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The View From Our Apartment in Florence

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Before the Dinner Rush, Watercolor of Florence by Jenny Armitage

Before The Dinner Rush (11 x 14 watercolor of clayboard) SOLD

This restaurant was below our apartment in Florence, Italy.  Early every evening the waiters gathered to shoot the breeze and smoke while waiting for the dinner rush to begin.  I liked the way their black clothing stood out against the stucco building and flag street.  The street is typical of Florence, narrow, flagged in uneven stone, gritty, and full of life.

Painted on clayboard and coated with a clear polymer varnish this painting may be framed without glazing like an oil or acrylic painting or matted and framed behind glass like a watercolor on paper.
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The Joke’s On Me

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Hungry, Vegan, and Broke

Hungry, Vegan, and Broke

Memorial Day Waterworks (17 x 19) $275

Memorial Day Waterworks (17 x 19) $275

I spent yesterday talking with people and watching their reactions to my paintings at the Artisan Village, a part of the Oregon State Fair. Mostly, the paintings I, and my family like are the paintings other people like. Also, many people from Wilsonville were charmed by Memorial Day Waterworks because they recognize Town Center Park. The Annex Pub and the seascapes were also popular. There were some surprises though. One of them was Hungry, Vegan and Broke.

I painted the two young men in Hungry, Vegan, and Broke as a kind of private joke. I saw them in in downtown Portland in front of Powell’s Books. And while they were obviously hot and tired, they looked healthy and able bodied. Certainly they didn’t look like they’d been hungry anytime in the recent past. And the sign was so absurd: “Hungry, Vegan, and Broke.” I could translate that sign two ways: “We Are High Maintenance Choosy Beggars;” or, “Feed Us Because We Are Such Good Moral Young Men.”

I liked my little joke, and I loved the afternoon sun on their skin. But I the reactions of my family and friends to the painting were mixed. I didn’t even consider making a print or greeting card of the painting, and I hesitated to frame it for the fair, but I did.   At the last moment I made some magnets of it too.

Well, the joke is on me.  Almost everyone who sees this painting smiles, and this is the painting everyone wants a print of.  I have sold more Hungry, Vegan, and Broke magnets than magnets of any other painting. Today I’ll place it more prominately in the booth.  Right now it’s down low and half hidden by a table.

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Three Waiters

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Three Waiters (9 x 7) $125

Three Waiters (9 x 7) $125

Since becoming a painter of people, I’ve developed some sneaky ways of photographing strangers in public. One of them is to sit in a restaurant or on a park bench and pretend to be reviewing my pictures when I am actually taking pictures instead.  I took the photos I used for this painting in just that way.

I just had to take the photos because of  the way kitchen lights in the otherwise dark pub threw these waiters into relief.  They looked like they were on stage, yet the scene was intimate.  It reminded me of an Edward Hooper painting.  But I’m no Hooper, and I intended something much warmer than the world he painted.

It wasn’t easy. I tried a version of this painting almost a year ago and was unsatisfied with it.  As usual, the main problem was composition.  I included too much of the scene and destroyed much of both the intimacy and the light contrast I was trying to present.

Last Year's Waiters Painting

The First Waiters Painting

I like this new smaller version much better than last year’s version.

Once again I used a limited palate: phthalo blue, cobalt blue, burnt sienna, and raw sienna.  Because I was painting with limited supplies in Colorado, I only had one yellow.  If I had been painting at home I would have substituted a brighter yellow for the raw sienna.


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Visiting the Civilized Engineer

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The Civilized Engineer

The Civilized Engineer

My step-father jokes that civil engineers aren’t very civil.  But he is a civil engineer and he is both civil and civilized.  Here is a painting I did of him last year.  The poise is characteristic and setting his own home.  It isn’t a portrait, but everyone who sees it recognizes him immediately.

We will be visiting him and my mother for a few days.  I just finished showing the house sitter around.  She’s very helpful, about watering the garden and feeding the dog,  but she won’t ship paintings for me.  Any paintings purchased before I get back  will have to be shipped after I return.

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Ed Turns Forty

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Ed Turns Forty (9 x 12) $75

Ed Turns Forty (9 x 12) Sold

This one was fun. After all the children I’ve done lately it was lovely to get to play around with a strong featured man. And Ed is a great subject, a kind of modern day Henry VIII only better looking.

I had him in the sun for the reference photo which bothered his eyes, so I didn’t get the smile I wanted.

Reference Photo for Ed

Reference Photo for Ed

I’d like to catch him smiling and do him again. He’s all cheeks and twinkly eyes when he smiles.

I used the same palette as I did for the last couple paintings: burnt sienna, quinacridone deep red rose, quinacridone gold, phthalo blue and cobalt blue. I used a pinprick of Chinese white for the catch-lights in his eyes.

The original has sold but you may purchase a print at Fine Art America.com. See more portraits of men here: men paintings

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Daddy’s Magnifying Glass

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Daddy's Magnifying Glass (11 x 14) $225

Daddy's Magnifying Glass (11 x 14) $225


We’ve been watching a lot of old Survivor Man episodes here. I think that’s why Stephen and the girls decided to start a fire with the magnifying glass. Survivor man often has poor luck with fires. We didn’t do much better. Dry tinder is hard to find in Oregon and the wind kept blowing out the sparks. I gave them a little fire anyway.

I may have exaggerated the fire, but I didn’t have to exaggerate the light. In the late afternoon sun they were perfectly beautiful just as was.

For this painting I went back to my favorite earthy palette of burnt sienna, yellow ocher, cobalt blue and phthalo blue. I used a little quinacridone magenta and cadmium yellow in the skin.

This painting is available on-line through my Etsy shop.

Or purchase a print at Fine Art America.com.

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Pub Talk II: Half Poured and Half Painted

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Pub Talk II (9 x 13) $200

Pub Talk II (9 x 13) $200

In this version of Pub Talk I tightened up the composition a little by moving everyone closer together and tying the couples at the far table together with the painting on the back wall. I reduced the number of archways to simplify the pouring process.

I began the picture by painting the people tables and the picture at the far end of the room. This was really the whole lower half of the painting. I used cerulean blue for the older men’s hair and the shadows in the faces. Cerulean blue was much more satisfactory for this purpose than phthalo blue was in Pub Talk I. I dropped cerulean blue and phthalo blue into damp burnt sienna for the darker hair.

For the rest of the direct painting I used the same colors as before. I used layered washes of raw and burnt sienna for the skin again. The clothes are all various combinations of phthalo blue, burnt sienna and raw sienna. The tables are burnt sienna washed over cobalt blue.

direct paint

direct paint

Then I masked the lower half on the picture and poured.

It’s important when pouring to decide what colors need to predominate where and which direction to tip the board after the pour. I tried to place the yellows and reds along the left hand (sunlit) side of the arches. I placed the blues to the outside. I tipped up rather than at a diagonal because I wanted a peaceful cozy feeling.

I used raw sienna, burnt sienna, and phtalo blue for the first two pours. On the third pour I substituted dioxazine purple for the phthalo blue. On the final pour I used burn sienna, cobalt blue and dioxazine purple.

After the Third Pour

After the Third Pour

Removing the mask lifted a fair amount of raw and burn sienna as well was cerulean blue. I rewashed the peoples skin with these two colors. Then I darkened the ceiling fixtures and the archway walls.

Mask Off

Mask Off

Finished. And I do prefer it to the direct paint only version, although I think that may be in part because I got better at the people with each version.


Or purchase a print at Fine Art America.com.

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Pub Talk

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Pub Talk (10 x 14) $175

Pub Talk (10 x 14) $125

I love to paint people and I love the interior light of dark restaurants with the sun streaming in through the side windows. Unfortunately if I sketch or photograph people in bars or restaurants they stop acting naturally. I have developed a sneaky system for photographing them. If I use the LED screen as a view finder and turn off the flash, people think I am reviewing previously taken photos rather than taking new ones. I took the photos for this scene in just that way.

I tried pouring this scene first. The result had lovely color and value, but it was rougher than I liked. I loved the light, but didn’t think I could pour it with greater clarity.

Poured Version of Pub Talk

Poured Version of Pub Talk

So I did a little sketching and then painted directly with the same colors I used for the pour: phthalo blue, burnt sienna, raw sienna, dioxazine purple, and cobalt blue.

Pub Talk Sketch

Pub Talk Sketch

I still like the beautiful poured background in my first attempt, and I may do this one again tomorrow using directly painted figures and a poured background.


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Skipping Stones and Body Paint

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Skipping Stones (11 x 14) $75

Skipping Stones (11 x 14) SOLD

Skipping stones is like testing an echo, faced with a smooth body of water and rocks at hand, all right minded people want to do it. This is my husband and girls skipping stones into the Williamettee River. Georgia learned to do two or three skips that day and Paula found some fresh water shells.

Because the painting is really all about basic body shapes and afternoon sun I began it painting by pouring. I wanted bodies washed in color. But I did so much direct painting afterwords that it hardly feels like a poured painting to me. Whatever I did, it wouldn’t come right and I almost gave up on it. I finally decided that for design purposes I should have made Stephen’s hat white like the girls’ hats. But with watercolor white is reserved paper not paint and there was no way I could lift enough paint to make his hat white again, certainly not white in comparison to the girls’ hats.

So I pulled out the white body paint. Body paint or gouache is opaque watercolor. Dark colors are lightened with white. Transparent watercolor dilutes gouache and it won’t cover it. Consequently, gauche must be added last. So I painted the shadow of the hat with transparent colors first and then I painted around the shadow with permanent white gouache. I had to apply it fairly thickly because opaque is one thing but covering is another. While I was at it I reclaimed a little white in Paula’s left shoe too.

The gouache white is bluer that the page, so Stephen’s hat is bluer than the girls. That’s fine because he’s farther away. If he had been close I might have had to paint the girls’s hats too just to even things up.

I’m not tempted to work in gouache. I like the look a transparent watercolor too much. But every once in a while a little gouache is a life saver.

Other than white, I used ceruleum blue, phthalo blue, raw sienna and burnt sienna for the first pour. For the next two pours I substituted cobalt blue for the ceruleum. Ceruleum is an opaque color (but not gouache). I used the same palette for the direct painting with the addition of raw umber.

Prints available through Fine Art America.com.

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High Noon at the Gravel Spit II

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High Noon the the Gravel Spit II

High Noon the the Gravel Spit II (9 x 12) SOLD

This is the same basic painting as yesterday writ larger. The method and pigments are the same, except that I didn’t do any direct painting on this one. I didn’t think any further definition of the boys was necessary.

I like it, but I think this one looks more like an ordinary crowd. I think the smaller numbers in the first painting focused the eye on the interactions between the young men. That part of the drama gets lost in a crowd.

This painting has sold, but you may still purchase a print at Fine Art America.com.

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High Noon at the Gravel Spit I

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High Noon at the Gravel Spit (8 x 10) $100

High Noon at the Gravel Spit (8 x 10) SOLD

Under the West Salem bridge there is a little sand bar, really a gravel bar. At any given time on the weekend there are likely to be three or four families there and at least one father teaching his son to skip stones. It is an ideal place for skipping stones into the river. It’s a good place for wadding toddlers too.

But looking down from the bridge a couple weeks ago I saw a very different scene. Five or six young men roamed the sandbar, jostling against one another and skipping stones from first one side than the other. There was no real violence, but the boys radiated suppressed anger and extreme restlessness.

Reference IIThis painting is a composite of figures from several of the photos I took of the restless young men. I arranged them to keep the feeling of tension I felt looking down at them from the bridge.

Reference I

The painting is almost entirely poured. The first pour was hansa yellow light, quinacridone deep red rose, and phthalo blue. In the next pour I substituted new gamboge for the hansa yellow and added quincaridone magenta. The third pour I used just the two reds and phthalo blue. For the fourth pour I used quincaridone magenta, dioxzine purple, and phthalo blue.

After the fourth pour I washed the boy’s jeans with phthalo blue and added dioxzine purple and phthalo blue wet into wet into the shadows on their shirts. The little dots are dioxzine purple splattered off the brush.

I think I captured the tension and the pours produced beautiful colors. I’m going to paint a larger more complex version of this painting tomorrow. I like the colors and will probably use them again.

This painting has sold, but I have run a limited edition of fifty giclee prints on archival rag paper.  Signed and numbered prints are $50.00 each.


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