Firefly is a 36″ x 48″ 3D sculpture / painting utilizing acrylic paint, multiple canvases, mirrors, LED lighting (Solar or electrical power) tissue wrap paper, model railroad foliage (branches) and fake grass. Evocative of a Midsummer Night, this piece draws on unconventional landscape effects to bring the composition to life. This is for sale. I’m asking $999.00. It may seem like a lot, but it allows me to eat and create art in an expensive area.
An abstract vision of what an alien flower would look like. This is an acrylic on canvas painting. I used air-duster cans, some brush and gravity/splatter techniques in the composition of the artwork. 18 x 24, 2016.
The view from straight on.
A side-view, which shows the textures used in the piece.
‘First Contact’. I took a better resolution photo than what is probably on my social media sites. This is 24MP vs. 8MP. It’s #acrylic on #canvas #artwork. I experimented with #airbrush in the beginning, but don’t have the special #paint (more finely ground than standard acrylics), and so I went back to the brush. It’s a sign I need a rich patron. The #art is #forsale, along with everything else. This particular piece of #fineart will set you back $648 plus shipping.
A Cheeky Artist Statement
I’m waiting for paint to dry so I decided to do a tongue in cheek artist statement for my work in video format. Enjoy!
I Have Been Busy
Greetings and ‘Happy 2016’; although it’s almost March. I apologize for not keeping up the website as diligently as I have social media (facebook.com/robscanvas). However, I have spent the morning updating, re-categorizing pages, adding art, and other web-mastery things. I believe I have all of the kinks out, but don’t quote me on that. There are many new additions in the catacombs of this virtual gallery, so take a look around – but don’t get lost.
The Path and the Process
I suppose I should talk a little bit about my process. Every artist goes about her or his projects in a different way. Most will sketch whatever comes to mind and come back to it later. For me, I don’t use sketch books. My ideas usually hit me either when I’m out getting some exercise in nature or in the middle of the night. I have funky dreams, which, though they are detrimental to sleep, are a rich source of ideas.
‘The Path’ was an idea that showed up while I was out on my favorite, err, path. I loved the sunset and how the light hit the trees, while at the same time leaving everything below in a semi-gloom. When I use this trail I get the feeling of being alone – sure there are tonnes of cars speeding by, but they are in a different world. The figures represent the human condition juxtaposed against the beauty of nature and the people traveling past blissfully unaware of the events unfolding around them. The harsh light of the headlights is a metaphor for how we don’t see what is occurring before our eyes.
I start out with the item visually farthest from the viewer, in this case the sky. I love painting the sky, it’s one of the initial factors that got me into painting in the first place. I wanted to do a rich sunset with the Sun just over the horizon, but wanted to keep it abstract at the same time.
After the sky was to my liking, incorporating horizontal and swirling elements, I began the landscape portion. In this case I wanted the view to be from about 6 feet off the ground. My initial sketches didn’t capture this, so I had to spend more time outdoors studying perspective.
After the roads were blocked in, I had to start the foliage. I used a method of dabbing that has been in my inventory since my spray-paint days. Since foliage wasn’t the primary focus of the work, I went with greens that we mostly take for granted in our daily lives.
One of the things I’ve noticed is that roads always have an almost silver-like sheen from the cars passing over them. I think I captured it. On the other hand, walking paths tend to be darker and have more leaves and such along the sides. Another thing I hope you notice, is that I like to fully paint what is behind the subject, even if it is never seen, it’s a detail I pride myself on, and future spectroscopy will bear this out. I paint the cars traveling past next. I use a photographic technique for this, overexposure I think it’s called – but maybe I’m wrong.
Once the background is complete comes the part where I have the most trouble. Although I like my work so far, now I’m forced to potentially destroy it. It’s scary. Before I set brush to canvas in this stage, I take a picture and import it into Paint.net (a free program akin to Photoshop). Once in the application, I use layers of drawings or images to figure out object placement. It’s very easy in this stage to get it wrong, e.g. the person is too big for their place on the path, and so on. Once I have it figured out, I make a printout for reference using points in the painting (a cloud or a tree).
I generally go darker first and paint out from there towards highlights.
Lighting is a problem. There’s a few sources, e.g. the sky, as well as the cars coming from the bottom and the top of the painting. I did my best.
As artists, we sometimes mess up. Here is an example. The woman in front looks like something out of the “Walking Dead” series. I took a long break and then went in the next day and fixed it. The awesome thing about art is that there is nothing irreparable. Et Voilà!
Note the use of highlights for the car headlights coming towards the woman, and her mascara. She is supposed to be the same figure that is walking and crouching behind her.
So this is an in-depth look at my process. There’s a lot of little things I haven’t covered, e.g. color choices and so on, but I wanted to give you an idea of what it would be like sitting next to me as I paint. Comments and feedback are always welcome.
Have a great day!
Getting Past the Background
I’m finding it challenging to overcome a a certain aspect of painting. I’m not sure about other artists, but backgrounds are my problem. I’m not saying they’re challenging in that they are hard to paint, rather, that I find that I paint them in a way that I’m hesitant to alter them with what is to be the subject matter of the painting. Often, at least in my last three paintings, the background has taken on a life of it’s own that I just can’t bring myself to change, even if its ostensibly for the better.
Case in point:
This is actually supposed to be the background. I actually didn’t have a problem with painting over it during my first few sessions working on it, as it wasn’t up to my standards. Here’s some photos of the process:
When I reached the point where I say to myself “I can’t do more with it”, I was in a conundrum. I could have continued with the foreground subject matter, which was a seagulls eye view of the storm, focusing on how the light would hit its eye (mockup photo below – Seagull sourced from casaflamingo.com), but I felt it would destroy something that stands on its own.
As a result I’ve decided to stop work and save the bird for another painting. One day I will move past my background blockage, but until then, I hope to present work, even if it is half of what I was thinking of to begin with, that will bring a smile to your face.
Tying It All Together
I’m always practicing new techniques. This was an attempt at capturing the vision of running water through a forest. The cool thing about practice, is that a piece can turn out horrendous, absolutely beautiful or somewhere in between, but it doesn’t matter. I’ve already professed a love of nature, and have been trying to improve my ‘dabbing’ technique, which I developed last year in my spray-paint days, to capture the intense beauty that is Nature. I feel like I’m getting closer but am not yet there.
The water was challenging, in that I crafted it from the nether-regions of my brain, based on streams I have seen in the past. I invite commentary and constructive criticism. As with all of my work, except that which has already been snatched up, this is for sale, PM me if you are interested in owning this, or just come back here and see it whenever you want – as long as you are smiling, I’ve achieved my goal.
As I post this, I have been on a viewing tour of the art museums in Baltimore and Washington DC. Apparently, I was subconsciously impressed by what I saw in the abstract collections. I’ve done several works in the abstract vein as a result; drawing upon the likes of Gauguin, Seurat, Van Gogh and Cézanne for inspiration (aside from my normal inspiration from nature). Without further ado, I give you my “early abstract period”:
“Untitled,” I used a wash of acrylic paints to simulate the depth of field. It was originally supposed to be a background for another work, but I couldn’t bring myself to paint over it.
“Untitled.” This was also supposed to be the background for another work. Once more I could not bring myself to destroy it through creating something else. The original idea was to have a waters-eye view at the perspective line. Had I moved on, I would have connected the waves and the rocks, however, on its own, it looks as if there is turbulent weather over rough seas.
“Moon on Water.” This was the first phase of a painting exercise. I wanted to see what I could do with a small straw and paint to simulate stars. I also wanted to practice reflections on water. I realized that the mountains looked like the sun was setting on them, so I went on several sojourns in nature to discover what it looks like opposite the setting sun.
I converted it to a moonrise scene in the fall. I will attempt the dark sky / stars thing again, but I felt that this was the right way to go with this painting, as it was an exercise.
“Woman at (a) Table”
“Woman at (a) Table” is a work inspired by a photograph I found on Getty Images. I wasn’t looking specifically to paint her, I forget what I was actually looking for, but I fell in love with the image. The problem? I couldn’t find it again. It took two days to locate it using the photographers handle (DEM10) and a partial photo number. When I did find it again, I bought the copyrights to smallest image (I’m poor) so I could freely incorporate her into my work. Due to the restrictions on sizes, I’m uploading the photo I took of the up-sized image (please don’t sue me, I’m, playing by the rules).
Legalese finished, you can see in the photograph of the printout, where I did some preliminary measurements. It’s always good to measure as a rule, however, I never follow measurements when I paint; a fact which leads me into trouble – mostly. More often than not, I’m impatient, so I just go with it and hope for the best, as I did in this case.
I started with a background that invoked a little more color than the photo but still maintained the overall dark nature. You can see it carried over or evolved from work I did with skies, such as in these two earlier works of mine:
After the background was done, I started to paint the woman in a more traditional sense. She ended up looking manly, with beefy arms and what looked like hair, due to my brush stroke method.
(Various settings, such as exposure, played with to illustrate the work being done)
I then worked on the surroundings, the table, the wine glass (my first by the way), and the shoes.
There came a point when I was in a little bit of a crisis with the painting. My depression had kicked in, as Churchill said, the ‘Black Hound’ was baying (He never said that, but he did call depression his ‘Black Dog‘:
I don’t like standing near the edge of a platform when an express train is passing through.
I like to stand right back and if possible get a pillar between me and the train.
I don’t like to stand by the side of a ship and look down into the water.
A second’s action would end everything.
A few drops of desperation.
~ Winston Churchill
Anyway, I was working skin tone, the face and the hand. Let me tell you, the hand is the hardest part of the human body to draw. I was getting poor results and took a break for a moment or three hours. During that time, I looked at the art books littering the floor (Librarians the world over are screaming) and Van Gogh seemed to call out to me.
As you may or may not know, Van Gogh was a little… err, eccentric. Besides cutting off his ear, he loved to paint using multiple colors in the skin. My opinion is that he developed this along the same line as I did, by becoming frustrated with realistic tones. So, long story short, I started mixing in color with my flesh tones and created something I could work with. And then,
I was left with the hand….
It was a man-hand, an unnatural hand, and it had to go. After working diligently on it and going nowhere, I did the only thing a self-respecting artist could do, cover it up as naturally as possible! I was semi-pleased with the results. The hand faded into the background and the entire work became acceptable. By acceptable, I mean the point where I run out of creative energy, get bored, or can’t think of anywhere else to go with it. Here is the end result.
“Woman at (a) Table”
Acrylic on Canvas
18 “x 24”
On a playful note, and giving a nod to my inspiration, I incorporated one of his paintings into a Photoshop collage for posterity. Enjoy!
Abstract Art “A Place at the Table”
(Click me, I get bigger)
“A Place at the Table” was the result of several synergistic forces. My girlfriend and I had been discussing abstract art after visiting galleries in New York and Washington, DC. She suggested that I give it a try. The problem was that I didn’t have a subject. On an unrelated note, I had taken my children out for dinner at the Pour House in Gaithersburg, MD. The Pour House is aptly named because of its many, many selections of beer – and my personal favorite “Sweet Baby Jesus” by Duclaw. For the record, I was the only one to have a beer, they also have great food and a plethora of big screens for sport watching. Anyway, I took a picture of the tabletop at which we were sitting while waiting for our order. I was drawn to the rich colors of the wood, the patterns of the scratches and the lighting in general.
I took the picture and forgot about it. Later that week, as I was backing up my pictures (I take a lot of random photos – See my photography page 🙂 and it hit me to try and paint the tabletop in abstract form.
The process was fairly straightforward. I started with an undercoating of Burnt Sienna, which has become my favorite thing to do since finding out my favorite painter, Vermeer, did the same thing. After this I started working the subtle hues of the wood, as if the table had never seen a customer and was still fresh in the staining room at the craft shop. I then worked an initial pass of scratches, then light characteristics and finally another pass of scratches.
One of the trickiest things to do with my work is get a good photograph of it. Ambient light sources and the characteristics of cameras, which are vastly inferior to the human eye, which operates at 576 megapixels, while the best cameras manage no more than 75 – the iPhone at 8 megapixels. To illustrate the difference here are a few different views:
If you have ideas to help in this regard, feel free to comment. I do have a better camera, which I am learning how to use in order to get better shots. Here is a side by side comparison of the two images, reality vs painting.
“A Place at the Table”
Acrylic on Canvas
11″ x 14″