All art copyright (c) Mike Kloepfer
"The level of achievement that we have at anything is a reflection of how well we were able to focus on it."
-Steve Vai

Monday, December 30, 2013

Follow me, Bones! I... have... an idea...

Creativity begets creativity. Momentum begets momentum...
I primed two more small 'practice' panels today. 8 thin coats of gesso seems to be the magic number.
I can only wonder what my neighbors must think is going on up here, with the hair dryer going on and off all night. 
Priming more panels!
8 coats of gesso...
So smooth... so white...
 And one of them will turn into...
A start on the 'test...'
Hi, Skulley!
While looking through a bunch of artists' work online, I saw something that... gave... me... an idea.I am still pulling everything together and making a plan. This small panel will be a test to see how well it works.
More to come...

Sunday, December 29, 2013

New blood, good beginnings, and returning to my roots.

Now that I am turning my attention back to making art, I felt a need to 'start something new,' to get some fresh ideas and new blood.
In the interim while I was 'inactive' so to speak, I spent a good amount of effort researching new reference material. I came across a mountain of interesting reference material (thank you, internet.) Some really fascinating stuff that will turn into really cool pieces down the road. More on that at a later date.
At the present, in many ways I am returning to my roots - which, of course, is portraiture and figure.
Four pieces have emerged, three distinctly different visions, three different approaches, and three separate processes.
Each one is distinct, yet what they all have in common is a crystal-clear vision of a simple, direct artistic statement, which is unique for each individual piece.
I am resisting the temptation to barge ahead, and enjoying the process of fully developing the ideas, cultivating a clear vision of where I am going with each step.

First, I have been wanting to do a new humorous celebrity portrait. Slash has a visual presence that is unmistakable. The distinctive angles and shape(s) of his face have a characteristic quality that, the more I researched, the more intriguing they became. And yet, in my research, I found very few caricatures that really seemed to zero in on this, let alone nail it. Most of the renditions I found simply missed the point, and missed the mark, of what I thought was obvious.
(Two of my favorites are the painting by Sebastian Kruger - of course it's brilliant - and an elegantly simple caricature by Tom Richmond, which is basically a black shrubbery with a cigarette, top hat and sunglasses. When you look at either of them , you immediately know it's Slash - no doubt about it. That's my goal for the piece, in addition to having fun.) 
 Seems like a good combination: a challenge, and intrinsically fascinating. So there you go - a perfect candidate for a humorous portrait.
While looking through photos, I was searching for the continuity, what was identifiable and consistent. Looking at hundreds of celebrity photos, and dozens of caricatures, and asking myself what was good in the rare examples - and what was wrong, or lacking, in the multitude of mediocre examples - I was able to find a few common threads that I could build upon.
The sketching for this was fun, and I quickly zeroed in on a concept, design, and point-of-view.
Slash - what a face.
And all that hair...
Plus he wears a top hat that's almost
exactly like the one I had in my
early days of rock & roll.

I have also really wanted to do some portraiture, which is my personal favorite. In my research, two reference photos just jumped out at me, and I listen to my intuition when something really grabs my attention.

When I saw this I thought
what a nice painting it would make.
I have not been able to track down
the name of the photographer...

The minute I saw this stock photo,
I knew what I wanted - I had a
crystal-clear vision of a
super-tight close up.

Finally, (although this was actually the first of the four pieces that I started,) for quite some time I have been harboring the desire to further explore the theme in Lady In White. I came across two reference photos and immediately knew how I wanted to combine them. It was on!
Two reference photos come
together. I even have a title:
The Message.

The common threads in all these pieces are listening to my intuition, cultivating a clear artistic vision for each piece, being patient and starting with a good start.
It's a good start... ;)

It's great to be making art again.
Well, I never really stop making art... something interesting is always percolating in my little ol' brain... That's one of the things about being an artist that's fun. :)

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Back to the basics.

When returning to art-making from a period of being 'otherwise occupied,' sometimes it's nice to just get back to the basics. And what could be more basic and ground-level (ha) than priming panels with gesso?
I have been constantly re-tooling my painting process, and the one thing that I am constantly looking for is a painting support that I really love. I keep making improvements and tweaking. This time, I am laying on many thin coats of gesso. 
The priming setup.
Sometimes starting from
the very beginning is fun.
And here they are...
after eight coats of gesso-
two beautifully primed panels.
And what's not to love?
Just look at them...
It took eight coats, but they are evenly covered, with only the slightest hint of a texture to the surface.
We'll see how this goes, but for now I am hopeful.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A good day of art. Progress on The Musketeer...

Today was gonna be all about 'me time' and making art.

Did you ever have a day where you got a lot done, but on projects you never anticipated? Today was like that. Not only did I get all the dishes done and cleaned the oven to make 'cheesy bagels,' rearranged the living room/painting area... I wound up working on a painting that has been hanging on the wall for months.

It started when I woke up. I was excited about having a day off, my holiday to-do list finished, and my bills paid. Nothing to keep me from what I wanted to do... which is art, of course. I did a wise thing and decided not to decide which piece of art I was going to work on until the piece of art made itself known to me. As I was getting my breakfast, I was looking at The MusketeerThe painting has been hanging on the wall, not sure what I wanted to do with the background. I didn't want to just copy what was in the reference photos, especially since the photos I was referring to had many other figures and elements, and I wanted to focus on the single figure. Neither did I want to just put in some generic, flat background.

I knew that if I just let it hang there and the ideas percolated, in time the right idea would present itself to me. And this morning, it did. It started with the general and worked its way to the specific. At first I just had an idea of the overall feel of the space around the figure. Then I had a flash of artistic vision; I could clearly see the relationship of the figure to the background. At this point, I still did not know exactly what the background was going to be, but I had a precise vision of how it would relate to the figure. I let the idea stew while I did a few quick thumbnail sketches to explore the possibilities. Then I set about the research.

Usually, this is where I get sidetracked. But today, I kept looking, kept on track, and kept gathering information. I looked up set design for every Musketeer movie ever made, classic paintings, buildings, and period props, until I had the information that I needed. And there were a couple of set designs that really sparked ideas.

Then came the scary part. After taunting me for months, I had to make marks on the canvas, which had been hanging there unchanged for all that time. I started with colored pencil, and 'found' my way into the design. Pretty soon, it came together and I could see clearly where it was going.
Next came the paint, thin and neutral. I am just laying in the structure. Later I will build up the lights and adjust the color.
And now, I have the figure placed in an environment - but not just any environment, but one that is congruent with the lighting conditions of the figure.
The progress was small but significant. I still have a long way to go, but  now I have a clear vision of where I am going with the painting.
Here is the Step-by-step of today's progress.
Step 1 - draw in the outlines
Step 2 - Light-facing planes
Step 3 - Planes facing
away from the light source
(nasty reflection from
the wet paint.)
Step 4 - Pull it all together
final step for now

Simple Solutions

I LOVE coming up with a simple, inexpensive idea that solves multiple problems at the same time.
Pen-Pal pen holder, $0.99 (minus employee discount.)
Now, I won't misplace my Wacom stylus. Plus, the bright green color makes it easier to find when swapping between laptop and desktop use (see Black is the New Pain In The Ass from my music blog) It is also a visual reminder to put the pen in the holder, and not set it down in some random place. Yet another little plus.
Wacom Bamboo tablet and stylus -
Now with new pen holder!
Yes, that is paint all over the surface of my laptop table. It comes with the territory. ;)