Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Landscape with figure

Once a week, I join a circle of painters downtown. For upwards of 3 hours, we share the relaxed studio ambiance, drawing or painting (each from a differing angle & in medium of choice) a nude model. This figurative painting setup is doubtless akin to what's found in art schools. Here, of course, there's no teacher, nor instruction, no correction; we work as we please. Irene often favors feet (various media). Yahyo has been making strides w/ acrylics. Renato does meticulously realistic, large-scale detailed portraits & figures in light colored pencil. Micheline (who lends us the use of her studio for this once-a-week gathering: she's been doing this for better part of 2 decades; she also serves wine, and spins a superb array of CDs) -- she's typically working on handmade papers: sketches that she then sometimes expands into paintings.

Me, I've consistenly been doing oil sketches: one new one each week. I use a canvas as my pallete; then, at end of the session, spread paint & damar varnish all over the canvas (erstwhile palette): it thus is prepared (with this ground) for use in the following week's oil sketch. So these are "quick" paintings done essentially in one session: a method that's not traditional for oilpainting; but I've developed this way of working, and it seems to encourage some manner of growth for me.

It stands at opposite end of how I was painting a few years back. In those days, I'd paint the same canvas again & again & again -- layer upon layer. Typically, I might paint daily for about 2 months before reaching an end (if I even reached an end) with that canvas and proceeding to the next. This approach became most extreme with two small "imaginary portraits"; each of those I worked on for better part of a year -- small works on paper (thick paper that became very thick w/ paint), about one foot square.

So the shift to a one-sitting session-and-it's-done method, was a change.

Late tonight, I'll append a few snapshots of my last-night's sketch: the figure with (imaginary) landscape. It's on a stretched canvas, 6 inches x 36 inches. The landscape owes something (a little) to the year (in college) when I studied Chinese art history: landscape painting of the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. James Cahill was in those days an inspiring lecturer (long since retired). I later learned (from one of his grad students), those years (more than quarter-century ago) were later deemed the golden era of his teaching. He'd been associated with the Freer Gallery (Asian art gallery here in Washington, DC) before migrating to teach us all at UC Berkeley. His daughter, Sarah, a few years later was my arts-journalism colleague (we both were starting to write about music for the East Bay Express). She's become a notable concert pianist. But I digress.

Watch this space (as they say) for glimpses of the sketch.

[n.b.: might be a day or two before I get photos off my phone & onto this site. life's a bit busy of late.]


Blogger Newsandseduction said...


Wed Oct 12, 07:38:00 PM PDT  
Blogger ~River~ said...

The studio sounds utopic.
Do you use other media (that is, apart from oil)?
Would like to see pictures of your work.

Thu Oct 13, 04:03:00 AM PDT  
Blogger david raphael israel said...

Thanks River, will put up a number of images of paintings in future. At the moment, the only digital image I've got of any of these paintings (excluding those I snaped as I was painting that Tuesday here describbed) came from one of the models -- a young woman of about 20 years, who, after the session, went around with her cellphone-camera, snapping an image of the various depictions of her; at my request she emailed one to me. A good deal later, I got the same kind of phone-w/-camera. This young woman was amusing -- hearing her tales of political activism (for which she'd spent some time in jail, and seemed to feel this to be a regular way of living one's life).

But to your question about media. Once I turned to oilpaints (in the late 1980s), I pretty much stayed away from other media. Oilpaitning is so satisfying -- in terms of the satisfaction of color I suppose. Before that, I'd done ink drawings and worked with a kind of pastel called Conte crayons. (These have more definition than usual pastels.)

The studio has been wonderful. It's in a building downtown that's entirely devoted to artist-studios. The owner is an artist, and refuses to rent to non-artists. It's one of some four such studio-filled buildings within a couple of blocks that, together, offer a group "open studio" twice a year (spring & fall).

I should add one point to my story though. There are more artists that come to the group than the few I mention in the narrative; that was "representative" rather than exshaustive. But the number stays fairly small -- it might vary between 4 and 8 for a given session. Micheline has a nice sense of how to carry on this sort of collective process. She mentioned she's sometimes been asked to write about it. If she does, I'll duely blog. Majority of the artists in our little group are Latin-American; both Yahyo and Renatoare from Argentina. Irene is from (if I recall aright) Peru. She's a lawyer by day. Her fiance (by the by) is a mix: half Brazilian, half South Asian. DC is a fairly international city, though that's true of much of the US (esp. on its coasts).

The use of music while painting is a bit of a topic all its own. In days when I painted in NYC, I always liked to play Indian classical music -- and felt the sense of "development" in the raag related wonderfully & naturally to the process of painting.

Thu Oct 13, 05:05:00 AM PDT  

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