Tag Archives: sketch

Thursday, 4/28/11: Spencer Hawkes

Thanks to guest writer Kinoko Evans for today’s post.

Spencer Hawkes arrived at Muse armed with several pencil thumbnail sketches, fully prepared to take one image to the final stage.  “I draw all the time when I’m sitting around,” says Hawkes. In a crisp combination of M. Graham and Golden Acrylics, Hawkes fleshed out his newest robot portrait. With a playful shade of orange, this robot expressively strategizes over a game of chess. Painting mechanical figures offers Hawkes the creative freedom over anatomy. This allows him to invent whimsical, stylistic characters that don’t challenge predetermined expectations viewers have when a figure is human. Hawkes says that his love for robots came long before his recent stay in Japan. Having only just returned to Portland a few months ago, Hawkes was delighted to share stories about his adventures that include sketch book drawings of riders on Japanese Rail and of learning to play bike polo with Japanese cyclists.

Having been raised by a father who is a professional illustrator, Hawkes talked about his early exposure to the practice and world of narrative image. Being taken to midnight showings of Star Wars with his dad has been added to his list of early influences. Having illustration artists brought to his attention at an early age gave him an awareness of styles and he mentions John Ford and James Gurney artists that he has drawn inspiration from.

This summer, Hawkes will be living in Portland where he enjoys bicycle culture, drawing comics and drawing observational details of the city including its food carts. In a few more months, Hawkes will be moving on again, this time to Utah where his will be returning to Brigham Young University in order to complete his Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Art with a Major in Illustration.

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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


Friday, 4/22/11: Shannon Wheeler

Thanks to guest writer Kinoko Evans for today’s post.

Portland’s strong community of cartoonists boasts a string of significant artists. Shannon Wheeler is among them, especially noteworthy for his comic character Too Much Coffee Man. His comics have been published by The Onion and more recently in The New Yorker. His collection of single panel comics, titled I Thought You Would Be Funnier, that is up for an Eisner award this year, and he keeps busy, currently working on five, yes five, new book releases, including a new book of Too Much Coffee Man, a Bible with Top Shelf and Grandpa Won’t Like It, that is scheduled for release in October.

Today at Muse, Wheeler set aside drawing long enough to paint out a bright, new portrait of his character Too Much Coffee Man. The recognizable image brought passer bys into the store for a closer look. In Golden brand acrylics, Wheeler popped out Too Much Coffee Man’s red suit and dappled on the highlights of his beloved pot of coffee. This crowd pleasing image has coffee drinkers in Portland smiling about the uniting ritual of coffee.

After years of Too Much Coffee Man, the character still resonates with many readers, and Wheeler is far from ready to quit creating. He discussed the marathon of producing daily and weekly comics. Taking the day to paint is a treat. Producing ten panels, at least, a week, alone for The New Yorker keeps Wheeler quite busy with drawing. He’s been working hard, and he proves it with the list of published works, upcoming books and a portfolio New Yorker panels he brought with him to Muse. Each panel comic is inked in black line, grey scale is added with alcohol marker or ink washes and a number penciled to the side of the page helps count and track the pieces. Wheeler politely comments that he has been enjoying exploring with ink washes, expressing that he can communicate more with a minimal ink wash. While the panel cartoons with ink wash add grace and value to his line art, Wheeler’s work is overall fun and the iconic finish of Too Much Coffee Man on canvas is signature to his work.

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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.

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Friday, 4/15/11: Suzy Kitman

Thanks to guest writer David Freas for today’s post.

On Friday, surounded by a group of her inquiring students, Suzy Kitman painted a bright costal landscape and in the process demonstrated some of her innovative impasto oil techniques. In between painting sessions, she took breaks to explain how her work reflects a variety of eclectic influences, from archeology and her time as a patina artist at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, to her experiences with photography and portraiture. This day’s image, captured on the Oregon coast between Otter Rock and Shortsands, depicts craggy rocks towering over surfers swept up in a choppy tide. Though the content of her piece may sound familiar and pleasing, there’s something exciting, even surprising about Suzy’s painting. On one hand, her style is highly realistic. Working from her own photographs, she deftly plays with brightness, tone and color to render images that draw viewers in and successfully transport them to her chosen location. On the other hand, Suzy’s paintings are an adventurous exploration of extreme textures and weights. In this seascape, you can feel the massive weight of the rocks and sense their jagged surface. The ocean waves are heavy and energetic, and the sky, in contrast to everything else, is flat and smooth. By playing with these textural contrasts, Suzy presents the viewer with another, unexpected level of engagement that accentuates and electrifies the content of her tranquil image.

The effect Suzy achieves through her impasto technique makes for a surprising viewing experience. Working with M. Graham oils she first fills out her composition with flat fields of color. Once the scene is set, Suzy lets her palette dry out and scrapes it down. She notes that a glass palette is best for this as it can be scraped totally clean. She then collects those scrapings, filling a small container at her station with little curls of dried paint. Next, working with Liquin Impasto and heavier applications of paint, she fixes the scraped paint onto her surface and uses a palette knife to sculpt directly on her canvas. Once she achieves her desired texture, Suzy plays more with the color of her piece, taking every opportunity to capture a fresh view of the work. She turns the painting upside down, steps away from it and periodically looks at it over her shoulder through a mirror. The result is a painting that offers a dynamic viewing experience. From across the room, the image is vivid and inviting, but, as you get closer, the surface reveals its intricate texture and the image that appeared flat from a far begins to leap out and take literal shape.

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

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Tuesday, 4/12/11: Matt Gauck

Thanks to guest writer Kinoko Evans for today’s post.

As I park my bike next to Matt’s, a crew of his friends on bikes show up to support him. It’s a very Portland day, and we talk the upcoming comics festival as Matt paints a portrait of a barn owl in oils. His portfolio of work is diverse. He’s been painting, creating album art, designing posters and illustrating social justice and narrative images since he graduated in 2005 with his MFA in illustration from Savannah College of Art and Design. His focus shows in the clarity of his visual communication. Even this owl tells a story. There’s a forest of thick vegetation with the top of a ziggurat rising through the canopy behind the snowy barn owl and a wide sky. I ask about the ziggurat and Matt explains. It’s the story of his recent trip to Mexico. “I have been painting a lot of ziggurats lately,” he tells me. The story continues about an owl’s nest that was in the upper temple of one of these Mayan pyramids he had climbed during his travels. Also, he learned of a legend attached to these ruins of a woman who took the form of an owl. She is called “La Chuza the witch owl.” In his painting is reflected the mysticism and the appreciation of the bird, wet with paint.

Matt prefers working in color, and is versatile enough to create line work when necessary for situations such as screen printing. The owl is painted with M. Graham oils. Matt uses only blues and yellows to create his greens, while raw sienna and titanium white also help create his natural palette. He also uses M. Graham walnut oil and remarks that the Windsor & Newton Liquin medium he’s brought is a staple to his process. Using as little as two faded, grayscale references, Matt is able to create this scene without preliminaries and with only a faint penciling of the owl before he begins to paint. He’s recently created a poster for Will Potter’s new book, Green is the New Red. The posters will be available May 16th at Powells books on Hawthorne during Potter’s scheduled reading.

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Monday, 4/11/11: Stephen Welch

Steve Welch is an artist and designer who creates mixed-media collage-and-acrylic pieces and also works professionally in digital media.  He says he follows a similar process no matter what type of project he’s working on.  He starts with a lot of sketching to generate and explore ideas, then he starts developing his ideas with a certain visual goal in mind.  As he proceeds, he allows new ideas and discoveries to influence his path along the way until his series of artistic decisions sets a definite direction.

Like many artists who have a background in design, Steve finds inspiration from wide-ranging and diverse visual sources.  Steve has a three-year-old daughter and has been inspired a lot lately by the art in children’s books.  He sometimes finds children’s books that might be more advanced than his daughter is ready for, but that he picks up because of the ideas he gets from the subjects and style of the illustrations.  His piece today was partly inspired by illustrations in a book he found recently, and partly grew out of sketches from projects he’d done in the past — labels he designed for a line of biscuits for horses, and flowers from a collaboration on a book project.  Steve likes to save sketches and ideas that he’s worked on before to adapt and re-use in new ways. Collage is an art form that allows an artist to bring a lot of different ideas together in one piece and also lends itself to a very fluid, intuitive process of development.  These characteristics fit Steve’s style and creative process very well.

The  last picture below shows Steve’s mixed-media painting at the end of the day Tuesday.  We’ll post an update with a picture of his finished piece. UPDATE:  The final picture show Steve’s finished piece.

Click on thumbnails below to see larger pictures.