concept that the closer the light is to the object casting a shadow the longer the shadow will be.  Generally during midday the shadow on an object would be shorter as opposed to at dusk where longer shadows often occur.  I settled on a distance based on the time of day for the scene and just tried to be consistent in the drawing.

I utilized concepts of one point perspective described in G.A Storey's book the Theory and Practice of Perspective and have been taking perspective classes with Anthony Baus in the core program at Grand Central Atelier which has enhanced my understanding of applied perspective.

 I transferred my drawing of the building to the final piece by first placing glacine paper over my portrait to prevent the smearing of graphite.  I traced my drawing of the building which also included an outline of the portrait onto tracing paper then lined up the outline of the portrait to transfer the drawing at the same orientation.

 Once the building was transferred I darkened my lines with graphite pencil.  I did this because I was worried about losing the boundaries of the building while applying washes of diluted graphite powder to the background.  In hindsight, the lines were so dark that they ended up standing out too much to fade into the background and I had  to do much tapping with my kneaded eraser to try to create a more atmospheric effect for the background.

Also, in this stage before applying washes to the background I included drawing for additional landscape elements.  I drew the shirt, backpack and books by using myself and a mirror to draw those objects at a similar orientation to the portrait.

Applying Washes to the Background

 In the interest of saving time I used a process of applying washes of graphite powder diluted with water to render the background and foreground elements.  A wash also allowed for some variation in quality distinctive from the focal point of the portrait.  For me, diluted graphite is more forgiving than watercolor and can be slightly lightened with a kneaded eraser and can be refined with the point of a graphite pencil to adjust mistakes made in the wash process.  Before applying washes of tone to the background I had set up a tonal border with pencil surrounding the contour of the portrait to prevent the spread of diluted graphite into the portrait.  I merged this boundary together using pencil in the final refinements for the background.

I began the wash process by working from light to dark.  I wanted to directly achieve the value in a given area that was in my value study so for the five values seen in this early stage of the background I only applied about five washes of tone.

 With each new darker area of the background I applied subsequent washes of diluted graphite powder.  After this stage I refined the background and foreground mostly with the point of a graphite pencil for the benefit of added control.

Additional References

The Santa Maria del Popolo was the basis for the design of the building in my drawing.

 I referenced the atmospheric tonal range of the buildings in the background in this painting to determine how compressed (close in tone) the values in the background could be.

I referenced some of the landscape elements in the paintings by Bouguereau above.  Such as the foreground grass in the painting, Rest on the left and the sky in the painting, Juenes Bohemiennes on the right.  Additionally I referenced the flowers in the Leonardo Da Vinci and Verrochio collaborative painting, The Madonna and Child with Angels.  Many more classical paintings were referenced to assist in rendering other elements such as the shirt, hair and other aspects of the portrait and background.

In the past I have seen classical artists from Leonardo da Vinci in the 15th century to Anthony van Dyck in the 17th century make use of linear drawings from life as references for paintings so I wanted to give the process a try.  Creating a portrait from initially starting with only a linear block-in from life as a reference showed me more about how a piece can be developed beyond that stage without the use of a live model and just studying master paintings along with studies of nature.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Winter Small Works Show

Eleventh Street Arts presents the "Winter Small Works Show" featuring classical artwork by many artists from the Water Street and Grand Central Atelier.  I am honored to have a piece in this wonderful exhibition.

A summary of this piece's narrative:
The potential of following a unique vision is suggested by the subject's determined expression, collection of books and extending background.

The opening reception is November 17th, 2016   6 -9 pm.  

This exhibition is on view through January 20th, 2017 by appointment.  Please visit,

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Now Teaching

This fall I will be an instructor at the Teaching Studios of Art in Long Island, NY.  Including classes in Art Lessons for Children and Portfolio Prep and Foundations for Teens and Adults.  For more information, please view the Teaching Studios of Art website,

Saturday, May 28, 2016

First Year at Grand Central Atelier

As far as I got on my cast painting of Antiochus III by the end of the first year at Grand Central Atelier.  I learned a lot this year.

My experience at Grand Central Atelier has been better than I could have imagined before I moved to New York.  GCA, including its core program and workshops/part-time classes I have taken there, is by far the best school for classical art education that I have ever studied at.  Not only do the instructors continually provide valuable insights into how I can develop my technique and problem solving skills but furthermore I am surrounded by a positive environment of students who are constantly improving and are willing to share advice.  Also there are so many amazing museums and exhibitions showcasing the genre of classical painting that I have desire to align my work with and viewing those pieces in person has provided invaluable learning experiences that will inform my art for the rest of my career.  I have found the art community at GCA and in New York to consistently re-iterate the fact that progress is limitless.

 Some of the portrait drawings I worked on this year at school are shown below.

 Santiago from the May afternoon pose

I have been trying to improve on gaining a stronger sense of the larger overall form of the head while working to incorporate smaller sub-forms, such as the eyes, in their proper relation to the portrait.  My teachers have been very helpful in making me aware of ways to appreciate and focus on this aspect of rendering.  Paying more attention to the larger form of the portrait at first also has made it more effective and easier to incorporate the sub-forms. 

From the April afternoon pose (with added background and drapery)
While it is engaging to render, I have found that significant improvement lies in much comparison of my drawing in its relation to the subject, both in conceptual form and visual evaluation terms.  I have a tendency to constantly want to have my pencil to the paper or brush to the canvas.  Scott Waddell's advice this year was very helpful in organizing my working method to create better results. Getting into the habit of taking more time to evaluate my decisions has assisted in organizing the sub-forms to the larger overall forms in my portraits.  I noticed that the more I question whether I am getting closer to my goal the better I can see changes that need to be made.

Santiago from the March afternoon pose

 Thanks so much to the help from all of my teachers and peer students.  This year I am fortunate to have benefited from the teaching and advice from many of the instructors at Grand Central Atelier including, Scott Waddell, Patrick Byrnes, Devin Cecil-Wishing, Justin Wood, Brendan Johnston, Katie Whipple, Ted Minoff, Tony Curanaj, Josh LaRock, Jacob Collins, Colleen Barry, Will St. John, Zoe Dufour, Charlie Mostow, Sally Fama Cochrane and Katie Engberg.

I am very much looking forward to what awaits in my second year at Grand Central Atelier.

Thanks again to all who supported my art material fundraiser for school (The Arthur Haywood Education Initiative).  I am very fortunate to be learning so much with the supplies.

Saturday, May 14, 2016


I have most recently been working on a cast painting of "L'inconnoue de la Siene"(the unknown woman of Siene) at Grand Central Atelier.   The alleged story behind this cast is that the mask of this young woman was casted from a drowned individual in the Nineteenth century because her face and expression was captivating and beautiful.

Radio Lab has a very intriguing podcast on the history of this cast here.  The mask became popular throughout Europe in the Nineteenth century and was later used as the basis for the model of the CPR doll.  The podcast is interesting as it refers to the relevance of this young woman who drowned to later becoming the model for mouth to mouth resuscitation.  Generations of people use the CPR doll to practice relieving individuals from drowning and in a sense bring them back to life.

In a similar sense, the approach to painting and drawing taught at Grand Central Atelier focuses on creating believable form to recreate the appearance of individuals.  I titled this painting "Believe" as it was my attempt to make this young girl believable again.  Although I did not nearly meet my goal with this painting I did learn a lot during the process.

I tried to believe in the dimension and reality of each form as I created it and worked my way throughout the portrait form by form.

In my opinion, the more believable the subject of my painting can be the more deeply the translation of specific emotions can be conveyed to communicate specific messages in my art.  Although this painting is just a study the lessons learned from this exercise will allow me to more effectively communicate with my art when I create narrative paintings.

This painting along with a few more of my pieces will be on display as part of  Grand Central Atelier's End of Year Student Show, May 20th 6-9pm and May 21st and 22nd 12 -6 pm.  Located at 46-06 11th Street, Long Island City, NY 11101.  

Lessons Learned

I did learn a lot of new beneficial practices while working on this painting from my instructors and peer students at Grand Central Atelier.  I learned of the benefits of using little bit of a leveling medium, such as Epoxide oil gel, to reduce the amount of textured paint strokes that can accumulate while continuing to adjust paint during the wet into wet painting process. I also learned that when too much paint accumulates on my painting it can be helpful to take a brush with less paint on it and tap into the area to remove the excess paint before trying to more carefully reapply a more specific gradation.  It was helpul to use a thicker amount of paint on this piece to be able to manipulate the paint longer without removing paint down to the surface of the linen.  The more I practiced I tried to get a feel for applying enough paint for it to glide over the weave of the linen.  I noticed that the texture of relatively thick paint initially applied is naturally smooth and when paint is applied so thinly that it is seen between the weave of the linen as opposed to on top of it, the irregularity of the surface creates a texture that is not smooth.

Also, a value painting workshop that us first year students had with Tony Curanaj allowed me to learn more about paint handling.  I learned that while much of making gradations with paint initially involves carefully placing progressions of tone with distinct values of paint that describe a curve of form, the gradation can be refined by carefully dragging those specific tones into each other.  Even though this process can help , I still have to be careful to not completely remove needed paint while blending.  As far as reworking and seams go, I still have yet to figure that out, as my painting is filled with seams.  But while reworking I did get a glimpse into how much refinements can be guided by a feel for what to expect the paint to look like after it has dried and been varnished.  Hopefully if I can be more careful during my initial pass and during reworking on my next painting I will improve.