Tag Archives: photograph

Saturday, 4/23/11: Shanon Playford

Thanks to guest writer Cameron Hawkey for today’s post.

Today I interview artist Shannon Playford. She’s wearing a white smock/lab coat streaked with paint strokes from reflexively wiping her brushes clean against her shoulder. Printout sheets of tornado pictures and self-portrait references litter the base of the easel, and she is sweeping the canvas with a fat wide brush, smoothing the smoky tornado clouds into a strange pink sky, and blurring her face, which gives the painting a surreal effect. She stops, steps outside, scrutinizes her painting through the storefront window, frowns, and comes back inside. It’s the only way she can get a distant look at her painting, and she does it often. I talk to her while she’s indoors.

About this series of paintings: “I’ve been doing these portraits for about a year. I used to paint on panels, but now I paint on canvas – the texture grabs more, so you can paint over other layers more easily without blending them together. I also paint pretty thin, which helps. There’s only so much oil painting I can do in one session, though, so I’ll take it home for another session, and add the more intense lights and darks.”

Why so many self-portraits? “I usually do self portraits just because I know what pose I want for reference. It doesn’t matter if it looks like me or not in the end. I’m wondering how much longer I’m going to want to paint myself like this, though [laughs]. In general younger faces attract me because I feel they have more of an open-ness, or transparency, to them. Although when I used to ride the bus, all I would draw were the old people.”

On smocks: “Sometimes I just wear a smock to let myself know that I’m working. Back when I didn’t have a studio, I would have to leave my apartment and walk around the block before coming back in to let myself know it was time to work.”

On doing your best: “When I was a kid and competing in a race, I would quit when I realized that I wasn’t going to make first or second place.”

How’s the weather? “The weather is terrible here! So bland. It’s a gray soup.”

On being a traditional painter in a seemingly digital world: “As a friend of mine put it: You cannot hunt your nature. Which is to say painting is what I want to do.”

The last picture below shows Shanon’s painting at the end of the day Saturday.  We’ll post an update with a picture of her finished work.  UPDATE:  The last picture shows Shanon’s finished painting.

Click on thumbnails for larger pictures


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Wednesday, 4/20/11: Acey Thompson

Thanks to guest writer Sally Murdoch for today’s post.

Acey Thompson says she has almost always had a hard time staying still. Now in her final year at PNCA with her thesis proposal staring her down in just a few short weeks, the field of study she has chosen hits, literally, close to home. She is OK with being a dog artist amidst conceptual art students at PNCA, and for her thesis she has chosen to artfully depict a dog’s ability to be completely idle and zen-like, docile, blissful almost to the point of catatonic. She hopes to conduct this study starting with her two dogs at home, her pit bull Maggie and Catahoula leopard dog Jasper.

But there’s another reason the docile nature of dogs captures Acey’s heart and imagination; when she graduates this fall, she hopes to throw time and energy into softening the stigma against pit bulls. She hopes to do this through art, with exposing people to images of pit bulls with a partner out of LA, appropriately named Diamonds in the Ruff, a no-kill pet rescue shelter:

Last year, Acey’s painting of a Great Pyrenees dog lovingly arched over the shoulders of a woman fetched $250 at the final auction for An Artist a Day. One person liked it so much because it reminded her of her own dog, and when she was outbid, she later commissioned Acey to do a similar watercolor and ink rendering.

Today’s painting is her pit bull Maggie, who accompanied her on the journey to Portland five years ago. In the photo, Maggie, now nine, wears an expression that Acey loves and knows well. A recently finished watercolor of Maggie  is also on Acey’s homepage, and so realistic and detailed that many often mistake it for an oil panting.

Acey chose today’s photo for her Maggie’s expression as well as to capture two things she loves in her life: one is a sheer curtain with gold flecks and patterned with fleur de lys, giving the portrait a regal air. The other is an Afghani pillow that was once a dress her father brought back from the Middle East. The repurposed pillowcase, with its tiny mirrors and webby patterns, contributes to the colorful foreground of the painting.

Last summer, Acey took two classes at PCC that she says really broadened her horizons in her artistic adventure. One was a watercolor painting class taught by Theresa Redinger who shows at Blackfish Gallery. Redinger took students through technical basics such as color theory using a color wheel, stretching paper, and taking the palette from small primaries to larger ones. The other class was a soapstone carving class, which gave her newfound respect for rocks and polishing.

The supplies Acey uses are: Synthetic brushes from Da Vinci, Escoda, and Raphael. Her large porcelain palette is from Muse. Watercolors are M Graham and Sennelier, and paper is Arches 140 lb watercolor. The gouache is M Graham. Her elegant bamboo brush wrap is from Muse, and she is trying out a new wax crayon to save whites, a technique she gleaned from John Singer Sergeant. She’ll use pearlescent liquid acrylic for the details in the curtains and Maggie’s collar.   UPDATE:  The last picture shows Acey’s finished painting.

Click on thumbnails to see larger pictures.

Monday, 4/18/11: Carolynn Wagler

Thanks to guest writer Christina Hugo for today’s post.

Today Carolynn Wagler helped to bring spring to Portland with a watercolor of warm, vibrant, orangey tulips. It was a fitting subject as we sat in the window of Muse safe from the intermittent April showers.

Carolynn came ready with a light graphite sketch of her design, which was from a photograph she had taken at a tulip festival a few years back. It was an image she had been saving, waiting to give it new life in paint. After a few touch-ups with her pencil to define her lines, which would be the map for her piece, she began by masking her whites. Carefully identifying any white detail in her color photo, she mimicked these areas with masking fluid to repel paint and maintain her tulips’soft white tips. The plump blooms were then washed with a wide, wet brush followed by a sweep of lemon yellow. Carolynn then used a blow drier to set the yellow, and already the strong effect of the masking fluid was evident. Bright yellow tulips with sweet white highlights now filled much of the page. She told me that as she added more color the masking fluid would be scrubbed away to blend the white naturally into the petals.

Crimsons, golden oranges, and bluish purples gave the blooms dimension, texture and richness . Thin upward strokes of color brought out the veins and spines of the petals, while a water-charged brush diluted color in other places to give contour and shading, bringing it all slowly to life.

Carolynn used a test palette of watercolor paper painted with her original yellow to see how each new hue would appear layered on the last. On this tiny watercolor laboratory she discovered, through trial, error, and inquisitive patience how to coax her perfect purple from a neutralizing yellow background.

Carolynn has been painting with watercolors for 11 years, but has experience with acrylics and pastel as well. She says watercolor is her favorite because of its fluidity. She says she finds it “a thrill to see what you come up with through the nature of the water and pigment together.” Carolynn’s portfolio is filled with landscapes in all seasons, and expressive faces which portray emotion through bright eyes and flowing features. She is looking forward to painting some of the tropical flora she captured on film during a recent trip to Hawaii. Carolynn teaches pastel painting through Portland Parks and Recreation and she is a member of the Portland Fine Arts Guild.

The last picture below shows Carolynn’s painting at the end of the day Monday (with watercolor paper still taped to board).  We’ll post an update with a picture of the finished piece.  UPDATE:  The last picture below shows Carolynn’s finished painting.

Click on thumbnails to see larger pictures.


Wednesday, 4/13/11: Shawn Demarest

Shawn Demarest set up her French-style easel today with her palette positioned on the drawer of her easel between her canvas and her chair.  To her left, she set up her photographic reference as though she were sitting outdoors viewing her subject to the side of her easel.  Her painting today was inspired by a night-time photo she’d taken of traffic crossing the Ross Island Bridge south of downtown Portland.   Shawn has spent a lot of time painting outdoors on location, or “en plein air.”  This experience has helped her develop skills very useful to painters — quickly taking in a scene and making creative decisions about how to depict forms, light, and colors; selecting and mixing paints from a limited and harmonious range of colors; and choosing the appropriate level of detail to convey the mood and movement of a specific place and time.

Over the past year, a greater amount of Shawn’s work has occurred inside her studio.  Painting indoors has allowed her to keep making paintings during our long, wet winter and as enabled her to work on more pieces at a time when preparing for shows.  Painting in her studio also allows more time to work on each piece without having to worry about changing light or packing up at the end of the day.  With more time to focus on each painting, she can take breaks to get some distance from her work and reflect on the direction her work is taking.

Shawn is inspired by the scenes and places she sees every day in her Southeast Portland neighborhood.   When she’s planning a piece that she will work on indoors, Shawn likes to take photos outdoors that capture a special view or moment.  Her plein air background enables her to keep these special moments fresh and alive in her paintings, even when working indoors away from her subjects.

click on thumbnails to see larger pictures.

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.

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Saturday, 4/2/11: James Franssen

Thanks to guest writer Mesha Koczian for today’s post

James sketches realistic portraits of people and animals. He starts by projecting the image onto his paper (vellum-surface bristol) and sketches the outline and major highlight spots. He uses a soft charcoal pencil with a smudge stick and a kneaded eraser to achieve the varying shades that occur in real life. The charcoal is layered up and taken away creating depth. He goes over the image after covering it in charcoal and adds the fine highlights and details.

James enjoys using charcoal because it’s easy to use and is relatively cheap to buy. He prefers charcoal to graphite because it doesn’t shine. Instead of reflecting light, it seems to absorb it. “Horses are my favorite subject right now, next to people, because I just started to draw them,” explains James. He covers the shape in charcoal with basic shading first then goes over it and defines the shadows and highlights. He uses the smudge stick to spread the medium adding a little along the way. “I like to add the major highlights later,” says James.

“I like to draw from pictures instead of real life because I don’t like to divide up my work into sessions,” He explains, “Sometimes I’ll sit and work on a drawing for 14 hours straight or until it’s done.” According to James, he’s still learning and is just getting the hang of charcoal as he’s only been working with it for 5 years. He hopes to keep learning and experimenting with new techniques and mediums.

(see COMMENTS  below for some clarifications and additional information from James)

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Thursday, 4/29/10: Christopher Mooney

Thanks to guest writer Sally Murdoch for today’s post:

You could say Christopher B. Mooney is a fan of Portland’s bridges. As the focal point of almost all of his oil painting work, he says bridges “stand for achievement and they frame the landscape of a city. They’re ubiquitous and they’re critical to the city, to commerce, and communities and they bring them together. I think it’s amazing people can build these structures.”

When talking to him and glancing through his portfolio, it’s obvious he has gained unique access to many bridge vantage points. The paintings also trigger experiences he’s had while gaining access to these bridges. One image of the St. John’s Bridge shows the structure in the mid-90’s and a pastoral East bank, both of which would only be accessible from the water. Turns out Christopher had snapped this photo from the deck of a Vancouver BC to Portland Holland America cruise liner, and this became an oil painting years later.

Similarly, his image peering through the Broadway Bridge toward McCormick Pier was one shot many years ago that had him perched on the underside of the bridge. “I could never capture that shot again post-9/11,” he said. The image however, circulated in various homes and businesses through the Rental Sales Gallery at the Portland Art Museum until it finally sold almost a decade after it was painted.

Another fond memory was a recent one in December 2009 in which he was able to tag along with Portland bridge maintenance crews on their fortnightly lubrication mission on the bearings on the Hawthorne Bridge.

A Parsons New School for Design graduate with a BFA in illustration and a minor in photography, Christopher recently quit his job as a picture framer to devote his career to art. Today’s project is the Interstate Bridge which he paints using a time-honored technique using a “cartoon,” that has been in use since frescoes were painted in the Renaissance. The cartoon is essential in getting the scale right from large to small or vice versa, so once he has a photo, he scores it with a grid by hand. This gives the final painting some trueness in proportion as the artist is able to break the piece down into tiny squares.

He is also using M. Graham oil paints in his palette. Christopher has many works at the Rental Sales Gallery, and most paintings take him a number of days to complete. They range in price anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000 for a larger piece, available here: http://christopherbmooney.com/ Or here: http://portlandartmuseum.org/visit/rsg/artists/Christopher-B-Mooney/

His favorite in Bridgetown? The Marquam Bridge, he says. “When you’re heading north on that upper deck of I-5 and you’re coming down the hill around the turn, the city is to your left. You feel as if you’re flying like a bird.”

The last image shows Chrisopher’s painting at the end of the day Thursday.  We’ll post an update with a picture of his finished piece.