Saturday, February 28, 2009

A Virtual Visit to My Studio

My thanks to everyone for such kind and encouraging comments about my Aretha Franklin portrait!  She's almost done.....

Spent much of today learning how to make a video clip so that I could share some information with you, in case it is of interest, on how I gild with gold leaf, and possibly later on how I mix my egg tempera medium, demo-style. 

Hope you enjoy this first one, an introductory visit to my studio, and let me know if you'd enjoy another clip.

*Best viewed with QuickTime 7 or later (free download) 

Friday, February 27, 2009

Aretha, Step 5

(portrait in progress, 4" x 4")

For this session I've been refining some details of Aretha's face and her clothing, and solidifying some of the background figures behind her.  More on Aretha tomorrow, and also on the gilding of my panel for the mother/daughter portrait.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Aretha's Famous Hat

(portrait in progress, 4" x 4")

After two days of patient work, I finally got all the Swarovsky crystals on Aretha's hat!  It took a bit longer than it would have if I had a few new brushes, but since it was extremely cold today I decided to wait on this trip to the art store, and give it my best try anyway. 

I was surprised to find out this week that Aretha's hat, designed by Luke Song, has become quite famous, and believe it or not, it even has it's own Facebook page now, with over 100,000 fans, including yours truly!  Due to at least 300 requests, a $179 less expensive version of the hat has been made available by Song's millinery, and according to the Chicago Tribune, the Smithsonian has requested to make Aretha's hat part of a special permanent exhibit.  

Aretha's response:  "I am considering it.  It would be hard to part with my chapeau, since it was such a crowning moment in history.  I would like to smile every time I look back at it and remember what a great moment it was in American and African-American history."

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sorting Out a Small Work on a Gold Leaf Panel

Detail of my drawing that will go in the center of the panel, overlapping
and following the lines of the inset area.

Icon panel, 13"W x 17"H

I spent part of today sorting out how I want to do a small work painting in oil on panel.  It's important for me to do a small work periodically, because it gives me an opportunity to loosen up my hand for the miniatures themselves.   I also want to try painting this one in oil over gold leaf.   It's something new for me, but I hope it will still be fun and interesting to see what I can come up with.

I have a special icon panel I ordered from Pandora, my panel supplier, just because I loved the shape, and I've been saving it for just the right painting, so maybe this is it.  I asked for this particular panel to be made slightly different from it's standard version that was being shown online (it originally had small window insets on the sides), and it is a real luxury that Pandora is willing to fulfill special requests like this.

I did a sketch in pencil from a photo I took of a friend and her baby daughter wearing a tulle ballet skirt.  I want the painting to crop tightly around their faces in a way that draws the viewer in.  I will apply the gold leaf all over the panel, allowing some of the gold leaf to peek through the oil paint to help give the painting a golden glow.  Above is a photo of my panel, and a portion of my pencil drawing (which didn't quite all fit on my scanner) that will be a guide for the painted version. 

The panel has an icon-style indentation that follows the pattern of it's outer shape, and it's a smaller area than I want to paint in, so I decided I will allow the painting to expand out beyond the in-set area about 1/2", while still following it's shape.  Doing this may even wind up adding further interest.  My next step will be to cover the panel with leaf, and allow it to set overnight. 
I will be oil gilding, and in this instance using imitation gold leaf, which will still have the same rich effect as real gold leaf in terms of it's overall impact.

I'll post more progress on Aretha tomorrow........

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Aretha, Step 3, plus a word about brushes & framing your miniature

Now working up the image over all a bit more, I've added the black velvet bands to the hat, so that I can start adding all those sparkling Swarovski crystals onto the black trim.  

Here is a line-up of my palette knives and brushes used for my miniature paintings.  Left-to-right:  palette knives for scraping paint off my palette, and for mixing pigments in jars, #20/0 Silver Ultra Mini Pointed round, #5/0 Escoda Kolinsky, 1/2" flat Cotman Windsor & Newton, #3/0 Umbria round Princeton synthetic, #0 and #1 Cotman blue-handled synthetics, #2 Princeton filbert, 2/0 Princeton shader, 3/0 Princeton round, 20/0 Princeton spotter, 15/0 Micron detailer, #000 & #00 (and up to #1 is also good) Series 7 miniature sable Windsor & Newtons, #000, #00, (#0 missing here), #1 regular Series 7 Windsor and Newton (I use these if I can't get the miniature Series 7, or in combo with them), Utrecht's (comparable to W & N series 7 for a lower price) Vermeer kolinsky sables series 221 in #000, #00, & #1.  The three brushes I use most often are:  3/0 Princeton Round, #000 series 7 miniature W & N sable, and the 15/0 Micron Detailer.

To frame your miniature, if you can't find a suitable photo frame, I recommend a framer who specializes in scaled down delicate frames, such as MiniArt Supply.  Proprieter Nancy Still is a talented miniature painter & MASF member.  She carries a wide assortment of tasteful ready-made frames, but also will make and ship a frame to fit your specifications for a reasonable price.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Aretha, Step 2

A little more progress on Aretha, starting here to establish a background and suggest people sitting behind her.  I'm working on the form and shadows of the hat, and will be adding detail to it.  I had hoped to get further, but it's late, so I'll do another post on this tomorrow and I'll add the brush information then too. 

Sunday, February 15, 2009

"Angel Be Mine"

"Angel Be Mine," 1" x 13/16", egg tempera on vellum, $30 + free shipping (see 3/21/09 sale)

Here are the other two hearts I painted.  "Love You" and "Angel Be Mine" are each painted "in the spirit of miniature," which is a rule applied when something, such as a candy heart, is too small to begin with to portray at 1/6th scale.

Note:  I'm working on my portrait of Aretha and will be posting my progress late tonight, along with a photo and some information in answer to someone's question about the brushes I use for miniature painting.  Meanwhile, take a look at my latest drawing recently posted on my other blog, Grander Joy of Spirit in Portraiture.  

Saturday, February 14, 2009

"Love You"

"Love You," 5/8" x 5/8", egg tempera on vellum

Happy Valentine's Day!  Two more Valentine candy hearts coming tomorrow......

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A "Kiwi Berry Tart" for your sweetheart

"Kiwi Berry Tart", 1  1/8" x 1  1/8", egg tempera on vellum, 
$50 + $5 shipping (see 3/21/09 sale to purchase)

More on Aretha next, but one of my colleagues, Ed, wanted to see me do some miniature paintings of pastries from my favorite local bakery, Brooklyn Bread, so here is a "Kiwi Berry Tart" for someone's lucky sweetheart!  Mmmmm.........

Monday, February 9, 2009

Step 1: "I Say A Little Prayer"

(approximately 4 1/8" x 4 1/8" - egg tempera on vellum, in progress)

While you are following my progress on this miniature portrait of Aretha Franklin, wax nostalgic with me by clicking below on her performance of "I Say a Little Prayer."  I was in high school when she made this appearance in 1970 on "The Cliff Richard Show." Many thanks to "thecatkeaton" for permission to share this very special YouTube video with you!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Two Bluebirds of Happiness, Version 1 and 2

"The Bluebird of Happiness II," 1" x 1", egg tempera on vellum, 
with hand-painted matt, for the Hipp family

my first "Bluebird of Happiness," 1" x 1", egg tempera on vellum with hand-painted vellum matt, Venetian glass mosaic frame

My friends, the Hipp family, moved out of my building a few weeks ago, and I was sad to lose them as neighbors, even though they will still be in Brooklyn.  The Hipp daughters loved my "Bluebird of Happiness" and the miniature painting I did of it, so I decided to surprise them with a housewarming gift for their new apartment by painting another one inch square painting of the bluebird of happiness, version 2.  I tried to make it as close to the first version as possible, but gave the second bluebird a different framing treatment.  I like both framing treatments for different reasons.  What do you think?

Just received an Art Blog Award from great artist & fellow art blogger, Akiko Watanabe.  Thanks Akiko!  Please check out her amazing animal paintings.  The recipient of this award is supposed to name 7 things he/she loves, so here are 7 of mine:

1.  I love God, and I feel a connection to God whenever I paint, and this is #1 for me. 
2.  photography - some I do for painting reference, but more recently I have 'gone pro' and included my photography in my professional galleries on my website.  Some of my photography combines with my love for travel.
3.  Icon-writing - I've taken lessons in Russian Byzantine icon painting  (called 'icon-writing'), and this is something I very much enjoy and look forward to doing more of.
4.  The view out my studio window - I look out on Brooklyn rooftops and the Williamsburg Bank building.  I've heard there is a falcon's nest on the top of it's tower.
5.  The food in my neighborhood -  great restaurants.  Akiko, come visit!  There is the local Food Co-op and Brooklyn Bread bakery, with the pastries of your dreams, cannolis, cream puffs, fruit tarts and delicacies.  I'll have to paint some of these.
6.  Park Slope -  the neighborhood where I live in Brooklyn, is a hopping place I've called home for 31 years.
7.  Water - I love the seashore and water environments, so my studio is LoveWater Studio.

I'm passing this Art Blog Award to five artists in the miniature painting and wildlife arenas:
Rachelle and Wes Siegrist - award-winning husband-wife team of miniaturists specializing in wildlife art.  Rachelle has also won awards for her miniature portraits
Bill Mundy - from Oxfordshire, U.K. one of the greatest portrait miniaturists, who shares wonderful travel stories
Dana Lee Thompson - check out Dana's website including miniature paintings of her specialties:  hounds and horses
Johnny Mullane - just recently discovered this wonderful wildlife painter's blog

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Aretha and a Bit About Process

My pencil drawing of Aretha combines several images I caught, so it has the feeling I want

my goose-neck magnifier which I use intermittently over my miniatures in progress, along with the blue Saral transfer paper I use to transfer my pencil drawing onto my vellum

During the presidential inauguration I was experimenting with my digital camera taking shots of the imagery on my TV screen, and I captured about half a dozen shots of Aretha Franklin wearing her gorgeous outfit and belting out our national song like we've never heard it.  She was so fantastic that day, I knew right away I wanted to make a miniature of her from this occasion!  It's been very busy behind the scenes for me, and I'm sorry it's meant less posting for a bit, but wanted to at least share my start on this mini, esp. if it also gives me a chance to show you more about my process.  

One popular FAQ I am asked is whether I work under magnification.  I use this goose-neck magnifier which has a lens magnification of about 350 percent.  It cost me about $15 on E-bay when I bought it, and it's flexible neck allows me to bend the angle and height of the lens over my work however I like.   I work by naked eye too, but I monitor how it's looking under the magnifier, and partly it's painted under the magnifier too.  There's a competition category in the MASF show for the best miniature by someone under age 35, and I'm always joking it should be for the best miniature over middle age, because everyone's ability to see at close-range diminishes after mid-life.  If only I had the close vision I had at 35!

I work with blue Saral transfer paper, which works just like carbon paper (comes in graphite, blue, red, yellow, white).  I prefer blue which gives me a light line that I can retain but brush even lighter just before I start to paint with a small wad of cotton, so my drawing winds up adequately 'cued in', but doesn't overwhelm the translucent layers of egg tempera that I will be adding.

Unless it's a commissioned drawing, my preliminary drawings for paintings tend to be more utilitarian and smudgy (I'm a lefty!).  For my portrait of Aretha I decided to combine the facial expression from one photo with the sweeping hand gesture in another.  My years of practice with combining imagery as an illustrator make this part easy for me.  My photos are pretty fuzzy from being taken from TV, but hopefully should be good enough to pull off this miniature portrait.  For it's size I decided I wanted her to be as big as allowable and still consider this a 1/6th scale miniature.

I intend to make this a masterwork mini rather than a daily, but I'll be taking you through my steps on it as I progress.