I’ve always admired the art of, and particularly this painting done in 1516, by Albrecht Dürer from the National Gallery in D.C. Particularly when I read this description of the painting from the Gallery’s voluminous volume of selected works, and Dürer’s ability to:
“lay open the fine net-work of the heart and brain of man”…”to make us see deep into the soul until we understand, for example, the character of this ugly, resolute individual, whose personality, flashing out through luminous and asymmetrical eyes, exerts a powerful spell. His is the face of the Reformation”.
So I thought I would make my own attempt to capture him.
This is the final studio watercolor, along with my working sketch of a commissioned work, one of my more challenging. Final size about 18 by 13 inches. There was a lot going on with this home. I took many reference photos from different angles and spent quite a bit of time consolidating and compressing the placement of the many prominent items in the yard as to get them all in the image in a pleasing way without overly compromising their actual placement in the landscaping. I’m a bit reluctant to say that this work took many months to complete. Fortunately, the homeowner was very accommodating and understanding. It just so happened that about the time I was commissioned, my graphic design business really took off. But I should also admit that I intermittently suffered from the “crisis of confidence” that I suppose every creative person goes through. In my experience, the only way out is to go through it.
I was asked if I would design the collateral material for this year’s Houston Heights Home Tour. It’s a gratis project of course. Since I’m trying to build my freelance graphic design and illustration business, there’s always the anticipation that such projects will raise my profile among prospective clients. That’s never a given, but I can alway hope. Besides, the theme seemed like a fun and interesting idea to design around, and possibly get some nice portfolio pieces to boot. The Heights, like all of Houston, is going through enormous transformation. Hence the main theme “Embracing Change.” The theme for the auction/gala however, is “Casablanca.” The original idea given to me was to use a still from the iconic final scene from the movie. Instead, I offered to create a custom, original image that tied in to the neighborhood theme. I must admit, I was motivated by the anticipated challenge and fun. The final image was created in Adobe Illustrator. I used a graphite sketch I worked up as a template. The only mentionable changes made from drawing to finished art are that I altered Rick’s slack-jawed mouth, and I reduced Ilsa’s figure a bit. Oh yes; and instead of a waiting plane in the fog-shrouded background, I added a home-lined neighborhood street with oak tree foliage.
I drew these portraits as part of a freelance corporate illustration project. Each is about three and a half by four and a half inches. Studio portraits were used as reference.
I wanted to create chalk drawings on my front walkway and sidewalk for Halloween, but was disappointed with the store-bought color choices. So I made my own, using a variety of powdered temperas colors, water-mixed with plaster-of-paris. Once ready, I poured the goop into tiny paper cups. When dry, they were popped out and piled in a plastic bin for use. Fun!
What do you do when you’re at Houston’s fine art museum for a Friday morning creative talk and you don’t feel up to “networking” beforehand or simply listening to the speaker once it starts? Why, you take out your pen and sketch of course!
A few years back I went on a watercolor “paint out” to a dairy goat farm outside of Houston called Blue Heron Texas. There a young couple make wonderful goat cheese from Nubian goats and sell it regionally at farmers markets. It was a great experience. There were just about every species of barnyard critter you can imagine. Cats, dogs, pigs, chickens, and a giant male turkey by the name of Dory.
As I stood at my field easel, painting away, Dory sauntered up to me and began humping my leg. Not a little. A lot. This was a big turkey, and he just about knocked me off my feet. I was greatly amused, as was the young lady who was hosting us, and besides being somewhat embarrassed, decided to record the event for her blog. Dory followed me around for the rest of the day. I made a few sketches, but didn’t get much painting done. Alas, I found out a few weeks later that he ended up in a frying pot.
Sketched on the bus. See more here.
This is the first of several watercolors I painted recently for a benefit art show and sale. A few years ago, my wife and I took our first trip to California. We visited one of the parks and were very moved by the majestic trees. Inspired, I took out my trusty, cork-covered sketchbook and pen on the flight home and created the drawing that became the painting.
It took me quite a while get the look that I envisioned. I wanted to portray dappled sunlight, and I did a whole bunch of preparatory exercises. I was particularly challenged by the reddish path and the tree trunks. Once I took a deep breath and laid down that first wet-in-wet wash, I have to say I was less than satisfied. Exasperated, I quickly blotted out the still damp wash and let it dry. Having spent many hours practicing and still not achieving the results that I wanted, I was very frustrated. What worked was that the second time around I went at it with a devil-may-care fury. I realized that I was being too deliberate and tight with my brushwork and once I loosened up, the results were beyond my expectations.