Portrait in Charcoal

I hope you are all enjoying your 2018 so far!

I have been hard at work in my studio working on my portrait skills and updating materials for those interested in commissioning me for their own projects. I now have a brochure that is available to you for the asking that describes my fees and procedures.

In my last post I showed you the pet portraits I have been doing over the last year and a bit and now I would like to share a finished charcoal portrait on paper. I have not done these as commissioned work before now so I am very happy to add this to my offerings.

Ali complete

This work is 20×16″ on paper and you can see the work in progress on my Instagram gallery where I post frequently here.  I enjoy very much a  physical kind of drawing full of varying textures and methods and this work shows that tendency perfectly. I began by rubbing charcoal dust into the paper to get an overall grey tone. The process is physical and intuitive, very messy and very satisfying. I add layers of different weights of charcoal, buffing and rubbing with fabric, brushes and fingers,  drawing with different types of erasers which I cut into shapes for thin, dull or sharp marks. I add and remove the pigment until the form and description of the subject is perfect to my eye.  It creates a lovely texture and life to the portrait.   At the end of the process I fix the drawing with a spray so that it all stays in tact and won’t shed dust any more.

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One of the most exciting things about drawing in this way for me as an artist doing representational work is that I can get a variance of descriptive marks. Hair next to fabric next to flesh are all drawn differently but in the same media-charcoal and white chalk. For instance when my attention was on the flesh I was rubbing in a faint layer of charcoal then shaving off a layer of it with a thinly sliced eraser wrapped around my finger. For the shoulder I added a layer of white chalk rubbed into the charcoal ground underneath.

Ali detail 7I save the very sharpened charcoal pencil for adding pigment for detail in the facial features but use an equally sharpened hard plastic eraser removing pigment detail in the hair. I’m showing close up details of the work so you can see what I am talking about.

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I’ll be back soon with updates from my current project but until then if you are interested in commission a portrait from me of this or any kind please contact me here or through Jarvis Hall Gallery here.  I am very grateful for any projects as it is a major way to support my studio practice.

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Good bye 2017

I’m finding it a little hard to believe it has been so long since I have written! The last two years have been very busy ones although not the kind of busyness that gets much painting done. I have rearranged my schedule and will be devoting regular time to writing and posting here in 2018.

Commissioned portraits are a major way I support my studio practice and I have been doing various commissions.  Beginning in 2016 I added pet portraits to my skill set. These examples below show the composition I am using always a 20×20″ canvas with a trompe l’oeil mat cut in a circular opening as the setting for the subject.  I enjoy doing these very much and welcome the opportunity to do more.  For these pet portraits I have been using photos provided by my clients. Like photographing babies and toddlers the family often has the best photos that capture the pets at their most relaxed, secure and loving moments.  You can contact me about my fees and procedures here.

Tia

Stewie web

Kobber complete

Thanks for reading and check back in January for more or watch for links on my Facebook page and on my Instagram here.

More soon!

 

Dream, Breath, Mist

I have just completed the newest of a group of paintings I began over a year ago. You can read about them here, here and here.  With this piece I am continuing the themes of meditation, contemplation, mindfulness and deep awareness and this time I’ve explored the experience of what the “inner” space feels like to me.

Dream detail

When I first conceived the idea behind these works I was considering how one image could morph into another based on the subconscious projection of a viewer the way a Rorschach inkblot is meant to work. I described my interest in the multivalence of an image and of the emergence of meaning that might come from interacting with the paintings that I had not expressly put there.  Specifically it was interesting to me that the image of the portraits facing each other might, more than just “flip” to the image created by the negative space in between them, but combine with it in some kind of third composite image in a viewer’s mind.

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The first ideas behind these works may not matter so much to you at this point, except to notice that the idea of three levels of the image- one element, a second element, and the third element that comes from the combination of the first two-is here in three layers of the painting. There is the “back” layer upon which everything else happens, the layer of the portraits and a third atmospheric and abstract layer on top of the other two; a back, a middle and a front layer.

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As I said, with this piece I was more conscious of the experience of inner space, which for me is very colourful and full of texture and movement. These rich colours and mistiness is what I might assume others experience in a meditative space as well.  In this painting  I think of the three layers described above as follows… first, the blue in the back being the “field” of inner space, the colour that registers after one’s eyes have been closed for some time. The second layer, the portraits, is the subject of one’s thought which is has form and description. And the third layer, the mist, is the abstract activity of colour and movement that comes with having one’s eyes closed for any length of time. It is this layer on top of the others that symbolizes to me the third composite image that might arise from the combination of the others.

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By the time I was finished working I was deciding between three titles for the piece.  Dream (being in the blue ground of a dream), Breath (the portraits and the pink breath between them) and Mist(the abstract level of inner mind activity).   In the end I think the most appropriate title given the rhythm of three that is present might be Dream, Breath, Mist.   It is 24×30″, oil on canvas and you can see it now at the Jarvis Hall Gallery.

 

Thank you for reading!

 

My latest work

The project I am currently working on is a pair of portraits of twins. They are part of a larger portrait project of a sibling group and the previous ones have appeared earlier on this blog. All the works share the same dimensions and scale and they all include meaningful items and settings from the family’s home.

Today I have the first twin to show and the next and final portrait in the group will be complete and posted here in May.

The very beginning stages of work on these two I did simultaneously including the initial drawings on paper.twin portraits

I use photographs to paint my portraits from but I never paint from a single photo.  I design the images from many pictures first composing on the computer and then om paper in the form of a drawing on paper. This stage is always very important and there is a good amount of invention and creativity as I get the structure of the design just right.  In these pieces this stage was especially important as we had decided upon doing a mirror image of the girls. They were photographed on either side of a symmetrical buffet cupboard but I did much work to make”mirror” quality of the setting just right which hadn’t appeared so in the photos. The work included tacking string on the wall across the room from my easel to follow the perspective lines.

I stayed working on the two as I began the finished pieces. Here you can see I had both on the easel as I transferred the images by grid onto the boards and began the underpainting.inprogress4

Once inprogress3

Once a fair amount of paint was started and I felt confident they would match enough. I decided to give all of my attention to one until it was done.

So here then are images of the first one in progress.  It follows my usual working process except that this time I used clear gesso.  I have been enjoying working on coloured grounds recently and so began this way.

The initial study on paper…

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Then details of the drawing transferred to the board.  I do this all by hand with French curves and rulers with graphite on one coat and then another coast of gesso on top.

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My painting process is one of many layers painted on top of each other with areas of all application of paint from glazed colour through to very opaque scumbled texture. The very first underpainting has some form to it but is quite flat compared to later stages will add form and light.

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Here the work develops over a few “layers” of paint…

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Eventually over many weeks of work the image arrives at a point where everything is finished. As any painter knows there are hundreds of details to refine and the last stages can go on for some time.  I know a piece is finished when not another mark I could do will truly make a difference, the likeness is perfect, the surface is rich and satisfying with colour and texture and when, finally, when there is a breath of life enters and inhabits the work.

I did go to art school but was not trained to paint portraits or to paint realistically and have learned by looking at other painters, reading books, by trial and error and instinct so there may be faster ways of getting to this end but I haven’t found them.

And now the finished work…

Meyer detail 1Meyer detail 6mdetail2Meyer detail 12finished portrait

Thank you so much for taking the time to read and I will be back next moth with the next one.

 

 

 

 

Peace

Hi everyone.  Welcome to my first post of the year and I hope that you having a great 2016 so far.

I have finished the first painting of this year and the second in a group of pieces that I have been developing for some time. Here I described how I came to create these images and some of the ideas behind them. In that post I summarized my intent for the work as “metaphor for meditation and contemplation, for mindfulness and deep awareness and hope that the experience for the viewer will be of the peace and balance that comes from these things.”  The title is Peace and it is oil on canvas, 18×24″.

 

It has been said that all conflict in the world is, in truth, man’s inner conflict that is projected outward. This is the idea I was most thinking about while painting. There are many wise people who speak about the antidote to struggle and strife in the world is the cultivation of peace inside of individuals. As I worked, this painting came to embody the moment when, at long last, one gives up looking outside of themselves for peace and gives in to the realization the only place to achieve it is within themselves.

Peace detail 1

As well, in this piece I moved away from using naturalistic colour.  I want the paintings to speak about inner psychological space and to that end I am experimenting with palettes that have as a priority emotional and dreamlike moods, deliberately unnatural by materialist standards.  Of course, as always, more about these ideas to come in future work and posts.

Peace detail 2

I am very excited for the opening this month of the new Jarvis Hall Gallery. He has moved just south of downtown Calgary and you can find all you need to know about finding it here on his Facebook page.   This painting will be there on display for the next couple of weeks.

Congratulations Jarvis Hall Gallery!

 

 

 

 

If you look to the light in the centre all else fades to the periphery…

 

This work represents themes that have been developing in my private creativity for many years. It is the first finished piece in a group of paintings in development. I first mentioned them here in the blog when I showed you a couple of the drawings which were also seen at Jarvis Hall Fine Art last year. They are related to a thread in my creative vision that runs right back to my earliest days of painting. Being an introvert I have always been very involved with my inner world which is filled with rich visionary experiences and since art school, when I have been able, I have expressed aspects of this inner world in my paintings. This current work is where I have picked up the thread most recently.

This interior experience I mention above has fueled exploration in personal spiritual development, spiritual philosophies and depth psychology. As creativity demands, I keep watch for a visual form that will well express treasures found in these explorations. I discovered one and this is how this work began. What follows are the basics of how I understand what I am doing with this work.

A core tenet of my spiritual learning has been that all of the world -our reality- is a kind of illusion and our perception of it is really a projection of beliefs that are deep within ourselves.  When we deeply contemplate our experience as such then a completely new reality and vision arises. I look at you;  I become aware that you are really me; us two together, then, is something completely new. The two become one or where two or more are gathered I am in their midst and a new perception of reality is available.

One day, during a time when I was becoming familiar with this idea I fell upon the Rorschach test used in psychotherapy and realized it could be a perfect visual metaphor for what I was discovering. I saw that as the abstract inkblot pattern transforms to a representational image based on the viewers perception, conversely a symmetrical representational image could “flip” to an abstract one. This would represent the shift from conscious literal thinking to the unfamiliar indeterminate one that leads to questioning beliefs, revelations and new perceptions.

LofSR detail 2

So I began to compose images of faces facing themselves in the spirit of contemplation.  Not wanting to bring into the images any personal stories and to indulge my own spiritualist tendencies, I went completely out of my time to find the subjects.  I went into databases of public domain portrait photography from the last half of the 19th century for images to work with. I did not collect the names or location of the persons so they could remain anonymous and I could work with them objectively. The only thing I did notice about this subject when I chose it was that it was of a young Christian Nun.

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I composed the images so that they are as symmetrically as possible so that you could experience the self-facing person as that, but then “flip” to the Rorschach-like abstract image which represents the new consciousness that may come from self contemplation.

LofSR detail 3

The final element to talk about is the abstract patterns that appear on the surface of the image. The old images I was working with had damage and dust sprawled throughout. As I was composing my pieces, mirroring one face into two, the “noise” of the damage made beautiful symmetrical abstractions.  This other layer of pattern grew to perfectly symbolize for me another layer of thought or energetic activity that is always present no matter what level of thought you are engaged in.  The interruption of random literal thought, the revelations that drop down in deep contemplation or meditation or some transcendent “rips” in our fabric of reality.

So simply this piece is a metaphor for meditation and contemplation, for mindfulness and deep awareness and I hope that the experience for the viewer will be of the peace and balance that comes from these things. I will expand on these ideas as more pieces come to be finished.

This painting will be on display at Jarvis Hall Fine Art in his newest exhibition Sought After. It is currently titled The Light of Self Revelation, it is 30×40″ and oil on canvas.

Thanks so much for reading, it was a lot this post, I know, and I truly appreciate your time and attention,

Janine

New work- Sun

Sun1Not long ago I finished this portrait of my brother Jarvis. It is 36×36″ and oil on canvas. In this work I continued to explore a larger scale than I am used to as I did in the last painting, Red Plaid Jacket.  This scale is quite a bit larger still. The canvas is 36×36″ making the head about 3x life size.  I am attracted to working on this scale because of the opportunity to get lost in the deeply fascinating landscape of the human face.

Sun detail 9There are hundreds of colours and textures there to capture and it is my experience that painting this subject is less about eyes and noses and mouths than arrangements of abstract shapes colours and textures.  This size of composition really let me indulge in this kind of painting experience.  Of course I still have an arrangement of meaningful items in the portrait besides just the face as I usually do and the passages that surround the actual head on the work also benefitted from my being able to stretch out and explore details on a larger scale than I am accustomed to.

Sun detail 7It is hard to see on the screen of the internet but it is this mix of representation and abstraction and materiality and idea that is so powerful in painting and drawing for me.   And whether it will lead to larger scales or larger compositions with the life scale I’m not sure, I am just really trying to be as honest with and true to what each work inspires in me. There are two or three in progress that I will be able to share in another month and strangely enough currently on my easel is a portrait commission that is a much smaller scale than I am used to with the head being only 3 inches or soSun detail 8

So there is lots of activity in my studio and the blog will busy this next while as many things come to their finish.  And as always I am looking to have more portrait clients this coming year and so if you are interested please ask for more information.

Sun in progress

I hope you enjoy these pictures of the work and thank you so much for reading.  If you would like to follow the blog, my Facebook page or my Instagram the links are all to the right.

Sun detail

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