Tuesday, April 6, 2010


I am so excited, I have been invited to participate in a two artist exhibit in the south of France, in a small town in the Mediterranean Alps called Sainte Agnes, it is a medieval town high in the mountains, I will give more details in following posts.
I am being marketed as a South American artist, so will be painting a series of oils on canvas with Argentinean themes, I have a few ideas, will be very interesting.

The exhibit is being organized by Association Culturelle "COLOMBIARTISTICA" which is the brainchild of Virginia Hernandez, a wonderful Colombian Artist and Entrepreneur with great energy and talent


Here you can see the site of the organizers of the exhibit, and the program of exhibits for the next few months



I have been asked a picture of my studio by the organizers of the France Exhibit and I thought this showed the progress of my current work plus one of my paintings in the background.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Battling my Phobias

During the holidays I took so many pictures for the portrait, trying to see which had the most interesting lighting, which were more expressive of who Gaston, the sitter, was. And finally after many comings and goings, croppings and fiddling with pictures, I chose the one above. I liked the profile pose, liked the way his hands are illuminated and in the foreground, I find hands are, after faces, the most expressive part of a person. It was so funny, I was trying to balance a light that kept falling on its side, keeping him focused, trying to see in my head if it was going where I intended. It was fun. Then, once the choice was made, is where I got into trouble. When there is some time in which I don't paint, in this case with the holidays, family gatherings, the fact I had finished all the previous work I had, I had too many days to think, that is when I begin to get into my painter's block mode. When I think too much is when the insecurity sets in. "Will I be able to do this, is it the right picture, is the composition right?". You get the picture, no pun intended.... So I procrastinate, make a grid to transfer my sketch, take long with it, so I will not have to face the canvas, until I finally get hold of myself and say: "You have been through this before, it is auto-destructive, you know that when you begin you will enjoy it, painting makes you happy, why are you doing this?" The answer is not simple, it is this phobia born of perfectionism, of the fear of not being good enough. In that is what I have been working, in reasoning what is good enough?, good enough for whom?Is doing nothing better? And no, it is not better, I know that when the work is finished I will learn to love it in its imperfection, knowing I did my best, that it will probably be better than other I did before, that you learn as you work, and that it is a stepping stone towards the next work that, ideally, will be better than this. But I go through this inner fight EVERY TIME, oh well, I will have to learn to live with myself... not easy.
So finally, the canvas is not white anymore, I have begun sketching, tomorrow I will put some color, just to break the ice, and block some shapes.
The sketch looks so naked, so flat with no color or shading....
In the picture you see there is a desk and a file cabinet, that will disappear, there will be a bigger desk in front of him - will also try to simplify the background, that bookshelf is too busy, so I will put less detail in it. What I love in this picture is the play of light and shadow, how some parts of the figure disappear into the shade... that was what I was looking for. I was inspired in the lighting used in some movies - they use light to create a mood and focus in the main character, this is the same idea.
I will be posting my progress, or lack thereof, in pictures in the next days.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Planning a Formal Portrait of a Young Professional

I have been commissioned to paint a formal portrait of a young man to be hung in his office. This is something new for me - have been thinking of the best way to approach it. I don't want it to be stuffy or stiff, but it still has to look professional. There is an idea that I like, I have been thinking all night about it, even in my sleep. Having always loved the way George de la Tour uses a single source of focalized light, bathing some of the subject's features in light, while leaving part of the painting in shadow I think I will play with this composition as a playful homage. It is a bit dramatic, but I rather love the idea. As I will be taking the pictures to be used as reference for the painting I think it will be better to take them at night and see if I can create that effect with a single lamp, try different angles to see which is better. The general pose would be of him sitting in his desk, with a neutral dark background (that can be revised later), the hands on the desk receiving the same light as the face. Jacket and shirt, tie? will try it both ways, he is young, will have to ask if he always uses a tie at work - it is Florida, so there is a tendency to a more laid back work environment. It is very important that he is looks as natural as possible, the way he always looks at work.
I will post the pictures and a sketch as soon as I have them. I will be taking them tomorrow night. This is going to be exiting.
What I have found that works for me is sketching the general idea, taking the pictures, playing with them a bit to get the composition I like, then printing the one I think will work.
I like to draw with a very soft pencil on the canvas, not going into great detail, but getting all the basic shapes so as not to get lost. Once I have this, I cover the drawing with an acrylic wash in a light shade of whatever color seems to be present in most of the picture. It has lately been mostly a shade of warm yellow. This serves two purposes, it covers and protects my drawing and gives me a nice background that allows me to paint without worrying about having to cover all the white canvas when I paint, parts of it can peek as part of the light sections of the painting.. This is going to be the base for the oil painting. In the past I used to go over the drawing with oils, but as I like to begin with a thin paint,and it has a tendency to drip , the turpentine would erase my sketch - I don't like to paint without my sketch, I feel like I am flying blind, it freaks me out, I need the security blanket of a drawing, so that got me into thinking how to solve this problem.
After this is done, and it dries very quickly, I work a little bit of color in the background, even if it is only in umbers and siennas (in a very large painting I did this in acrylics too, because it speeds up the preparation process) I need to be able to paint the face and hands over a base of colour, not having to paint the background afterwards trying not to muss the face contour, just softening its borders - and it allows me to paint the hair leaving the ends loose. If I have to rework the background, then I will go over the hair again too.
Size and Scale of the Portrait
I have painted portraits in which the size of the person's head was a little bit larger than life and that DOES NOT WORK. It looks strange, not graceful, makes you uneasy when you look at it, even if you don't know why, unless you are painting a mural that is going to be watched from a great distance, It is better to go with the real size or smaller.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

New Paths in Life and Art

They say that times of crisis are hinges in your life. They either crush you or empower you. I am choosing to make this difficult times the beginning of a new life. I now realize that being comfortable made me lazy and stifled my creativity. I feel the need to express myself and, being greedy, (why not be ambitious with your dreams) to try to make a living through my art.
Art has been a part of my life since my teens -but I did not think of myself as an artist, I guess artists were some kind of perfect ideal individuals with a talent beyond what I perceived in my work. I had not yet learned that you grow into your art working, I wanted instant gratification and results. In another post I will talk of my formative years in art, those first years with a teacher that I loved and respected so much, but I felt had too high expectations for me. So painting was relegated to a secondary role, a hobby, dying in a corner, while my time was spent studying more "serious things". I became an architect, well, at least art was allowed a small place in my profession, but still... But there was a nagging sensation inside my head of things abandoned and not completed, what was missing, I had to do something, what?? But I ignored it, was sad and did not know why.
In the last couple of years I felt this need of painting could not be restrained any more. I was afraid. I thought I could not do it, that I did not remember how it was done. And, in the background of my thoughts I could hear my teacher saying: " just paint what you see - that is all there is to it, do not over-think it, don't paint something the color you think it is, paint it the color you see it is" - that liberated me and I began to paint. People, mostly people. People's faces, expressions, hands, fascinate me, there is a richness in people's expressions that I love. And miraculously, I could do it. I stressed about it, but the satisfaction was so great, it was worth it. But now I found that the things I did not know were sooo many , so much I had to learn, basic, technical things I either had forgotten or never paid attention to, but nowadays there is so much knowledge posted in the web, it is as if you had hundred of tutors waiting for you. I could not afford taking classes, so now youtube was my academy, a special thanks to JimmyD who taught me so much. Just looking at the different artists that so generously post their videos, many things came back to me, and I learned so many more through hours and hours watching people paint... I felt, I can do this, why am I denying myself the chance of doing this just because of the fear of not being good enough. Not being as good as I wanted to be in my conceit, but had to learn to accept good enough at each stage, striving for better, but good enough allowed me to escape the paralysis of over achievement. And that is the key - if you accept "I cannot do it" or "It will never be good enough" you don"t DO, you freeze, and that is the death of any project. So my mantra became: " it will get better", and you know what... it did. And it gets better every time. What is still present is the fear. Every time. With every new painting, there is that boom boom boom in your head, "you won't remember how to do it" but you know you did it the last time, and push through it. A little stomachache and a quick drawing, and suddenly the canvas is not white anymore, a sigh of relief.
Crisis brought new life too, so one of my first works in this stage of my life was a portrait of my grandson Benjamin you can see up center. We are growing together, my baby and my art, one feeding from the other.
Next post, new projects.