All content copyright 2011, 2012, and 2013 by Keith Russell.

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31 May 2010

Another older drawing...

This was drawn directly from a bust of "Lucius Veros" (Marcus Aurelius' son, in real life--not in the movie Gladiator).

This image is the drawing about 2/3 complete. I went back to the museum at least one more time, and completed the hair, shadows in the neck area, etc. I'll try to take a photo of the finished piece, and post that, soon.

I really should get this framed. (It would help to find it, first, though I'm sure it's around here, somewhere...)

Charcoal pencil on Canson paper, 12 x 16 inches.

29 May 2010

More "Mische" Technique...

With the second oil paint layer (yellow this time) dry, I began work on the repainting of the "Thin-faced Man" night before last, and continued working on it last night. One of the articles I read about this technique emphasized that its best not simply to "re-paint" the image each time with egg-tempera, but to refine the image each time; to "perfect" it (to use a word-concept that is rather out of favour, especially in artistic/aesthetics circles, these days.)

I'm almost finished with this egg-tempera layer, the second--and looking forward to applying the final transparent oil paint layer, which will be blue (either Indianthrene, or Ultramarine--although I have some Daniel Smith Genuine Lapis-Lazuli...hmmm, now there's a thought!)

I'm going to make good use of having all three days off this Memorial Day weekend. I have five of these "Invented Faces" completely finished (well, except for applying a final varnish). The "Thin-faced Man" makes six. And, I have two more very nearly done--and I'm hoping to finish both of them this weekend. That would give me a total of eight, meaning five more to go.

I've started three more of the faces (I posted one of them with the entry for 10 May) but I'm not terribly pleased with any of them. I am considering drawing five new faces, and see if I like them better than the three that are barely started.

(I'll post those drawings when I have them, and post their progress as I work on them, as well...)

I hope everyone has a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend!

25 May 2010

Detours on the Highway...

The last few weeks have been crazy; lots of distractions vying for my attention and my time. I'm fighting to stay focused, though--and doing pretty well so far!

I never heard back from the owner of the truck. After visiting with him one more time, he seemed very hesitant about my designs (which he had glowingly approved earlier in the week), and he seemed even more unsure about whether he really wanted to have the dashboard painted at all.

Well, the money would have been nice! But, painting the dashboard would have been at least two or three weeks working on something other than my own stuff. (Yeah, gotta look on the bright side!)

I spoke with a gentleman the weekend before last, interested in having me teach his entire staff to airbrush. He seemed very serious, and I gave him my card. He hasn't gotten back to me yet, either. (If I had a dime for every time the possibility of something that seems like it'll get me a decent "art paycheck" doesn't materialize.

Oh, well.)

Honestly, lots of folks are being super-cautious right now--financially speaking.

So, I'm back hard at work on "my own stuff"; spending eight hours in the studio on Sunday, and another three hours last night. I'm heading down there in a few minutes (after I finish this blog entry) tonight.

Lots to do.

I'm on it...

16 May 2010

"Mische Technique" update...

I've been working on another painting over the weekend, while the layer of Rembrandt Permanent Madder Deep, applied over the grasaille of the "Thin Faced Man", dries.

I painted the first egg tempera layer last night, which will be overpainted with a layer of transparent yellow tonight, followed by another re-painting in egg tempera, then--

--well, I explained the process in a previous entry.

I made some slight changes (refinements, actually) to the image as I re-painted it with egg tempera, and I'm sure that this refinement will continue; I have two more layers of egg tempera to do, before the painting is "finished" with transparent oil paints.

This is the way it looked last night, when the first egg tempera layer was almost done...

10 May 2010

The Limits of Photography...Part One

The question of using photographic references only affects those artists who create imagery that (to at least some degree) resembles something else. So, the following essay may not apply to artists who are relatively unconcerned with any sort of visual verisimilitude...

In several of the on-line art discussion forums in which I hang out, artists frequently question the validity of using photographs as the basis for drawings, paintings, digital imagery, and other types of art.

Some artists argue that there's nothing "wrong" with copying, tracing--with more-or-less duplicating--any photographic reference image from any source. (Of course there are copyright concerns when using photographs other than your own, but I think there are significant aesthetic reasons why virtually copying a photographic image--even if you were the photographer and thus own the copyright--isn't a very "good" idea.)

Other artists argue that one should only ever work from actual people and objects; that visual artists should never use photographic refrences, "period".

I'm going to try to argue for a more philosophical approach to the question of photographic references; as I find the opinions at either extreme, rather limiting.

First, there are several reasons why photographic references are a very useful tool for visual artists. There is certainly no question that visual artists have been facinated by photographic imagery since the birth of photography (which can be dated to either 1827 or 1839, depending on whether you consider the first photographs to be the eight-hours-plus exposures produced by Niepce, or the later slightly-longer-than-one-hour exposures created using Daguerre's process more than a decade later).

The early photographic experiments of Edward Muybridge (1830-1904), which captured the intricacies of animal and human movement in strobe-lit stop-motion sequences, are only one example of how photography is able to reveal subtle information that the human eye cannot easily perceive (or may not be able to perceive at all) For example, Muybridge's photographs revealed for the first time, that all four of a horses hooves leave the ground during a gallop. Numerous early works of equestrian art were thus revealed as "flawed".)

Second, even artists who aren't interested in extremely-short, or extremely-long-duration events, can benefit from photographic references. Portrait artists (and/or figurative artists in general) understand that figure models cannot hold certain poses for more than a moment or two. (Other poses are too difficult to be held for more than a few seconds.) "Action poses"--such as running, turning, or jumping--cannot even be "held" at all. Photography makes it possible to see the details of human and animal bodies-in-motion that were virtually invisible before 1872.

Third, using photographs is far easier than arranging a photo-shoot every time an artist decides to create a drawing, painting, or sculpture. Photographic reference images are available in books, magazines, newspapers--and even more readily available on-line.

Of course there are numerous advantages to working from actual objects, or people, rather than relying on photographs . Photographs are two-dimensional, and reveal an object or scene from a single viewpoint. Human beings, though, have stereo vision; we see objects far differently than cameras do. The edges of rounded objects often appear fuzzy, because both eyes can't focus on the same point along the curved edge. In photos, however, edges often appear perfectly sharp, and it's difficult for artists who only work from photos to learn to compensate for the differences between the way cameras "see", and the way human vision actually works.

For artists creating portraits, still life imagery, product illustrations, etc, it's best to work "from life"--from the actual object in the actual environment being depicted, again because "reality" provides far more information, as well as direct ineraction, with the subject, than a photograph (or photographs) can.

(I know I rarely see a photograph that "looks like me"; a portraitist working from a photograph of me, is at a definite disadvantage, before the painting even starts!)

Of cousrse, working from actual objects and/or living models isn't always possible. An artist might be asked to create a portrait of a person who is no longer among the living, in which case the artist would have no choice but to rely on photographic references, taken while the person was alive. Further, imaginary objects and scenes can't be photographed unless they are first made real; built or constructed somehow. Its much easier to draw or paint something than to actually create it (and much less expensive to work from photographs of the Sphynx, than arrange a trip to Egypt!)

While all of the above seems quite sensible to me, none of it touches on what I believe to be the best reasons why I believe simply copying from reality--whether directly, or from photographs--is far too limiting.

For me, the key is imagination...

To be continued.

More new stuff...

Here are a couple more of the "Invented Face" paintings. The 'thin man' face is currently a grisaille--an underpainting--that I'm going to paint using the "Mische" technique, in which the entire painting is painted using successive layers of transparent red, yellow, and blue oil paint. After each oil layer is painted, white egg tempera is used to refine the image, redefining the highlights, to further "model" the forms. After the third (blue) layer has been painted, and the image is again (for the third time!) repainted, redefined, and refined using white tempera, the painting is finished using "regular" transparent oils.

The other face will also have some additional layers added, using both opaque and transparent colours, again paying careful attention to the modelling of form.

(I need to count how many of the Faces I have started so far. I'm sure that four of them are completely done, at least three more are nearly finished, and--including these two--the number is either ten or eleven.)

These are both 12x16, oils on canvas.

06 May 2010


I've always had very mixed feelings when it comes to collaborations, mainly because I've rarely had what I could call a good experience--let alone a good result--when I've collaborated in the past.

I have a friend who would really like to have me work with him on his graphic novel project, and I'm...resisting...'cause I've been down this road before.

Several years ago, I met a writer who looking for an artist to do the "graphic" portion of a graphic novel he'd written. We met, and I liked his ideas for the story, so I started designing characters, working on the basic layout of the book, and creating some finished drawings, using a copy of his script as a guide.

The next time we met, he had re-written some of the portions of the story that I had already illustrated, and most of my finished layouts, and some of the finished drawings, were now basically useless.

Over the next few months, every time we met, he had made signifcant changes to the story, and I increasingly felt that I was wasting my time working on his project--instead of my own stuff--only to find out that this design, or that character, or that section of the story, had been "cut".

I finally quit the project.

Now I know that there are collborations that "work", and artists who work very well together.

But, for whatever reason, I'm not one of those folks.


01 May 2010

Business cards ordered...

I ordered My new business cards yesterday. I haven't had business cards in way too long. I had postcards printed several years ago, basically as advertisements for an upcoming exhibit, but actual business's probably been a decade or more.

I think they're going to look really good, and I can't wait to start handing them out...