Wednesday, December 31, 2014

It's My Party

It's New Year's Eve, so this seems a suitable post. 

This is a piece I painted on the fly one afternoon, when an ex and I were bored and looking for something to do, so we hit up the dollar store and bought some canvases and acrylics and paint took them back to his place to see what we could come up with.

Acrylic on 8x10 canvas
The original idea for this was supposed to be a kind of "Waking Up In Vegas" meets Norman Rockwell's "Santa's Helper" (Not that I'd be so arrogant as to compare myself to Rockwell) but instead of the kind of dazed and confused look I was going for, the subject ended up looking more sad and dejected in an all-dressed-up-nowhere-to-go or even an it's-my-party-and-I'll-cry-if-I-want-to kind of way.

The texture on this piece came out looking almost watercolor-ish in parts, mostly because I was adding water to the paint itself.  My dollar-store canvas was not properly primed so it was sucking up colour like a vacuum.

This is one of my better human-body attempts, aside from the one short arm and the legs lacking much in the way of shading and depth.  But, I tend to have problems showing people in many poses beyond standing, so I was happy to have her remain somewhat proportionate and even look like she's seated and not just contorted.  However, if I were to go back I'd add more shading so her legs look like spaghetti-like and so that she looks like like she's floating in the corner.


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Down By The Water

I took a drive one Tuesday evening, in an attempt to lose myself, both figuratively and literally.  It had been a bad day.

My wandering led me to a winding road outside of Honey Harbour, where I parked my car and took a walk through the brush.

When I came out the other side I happened upon an old decrepit dock leading out into what may once have been small lake or pond but was now mostly half-dried up marshland.  The dock reached toward the shoreline, but the water had receded to the point where the end of the dock barely touched water, grass had grown up between the boards.

Acrylic on 12x16 canvas

This is one of the pieces that I am mulling over trying to fix up and add more detail to.  I really like how the barn and the tree-line in the background turned out, but I feel like the colour is off on the grasses and that the foreground could use more detail.  I'd like to make the dock itself look more three-dimensional.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Southwood Plantation Road

This is a quick and dirty piece I did as kind of a warm up exercise after I had spent far too much time away from the canvas.  It's a pretty quick piece but it came together nicely, in my opinion.

It's loosely based on my imagined vision of the property and house featured in the song "Southwood Plantation Road" from the album Tallahassee by the Mountain Goats which is, according to legend, a concept album centered around a couple who buy a dilapidated home in Florida and descend into alchoholism while the house falls apart around them.

It is wonderful, and everyone should  listen to it.  For realz.

Acrylic on 20x20 canvas

I will take a moment to mention that I have never, ever been to Florida and thus I have no idea what Florida actually looks like.  But whenever I hear this song, I picture a large, rambling farm house down a kilometer-long drive, looking out over fields of farmland.

Sue me.

I'd like to to eventually create an entire series based on this album.  John Darnielle's lyrics include a lot of vivid imagery that lends itself well to different visual media.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Color Abstract - or - Bra, do you even Gouache?

When my friend Sammi moved to California, she gifted me with some of her art supplies, including some tubes of designer's gouache.

I had no idea what it was or what it was for.

Did you know gouache is to be used similar to watercolor?

I didn't.  No freakin' idea.

My first attempt to paint with gouache, I went at it like I would acrylics.  Just gobs of pure color, no water.

It was vibrant, but crazy-hard to work with. Durrrrr.

I got this out for my efforts:



It's pretty much a collection of colours, so I could get a feel for the medium I was using so very, very wrong.

But, I don't know.  I kind of like it.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Construction Office


I'm not quite sure what to call this.

A few springs ago I took a walk along this abandoned property just outside of town.  The home that used to exist there burned or was torn down ages ago, leaving nothing but the foundation.  I had gone exploring with the intent of taking some pictures of the ruins in the bush.

While tramping around in the woods, I inevitably got myself turned around and came out of the woods about a kilometer away from where I had parked, into what would later become a luxury housing development near the local marina.

When I looked at the pictures I took that day, including those around the land being 'developed', it struck me how the area, in its state of construction, resembled photographs I had seen of war-torn areas.

Acrylic on 20x24 canvas
This painting, based on one of the photos that came out of that session, was another 'rough start' that got put away for a number of years before I found the motivation to finish it.  I would take it out every six months or so, kind of dab at it, then put it away.  I finally finished it about three weeks ago, after starting it sometime in 2010.

The building in the foreground was being used at the time as the head contractor's office, although its existence far pre-dates the subdivision being put in.

I had a really hard time getting the proportion of the windows and bricks of the building and eventually said 'Screw it' and took an entire window out, so it's not true to life.

It's a bit of an impressionist piece, as I used more of a suggestion of brickwork on the building itself, the effect being more... well.. effective if you stand back a bit.

Overall, I'm quite happy with the outcome, especially in light of the fact that more than a few times I was tempted to trash this one entirely.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Hips Like Cinderella

The Pixies' "Tame" starts off with a simple but infection bass riff, overlaid with a lascivious sounding Black Francis whispering about "Hips like Cinderella".  It's guaranteed to make me want to shake my own.

This is something I jokingly refer to as a self-portrait of my own ass.  That was never the intent, however.  The final product, with the studded belt, dark-washed blue jeans, and black shirt riding up ended looking a lot like well.. my ass.  At the time.

Acrylic on 8x10 canvas

I need to stop trying to incorporate text into my paintings because it never looks as good as I hope it will.  A collage-type approach may have worked better here.

On the other hand, I'm quite happy with the three-dimensional effect on the belt.  Achieving this was a rather elementary lesson in geometry and shading, but a lesson greatly needed.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Concrete and Flowers in Sault Ste. Marie

I share my heart, body, and general living space with a guy.  He's been around, geographically speaking, and likes to take pictures of the places and things he sees along the way.

The photograph this painting is based on was taken at the waterfront in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, back in the days when we were mere sharing a few mutual friends, rather than the things listed above. I was struck by the contrast of the grays, browns and various neutral tones with the bright pink of the flower's petals.
Acrylic on 20x16 Canvas
This is what I refer to as a 'rough start'.  I got started on it sometime in 2011 and lost interest about halfway through.  I didn't end up coming back to it until May 2013, at the boy's suggestion.  Part of the issue I had originally was the result of not knowing how to make the lines of the fencing not only straight, but narrow enough (A ruler? What's that?).

I ended up masking off areas to make the lines more crisp and straight, and I think it worked well enough.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Fifty Below Zero

Some time in the fourth or fifth grade, my oldest daughter's class was putting on a presentation of Robert Munsch's 50 Below Zero, and my dear, if somewhat misguided, daughter told her teacher that her mommy was an 'artist' and could paint a backdrop.

This was a pretty quick-and-dirty rendering of a snowscape similar to what I remembered of Michael Martchenko's illustrations.

Acrylic on 72x56 canvas

I'm still surprisingly enamoured of how it turned out.  The sky and walkway have a very matte appearance as I was using some pretty cheap student-grade acrylic black and blue colors.

But I like the bluish highlights in the snow and how you can see a bit of a corona around the moon.

This is also my biggest piece to date.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Portrait - Gord Downie

If you've read the "About" section on this blog already, you may have gotten an inkling that I am a fan of the Tragically Hip.

I am, indeed, a huge fan, ever since I was 12 years old and I first saw the video for "At the Hundreth Meridian" on MuchMusic, then proceeded to steal a dubbed cassette copy of Road Apples out of my sister's bedroom.

I'm not ashamed to admit that for many years afterward I harbored a none-too-subtle obsession with lead vocalist Gord Downie.  I think that may have been common for a few Canadian girls who came of age in the mid-1990s.

Somewhere around 2009 or 2010 I visited some friends in the city.  Their house had a number of paintings on the wall, done by the guy.  One such picture, he told me, had been done entirely in three colors only.

I wanted to try that.

Google image search led me to this particular publicity shot of Gord in his ubiquitous Hip toque, in black and white.

Image Credit: Chart Attack
For the colors I opted for two contrasting colors and a neutral: purple, yellow and white.  I fiddled with some of the contrast and brightness on the original photo to make the lines and shading more sharp.

This is the final product:



I am mostly happy with it, aside from some proportion issues - his face is longer than in real life.  I'm really happy with how the left hand turned out, but not so much the right.  Overall, it is one of my favorites, as not only does the subject matter mean a lot to me, but it was one of the first times I really challenged myself and came out with a finished product I was super-excited about.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Nickels For Your Nightmares - Redux

This is a painting I did a few years ago, inspired by "Nickels For Your Nightmares" by the Headstones, the final track on the album of the same name.  The song itself has always reminded me of a guy in a dark, smoky dive bar, sloshing whiskey from his glass as he rails on about all and sundry.  It's a kind of epic of depravity and sonic representation of what I imagine hitting bottom must have been like for Hugh Dillon before he got himself clean.

I will admit that when I first attempted this my intention was for it to be a sort of portrait, but I failed pretty fucking large, since this dark, handsome fella looks really nothing like Mr. Dillon at all.

So he became generic brooding guy.

Here is the original:
Acrylic 16x20 Canvas
A couple of things to note here:
  1. I can't draw hands for shit.  I'm working on that.
  2. My grasp on shading left a lot to be desired.  Also these early works were pretty quick-and-dirty.  I've since learned to take my time and that I don't have to finish these things in a single day.
So we have a lot of purplish highlights here and a somewhat disporportioned glass in our generic brooder's hand.  It kind of looks like a Dixie cup.

A week or so ago I started off just touching up the sides of the canvas for display purposes and ended up feeling ambitious and fixed up some of the shading and highlighting of dude's face and jacket.

Here is the updated version:


I've retained some of the purplish tones, but smoothed out a lot of the brush-strokes.  I think the facial shading looks a lot more natural now, with less of a defined line down the middle of his face between the light side and the dark of his face.

I kind of like how this photo highlights some of the texture of the paint itself.