The Idea of North – The Paintings of Lawren Harris

The Idea of North, The Paintings of Lawren Harris at the Museum of Fine Art in Boston through June 12, 2016. Lawren Harris was a member of the Group of Seven.

Gary Faigin Studio

It was a real treat visiting Gary Faigin‘s studio in Ballard.


Gary uses a Hughes Easel, model 3000. This easel allows Gary to effortlessly move large paintings up, down, left, and right.


This charcoal drawing was from an O-scale Lionel train.


Tools of the trade.


An important part of Gary’s process is his quick sketches. He has recorded thousands of ideas in notebooks over the year and often turns to them for inspiration when starting a new series.


All Atelier Day 2016

One of my favorite events at Gage is All Atelier Day. It’s a combination of a group critique, potluck, and workshop. In the morning students from each of the ateliers presented their work to a panel of Gage faculty and guest artists. This year’s guest panelist was Mary Ann Peters. It is always inspiring to see the work of my fellow students and interesting to hear the panel’s thoughts on each piece. After a break for bánh mì sandwiches and homemade desserts, Kimberly Trowbridge led us in a collage project.

Portrait Study V

After a long hiatus, I’ve finally gotten back to my rim-lit portrait study (see versions one, two, three, and four). This time I’m applying the lessons I’ve learned from the C-17 and am working on the drawing in Adobe Illustrator. Once I’m satisfied with the drawing, I will print it out and then do a few oil studies on top. Then I should be ready to start actual painting.


March 6, 2016

This evening I updated the sky and the tarmac to look like the study and I painted the light washing over the vertical stabilizer. The illuminated vertical stabilizer is important because it allows me to use a very light salmon near the horizon and still have the painting read as a nocturne. When painting a nocturne, one constantly has to use tricks like this to avoid a dark painting.

Before starting, I mixed three strings of Winsor & Newton Artisan Water Mixable Oil Colors. The first string was a salmon color consisting of Burnt Sienna and Cadmium Yellow Pale Hue (Hansa Yellow), lightened with Titanium White and darkened with Burnt Umber. The second was a pastel violet consisting of French Ultramarine, Cadmium Red Hue (Naphthol Red), and Titanium White. The third string was a cool green consisting of French Ultramarine, Cadmium Yellow Pale, and Titanium White.


The sky is salmon and violet with a few dabs of pure French Ultramarine in the corners. Since I was painting the new colors over the previous, monochromatic sky, I started by painting the clouds with the salmon, then worked the violet into the darker regions in between. If I do a bigger version of this painting, I will start the sky with a smooth violet gradient and then work in the salmon clouds wet on wet. This will be much easier and look just as good.

The tarmac is broken color using the dark end of all three strings plus a mixture of French Ultramarine and Prussian Blue for the darkest puddles. I spent quite a while with three brushes in my hand, carefully bringing the value up as much as possible in order to make the reflection of the dark fuselage show.

I used the light end of the green string for the vertical stabilizer. My next pass will take the bottom of the tail almost up to pure white.

The next session should bring in the highlights on the leading edge of the wing and the engine nacelles.

Winslow Homer at the Clark

The Clarke Museum in Williamstown, Massachusetts has a great collection of paintings by Winslow Homer. Here are just a few that are currently on display.

The closeup below shows Homer’s loose brushwork and rich application of paint.

Closeup of Summer Squall by Winslow Homer

Closeup of Summer Squall by Winslow Homer

February 28, 2016

I spent the evening doing color studies for the C-17, painted directly on 5″ x 10″ photographs of the larger painting. Here’s the photo before any paint has been applied. At this point, I was concerned that the image may be too monochromatic.

The original image.

The original image.

First I tried making the sky dark blue, but it just didn’t look right. The painting had lost the moody feeling along with all of the interesting clouds in the sky. I did like the glowing green cockpit lights, but they came at a cost – the windows were no longer unified with the sky.

Dark blue sky and glowing green cockpit.

Dark blue sky and glowing green cockpit.

I wanted to retain the moody feeling of a stormy industrial sky at midnight, so for my second attempt, I introduced broken green and purple in the sky. This was a bit more successful than the blue sky, but the change that really made a difference was illuminating the tail and the leading edges of the wing and the engines.

Sky is broken purple/green. Tail, wing leading edge, and engines are illuminated.

Sky is broken purple/green. Tail, wing leading edge, and engines are illuminated.

Here’s the third study. This time, I tried to retain the orange clouds, while introducing violet in the sky and teal on the tarmac. This was the most successful study of the evening, but it still didn’t have the mood of the industrial night sky. Part of the problem is that orange clouds against a violet sky read as sunrise or sunset, and this works against the mood of a dark giant in the dead of night.

Sky is broken orange/violet. Tail, wing leading edge, and engines are illuminated.

Sky is broken orange/violet. Tail, wing leading edge, and engines are illuminated.

My key learnings from the studies are

  1. The sky cannot be blue because even a very dark blue will read as a clear day, just before the dawn. Purple and orange work well for post-midnight industrial sky. Next time I will try a green sky.
  2. The design is much better when the tail and wing and engines are illuminated.

More Pieces from the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum

The Mount Holyoke College Art Museum has quite a large collection of interesting paintings. Here are a few highlights from my last visit.