This painting was intended to be a short and sweet study of my lovely friend Whitney, but Bill decided it would be a much more brilliant idea to turn this into a massive learning experience that would span over many grueling months.

But hurrah! I have finally decided to call it finished and be done with it. It’s not perfect, and the moody artist in me wants to despair over all of the flaws and tell myself I’m not good enough and…It was a learning experience (I remind myself yet again). With this piece Bill wisely instructed me to not paint things so obvious, but rather to paint the feel of the thing. This advice became my mantra.

To celebrate the completion of “Whitney’s Scarf,” I went down to Provo Art and Frame and bought myself a supa’ fancy frame.

Drawing for Fun

If you’ve been following my blog like the faithful fan I know you are, you will recall I wrote a post a few months back called You Painted These All By Yourself? If you don’t know what I’m referring to, shame on you and #fingerwag. If you desire to be reprieved from the bitter disappointment of my broken heart, go and read it. Right now. Otherwise the following won’t make a lot of sense. Actually it probably will, but the past post is still a good read so you should read it anyway.

Creating art is a lot of work. There’s usually a minute thrill in the beginning stages as thumbnails, rough drafts, and studies are fashioned and altered to the vision in my head. At the conclusion of the project I’ve been staring at the work for so long that I loathe what I’ve done and feel forced to hide it for fear the world will find it and scorn my meager attempt. I tell myself I suck as an artist. I haven’t the skill. Nobody loves me. You know, really uplifting stuff like that. After a week or so I’ll retrieve the work from its dark hiding place and think, “Hm. I suppose it’s not all that bad…”

All the in between stuff is the actual work. Yes. Art is work too. If you’re shocked, that means you didn’t read my previous post. For shame. Sometimes though, I might bravely set aside what I’m working on if I feel stuck in a rut and do some art just for fun.

What do I mean by “just for fun?” The above piece is an example of a work in progress. I found an old photo on the internet (gasp!) and was immediately drawn to it. I decided to do a charcoal and white chalk drawing on toned paper. Just for fun. With no fear of failure. No set standards or goals for myself. No intentional meaning. Just a fun, pretty, meaningless drawing.

I get a little sullen when artists have to explain their work. Why can’t art be admired for its face value? I don’t like writing artist statements. Using a lot of big words to tell people what I do and why I do it. Or what they’re looking at and why they should look at it. It’s pretty. Isn’t that enough?

What’s funny. When I’m at a gallery or museum studying a piece of contemporary art and then I read the artist statement or the artist explains the meaning behind the piece, I’ll be nodding affirmatively, looking contemplative. All the while I’m thinking, “Yeah, I didn’t get that at all.”

Here’s a parody of an artist statement by Charlotte Young explaining what I mean.

You know, just for fun.

Painter’s Polka

Here at the Whitaker Studio we started a new live model session. Bill has always been open sharing everything he knows and seized the opportunity to demonstrate some key painting points:

1. Don’t begin a painting by drawing in the lines, because they will become “Holy Writ.” In other words, we as artists tend to grow very fond of the things we draw. We smugly pat ourselves on the back after rendering The Most Perfect Eye Ever Drawn In the Entire Universe even though it was drawn in the wrong place. We will then proceed to create an entire drawing on a poor foundation until the whole thing falls apart (but hey! Splendid eyeball, remember?). If you drew it once, you can draw it again. I used to feel like a failure if I didn’t get the drawing perfect on the first round. Now, I wipe it down and start over like a boss (okay. Maybe the third time around I start to feel a tingle of Woeisme Syndrome). When beginning a painting Bill suggests blocking in big shapes with a big brush. Use patches of color and value to draw.

2. Paint against the form. Marks should be measured, but also fresh and unexpected. And don’t blend the life out of it. Let some of those swishy, scratchy marks show.

3. Use thin washes of dirty color when laying in the drawing. Then use thick patches of clean color to build the form. This is an old master’s trick.

4. Move around! Don’t aimlessly noodle one spot. Paint with purpose. Move around the form. It’s also important to move in front of the easel, or do the “Painter’s Dance.” Bill calls it the “Painter’s Polka.” He says this is how he gets his daily exercise.

Here’s the completed demo. This was rendered in less than thirty minutes. In the bottom left corner Bill illustrated a boring “Barn Door Painter,” and then showed how marks should be painted.

Bill also discussed not getting caught up in details too soon. He says this is much easier for guys. Girls, on the other hand, just love to get in there and noodle eyelashes. Each mark was made to give the impression of the form, knowing full well it may or may not need altered.

Here’s the palette Bill used: Ivory Black, Raw Umber, Transparent Red Oxide, Asphaltum, Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Red Light, Alizarin Crimson, Terra Verte, Ultramarine Blue, and Lead White.

After the demo, it was our turn. Here’s my setup. Our beautiful model, Rachelle, is in the background. This was rendered in the first twenty minute session.

Here’s Brendan’s setup, an absurdly talented student of the Whitaker Studio.

During break, I snapped a couple more photos of Bill’s studio.

Here’s a detail shot of my current favorite Bill Whitaker painting. Obviously the photo doesn’t do it justice. In life you can see the luminous depth of her skin. He truly is the master of skin tones.

Painting with north light is ideal as the light is constant and does not fluctuate throughout the day.

Brendan using clean patches of color.

Here’s where I stopped at the conclusion of the day.

Rather than wait on the edge of your seat for this painting’s update, get up and do the Painter’s Polka.