Taking it Further

Many times when painting a subject from life there just isn’t enough time to finish, or quality control starts to diminish when “artist fatigue” sets in.

The next day, back in the studio, armed with some photos, one taken a little overexposed to see what’s happening in the shadows and one underexposed to see what’s happening in the lightest areas, it’s time to take a hard look. This is one of the greatest ways to develop a keener eye.

So, how do I take it further? Writing down what I like so far;

  • The strong sense of light on her face, an almost stark quality
  • The composition

Now, what could elevate this, if I saw a more advanced version of this painting at an art show, what is it that would make me stop and look?

  • Correct any drawing/value problems that would take away from the whole
  • Work the edges to lead the eye around the painting and not distract
  • Play up the textures1920rough-lrI began in the studio at this point-

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After taking it further with the changes below-

Drawing problems;

  • her left hand and right hands- needed reshaping and softening
  • her left arm, take the value lighter and reshape
  • her knee, not in the right place
  • chin, a little more pointed

Opportunities for texture

  • highlight on her headband
  • shine on her dress
  • fur and sparkles on coat, right side
  • background needs a little more chroma
  • work items on table for more interest

In the beginning when trying to “taking it further” it may seem hard to spot what you need to do, but keep looking with a critical eye and you will soon develop a knack for seeing which direction to take.

 

What’s The Point?

When sitting (or standing) in front of a new subject my first consideration is what’s the point? Why am I painting this thing, because it’s there is the worst possible reason. I’ve got to have a point of view, a motive for lifting the brush to the canvas.

My subject; a young woman with ringlets, red hair and a period dress, sitting stoically upright in a chair. The obvious road to take; a somber earth tone palette with quiet softened edges. My motive, to not paint it this way.

How about a primary limited palette of Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue and Cadmium yellow. This choice could help to keep the color lively even in the flesh tones. wedge1-lr

The initial block in, pushing the color – maybe too far, but I can always take it back later if needed. Separating the dark from the light, which is important for holding on to the form.wedge2-lr

At this point I’m starting to discover the color world she will be living in. It’s now a mater of refining the drawing, deciding how much to include. Is every ruffle necessary or will it take away from the whole. For me, it’s more about what I can put in that makes my point the best, and what I can leave out, just fluff.wedge3-lr

Working with a palette knife was a good way to get the rough textures to play against the smooth. The finished painting ” Wedgwood and Lilac” reflects the way I felt and what I wanted to say about her.

A Photo Shoot, Starting at the End

Harley, posing at the "train station"
Harley, posing at the “train station”

I have a bulletin board in my studio, that holds all kinds of relevant things, enty forms, shipping box size charts, but most importantly inspirational images.

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My bulletin board

 

 

These images are the basis for the feeling I wanted in my new round of paintings. This is where I start, at the end. Now how am I going to get there?

Person; I hired one of my favorite models, Harley, to help me achieve my goal.

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Clark County Heritage Museum

Place; This one was a little more difficult. Where within a 30 mile radius could I find a location with a 1920’s – 40’s look? Neighborhoods, interiors, museums…..yes….our Clark County Heritage Museum has a transplanted street of houses from that era.

John, helping me with location snapshots.
John, helping me with location snapshots.

Going out to the location before hand, seeing the actual layout as well as things like what direction the sun was coming from,  where the restrooms were, all very helpful information in formulating a plan.

Some of the old luggage a friend loaned me
Some of the old luggage a friend loaned me

Thing; the props. This is the fun part. The museum had a train station, so retro luggage was high on my list. I asked around and bingo….my friend Judy had some old luggage that she generously lent me.

Old gloves, my neighbor Carol had a great pair of cream colored short gloves.

Vintage style dresses, yes the Goodwill is my go to fashionista boutique. Found a variety of things that could work. For my esthetic, keeping the value in mid range and tones muted works best.

Farm related props , a bonus, the museum also had a relocated barn; metal pails, work gloves, the apron I made for the my painting in the previous post.

Now I was ready to make the plan. Using the snap shots from the previous visit I layed out a simple story board of each location and what props were needed.

Knowing the layout I was able to make the best use of time, keeping clothing changes to a minimum while getting maximum impact. This also helps to keep me on track. Otherwise it’s easy to lose focus, go in another direction, spending way to much time.

Having an assistant, my husband John, was a super help, to not only assist with carrying everything but working with my portable lighting when it was needed.

On the day of the shoot we experienced the expected, a beautiful day, and the unexpected, two school bus loads of kids, but it all went well and I was very happy with the photos I took.

The Most Important Five Minutes of the Painting

Everyday rain or shine I take my mini dachshund Brandy for a walk. Recently I’ve noticed yards beginning to green up and flowers blooming. I took my camera on our walk the other day and was lucky to see these roses fully opened. What I like about this subject is the organized chaos of nature, the twisting, turning and curling of forms.

Aprildemlr1The palette was Cad. Yellow Light, Cad. Yellow Deep, Cad. Red Light, Cad. Red Deep, Viridian Green and Cobalt Blue.

At this point I figured out the basic color blocks and was happy with the placement. Continuing around, developing areas, being careful to not spend too much time in any one area.

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How can I take this to a place that only paint can go? Heavy application in the lights, softer in the background, sharper in the flower and leaves…

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The beginning of the second day is the most important five minutes of the painting. I have to resist the urge to grab a brush and start painting.Instead I pull up a chair, set my phone for five minutes and just look. This is a great time to train my eye, how can I move this to a conclusion? Searching for distracting areas like that bit of light blue in the upper left hand corner that pull my eye out of the picture, searching for ways to make the things I like about it better, like carefully going over that top edge of the flower, looking for the little variations that make it interesting.

These seem like small things, but I’ve found that many small things add up to a big impact. When the alarm goes off I might set it for another five minutes until I feel I have a solid plan in mind.

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April’s Offering by Diane Eugster

The finish.

 

 

The Results of 30/30

30 Paintings in 30 Days by Diane Eugster
30 Paintings in 30 Days by Diane Eugster

The image above is a college of the paintings I completed in January as a result of the 30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge.

This experience taught me many things I truly believe I would not have learned otherwise. You could say it was a microcosm of how I work, the Cliffsnotes, the Reader’s Digest version.

Going through a beginning, a middle, and end each day, I began to see how I work a painting. Otherwise a painting may take 1 or 2 weeks, things happen so incrementally that I haven’t seen the patterns. I can compare it to watching a time-lapse of myself painting 30 paintings. Isn’t that what athletes do, watch video after video of themselves to determine what they are doing wrong, or right?

My first discovery was how much self-doubt I had while working. It took me about 2 weeks to put my finger on it. Nagging, whispering “you can’t do it”, “why did you do that?” “you’re just not good enough”, all the while holding me back and squelching my creativity. When I finally put a name to it I was ready to fight back.

I’ve never been one for mantra’s …yes you can… yes you can…, but I stopped and looked around, 14 times I did do it, 14 times I figured it out. Having the visual right in front of my face, I began to believe I really could.

This year I am going to make it a goal to put visuals on my studio wall of things I accomplish, got in a show, my work singled out, and not just accomplishments that involve other people’s opinions of me but ones where I achieved a step forward personally in my painting. We are so quick to dwell on the negative things that happen with our work and push away, too easily, all of the positives that we’ve accomplished.

The college at the top of the page was made through an awesome, free, website called PicMonkey. They even have Facebook templates so that you can create a college to fit your banner.

Experimenting with Color, Painting without White

I like to throw a challenge out to myself when planning a painting, it wakes me out of the trance of doing things the same way all of the time.

I began this painting by using only the paint colors that I had to in order to paint the subject. Being very conservative about my choices was a good way of experimenting with color.

The most obvious thing I needed was a red, Cad Red Medium wouldn’t let me get the warmer orange reds, so I decided on Cad Red Light.

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As I looked further I could see some rich cool reds would also help the painting so I went ahead and added Cad Red Medium (though later on in the painting I saw I could have done without it).

The darkest darks in the image where brown, so Burnt Umber made the list.

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The warm light in the image made Naples Yellow my choice, which is one of my favorite colors because of it’s buttery light tone and it’s opacity.

blo4 I grabbed my tube of white as if almost by habit, than stopped myself, can I get by using Naples Yellow in place of white? The answer was yes,using Naples Yellow instead of white kept the warm glow in the image. The opaque quality lighten up the Umber, while keeping some warmth, burnt umber can get very grey when mixed with white. The pinks that were made with the reds and the naples yellow kept the color harmony in the painting.

Lady in Red by Diane Eugster
Lady in Red by Diane Eugster

Setting the Scenes, How I’ve Photographed the Artist’s Model

This is the fourth and final post in a series on how I work with the Artist’s model in order to get great photo reference for my paintings.

Now I get to play movie director, I’ve got my props, costumes, actors (models) and I’m ready to build some scenes. I begin by picturing my model in her “costume”, what could she be doing?

Here’s one example; I had this slender young woman coming to my house to be photographed in a blue night gown . I start walking through my house, room by room, imagining what she could be doing in a blue nightgown.

  • Standing by the bed, changing the sheets, making them billow in the air-
  • Walking down the stairs, dragging sheets behind her-
  • Standing at the kitchen sink, washing dishes-
  • Standing with a cup of coffee and looking out my back door-
Back Window by Diane Eugster
Back Window by Diane Eugster

As ideas come, putting down some thumbnail sketches will help me to keep things organized. Of course there will be some good spontaneous scenes happening, but my head is like a squirrel on steroids when I’m actually taking the photos, so I don’t want to forget any good possibilities .

Taking advantage of natural light coming in a window is another consideration. I photographed this model in my dining room as the light streamed in the windows.

First Light by Diane Eugster
First Light by Diane Eugster

Putting something in the model’s hand, usually helps to relax them, notice the coffee cup, the flower above and the piece of fruit below.

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My painting with the model holding an apple

Always be respectful of your models, remember, even if you are paying them, they are doing you a favor by lending their likeness to be photographed for your paintings. So I’m sure to;

  • Provide a private room for them to change in, hangers included –
  • Never push a model to wear something they don’t feel comfortable in –
  • Give them breaks, offer a cold drink and some time to rest-
  • Explain what I’m looking for, casual poses. Many people’s only experience with having pictures taken of them is smiling and look at the camera, so I tell them, picture a Sears photo portrait, that is exactly the opposite of what I’m looking for –
  • Provide your model with a CD of the photos you took or download them to a photo sharing site like Dropbox –
  • Pay your model in cash, and gratefully thank them –

Start painting from those fabulous photos!

Equipment for photographing the Artist’s Model

This is the third post in a series on my experiences photographing people for artistic reference. Note: I’m not trying to sell or making any profit on anyone’s products that I suggest!

I have always used the simplest equipment to get the best results. For many years I  used a Sony 7.2 M Cyber Shot digital camera.

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Sony Cyber Shot

When I started joining photo sessions to shoot models at photography studios I had to upgrade to a digital SLR camera. Participating meant you snapped a transmitter on your camera which would trip the studio lights every time you took a picture. So I upgraded to a Canon Digital Rebel XT. It’s an easy camera to use, I’ve been very happy with it. As time goes by, these cameras have new models with more pixels per inch, but for my purpose, getting a clear, sharp 5″ x 7″ print is all that’s needed.

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Canon Digital Rebel XT

 

 

The only extra attachment I have is the 70-300 mm USM Telephoto lens, which was a great investment.

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The photo below was taken from a cliff hundreds of feet away from the subject with this lens.

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The Subject Photo

pain7The photo above, another beach shot from so far away, they never knew it! (notice the flip phone, this was taken awhile ago).

va010I caught this young woman in a rose garden in Portland, she never saw it coming!

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This one taken from 50 feet away, I love this lens!

Another piece of equipment that I sometimes use is a Chromalux Light for indoor shots.

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The only other thing that I use is a tripod for my camera.

Camera Tripod
Camera Tripod

 

When shooting picture indoors, it’s surprising how dark it is. Even with the Chromalux lamp, the camera shutter has to be open for a long time to get the light into the lens. When this happens it is virtually impossible to hold the camera steady enough, your pictures will end up looking like the one below-

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photo with no tripod

That’s it! In the next post I’ll talk about setting the scene(s).

Photographing the Artist’s Model, preparing the props

This is a part of a series on finding and photographing models for Artist’s reference. I’ve found like most things, the more I prepare, the more I’m going to get out of it.

The Inspiration

This is truly my favorite part, maybe better than working on the painting, because at this point, I’m a genius, I can do anything, I’m going to really create something special! Searching for inspiration, the magazine section of any large book retailer like Barnes and Nobel is a Disneyland of visual stimulation. I can find photos of everything from Cooks to Cowboys. A publication I really like for ideas is Belle Armoire magazine.

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 2.47.19 PMAnother source of inspiration can be catalogs. A favorite of mine is the catalog for Free People clothing.

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 6.41.01 PM Finding a direction

I limit my photo taking sessions to 1 and a half- 2 hours max, so a focus is important to get as much accomplished in that time as possible. In this 2 hour time frame I limit the clothing changes to three.

Keeping your model in mind, begin tearing pages out of your magazines and catalogs, tape them to a wall. Now reality kicks in… which looks could I create the essence of? I could definitely use the pony tail wrap, the funky sweater could be purchased at  GoodWill , plus hot glue on some fabric scraps. The look on the right; some drapes from the thrift store or an old bed spread , some fake fur from Joann’s and a trusty hot glue gun.

Note: again I’m talking about the essence of the photo, not copying it. These props are for your photos, they can even be held together with double stick tape. It’s the clothes and props that set the mood. If you can sew , all the better. The outfit on the model below; a piece of fabric knotted and hot glued for the headband, sleeves cut off an old shirt for gloves, I made the dress from an old maxi skirt brought up and  stitched to a tank top.

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I always like to ask the model if she has something special or unusual to bring. The hair stylist in the previous post was a belly dancer too, who knew, she brought her entire costume! Another model, the young woman below had her own Victorian dress.

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In the next post I’m going to talk about staging the photos, my camera and lighting.

 

Location, Location, Location

This is part of several blog posts that share my experience over the years with finding, setting up and taking photos of people for my paintings. In this post I’m going to talk about the places I like to use to take these photos.

note; It would be nice to have live models to paint from, but most of the time it’s just not realistic. The cost of hiring someone for 4 or 5 days is cost prohibitive, and down right boring to many people. A good balance for me is to attend a life drawing session regularly. A good one here in Las Vegas is at the Summerlin Art Group. What I learn from life drawing can be infuse into the photo images.

1. Parks

Outdoors has always been a favorite of mine. And parks tops my outdoor list. Spring Mountain State Park is 30 minutes from Las Vegas, with trails, trees and historic buildings, it’s a great pick.

Painting at Spring Mountain Ranch by Diane Eugster
My Painting from a photo at Spring Mountain Park

Many home developers have common area parks with stone bridges, water features etc. If there isn’t a gate, why not use the scenery in your own photos?

Local parks are another great choice. Sometimes this is a good alternative if your model doesn’t know you very well and would feel more comfortable meeting at a public place for your photo shoot.

2. Home

There’s no place like home – in the next few days, walk around inside your home with an eye for painting scenarios. Think small, it only takes a corner of a room with the light streaming in to make some drama. Your couch looking a little tired?, throw a quilt on it for a different painterly effect? It might be surprising the special areas in your home that would lend themselves to scenes.

3. Your Backyard

We have desert landscaping, with some vines growing on the stucco walls. The photo below looks like a garden, but it’s just staged in a small pocket of greenery

My photo
My photo
Painting in my backyard by Diane Eugster
My Painting

3. Borrow a Backyard

That’s right you might have a friend or relative with a green thumb, they would probably be flattered that you wanted to use their yard in one of your paintings.

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My Mother-in-laws Garden

4. Your Model’s Home

The great thing about this is, being in their own home, your model is more likely to be relaxed, a relaxed model is a good model. You may discover things there that you never dreamed of putting in a painting before. The Model below had some fabulous tapestries in her home –

photo by Diane Eugster
The photo in front of one of her tapestries

My next post we’ll talk about how I get myself and the model ready for a shoot-