Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Wednesday Wanderings: Albus

Meet Albus. I recently painted him for my sisters' birthday. And yes, Albus means white in Latin, but I suspect he's named after the much more famous Dumbledore. I haven't done a lot of animal painting. But it's always fun to tackle a new subject.

The interesting challenge with Albus was that he is almost completely white.  White, you say? Well what's wrong with painting white? The thing about white is it's, well white. White is almost always very high keyed. Meaning it's just so much brighter than everything else. As I paint in oil I'm lucky to get eight separate value steps. If I use all those values on white fur Albus is going to look pretty grey and dirty and his eyes are going to appear too light in relation to his face. And the real Albus has astonishingly bright blue eyes. So without the use of all my values to define form and shadow I have to use color.

Our mind's eye has been wired to use color to separate shadow and form. Using a combination of cool and warm colors in the same or similar values still allows me to separate light and shadow without eating up all my value range. Essentially, I can keep Albus white and his pupils dark.
Now with Albus and other white-furred animals (my family had a Dalmation for which this held true as well) the skin under their fur is often a different color. Albus' is pink. That means where the fur is thin, like above the nose, that pink will show through. So now I have another color introduced into the mix. It can be tricky. I use my painting experience as much as anything to know how to push values here and there, and sometimes take some guesses to have my painting reading how I perceive it should be.
All in all, I like this portrait of Albus. I managed to stay loose with my paint but still catch the dimension in his fur and his head so it comes across as an accurate portrait. Plus, it's always fun to paint for someone in the family.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Figurative Fridays: Christmas Cards

Just wanted to let everyone know we received our "Let Us Adore Him" Christmas cards and they are ready to ship! Those of you who already placed your orders should have already received them. If you haven't placed your order yet, they're here while supplies last, so order soon!
 To refresh your memory, here's what the cards look like inside and out. This is a pack of 20. They are also available in packs of 10, 25, and 50 (click on the dropdown arrow) at our online store: http://www.richardrussellart.com/store/ 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wednesday Wanderings: Church Rock

As the weather shifts and we're getting our first hail and rain storm I'm posting another plein air piece from Moab.
Church Rock
8"x 10"
Oil on board
I started this painting just as the morning light hit the rock. Those of you who have traveled this area will probably recognize this formation. Church Rock is a local landmark near the entrance to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. The small cave bellow was blasted out by a local rancher in the 1940's to store salt licks and feed. Church rock is particularly striking as it sits freestanding in Dry Valley.

One of the fun occurrences that happen in the red rock country is the color mixing that occurs in the shadow side of the rocks and canyons. The usually clear blue skies reflect and mix with the deep red and yellow rock colors with the result being some spectacular color shifts. Fun stuff to paint though the colors change quickly when you're painting from life. This painting is a good example of the great color you can observe in the shadows along with the beautiful fall colors of the desert brush.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Wednesday Wanderings: Hang In There

Sometimes life is easy. Sometimes it's decidedly not. One thing I love about painting in the desert is seeing how the living things face this very tough climate and survive. 

This juniper was beautiful not because it was a perfect, symmetrical specimen, but because it was not. Its struggle to survive was evident in it's gnarled bark, its bare twigs, and its broken branches. Those details made the brilliant greens of its living branches all the more striking.  
"Tenacity"
14" x 11"
Oil on Board
In the desert, every tree, every little bush, every bit of grass, even the little clump of yellow flowers at the base of this tree makes a sacrifice for its survival. That sacrifice is what makes them strong and beautiful and fun to paint. The forces that they endure shape each one in unique ways. So it is with people. As we get through each tough thing, we become stronger and more unique.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Wednesday Wanderings: Purple Canyon

Well it was a wild wonderful week. I got to explore the desert and do what I love. I was able to paint and talk shop with a lot of my fellow artists. I painted in the sun and the rain and the wind and I came home with some big ribbons, which is always fun.

Along with the First Place in the Quick Draw Competition that we posted about last week, I also won an award in the Saturday evening competition. One of the judges, Vern G. Swanson, paid me a great compliment during the awards ceremony by comparing my work to that of Sorolla, who is one of my favorite painters. Vern is well qualified to make that comparison, having authored or co-authored 15 books on art/art history as well as serving as the director of the Springville Museum of Art, Utah’s oldest art museum, for 32 years before retiring in August 2012. So his kind compliments on my work were well appreciated.

One of the hardest parts of this week-long Plein Air competition is the fact that you can only enter one piece for the final judging. I selected "Purple Canyon" to be my entry. It wasn't the more standard epic landscape that most artists enter for jurying. However, something just pleased me about the color and fresh view this painting offered.  It was fun because the placement of the tree allowed me to do the kind of intimate desert portrait that I love to do while also allowing me to capture some of the grand vista in the background. Those sandstone buttes, with all their planes and shadows, are fun to paint. And as is often true here in the Four Corners there was such wonderful morning color.

Purple Canyon
Oil on board 14" x 11"
Sometimes I ask myself if another painting would have pleased the judges more. Could I have tailored my painting more toward the judges' tastes? In the end, I have to enter the painting I most love. If I don't, why am I painting? I could try to paint how I think others would like. But then how would my artwork ever be my own unique vision and passion? You must be true to yourself to truly love what you do.



Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Wednesday Wanderings: And the winner is . . .

Well, Richard is off wandering this Wednesday, so I'm stepping in to write the Wednesday Wanderings post. His wandering this week is tied into the Moab Plein Air competition and it has been wild and fun!

Watching him work this week, I've come to realize that there is a special energy about painting from life, trying to catch what you can before the light shifts, before the clouds come, before the subject changes. It's painting at its finest: capturing your vision just as it is in one fleeting moment of time, preserving a subject that will never be exactly the same again.

In this competition, artists registered last Saturday and have one week to paint any subject within 50 miles of Moab, Utah. On Saturday Richard had the honor of painting in Moab Plein Air's Main Street Gallery, where he did a painting of a live model whom you may recognize.


The most exciting part of the week so far, though, was yesterday afternoon. Richard participated in a 3-hour "Quick Draw" competition at the Red Cliffs Lodge and Castle Creek Winery on the Colorado River.  He only had 3 hours to find a subject and complete a painting.

To me, that's almost incomprehensible. It's a challenge to create no matter how much time you have, but going from blank canvas to finished, framed piece in 3 hours is a tough test of skill. I think his finished painting was impressive. Apparently the judges thought so, too!
Castle Creek Casks
10" x 8"
Oil on Board
He was awarded first place and a purchase award for this gorgeous piece. My personal favorite part? The barrels. I love the way the light hits them and shows the warm, worn wood.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Figurative Fridays: Seeing An Old Scene In A New Way

There are certain scenes that artists have painted over and over through the years. Whatever the reason, that means many of the finest artists have painted those scenes. It can be intimidating to tackle a painting that was painted by the masters of bygone days. But if you're drawn to paint one of these scenes, you shouldn't avoid it. Painting is a very personal and intimate activity. Nobody will paint it just like you will.

Perhaps because I am a father of young children, I feel a great empathy when a family welcomes a new child. I still have strong memories of my own feelings when each of my children were born. Therefore, I wanted to explore that moment from the life of Christ.
Let Us Adore Him
16" x 16"
Oil on Board
When I painted the Holy Family painting "Let us Adore Him" I was a bit baffled on how to portray them. I initially thought about painting an elaborate manger scene with all kinds of livestock. But the more I thought about it the more I felt it should be about the little family itself. Accordingly, I took a much more simple approach by focusing on just the Christ child, Joseph, and Mary. The fun part of that simplification was I was able to create a very tight and clean composition and consequently a very intimate focus on the relationship.

You'll notice I worked very hard to create a circle from Joseph's face down to Mary then to her hand holding Christ's little hand then back up to Joseph through his arm. There is also a secondary circle created by Joseph's robe and left hand following around with the light on the cloth under Jesus. I wanted it to bring to mind the familial relationship between Husband and Wife and Child.


As a side note, in response to requests for Christmas cards of this piece, as of today we have them available on our online store: http://richardrussellart.com/store. They are  4.25" x 5.5," folded, and have the words "Let us adore Him" printed on the inside. They are available in bundles of 10, 20, 25 or 50. Free shipping and envelopes included. Please come and preorder now as we are doing a limited print run and will be shipping out orders by November 1st.