Venus of the Planets

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Joy Riding

Decades ago at 2:30 a.m. on a back street in La Jolla, I was arrested driving my mom’s ’68 Firebird 400 convertible. I had our tiny mutts Nikki and Dinky as passengers. I was 12 years old. The feeling of driving was incredibly delicious. Riding home in the back of the cop car, I asked the two burly policemen what I did wrong. I obviously didn’t want to make that mistake again. They looked at each other, not sure they should educate me on the rules of the road. It turned out I was driving with the high beams on. After some prodding, they kindly explained what and how they worked.

My feeling for art is a lot like that adventure–it is hot, daring, and a beautiful experience. I wouldn’t trade that feeling for anything, including life and love. I didn’t have the words to answer people who tried to steer me towards business or a tennis career–it wasn’t going to happen.

 

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1-minute concept sketch, interesting to compare it with the finished version.

 

Overwhelming Peace

In my late teens, I was very lucky to travel to New York and Europe, where I took the opportunity to visit art museums. Every time I walked into a room filled with life-sized ancient Greek sculptures, I had the same emotional experience: an overwhelming feeling of peace and that everything was right with the world. That experience was something I could never feel for the visual rantings of suicidal, CIA-sponsored abstract expressionist 

I’ve never wanted to live back in time, and I wasn’t going to play the postmodernist game, so the only place for me and my art was the future.

 

The Beautiful and the Noble

The toughest, most ruthless, and most demanding thing to do in art is to make something noble and beautiful. Any blemish of color or skewed perspective or proportion screws one’s vision. (Artists, daunted by the challenge, and lacking skill and fortitude, give up, and they trade their best visions for ugliness and abstraction–a horrific choice). Holding onto great visions and simultaneously growing and trying new things as a totality is a great accomplishment, and yet, the art itself looks like the simplest and most natural thing in the world.

This brings me to Venus of the Planets. She is the result of all the hard work, adventure, the lovely model Georgie Leahy, my journey to Washington, D.C., Star Trek NG, and bridging the feeling of ancient Greece with our future decades from now–and a result of joy riding.

 

About Venus

Venus started life in the swirling currents of rage, envy, hopelessness, promises, and unchosen obligations. She wasn’t meant for life as it was known on planet Earth. She had within her, as all humanoids have, a minuscule fragment of DNA, so tiny it was, and is still, unknown to most of humankind, yet this spec of stuff can ignite and light a universe. It is called the Sublime gene. Venus had no words for it, only a recognition that it was within her. Humans had no time to notice such an insignificant thing, they were too busy fighting against or running away from each other’s hammers. Venus wasn’t immune from the ravishes of anger and fear, until one day she noticed that they were cords that bound humans together in security and endless conflict. She wondered: what happens when you cut the cords? She did just that and an amazing thing happened, she became free. Free to let go, free to be beautiful, free to let the sublime gene grow, expand, and ignite. Her inner light burned so brightly it reached the farthest planets of our Universe, and she made her home there. If you look deep enough within and without you will see her there in her home of flowing arches and glass windows with vistas of Jupiter and her moons Callisto, Io, and Ganymede.

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Venus and me this am, after just signing the painting.

Pastel on Dark Paper – Just Add Light

Pastel on Dark Paper – Just Add Light by Michael Newberry

Pastel and dark paper are a great combo to create light effects.

Whenever I am a little stressed or some of my big projects weigh on my mind I get out pastels and some nice black or beautifully dark paper, like a Cansons, and go to town.

I love working pastel on dark paper for one important reason: the pastel being lighter than the paper directly creates a pure colored light.

I remember being in a kind of down mood and when Kimberly arrived to model I wanted to shake off that mood and feel free. We collaborated on this pose, one quite difficult to hold for more than 2 or 3 minutes.

The paper is black Cansons, 19 x 26″.

Pastel on Dark Paper

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Lights and Darks in 3’s

Lights and Darks in 3’s by Michael Newberry

One big problem that artists face when developing light and shadow in a work is that they tend to have the exact same darks and lights scattered around the surface. The result is that it kills the life out of the drawing!

A great way to solve that problem is to celebrate a hierarchy of lights and darks. The simplest way to do that is to focus on three different tones of lights and darks.

Here I will take you through what I mean.

Female Nude, Lights and Darks
Dreams of Round Things, 2006, charcoal on Rives BFK, 26 x 19 inches.

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Integration, Part 1: Light

Integration, Part 1: Light by Michael Newberry

Integration is, perhaps, the most complex problem in making art. Often it is the cause of an artist’s agony and ecstasy. In this two part series, each tutorial will focus on one problem and show how the solution fits into the whole.

The theme of Counterpose is about a harmony of contrast. At that time in my life, it reflected my quest to pull together many different aspects of art and life and to balance them.

I have removed the color from this image so that we can focus on the tonal values of the light.

Newberry, Counterpose b/w demo

Counterpose, 1990, oil on linen, 36×42″ (Black/white photo)

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Integration, Part 2: Color

Integration, Part 2: Color by Michael Newberry

Newberry, Counterpose demo

Newberry, Counterpose, 1990, oil on linen, 36×42″

In the tutorial, Integration of Light, Part 1, I mentioned that the theme of Counterpose is about a harmony of contrast. I showed how I painted extreme contrasts in light and dark. In this tutorial, I am showing how, keeping to the theme of contrast, I painted extremes of color contrasts.

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Jacob Collins, Sensuous Nature of Light

Jacob Collins, Sensuous Nature of Light by Michael Newberry

To talk about the art of Jacob Collins is to talk about his inquisitiveness.

Jacob Collins is a contemporary realist artist. He paints and draws portraits, landscapes, still-lifes, and nudes. Across the board, he imbues them all with sensuous light and an aptitude for finely wrought detail. He reminds me of a scientist who shines a light on an object to see it to full advantage. And like a scientist, he sees beauty in realizing his understanding of things. He told me “I find beauty in observing and in furthering my knowledge about light, the identity of plants and trees, and even such things as the nature of the formation of rocks and land masses.”

Currently, he is working on completing a landscape project of 50 oil paintings and graphite studies, with the centerpiece being a large landscape 50 x 100″. An exhibition of this landscape project will be on view May 8 – June 13, 2008, at Hirschl Alder Modern in New York City.

Jacob Collins

Jacob Collins

Continue reading “Jacob Collins, Sensuous Nature of Light”