Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Painter's photo shoot

Come Fly With Me
Original oil painting  28x22"
by Susan Roux

This summer I took my model to the ocean for a photo shoot.

Sounds simple enough, right? Well you need to remember we're in Maine, nicknamed Vacationland. People flock here from everywhere. Summertime is the busiest. Many arrive ready for a bellyful of lobster with the beach as their destination. It was a beautiful warm July day and it was no exception.

How I found a parking space on a side street adjacent to the ocean with a sand path for the rentals is still a mystery to me. It was perfect. A long stretch of sand where cottages line the streets located between two very busy/popular beaches. My model hadn't been to the ocean yet this season and she was already bubbling with joyful emotion. Laughing and giggling, her whole body was already wiggling as we parked the car. Her eager enthusiasm was uplifting. It was like taking a young child to the beach.

The salty sea has a distinct smell that arouses the spirit long before you reach the sand. Excitement was in the air. We had been trying for awhile to find an open moment for this day, but busy schedules made it difficult. Our anticipation coupled with the perfect weather had me imagining a wonderful shoot.

I came prepared.

We found a nice open area in a sparsely filled section. I laid out an old bed sheet on the sand. My bag was full. I unloaded it telling my model, these are the skirts, these are the tops, hats, scarfs etc. I had shopped for white clothes, borrowed white clothes and gathered lots of accessories. The sheet looked like a clothing store. As she looked at every piece, I explained that she could mix and match any of the pieces. Even if they didn't exactly match, they were all various shades of white and I could paint them to look like they did. I had been wanting new photos to work from and the moment had finally arrived.

She picked her favorite skirt. It was a long flowing one. I told her to go dance at the water. I love this model. She has such elegant movements, perfect for the look I was seeking. Still giggling, she bounced to the water's edge. I followed with my camera. The sun lit her up. The breeze was gentle and consistent. I couldn't have picked a better day.

People were gazing. She didn't care. Still like that child, she began to dance in the water. She was totally uninhibited by the onlookers. It wasn't long before what seemed like every man on the beach wandered by. I've never seen so many males walk the beach without a sweetheart by their side. How they slowed their gait as they circled wide around us. We laughed. She continued to dance.

I took shots from the left, shots from the right, shots from the back. The sun made different patterns as I switched sides. She made many costume changes and with each one, she became a different character. Sometimes she strutted, sometimes she flowed. She threw things up into the air. The sun danced with her every move.

We didn't take a break. Outfit after outfit we continued to work. I couldn't help but think I had the perfect job. Who else gets to go to the beach while they're working? Not many.

Every piece of clothing was soaked by the time we were done. She was exhausted. It had been quite a workout. As we stopped, nearby sunbathers came to talk. They wondered what we were doing. They had been entertained by my little beauty. People had their reading material, but not a book was opened while we were there.

As we walked off the beach, an older couple stopped us. They had decided we were taking pictures for the cover of a magazine and wanted to know which one and when it would come out. She did look very beautiful out there dancing in the sun. It's no wonder they imagined this scenario.

I returned home with nearly 1000 pictures. Certainly there are a few real good ones to work from.

Do you work from photos? Do you go on photo shoots to set up the pictures you desire? How about still life's? Do you ever set them up and take photos? It's a great way to have original material. Pick the perfect day and you could have enough material to work from for a year!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

More Pirates? Seriously?

This is a reprint of a post that was up briefly yesterday.


I'm sickened again today.

As you're probably aware, I'm really opposed to copying other artists' art to sell as your own creation. This is a painting by Andre Kohn. I found it today on Marie-Monique's Blog, Art-Monie, where she showcased a lovely collection of his work.

I also found this painting today...

claiming to be an original by a well liked blogging friend of many.
Oh Celeste, I never expected this of you...

I find myself wondering about every other walking in the rain painting you ever did. I'm shocked and crushed.


I removed it from my blog after receiving a long letter from Celeste Bergin. She confessed to copying without making reference to the original artist. She admitted to copying as a form of learning and made it seem an oversight that she didn't give credit to Andre Kohn. She claimed it was the first time she has ever done this. In her words, "I know you wrote a big article on this subject and you point out that it is never correct to paint someone else's work."

I gave her the benefit of the doubt and removed the post.

In her letter she wrote of having worked very hard to earn her reputation and this post could ruin everything for her. She made it sound like her future rested in my hands. Perhaps it's just me, but if this were the case for myself, I would have been waiting with bated breath to see the post disappear and quick to thank for its removal. It was an odd feeling as I waited for a return email. The strange feeling that I had been had

I wondered if she was laughing, thinking how easily I had caved. But my thoughts were wrong and eventually nearly an hour later, I received her thankful letter.

She wrote that her other umbrella paintings were original. Her husband was a photographer and she uses his photos as reference. She also said, she paints over any copies she does and will be doing so with this one too. I took this to mean she never sells copied work.

I was relieved.

It's one thing to post about a pirate half way around the world, yet another to pirate out a blogging "friend". It seemed the best possible ending and I was pleased to shake it off and get on with my day. 

But some things leave a very sour taste in your mouth and stomach. While busy teaching my classes, thoughts churned in my head. I didn't want to go looking for incriminating evidence. I wanted to feel good about having removed the post. 

The burning question that haunted my mind was why did I remove the post? Was I doing an injustice to all the true artists out there? What about the reputation of Andre Kohn? How long and hard had he worked to earn his? Why was I favoring the reputation of the copier? 

The painting by Celeste posted is titled Walking in the Rain II. I wanted to believe her. After all I've been following her blog since I began blogging nearly two years ago. I liked her. She's always up to something different. She inspires a lot of us and seems fearless to try anything. 

I decided to search for her first Walking in the Rain. I wanted to believe she was innocent, but nothing was adding up. So many of her works are done on small format. Usually her large pieces are destined for galleries or exhibits. Why was this latest umbrella painting done on a 40x30" canvas? Who does that with intensions to just paint over it? The sour taste got sourer...

Here is Walking in the Rain by Celeste Bergin.

This wasn't painted from a photograph shot by her husband. This was another copy of Kohn's work. It went to gallery, art exhibits and eventually sold.

I had been fed a mouthful of lies. 

I often wondered why the Portland, Oregon artist's large works differed so much from her day to day plein air things. The quality of the large pieces always astounded me. I innocently thought to myself, wow, she really pulled it all together for this one!

Truth be told, she was copying. I'm inclined to wonder how many of those gallery worthy paintings she produced were actually originals...

I know this is difficult for many to read. I too had difficulty swallowing all of this. 

I'm quite certain these links will only work a short time. From experience a pirate scurries around trying to delete all they can that is incriminating, an action that only adds credit to their guilt. I later realized the reason for the hour delay in her thank you email. She was busy scurrying and deleting.

Were getting a better understanding of this whole pirating process. First a stranger in Spain where we wondered what type of person would do such a thing. Second an artist's point of view after she found out she was being copied. And now this. What type of person would do such a thing? Many of us feel we know Celeste very well. She's fearless and would try anything!

Next time I see this smiling face, I'll know what she's smiling about. Success. (That Charlie Sheen "winner" type of feeling.) The feeling derived from having worked so hard to fool us all. Yes Celeste, you put a lot of time and effort to build your reputation. How often have you been seen all over town painting, sketching? Seems a perfect cover for a pirate. The problem is what was brewing in the solitude of that basement studio of yours...

I'm sorry if this upsets many of you. Turns out I have zero tolerance for pirating. I didn't ask to be the Art-Police, as Kevin Mizner calls me, but when it falls right into my lap, I can't ignore it. Fellow blogger or stranger across the Atlantic, it doesn't matter. Pirating is always wrong.  

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Playing with color

Original oil painting   20x16"
by Susan Roux

Last post I mentioned color is emotion. 

It isn't just a loose statement I've put out there in cyberspace. I experiment a lot with color and know it to be true. I can play for hours entertaining myself with color.

I'm not in a rush when I paint. Every canvas has turned into a learning playground. Don't misunderstand me. There are certainly times of major frustration. Major, MAJOR! But I like to take my time to watch what happens when I change things. Change things such as colors.


It's the greatest change that takes place as I alter the colors on a painting. 

These pretend backgrounds I place my beach girls in have offered an opportunity to cut loose and scribble color. Layers and layers of color get placed there every time I'm tense from focusing too severely on my girl. It's created a yin-yang for me. High intensity on capturing my figure versus complete release on the remainder of the canvas. I like painting large. Many of my girls sit on 28x22" canvases. That leaves a lot of empty space to scribble color! Believe me, I need the release...

Color doesn't scare me. I enjoy manipulating it, changing it and frankly I just embrace it. I think it's my favorite part of painting. If I had to move to black and white, I'd probably give up painting. It's at my very core. No wonder I spend so many working hours being entertained by it. 

If you're a little nervous about color, one easy principle comes to mind. Combine the primary colors (any red, blue or yellow) and the result is a grayed, neutralized pigment. Upon that neutral, any clean color will stand out. This basic knowledge frees me to play as much as I desire. If all fails, the result is a neutral tone. Any color can be added on top and stand out. 

In other words, play with too many colors on canvas and they dull. Some of you call it mud. This grayed base provides a perfect surface to place pure pigment. This concept keeps me fearless with regard to color. There always exists the opportunity to work pure pigment into a neutral area. 

I played with the background pigments of Caressing a lot. The mood and emotion of this painting changed as I altered the colors. In the end I emphasized those pigments that presented the emotion I preferred. The magenta's set off her sunlit back. The golden hues added warmth and sunlight to the water and the greens added a stable base anchoring the composition. The background became a mixture of secondary colors (green, purple and orange). 

Something has really grabbed me while painting these figures. I began in January of this year and continue to be amazed and challenged. All the while having a fun release in playing with colors on this simplified stage, a single figure in a vague atmospheric presence. As I focus on sun and shadow patterns falling on the figure, I also have been enjoying playing with (and learning) color.

What's your secret passion in your whole creative painting journey?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Color Harmony

Sunny Irises
Original oil painting  20x16"
by Susan Roux

While teaching my beginner/intermediate classes, there always comes a time when an explanation of what we're doing is necessary. With new students continually arriving, it becomes important to point out different types of painting. Most often it's the difference between arts and craft painting with fine art. Fine art is what I'm attempting to teach them. All they know is they signed up for an oil painting class...

I usually use the term Tole Painting, because most are familiar with that technique. Dip your brush in several colors at once and in one quick stroke, you have a shaded leaf or petal. I think the biggest difference with fine art is use of color. We seek color harmony. A limited palette helps. A toned canvas does too. But what if you aren't using any of those methods? 

Reference to a child's coloring book is a common one. I point out how a child will paint everything in its local color. The sun is yellow, the leaves are green and the water is blue. One of the first things I need to get my students to understand is the concept of intermingling color. If you could use each color all over your painting you would achieve color harmony. The Impressionist had that mastered.

One thing that really interests me is how color can move the eye throughout the painting. 

A painting catches a viewer. It sends their eye in a little exploration journey, hopefully throughout the entire canvas. The longer they linger, the more they'll see. At first the exploration may be about the elements in the painting. Eventually little things can travel the eye differently. As one catches onto a particular color, the eye will bounce around to all the spots with that color. If the eye focuses on darks, the eye travels throughout the painting seeking all the dark spots. The same is true for the light, shapes etc. 

Studies have shown that the eye will travel differently for each person. As an artist I like to think we have some sort of control in directing the viewer on their initial path. Beyond that, I think it's a very individualized thing. People's experiences and reactions to certain colors or subjects will effect their visual journey in a painting. Why is it that you will linger and return to a certain painting at the museum while other's can walk by it as though unaffected? There is something about your visual exploration that really grabs you. It speaks to you. It strikes you emotionally. 

Color is emotion.

Strokes can also be emotion, but color is very powerful. I wonder if we ever get to a place where we understand it fully? I'm continually amazed as I watch color interact with other colors on my canvas. Play in the paint a bit and move it around like frosting. Oh just talking about it can get my juices flowing... As colors neutralize, changes happen. It's like magic.

This painting is one I finished recently with a class. It annoyed me that the blue sky seemed isolated from the remainder of the painting. (the color appears a bit off and stark on this image) As I verbalized that, one of my students mentioned it was repeated in the irises. Somehow it wasn't enough. I found it visually disruptive. So I mixed a pale cool blue and added it to my iris leaves. Immediately I watched my color path change and saw the front foliage soften. Magic strokes. I just love that.

This is a scene from Monhegan Island. It could represent most typical New England places. Thanks for stopping by and thanks to all my wonderful students. 

How do you achieve color harmony?