03 January 2014

Baby Willa in a Bright World of Geometric Animals...

 I was asked to paint a portrait of 3 month old Willa by her proud father, Matt. It is a birthday present for mom. 
Matt sent me a couple of photos of Willa to work from along with several photos of the cute/insanely patterned chair that she sits in. All bright geometric animals and trees. I was pleased Matt asked for them to be incorporated into the painting.  It gave me a hook.

I thought it would be cute to have Willa interact with the animal characters and originally I had a wide-eyed orange snail crawling across the limited hair on her head. However, the result of the original drawing was nothing short of creepy. Would it leave a graphic orange slime trail? I decided to settle for a cartoon tree in Willa’s balled up little fist. (I guessed at what her hand looked like. No picture. If she, in reality, is missing a finger or has one digit too many, I apologize for the inaccuracy).

I knew upon starting this lil’ portrait that I would need to paint Willa's face very soft. With a child, too many lines or too much contrast can make them look old. Like an old baby. Or maybe worse, tired and chronically fussy. Since I did not want to imply that the parents are causing sleep deprivation, I went as soft as I could. Never opened the tube of Mars Black, not even for mixing.

The trick here is to place the soft faced Willa in front of a background that is all about being bright and incredibly high in contrast. I remedied this by dulling the background with washes of white mixed with a translucent matte medium to keep her from being swallowed alive in color.

I had a good time making this painting and am happy with it. So much so that I'm going to officially open the site again for new commissions. So if you want a tiny painting, I'm your man! A man acting like a painting Panda.

Thank you, Matt and Willa and Mom. It has been a pleasure to paint for you!

06 September 2013

The Moon King.

Here is the finished painting for the Feldmans made as a companion to the one I made them 3 years ago. (see it here). This is nearly identical to the original but with a few small changes. I tried to make the characters look a bit more mischievous. I also choose to not have the man-fairy bringing them to life but instead here the moon is showering them with magic dust. More realistic, right....(?)

I feel I need another story for this so here goes...

The Lovies had been brought to life many years ago by the dust of a magic man-fairy. However the magic dust only lasts for three years. While they had had a great run it seemed to be coming to the end. They were beginning to slow down, feel stiff. Their grumbley friend the badger suggested that they take his homemade birch-bark and pine sap rocket to visit the moon to see if the Moon King could spare some magic moon dust which would allow them many more years. The Lovies agreed that anything was worth a try and took off in the rattling wooden rocket. Holes in the rocket walls let in space air and making them feel light headed but full of life.

After a few hours, they landed softly in the Sea of Tranquility but were immediately found and roughly escorted to the Moon King by his ape-like guards. They walked like apes but grunted like pigs. The Lovies, moving as fast as they could, were brought into a golden chamber where they waited a long time to talk to the King. When the Moon King Finally arrived they pleaded their case and begged for moon dust but the King was very dismissive. He just sat in his throne painting his fingernails gold and eating moon plums. With a quick command, the Lovies were led back to their leaky rocket.

However, a Moon Gopher just happened to sneak into the Kings chamber and hear the Lovies story of being made real and then loosing the magic. The gopher shed a tear. As they were being pushed from the room, the Lovies saw the gopher wink with 3 of it's 5 eyes. They were pushed back to their rocket and the ape guards light the rocket's fuse,sending them into space.

The Lovies stiffly traveled back home with a heavy feeling in their hearts. Strangely, and by complete coincidence, their rocket landed on Earth in the exact spot that they were made real by the man-fairy. Feeling it was their end, the Lovies hugged each other, shook hands and said goodbye. Just then golden moon dust began to rain from the sky. "The Moon Gopher" they whispered together... but how?  They felt life slowly creep back into their fur...

Thank you again Feldmans....

03 September 2013

This Seems Familiar...

So, I'm technically not taking new commissions for the Panda +BUT+ ...sometimes I will. At the starting of the summer Randy Feldman asked me to recreate one of the earlier paintings I had made for of his sons about 3 years ago. The painting was of Ethan and Toby's "lovies", the toys they cuddled with when they were very young. The problem is two boys but one painting. This did not sound like something I should turn down. Plus I thought it would be interesting to repaint the same subject 3 years later. "It doesn't have to be identical", Randy told me. So it's not completely identical. But it is no longer yellow as you see above.

See the original painting here

I just finished the  new "lovies" painting. Above is an image of the preliminary lines made for it with black ink.

.... at least I think I'm finished with the painting. I often will fuss with a painting until the point which I hand it over. Their can be different levels of finished. At some point I reach a time where I call a painting "passable". Not excited about it but someone else may be. I never leave it there, drives me nuts. Then it becomes what I think of as "good". At that point I try to push it to "magical" or "special". I know these are corny words but I don't want to make something that is just okay. I think this new painting is there... but I might still lighten or darken areas or make some minor changes. But I need to hand it over to Randy so I can stop acting like an old lady who collects porcelain cats. Just so. I nned to put my doilie back on the table and get on with things... I don't want to overpaint and ruin.

Shortly receiving this request I had surgery on my right hand. I decided to have a cyst removed which had been bothering me for years. I thought I would be back to normal over the course of a weekend but instead it took about 6 weeks for me to get full movement back. Now my hand is better than ever and I no longer have the grip problems I've put up with for the last 5+ years.

I'll scan and post the finished painting when I'm sure I'm finished.

11 April 2012

Threatened by a hair dryer...

Manola asked me to paint a dream her friend had sent to her last new years day. Here's what I was given:

Seems like it should be easy, right? I've certainly painted more then my share of dogs for the Panda... so why are still tricky for me.

I did not want this to be a cartoon dog, I promise "real paintings" here, not mall-like caricatures. I decided right off that the dog's interaction with the hair dryer had to be awkward. The dog needed to be clumsily dragging the thing around with it's best effort of making it seem scary to make it sad and ridiculous. A Scooby Doo-like dog using a hair dryer as a gun is wacky and feels more like an ill conceived tattoo (in the same vain as the Tasmanian Devil lifting weights).

Because of the subject matter, I thought this painting would work well with a design-like aesthetic similar to the original "panda licking on a light bulb" painting. A black and white boxer fit the bill. I wanted it to  look like it was made fast and have a very limited color palate.

I also chose a boxer as the result of a series of failures with other dogs. I did some preliminary paintings (though not originally intended to be preliminary) with more common dogs but nothing seemed to work. I wanted to use line and keep it simple and clean. Painting long haired dogs is like rendering the anatomy of a mop head, something is underneath but God knows what. I needed a dog where you could make out where it's legs meet it's body and recognize that it has a neck.

Upon rereading this request, I realize that I left the "owies" out. I was tempted to go back and put some wounds in. Red spots on the dog would work well color-wise with the red hair dryer. However, the presence of the power cord in the dog's mouth may suggest that the dog is begging to be whipped.. and that is just ridiculously sad.  Let's just imagine that the "owies" are on the dog's other side...

I'll be posting a analysis of this dream on my long defunct blog Id Detangler: A Dream Interpretation Blog. I've decided to post here again sporadically.

...and check back next week for the completed painting Beth started 3 years ago for Leon's request! She finally finished it! (...with a sharpie and highlighter).

Thank You, Manola!

13 January 2012

He can't keep a beat... but who cares...

I received this painting request from Katie, who won the gift certificate I donated to a silent auction benefiting the City of Lakes Community Land Trust. Katie's request was simple, she wanted a painting of a "baby brown bear banging on pots and pans with a wooden spoon" for her nearly two year old son, Asher, who they call their "little bear".
So, I followed directions with one change. I gave the bear two spoons to make him look more intentionally musical rather than banging wildly. I decided to place the bear in a natural setting as if he just stumbled upon this cookware which could have been left behind by some clumsy campers or maybe fell off of some flashy traveling salesman's rickety cart.
Let's go with the latter and say that the travelling salesman also has a tiny dog that dances and does tricks to attract crowds when the duo stops in small villages as they wind their way through the countryside selling their wares. Stranger things have happened. Right?

Here's a story:

This young brown bear is hungry and it's mother is away. Wandering around, the bear stumbles onto a road where there is a parked wagon and man wearing an orange suit studded with metal bottle caps and tiny tin mirrors. He is playing a clarinet and has tambourines tied to his knees. On his shoulder is is a dancing Pomeranian dog wearing a tiny costume which is reminiscent of something a Bulgarian Gypsy might have worn 100 years ago.
An audience has gathered around this scene and they are enormously enthusiastic about the salesman's routine. There is a great deal of cheering and people are waving money in the air over their heads.
The young bear begins watching and is so curious that he forgets his hunger and runs in closer. The audience sees the bear and cheers thinking that he is part of the show. No one flinches as the baby bear slips in behind the salesman, picking up pots and pans and wooden spoons. When the bear starts banging out an awkward beat, the salesman stops, turns around, and almost poops his pants. (The dog actually does poop... right on the salesman's silky orange shoulder.)
As quickly as he can, the salesman takes his shaking dog and hops in his wagon to gets out of there ASAP, leaving some of his wares behind without regret. The audience, following suit, also panic (though they are uncertain why). The crowd quickly disperses in a mad rush to get back to their home villages.
The bear doesn't seem to care and just sits by himself, beating his pots and pans until late into the night. A sliver of the moon rises and he is still banging away in the dark. He can't quite keep a steady beat but who cares, he's having fun... and he's a bear... who's going to tell him?

Thank you, Katie and family! I hope you like the painting.

09 January 2012

Lil' Charlie! Even cuter in his sweater...

This painting was commissioned by Nick Garbis as a Christmas present for his wife Sarah. It is a painting of her much loved lil' buddy, Charlie, who was her present last year.
Charlie is one of those dogs that is ridiculously cute. So cute, I almost didn't want to paint this dog, afraid that some of the cuteness might get away in the time it takes to go from eyes to my hand.

I've painted plenty of dogs for this blog so this should have been a piece of cake and it was, until I decided to make things hard for myself. I had a week and a half to paint this and did so in a few hours well before delivery time. The painting I made was very simple and charming. I used very simple lines and the color was minimal but to the point. I showed this first painting to my very honest wife, Beth, and she liked it. Her only criticism was that there should be more of a sparkle in his eyes. I agreed and the night before delivery I dipped my brush in white to do so... and then decided to touch up a few other things...

I filled in a little more color here and there and defined the body a little more... and the next thing I knew I had gone too far. The charm was gone. The looseness that the painting originally had was destroyed. The inaccuracies that came from simple lines, now made solid, just felt like clumsy proportions which I was feverishly trying to fix.

On these small paintings, the layers of paint get thick and lumpy very fast making clear detail almost impossible. I used so much paint that the lower part of the painting's surface became the Pintos Mountains and my tiny brush was a disoriented pilgrim looking for salvation. Things went wrong... really wrong and I was supposed to deliver this in a few hours morning.

I contacted Nick early the next morning and asked if we could meet later in the day.Then took out a new board and started over. I figured if I did it once I could do it a second time. This painting, which you see above, came together fast. But I made some changes this time. I decided to have the dog wear his sweater (for maximum cuteness) and made the painting more "complete". Couldn't rely on this simple line stuff in a pinch. And very quickly, it turned out well. Probably more satisfying than the first.

I have a couple of new paintings that will be up soon. Today I'll complete a "baby brown bear playing pots and pans with wooden spoons". It is one of those paintings that I've been sitting on for a while. Bound to happen when I'm not given a deadline. So, moral of the story is, if you commission a painting, always give my a deadline for both of our sakes. If nothing else, just arbitrarily say "Groundhogs Day" or "Fourth of July" or whatever. It works better that way!


06 December 2011

Byzantine Jesus; Not the Grinning Blond Beau-Hunk.

This painting was made for Mark Scandrette. Mark's request to me was simple, one word, "Jesus". Not surprising since Mark is an author and speaker who focuses on spirituality and social justice.

Being Greek Orthodox, my approach to this was obvious. Byzantine. In the Eastern Orthodox Church there are very specific traditions in portraying holy images that developed in the Byzantine World and still practiced by iconographers today. I don't think there is another form of Christianity in which visual art as important as the Orthodox. (Well, Coptics... but... same thing really.) 

Catholics seem to like Renaissance realism with a large dose of drama. Christ's face filled with excruciating passion in theatrical lighting.

Many protestant groups seem to be more comfortable with a blond cartyoonish-friendly-grinning-beau-hunk-next-door version of Jesus. A kind of Santa Claus-like figure.

The Orthodox portray Christ as a meditative figure. The images are very stylized to suggest a realm that is not physical. In many ways this is very similar to how 20th century expressionist painters created emotional content in art.

I am not a trained iconographer but I do understand the basics of the visual language used in the Eastern Orthodox Church. So, I did my best. This painting humbly emulates the style. Flattened perspectives, articulated clothing, illuminated face. In one hand Christ holds the bible, with the other he is giving a blessing.

Anyway, Thank you Mark!

Working on a new painting for the Panda right now... and it involves another bear... but no light bulb...