Chisel with Wood Shavings
24 x 30 cm, Oil on Canvas Board
A still life doesn’t always have to be fruits or flowers…
I think that one of the best ways to learn portrait painting is to copy old master paintings. I do this once in a while and this time I put up a picture of John Singer Sargent’s portrait of Henry James on the computer screen next to my easel.
A portrait is a picture in which there is something not quite right about the mouth – John singer sargent
The colors that I used are: Burnt Umber, Ivory Black, Cadmium Red Light, Yellow Ochre and Titanium White.
I started with Burnt Umber to define the shadows and after adding the background I let the under-painting dry until the next day.
Then I mixed a basic skin color of Cadmium Red Light, Yellow Ochre and Titanium White. By making warming and colder variations of this color, I started working from the large shapes of the head to the smaller shapes.
Of course, when you copy a master painting the problems with composition, design, light/dark, hard/soft edges are already solved by the artist. I believe that this is the area where there’s most to learn. The preparation of the painting, before even starting to paint, is most important.
In one of the books by Andrew Loomis, he writes that “creativity lies in the conception and the rest is good carpenter work.” I’m starting to see that more and more. Mixing the colors and painting the final picture is the easy part!
I stopped the painting here, after two painting sessions, maybe I’ll continue refining it in the future. I’m pleased with the overall shape of the head, especially the light on the forehead, but -as always-, the mouth needs some more work!
Anders Zorn (1860-1920) is one of Sweden’s most accomplished artists and one of my favourite painters. He was a master at not overworking the painting and make the work seem effortless.
Anders Zorn’s hometown, the small village of Mora is also where the museum is located, about a three-hour’s drive from where I live in Norway.
The day at the museum started with a guided tour of the house where Zorn lived with his wife Emma. It soon became clear they were a very wealthy family. Already in 1914 they had electricity and a wired communication system in every room of the house. They also had a telephone (number 4), central heating and one of the first refrigerators that was imported from America.
The guide told us that Zorn from the beginning wasn’t afraid to charge high prizes for his portraits. Many celebrities and royalties came to visit and stay at the house. He was certainly not living up to the starving artist myth!
It was not allowed to take pictures in the house. If you visit the museum it’s definitely worthwhile to take the tour. It gives a very good impression of the artist and how they lived and worked at that time.
The museum next to the house displays the largest collection of Zorn’s work. Although he is best known as a painter, he was also a master wood-carver and sculptor. I was amazed by how many of his watercolors, such as The Grandmother , almost looked like oil paintings.
To stand in front of a large Zorn painting is an amazing experience. Up close, the painting looks fast and effortlessly painted. The bold brushstrokes seem fuzzy and random, but from a few steps back the picture becomes sharp and vivid.
The visit to the museum was a great opportunity to study Zorn’s work and I took many photos.
I painted this portrait ‘Alla Prima’ in one session of about 4 hours. The hands and a few touch-ups were painted the next day.
As opposed to painting in layers over a long period of time, I like the directness of an alla prima portrait. There is no time to fuss over details before the paint is dry and it takes a great deal of concentration and focus to complete.
To paint this way you have to be able to ‘draw’ the portrait with a brush, so good drawing skills are important.
There will be some imperfections when painting this way, but that also adds character and life to the painting.
Here’s a picture from last year, just before Christmas, when I was selling calenders in the Stenberg cafe. It was freezing cold that day, so I was glad to be asked to sit inside!
I made this calender for the year 2016 and it is illustrated with twelve drawings of old farm buildings at the Stenberg Museum.
I only have a few left, just send me an email if you are interested in having one.
I’m lucky to have a dedicated workplace in the garden. It has been a long time dream and last year I finally had the time to transform the old gardenshed into a painting studio. It’s about 25m2 and fully insulated. A small gas heater heats up the room quickly in the winter.
Working from home can get a bit lonely now and then, but there are many advantages as well. Today was the first day of snow, there came about 15 cm, and on such days I don’t miss the commuting to work. While I was painting a small deer came walking by the window.
The painting studio doubles as a music studio. I teach guitar on tuesday evenings and write songs here. There’s even enough space for rehearsals with the band.
I like to have a organized workplace without too many distractions. It’s not always as tidy as on the photo’s, but everytime I start a new project I have to get rid of all the old stuff first.
The pose is again from the New Masters Academy, an excellent online art school where I’ve been studying figure drawimg for almost a year now.
In the book ‘Creative Illustration’ by Andrew Loomis there is an interesting theory about color relations.
In short, he explains that by mixing a little of one color into all the other colors on the palette, the colors become related and a harmonious painting is automatically the result.
Instead of mixing on the palette you can also paint directly into a wet underpainting. I tested out this technique and copied one of the four example portraits from the book.
I covered the whole canvas with a thin layer of blue, into which I painted all the other colors.
I was asked to illustrate a logo for the Norwegian Boer Goat Association. After making a few sketches we decided on this logo with heads of a male and a female goat.
The boer goat is a special breed and their name comes from the South African and Dutch word ‘boer’, meaning farmer.
I went to visit a goat farm nearby to do some ‘research’ on the specifics of the breed and to take a few pictures.
This was a fun project to do. Who said artists only sit in their stuffy studios all day and draw?
I was asked by a friend to paint their family’s log cabin, as a gift to her father from herself and the family.
He received the painting last friday on his 70th birthday and they were very happy with the result. They sent me these pictures of the framed painting on the wall.
I really enjoyed doing this commissioned painting. I made a few sketches on-site to capture the light and finished the painting later in the studio.
For the past few months I’ve been very busy working on illustrations for a poetry book, written by author Elin Sveen.
She has published three books; “Fra barnsdommens rike” in 2008, “Minnebok fra krigen” in 2009, and “Å spinne seg en gylden tråd” in 2010.
“Hålasdaar Mæ Sokker På” was released last week on the 1st of May 2015.
The poems are written in the “Toten” dialect, a norwegian local language from the Toten region, about 100 km above Oslo.
In Norway there are many different sounding dialects that even sometimes a native Norwegian speaker may have difficulty understanding.
Speaking the local dialect is encouraged and people are proud to do so.
This is the opposite in the Netherlands where I grew up. There I learned to hide my original dialect -in my case “Twents“- from a young age. Fortunately this is changing a bit now and dialects are more appreciated.
I made the drawings in this book with the common theme of the poems of nature and traditions in mind.
This was a great project to do and I’m pleased to be part of the making of this wonderful book.
15 x 17 cm
In this sketch I tried to pay attention to the structure of the head, while keeping the brushwork as loose as possible. I drew with the brush straight on the canvas, without a detailed underdrawing. I like this spontaneous way of working.
I feel that all the hours of figure drawing and studying anatomy are finally starting to pay off.
I’m now able to make these kind of sketches fairly quick, in about 45 minutes I think, since I always loose my sense of time when I’m painting…
When my wife and I told our families and friends about our plans to take a creative year, the first questions we always would get were about money. How would we be able to finance a whole year? Would we lose our jobs? What if the car breaks down? (our car did break down, by the way…)
We wouldn’t entirely be without income though. I was selling some of my art and earning money as a musician. The plan was to grow that income.
But it’s not the same as receiving a monthly pay check. So we decided to save money for backup. I calculated the money we needed with this simple formula:
Average spending in one month x 12
That’s it. No complicated budget calculations. Living simply and living a life of less quantity but more quality has been on our to do list for years, so we didn’t need that much savings at all.
Asking for year off
It was both exciting and a little frightening to knock on the door of my bosses office and ask for a year off. I didn’t know if I had to quit my job, or if I could return after one year.
To my surprise my application was approved. It was a relief to have a job to go back to. If I had to quit, I would have to apply for a new job if things didn’t work out. Luckily, my wife’s application was approved as well!
Some employers, like universities or big IT companies offer a paid sabbatical as an employee benefit. A paid year out of the rat race to recharge the batteries. This was not the case at my job.
That’s why I prefer to call my year off a creative year, because I wouldn’t be playing golf, lying on the beach, or take a luxury cruise around the world. I wanted to work on my own projects.
I always felt I wouldn’t be playing golf all day when I retire either. I’m most happy creating and working and hope to be able to do that as long as I can.
Some people did wonder what I was going to do all day, with all that time. They said they would go crazy after a few days without a job to go to or without a boss telling them what to do.
But I had, and still have, so many projects and ideas that it would take me years to finish them all.
Overall, the responses we got were very positive. Concerns raised were only about the finances.
Looking back now, my answer to the money question is that it’s a matter of choice. If you want to drive a new car every 2 years and have a maximum mortgage on the house, it will be harder to take a year off. But it’s still possible. You only have to save more for a backup plan.
In the next post I will write about: Time
Read part I of the One Year of art posts here.
Buying ready made sketchbooks can get expensive. Making your own is cheaper and you can use different kinds of your preferred paper.
Here’s an easy way to bind your own sketchbooks.
What you’ll need:
– a hole punch
– cardboard (optional) for front and back
– a large needle and thread
1) Start with a stack of your favourite paper sandwiched between a cardboard back and front.
2) Punch 4 holes with a hole punch. Two about 1,5 cm from the back and side, and two evenly spaced in between. Use more holes for larges sized sketchbooks.
3) Cut a piece of thread about 4 times the length of the book. Tip: Pass a double thread through the eye of the needle for increased strength, as shown on the picture above. Weave tightly as shown in the illustration. A dotted line means the thread is on the underside of the book.
Coming back at the point where you started, weave the thread one last time through the hole, in a loop around the first thread and tie off with a double knot.