Monday, February 6, 2017

Fooling the Eye with Paint

I've been fascinated by trompe l'oeil paintings forever. The fire was fueled during a workshop at the John F. Peto Studio Museum and I finally decided to try my hand at a composition typical of this genre. "Trompe l'oeil" literally means "fool the eye" and the idea is to create a three dimensional effect with objects that are arranged in a shallow depth of field. Overlapping elements and careful attention to shadows help create the illusion. It can also be a play on reality vs illusion. But not in my composition. Reality is hard enough!

Old Souvenirs ©1881 John F. Peto
Here's an example of Peto's work, Old Souvenirs, 1881, which hangs at the Met Museum.

A classic trope of trompe is the letter rack. These paintings feature an early version of a bulletin board where ribbons or leather straps secure items. Often there was political commentary or some other personal agenda hidden within the objects. The example below is by Edward Collier and was painted in 1696! I love fragile edges of old, browning paper, so this is right up my alley.
Trompe L'Oeil Letter Rack ©1696 Edward Collier
To make the "rack" I used the top of a wooden wine box, found leather strips found on Etsy and secured them with tiny copper nails from our local, old-school hardware store.

creating a letter rack
Below left is the letter rack set up with a variety of vintage papers, assorted writing materials and office supplies. At right is the first pass of color over most of the canvas.

Set up and early work in progress
I've been asked how long it takes to do a painting so I'm trying to pay attention to my studio time. The initial set up (deciding on elements and composition), original drawing, transfer to canvas and beginning to lay down color took the better part of one day.

The following day the first pass of color was completed and some details of objects were added.

Then I left town for a few days. But that's OK because I got hugs from this sweet chickadee. Heavenly.

back home and back in the studio, I worked for three days, probably 4-6 hours a day and I thought it was done.

Sometimes painting is like baking bread. You just have to let it "rest".

A few days later, I realized it wasn't quite finished. The diagonal shadow in the lower left wasn't clear. Some of the small cast shadows needed to be refined to help describe objects. Finally, I signed a scrap of paper, tacked it lower left, and painted the signature. It added to the composition - and was just plain fun to do!

This 12 x 16" painting took about 6 days to complete, which seems pretty quick for such detail (the folded pink and yellow papers below center are receipts - they actually have rule lines and invoice numbers!)

trompe l'oeil painting, still life, illustion
Noteworthy ©2017 Dorothy Lorenze, 12 x 16" oil on linen
The key is starting with a thorough drawing. And X-ray vision might have helped. But lacking that, it was important to check that all the edges of the papers were aligned, creating rectangles rather than trapezoids, overlapping corners that were hidden because the angles are accurate. So the challenge is to use comparative measuring to create realistic details while keeping a sense of artistry and poetry overall.

I don't know if I totally achieved the realism/poetry balance on this one but I really enjoyed trying and plan to do more. Possibly with specific themes ...or hidden meanings?! We shall see. Stay tuned, and let me know what you think.

Thanks for joining me on my art journey.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

When life gives you (Cadmium) Lemon...

...or Alizarin Crimson or Ultramarine Blue where it shouldn't be, it can scare the crap out of you! But, splat happens.

After a week of painting these beautiful little baby shoes, I was nearly finished. Just a few fine details to add. So, I took it off the easel to turn it to a better angle for adding shadows under those tiny buttons.

progress shot, original oil painting, still lifeLooks pretty much done, right? 

Then I somehow bobbled it and dropped the painting face down on my wet palette. Crap.

There is no photo of that mess, because I was too panicked about fixing it. So, just to provide a visual of my agony - below, for your commiseration and amusement, is a Photoshop-created "map" of the piles and plops. Each was swirled to a lovely little peak of paint, like cupcakes dipped in icing.

The worst was ta big red pile that landed on the creamy leather spat, obliterating subtle shading, fine seams and contrasting stitching. Alizarin Crimson, no less, which is notorious for staining.
palette mess
I used a palette knife to lift the plopped paint, then blotted it with paper towel and tried not to panic... too much.

Then I remembered advice I got years ago, after losing files for 100+ pages of a journal I was designing. I desperately called my graphic-designer-daughter for help recovering weeks of lost work. Sadly, that wasn't possible, but she said, "Don't worry, it won't be that hard to recreate because you've already made all the decisions." I was skeptical, but she was right.

Surprisingly, the same thing applies to re-painting. So many issues had already been worked out - the structure was there and the hierarchy of values. It really wasn't too awfully hard to repair. Although, I'd rather not repeat the experience!

Here's the finished painting. There were many interesting challenges: the contrast of soft worn leather with shiny hard toes, golden highlights on the hatpin holder and the oh-so-subtle tapestry pattern. And you would never know that deep red paint landed, uninvited, smack dab in the center! It was all rather nerve-wracking, but a helpful to realize that making decisions about proportion, value, edges, transitions and saturation is the hard part. And it's helpful, too, that oil painting "do-overs" are not totally impossible! (Sorry water colorists.)
tete a tete, vintage shoes, antique hat pins
Tête à Tête à Tootsies ©2017 Dorothy Lorenze, 6x8"
In other news... recent painting sales include these: The Book of Mango, Muscoot Milk House, Morning Light at Seven Hearths and Who Knows Where the Time Goes. Sincere thanks to my wonderful collectors!

realistic still life, rustic interior
The Book of Mango & Muscoot Milk House ©2016 Lorenze
realistic still life, rustic interior
Who Knows Where the Time Goes (2017), Morning Light (2015)

Also "East Meets West" recently won the 1st Vice President's Award at Salmagundi Club of NY. What a thrill to be there with so many wonderful artists! This painting is available on my website.

blue china teapot, copper tea kettle
East Meets West ©2016 Dorothy Lorenze, 12 x 16"

Looking forward to an exciting, creative year. I hope you are too. If you're interested, take a look at my latest Craftsy online post here. It offers ideas and steps to get more art-making time in your life.

Thanks for joining me on my art journey.

Friday, December 30, 2016

What's Up for the New Year

They say that on your birthday if you do something close to your heart you will make more time for that precious thing throughout the year. The birth of a New Year could use a similarly meaningful start.

Rather than declaring resolutions, I like the idea of setting intentions. Name the thing that feeds your soul and then spend the year working to get closer to that.

I'm focusing on aesthetics - both physical and emotional. The physical part is easy because that's all about appreciating beauty in our world. For me that includes making artwork that aspires to being beautiful. The emotional part is a bit tougher since it has to do with how we feel and behave and I suppose it boils down to being sensitive as well as seeing sensitivity and kindness in others. Not always easy, but a good goal.

(Just thought I'd share that with you all because if I "say it out loud" it has greater "sticking power.")

And the other New Year's to-do is to make a list of tasks. Oh, you know, like... travel!

Here is list of some of my art-related tasks for 2017. There are lots of new adventures on tap already - and some actually might involve travel.
  • working on painting portraits
  • study drawing facial features
  • floral painting workshop
  • artist residency at Weir Farm
  • helping with Todd Casey's still life workshops (more info to come)
  • better internet marketing
work in progress, value study,
grisaille (value study)
One of my first tasks for the New Year is to add a works in progress page to my website highlighting steps and processes for whatever is on my easel. The first one is up now and I hope to change it a couple of times a month. Click on this LINK to take a look and check back often.

It's going to be a busy (and productive) year and I hope you are also looking forward to some new, creative challenges in 2017.

Here's to an aesthetically-pleasing, 
creative and kind New Year!
After all, the world can use more kindness and aesthetics... and possibly some ethics...

In other news...
Recently sold works include Purple Peppers and Morning Light at Seven Hearths, both sold were purchased at the Salmagundi Art Club' Thumb Box Exhibit this December.
Purple Peppers ©2014 Dorothy Lorenze

Morning Light at Seven Hearths ©2014 Lorenze

Thanks for joining me on my art journey. Please feel free to forward this newsletter to friends and art lovers.