Wednesday, 4/6/11: Christopher B. Mooney

Thanks to guest writer Sally Murdoch for today’s post

Last year Christopher B. Mooney brought his oil painting talents to a canvas at An Artist A Day with one subject firmly implanted; Portland bridges. While his picturesque painting of the Interstate Bridge captured the event’s highest bid at $510, this year he comes to Muse with an entirely new study; portraits of people.

Currently living in SE Portland, Mooney is still open to paint the arches, beams and girders of Portland’s bridges that held his imagination for two decades. However, he feels he has taken urban landmark painting as far as it could go. “I have accomplished my mission,” he says. “And painting people is an entirely new chapter for me.”

Mooney cites two reasons for the subject change last year; The first is economic, and with a number of commissions already completed, has proven to be a good move. And second, there’s an abundance of material in painting people and their facial expressions, which was limited when he depicted bridges.

Today, Mooney’s subject is Lavonne Russell, a fellow artist he met in the Portland Social Artists Guild who popped in to Muse while Mooney began painting. He is using many of M. Graham’s oil paints in his palette. He begins with unbleached titanium (from the Harding oil line) for the flesh tones and blends in burnt sienna for facial structure. He begins with the eyes, and then moves to the nose and mouth, working the opposite of some artists who use large blocks and shapes in painting faces.

He painted Russell’s face from a contrasty photograph. Mooney chose Russell and her photo because he liked her unique facial expression and would be able to play up the highlights and shadows in the photo. He was looking forward to using techniques in the style of Caravaggio and Eugene Delacroix.

One technique that works well for Mooney is turning his portraits to the side and upside down as recommended in Betty Edwards seminal tome Drawing on the Right side of the Brain. “When I’m involved in something for so long,” he said, “sometimes turning it to another angle will help me see more abstractly and make sure I get the eyelashes, eyebrows, and curvature of the mouth just right.” For his career and switch to portraiture, Mooney also calls upon his degrees in illustration and photography from Parsons New School for Design.

Mooney begins his commissioned portraits by meeting his subject or commissioner at a comfortable coffee spot with good lighting. He can either paint from a photo or do rough sketches while meeting. He then uses Camera Obscura techniques in getting proportions right through projection. Some of his pieces are as large as 4 feet by 5 feet and have been displayed in the vaulted staircases of stately NW homes for sale.

When not painting or studying art history, Mooney dances in ballroom events and takes dance classes. His finished portraits range in price anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000, available here through Christopher’s website. You can bid on his piece today for a fraction of the price, starting at only $75!

On May 6th, Christopher B. Mooney will be the guest artist at Portland artist Kristin Fritz’s studio from 4 to 7 pm.

Click on thumbnails to see larger pictures.


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