One to Another

July 9, 2010

070910 – David & Fun

Filed under: --David & Fun, 1-Progress/Sessions — pendantportraits @ 9:29 pm

Today,  Fun again worked hard to be an excellent model. Posing is not easy. We worked from about 12:45 – 3:45.

I decided that the gray paper from last week was darker than I wanted. As Fun noted, “It looks like night.” I went to Ex Libris before today’s session to see what colors of pastel paper were in stock, and chose Sage. The relatively cool tonality sat beautifully behind the handful of limited colors that I used: cool white, warm white, light gray, raw sienna, rust, dark rust, bistre, charoal pencil, compressed charcoal. It is still a bit darker than I want in order to evoke a summer theme in color and tonality (I’m considering the incorporation of a glass of ice water as a pictorial clue toward the season).

Color temperature is a key visual aspect of this work. Toward the conclusion of the session, sunlight comes around through the west window in the kitchen, and places a cool light on Fun’s shoulder and hair: this is a key visual element of the work. It plays against the temperature difference in her clothes (cool bright white top and warm shawl). The light from the chandelier casts a lovely shadow from Fun’s hand onto the writing paper. (The proportion of the paper will become more important going forward.) The shifts in color temperature indirectly refer to differences in complexion.

The shawl is a key aspect of this work in terms of its form. It was satisfying today to get the layering in space sorted out, which begins with Fun’s left foot in front of the table leg, and progresses back across her hand, and then through two distinct layers of the shawl, with her arm and bright white shirt seen underneath. A painter’s delight.

In general, the drawing was more painterly, and the image gained dimensionality.

Fun & David have a remarkable openness (and trust) in the development of the works. They can sense the intentionality from work to work. For Fun, writing is a potent analogy.

Note for next time (Wed July 14 and Thur July 15) – add green pastel to supplies – take garlic clove – work on graphing the most recent drawing of Fun larger by about 1/20 (slightly) – prep Sage paper for David with base tone for overall lighter tonality – consider proportion of paper – ‘secret’ between them – drawing of gryphon on paper on table.


July 1, 2010

062910 – David & Fun

Filed under: --David & Fun, 1-Progress/Sessions — pendantportraits @ 12:42 am

Note: Image pending.

With the academic term behind us and much of the summer before us, we three have returned to our project.

Fun posed beautifully today for nearly three hours. We agreed that is was a ‘very Savannah day.’ The weather was overcast when I arrived around 1 pm. As we worked, a torrential thunderstorm passed through. By the time that I returned home, the sky was clear and bright. Fun’s expression in the portrait shifted nearly as much, developing from grave, to open/alert, and then youthful.

One of my objectives for the day was to get a better sense of the overall tonality that I want in these works. I worked on dark gray toned Canson paper with white, warm white, mid-gray, sanguine, black Conte, and charcoals. These materials have an affinity with painting ~ and today’s drawing is painterly.

Another objective for the day was to scale Fun’s portrait to that of her husband’s portrait. In his drawing, David’s head is 1/7 of the height of the full composition. He told me that this is the proportion between the width of the base to the height of a Doric column (according to some theorists). I found that the Tuscan order, also referred to as Roman Doric, is considered to typically have this 1:7 relationship. At the end of the session, the scale is not yet right. I need to focus both on Fun’s own scale relationships (head to torso and so on) as well as the scale relationship between the two works.

To match the scale, before we started the session, I flipped over the drawing on tracing paper that I have of David, and translated placement notations for the head, hand, and seat onto the paper for the drawing of Fun.

Color of light — warm/cool (backlit).  Relaxed – in pose leg stretch.

Fun commented that food is an additional shared love with David. I looked for a food that has an important role in both the Asian (for Fun) and Italian (for David – this is not his nationality, but he loves Italian food). I found garlic. Here are some excerpts from web sites.

The Wonders of Garlic “Garlic was a symbol of the cosmos as manifested by its successive layers of skin that form the bulb. The Greeks and Romans ate of this magical herb. They used it as a health protector and aphrodisiac.”

Chinese food symbolism “Garlic is considered a lucky plant because in legend and history it has been used as an antidote to poisons of all sorts. It has other prolific uses such as when it symbolizes luck, health, or rich progeny in numbers or economics. Garlic and five are partners in the fifth day of the fifth month festival and in many dishes that use at least five ingredients. Emperors knew that garlic was good for the blood, they wanted it served in many of the foods presented to them. Some Chinese rulers prized it as a sexual tonic; that is why monastic kitchens in their country forbade its use.”

Ingredients for Chinese Cooking “Integral to Chinese cuisine, the use of garlic can be traced back to Shi Ching, the Chinese classic book of poems penned by Confucius in the 6th century BC.”

Garlic History “The word garlic comes from Old English garleac, meaning “spear leek.” Dating back over 6,000 years, it is native to Central Asia, and has long been a staple in the Mediterranean region, as well as a frequent seasoning in Asia, Africa, and Europe. Egyptians worshiped garlic and placed clay models of garlic bulbs in the tomb of Tutankhamen. Garlic was so highly-prized, it was even used as currency. Folklore holds that garlic repelled vampires, protected against the Evil Eye, and warded off jealous nymphs said to terrorize pregnant women and engaged maidens. And let us not forget to mention the alleged aphrodisiacal powers of garlic which have been extolled through the ages. / Surprisingly, garlic was frowned upon by foodie snobs in the United States until the first quarter of the twentieth century, being found almost exclusively in ethnic dishes in working-class neighborhoods. But, by 1940, America had embraced garlic, finally recognizing its value as not only a minor seasoning, but as a major ingredient in recipes. / Quaint diner slang of the 1920’s referred to garlic as Bronx vanilla, halitosis, and Italian perfume. Today, Americans alone consume more than 250 million pounds of garlic annually.”

I need to remember to take a nice big clove of garlic to the sessions in mid-July, to test if this might be incorporated.

Matthew, their son, realized that we are making a separate portrait for each. David (the contractor working on their home, who is a photographer) commented that highlights will always make the subject look thinner (I’m using warm highlights to the left/east, and cool highlights to the right/west).

September 6, 2009

090509 – David & Fun.

Filed under: --David & Fun, 1-Progress/Sessions — pendantportraits @ 5:24 pm

I prepared for today’s session by transferring* the portrait of David from the white Arches to the blue Canson paper. Before hand, I indicated vertical thirds and the exact center on the blue Canson paper, which led me to resposition it a couple of inches to the left to get it off of exact center. I roughed in the oval, and then attached it to a drawing board. It fits under my arm.** I can carry it down the street to their home. Our schedules today allowed time to work only with David (2:30-5:15). David had his daughter’s easel ready for me to use, and compared the position of the chair and carpet pattern to a snapshot from the prior session.

We found that to replace the pen in David’s right hand with a piece of paper will work on several levels. Conceptually, instead of his right hand gesturing to introduce his wife, he is prepared to hand her the slip of paper (an exchange between equals). On a narrative basis, if Fun is the only one with a pen, it may suggest that they are working on a project together. Visually, a full sheet of paper would be distracting, so we tried a sheet folded in half, and then sized it down further by folding it in half once more. In terms of composition, David holds the shorter edge and the greater dimension provides a compositional directional to the right.In my landscape work, I seek to establish seven separate layers for compositional clarity and richness. The addition of the paper achieves this in the portrait: 1 chair>2 leg>3 hand>4 paper>5 cast shadow>6 leg>7 jacket >8 background.

David and I are comfortable with the ambiguity of what is written on the paper that he’s handing to his wife. It may be a secret that even I don’t know. The color of the paper will be resolved in future sessions – we can make reality correspond to the needs of the work.

I plan to incorporate the glass of water, with melting ice and condensation drops,  into the work to represent the heat of Savannah. David proposed family  tree research materials as the subject of any paperwork to be added to the table top.

We discussed suspending a plumb bob or some other focal item from the door jamb so that David and Fun will have an identical focus. Or, we may need to separate the focal points by a few inches to account for the movement in space of a future viewer’s dominant eye as s/he looks from one painting to another.

As the days grow shorter, our sessions will need to gradually shift earlier in the afternoon. The dining room is an interior room that receives indirect light from the windows in adjacent exterior rooms to the north, east, and west. David & Fun’s daughter was a keen observer during the latter part the drawing session. I recommended Robert Henri’s The Art Spirit and Vreeland’s Girl in Hyacinth Blue to her.

*I used a manual transfer process. I traced the essential lines of the drawing onto a length of tracing paper from a roll. Before following these lines, I slipped a sheet of transfer paper behind it (making sure that the active side was face down to the Canson paper). From start to finish, the decisions and process took about 40-50 minutes.

** Many measurements derive from the human body. 24″ is a standard dimension in many ready-made art supports (for instance, the most common size of newsprint is 18×24), and this dimension relates to the length of an average individual’s arm.

August 11, 2009

081109 – David and Fun

Filed under: --David & Fun, 1-Progress/Sessions — pendantportraits @ 1:26 am

Several conceptual and formal aspects of David and Fun’s portraits coalesced today. I came prepared with 30 x 22” BFK paper sized down to 26 ½ x 22”. I arrived at those dimension by calculating the size needed to accommodate an oval inscribed within a 30 x 25” rectangle.

Fun and David are founding members of Veritas Academy, a local charter school with a focus on the great books as the basis of education. As members of First Presbyterian church, David observed that their dining room table is an extension of the classroom (church – school – home). From an art historical perspective, I hope that David and Fun’s portraits will call to mind Copley’s paintings of portrait subjects at similar tables. He used the reflective surfaces to great advantage. The reflective surface may serve a metaphorical function.

I drew Fun at the right side of the table and David on the left side (traditional placement). Both are right-handed, so Fun’s dominant hand will be on the table, and David will have a pen in hand at rest on his leg. This gives each a separate work space, even as they are seated at the same table.


Veritas’ mascot is the ferocious, imaginary, magical gryphon, which I may incorporate in the background.

Their daughter has a French easel, which I was able to use. The light from the large front northern living room windows is the primary (and gentle) light source. The wide pocket doors between the living and dining rooms give ample space for the French easel and painting supplies.

Before the next session, I will prepare blue-toned paper and scale Fun’s cartoon down by about 1/7. At the next session, I want to get good portrait (head) drawings, work on scale, make progress on the design of implements and paperwork at the table, incorporate the illusionary oval, and begin consideration of what will happen in the background.

July 15, 2009

070909 David and Fun

Filed under: --David & Fun, 1-Progress/Sessions — pendantportraits @ 5:13 pm

Portrait_070709_FunDavid and Fun are colleagues and neighbors. We live on the same street in Savannah’s Baldwin Park neighborhood.

At our first session, it took me a little while to get warmed up. I started with a sheet with small ovals, something like 1 x 1 1/2″ each.

I drew David first. We worked in the front parlor, near enormous north windows. David did a fine job, and yet, I struggled to focus on the issues appropriate to the thumbnail-size. David suggested that I read Lawrence Stone’s research on the evolution of marriage and the family in Western civilization, as pendant portraiture emerged along with traditional family structure.

For the last drawing of the day, I drew Fun by herself on a separate sheet of Fabriano Ingres (no oval). Her hands are very expressive, in constant motion as she talks. I liked that very much. I learned that her parents do not speak English. Consequently, during family visits, she is accustomed to translate between her children and their grandparents.

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