This is my conure, Pepper. Like my cat, she’s very photogenic and lends her image to a lot of artwork. The one below was an experiment with my grandchildren’s watercolor crayons. It looks elementary like the medium I was using. I think the texture of the paper was too pronounced.
Here’s an acrylic painting of her from a previous post. What a dignified profile!
Sgraffito is an art technique that involves scratching through a layer of paint or other media to reveal a contrasting color beneath. Historical applications include painting, pottery, and glass, but the definition also applies to drawing media like scratch board, crayon and oil pastel etchings.
In this acrylic portrait of my conure I’ve used sgraffito to liven up the background. The process was simple: I put down a layer of paint, let it dry, then put on a thicker coat and used a pointed stick to scratch designs into it while it was still wet.
The duck painting in the previous ART BYTE, was based on the work of early twentieth century abstract artist Paul Klee. He was such a great experimenter that I decided to do at least one more duck in his honor. This one explores one of his later techniques in which he blended colors together in blocks or free form shapes and then drew black lines on top. These lines were often symbolic in nature reflecting his fascination with mysticism and the subconscious mind.
Klee also liked to experiment with different materials. In some of these particular paintings he used burlap as a ground. He glued a layer of paper over his burlap but I just coated mine with gesso and painted directly onto it. Unfortunately, this left a lot of tiny little pin pricks of white in the spaces between the woven fibers. I had to go back and paint these individually with a tiny little brush. To solve this problem I tried beginning Symbolic Duck 2 with a brown wash, but even this left some of the white board underneath the burlap showing through. Lesson learned: when painting on burlap be prepared to do some extra preparation.
Below are two of Paul Klee’s more colorful symbolic paintings. Some of his later works are very dark reflecting his personal suffering. He had lost his peers, August Mack and Franz Marc in WWI. By 1935 his health was failing due to a degenerative disease. The Nazis singled him out as a Jew, the Gestapo searched his house, got him fired from his teaching job at Düsseldorf Academy, and confiscated some of his later work.
Paul Klee, Heroic Roses, 1938
Paul Klee, Flora on Rocks Sun, 1940
At his death in 1940 he had completed 9000 works of art.You can see about 200 of them WikiArt.org. You can also find a number of boards dedicated to his work, including some lesson plans for kids, on Pinterest.
The second painting in my duck series was inspired by Paul Klee whose artistic experimentation had a great deal influence on early abstract art. He was also a gifted musician, and in the 1930’s he borrowed the musical term polyphonic to describe his compositions of layered forms and colors. Polyphonic Duck is modeled after this approach, which superimposed mosaic-like grids of squares or dots over a painting.
I was inspired to do this painting by a prompt in a book called Paint Lab by Deborah Forman. The picture space in the author’s example was broken up with curved lines similar to the ones in Polyphonic Duck. I did a similar thing but also included Walter the duck, which created a focal point and added an additional layer to the composition.
This was actually the painting that inspired me to do a series of duck paintings in the styles of some different artists.
Many of Paul Klee’s works can be seen on sites like WikiArt.org and Pinterest. Ad Parnassum, one of my personal favorites, is considered by some to be his masterpiece.
Artists get inspiration from different sources , including the work of other artists. The subject of my next series of paintings will be a Pekin duck painted in the styles of some famous artists. Walter (pictured below) was adopted from a university lab, lived a cushy life in my back yard and will now be immortalized in paint.
My first portrayal of Walter Duck is in the style of Pop Artist Roy Lichtenstein. He became famous in the 1960’s for his DC Comics inspired paintings. His process was to crop the part of the comic he wanted, render it in Ben-Day Dots and add speech and thought bubbles containing tongue-in-cheek humor. His most iconic work is Drowning Girl which you can see at the Museum of Modern in New York (or you can just click on the title and take a look at it.)
It was fairly easy to put Walter into a comic book design but impossible to paint the little round dots perfectly. Lichtenstein used stencils. I traced my dots through the perforated surface of a rolling cart, and then painted them one by one. Good thing for me this was only 5″ x 7″.
This portrait was an exercise in expressive color. It was done from an old black and white photo which is good to work from if you want to experiment with color.
Expressive color is also known as arbitrary color. It’s not meant to be realistic – which is local color – but colors are chosen for their emotional or aesthetic qualities.
The art movement in which expressive color first appeared in full force was Fauvism. Artists of the time – late 19th and early 20th centuries – were already moving away from the Renaissance notion of painting realistic spacial depth. The Fauves (French for “wild beasts”) took it a step further and eliminated realistic color in favor of expressionistic color. Click here to see a famous portrait by the movement’s leader, Henri Matisse.
These are the final zinnias in this series. Like the one in the previous post, the top one’s concentric rows of petals get darker in value as they progress outward. The rows in the bottom one do the opposite, getting darker toward the center.
Neither of these are painted from actual models. After painting the blooms over and over I’ve gotten familiar enough with them to take some liberties and experiment a bit.
Today’s zinnia is a burst of sunshine like its namesake, Madison. It’s painterly and textured like the ones in the previous post. Also like Zinnia 8 “Jo”, this one has multiple rows of petals that change in value as they go outward. The rest of the zinnia studies will be like this.
These zinnia studies are experiments with dry brushing, layering and different handling of edges. For example, the top bloom has more expressionistic brushstrokes where as the bottom one has clearly defined petals. Both have all the leaves radiating out from the bloom as in the previous post but their edges are less defined and more integrated with the background. I also made an effort to layer the colors, especially in the leaves and background.
To see an example of a masterpiece with orange zinnias, check out Vincent Van Gogh’s beautiful Vase with Zinnias.
Ever since I can remember, my mother’s favorite color was blue. Then suddenly – in her 60’s I think – she fell in love with yellow and still prefers it to this day. So I wanted to name one of these yellow zinnias after her.
I think this one has the best composition so far. I limited the leaves to those that radiated out from the bloom instead of including bits of foliage from surrounding flowers. That will be standard procedure from here on.
So far, my zinnias have been done in a painterly (with visible brushstrokes) style. Click on the link below to see a photo-realistic yellow zinnia by contemporary realist John Stuart Ingle.