Tats Series

Earlier today I signed off on the third tattoo painting. The series was a fascinating excursion in which I contemplated how we sometimes become the artwork. I have always thought that was true in a metaphorical way, in the sense that when we are young, we often form our characters, unwittingly, by the influence of movies, literature, songs, paintings, or by sculptures. With tattoos it is the reverse, it is the person that becomes the canvas. They literally become the artwork.

The process of painting them was difficult and fun. It is like working a jigsaw puzzle in 3d, with each piece curved to fit the human form, and each piece occupying its unique spot in space.

The Tats Series is part of an ongoing project of abstract, realistic paintings destined for The White Cloud Gallery in Washington D.C. this fall.

Michael Newberry

Rhythm a Beautiful Way to Organize Chaos

Rhythm a Beautiful Way to Organize Chaos by Michael Newberry

Joseph Castro, acrylic on canvas panel, 16 x 12 inches

Joseph, acrylic, 16 x 12 inches.

This is a portrait of a friend, architect Joseph Castro, with dark brown leather as the backdrop.

Any complex subject is visually chaotic; with incongruent shapes and lots of details. When you look at something like a person’s face or a panoramic landscape there are a million things to look at – out of all that stuff which do you draw/paint? One of the fun and great challenges for an artist is to organize this chaos in a meaningful way through the use of visual rhythms.

Joseph Castro, acrylic on canvas panel, 16 x 12 inches

Joseph in conversation would often raise his eyebrow and curl his lip. I noticed how these two things curved into arches, and arches would become the visual theme.

Visual rhythms are made up of similar or complementary angles, contours, or lines.

In the process of composing painting I was looking for shapes and lights that could “double” for an “arch.” Was it possible that I could accent an arch of the lip, nose, brow, collar, or ear?

Joseph Castro, acrylic on canvas panel, 16 x 12 inches

The more I looked for them the more I saw “arches” everywhere. A consequence of looking for rhythms is that you don’t get lost in details but are constantly looking over the whole painting.

Joseph Castro, acrylic on canvas panel, 16 x 12 inches

Here you can see all the rhythms of detail of shapes and light I was seeing in his face. I would like to mention that I was not making them up where I did not see them in real life.

Joseph Castro, acrylic on canvas panel, 16 x 12 inches

The folds in the leather background were perfect for finding more “arches” to accent and to integrate the whole painting.
Michael Newberry

Imagination

Imagination by Michael Newberry

Gallup, The Glistening Playground, 2009, 30 x 40 inches

Gallup, The Glistening Playground, 2009, 30 x 40 inches

Imagination is one of the cornerstones of art. Its use can be quietly subtle, or flagrantly push beyond the bizarre, or inspire generations of people to dream beyond their immediate circumstances and envision a world of possibilities.

One of the more quiet ways to use imagination is to recreate a real scene from life, yet include additional real objects to complete the idea of the work. Here, David Gallup created an idyllic setting of the Pacific Ocean replete with dolphins, birds, and surfers.

Dali, The Temptation of St. Anthony, 1946
Dali, The Temptation of St. Anthony, 1946

Here Dali uses some realistic elements and then distorts aspects of them to create an imagined world in which the unbelievable interacts with the real.

Gerome, Pygmalion and Galatea, 1881
Gerome, Pygmalion and Galatea, 1881

A variation on the unbelievable subject with the real comes from Gerome’s Pygmalion and Galatea. He conveys the legend of the sculpture of Galatea being so perfect that the stone turned into living flesh. Gerome does make the far-fetched scene look as if this is really happening.

Kandinsky, Improvisation 31 (Sea Battle), 1913
Kandinsky, Improvisation 31 (Sea Battle), 1913

Kandinsky’s Sea Battle conveys a rather freewheeling imagination – an ambiguous collection of forms and colors. Is that a strawberry or blood? A wing of a bird or a splash of water? A sail? A rock? It’s rather like looking for animals, and things in the shapes of clouds.

Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People, 1830
Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People, 1830

Delacroix in Liberty Leading the People uses a great deal of imagination in the subject, a half naked woman leading the masses in a revolt against a regime. Yet, the scene is meant to feel genuinely real–not like a surreal dream or like an impossible physical transformation.

By how an artist expresses their imagination, such as an escape, a playful distraction, as entertainment, or as a beacon, one can get some insights into the artist’s philosophy of life. And see something of your reflection as well.

I hope you enjoyed imagining art in a fresh way.

Michael Newberry
Santa Monica, March 2009

Michael Newberry is Artist-in-Residence at The Atlas Society. He has exhibited in New York, Los Angeles, Athens, and Rome. Follow him on Instagram at @artnewberry.

Creating Denouement

Creating Denouement by Michael Newberry

Newberry, Denouement, 1987, oil on linen, 54x78 inches.
Denouement, 1987, oil on linen, 54×78 inches.

Why this painting?

Painting Denouement was a chance to live inside glowing, colorful light and to express through art what love feels like to me.

Influences

Puccini, Polyclitus, Aristophanes, Beethoven, and Michelangelo rock my world. In their time, they were innovators with a love of beauty, humanity, and passion. Their art was a constant source of inspiration.
There were visual influences for Denouement. But most of the epic works were from “brown” painters, classic technique with a limited pallet in which dark things are brown and black hues. The French Impressionists had a fantastic sense of color harmonies in light and shadow. What I had in mind was to take the best of both and integrate them.

But there was no one work from these artists that I could use as a prototype for what I had envisioned, so I had to create a new path.

Rembrandt Danae
Rembrandt Danae
velazquez-las-meninas
Velazquez Las Meninas
nerdrum001
Nerdrum
dali1
Dali
cafe_terrace001
Van Gogh
vangogh
Van Gogh
monet119
Monet
monet.st-romain-soleil001
Monet

Concept

In 1984, I began studies on a moment of love shared. The first sketches were drawn from my imagination. In the images, you can see the glow from the light between them.

Newberry study Newberry study

Construction

Then I began to develop studies from live models for this composition.

Newberry study Newberry study Newberry study

I modeled for the two left drawings, having rigged a couple of mirrors. All the studies for Denouement were from scratch – no photos.

To create glow, it would be important to backlight the guy. In hindsight, backlit objects are a bitch to draw because it is hard to see the dark stuff.

I began color studies in pastel.

Newberry study  Newberry study Newberry study Newberry study

I didn’t like the gray colors. So I kept drawing pastel studies, changing the light sources, colored objects, and color of the paper.

With these pastels below, the color harmony clicked.

Newberry study Newberry study Newberry study Newberry study Newberry study Newberry study Newberry study Newberry study Newberry study Newberry study Newberry study Newberry study

Composition

I began to evaluate my overall composition: should the man be closer in size to the woman? Should they be closer together – more connected?

Changing the guy from standing to reclining solved both the size and connection problems.
Newberry study Newberry study Newberry study Newberry study

Newberry study

What turned out to be cool was that his new pose worked great with hers. The two of them now created a diagonal line through the composition, like the flight line of a jet taking off.

Having solved the imaging of the man and woman, the next problem was arranging all the stuff to fit naturally.

Newberry study

I relied on two-point perspective to get the perspective of the carpet right.

Newberry study

Each object had to be adjusted to fit the perspective and be the right size.
Newberry study Newberry study Newberry study Newberry study Newberry study Newberry study

Spatial Depth and Transparency, Integrating it All

Having drawn all of the information I needed, there was still the small matter of how all of this information was going to fit together. I needed to create spatial depth of about 20′, every object had to fit naturally in its space, and the overall lighting had to feel like it was from one source.

I needed to develop a theory of integrating the color, light, and space. I discuss this theory in my articles : Transparency: A Key to Spatial Depth in Painting, Part 1 and Part 2. To give you a sense of the problem here is a pastel study of the lamp, and final in the painting. They are quite different. Just transferring it exactly from study to painting doesn’t mean it will fit.

Newberry study Newberry study

What do lemon green, green, and cool magenta have in common? Cerulean blue. Her arm rests in a subtle shadow, by using cerulean blue as the common denominator I was able to push the color boundaries and softly place her in the right place. This was the way I saw the colors from life, but understanding the color theory helped bring out those color connections for all the other elements of the painting.

Newberry study

I hope you enjoyed this presentation.

Newberry, Denouement, 1987, oil on linen, 54x78 inches.

Michael Newberry

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

In this graphite on paper, Collins concerns himself only with the silhouette and shape of the land and tree masses, leaving the sky and water blank. This frees him to fully concentrate on details of the trees and land masses, as well as their relationships. In other studies, he has concentrated on only the water or some other section of the total image.

In his student days in the 80’s, aside from copying masterworks in Museums in New York and Italy, he studied anatomy to fully comprehend the curves and landmarks on the body’s surfaces. Integral to his figure studies is his need to see what the light is doing on the surfaces.

Jacob Collins

This drawing, a study for the painting Redhead, shows the light and dark on her body. In addition, Collins has made notations, commenting on how to further enhance the lights and darks. A painter that is working with light has one enormous obstacle to overcome: light in real life is about a hundred times brighter than the re-creation of light with paint and canvas. An artist, through paint, can’t very well shine a 500-watt halogen light in your face! One way an artist simulates light is to show the reflection of light on objects. Think of the Moon in relationship to the Sun. Another thing that an artist can do, and which Jacob has done, is to fine tune the nuances of light to the nth degree. Compare the different tones of highlights of her forehead, breast, and thigh. Once viewers have adjusted their eyes to a painting that has a great range of nuance between light and dark, their eyes will feel the brightness of the light.

Jacob Collins

I found it easy to talk with Jacob. Perhaps, because he is also an educator and a man who goes his own way. He is the founder of the Hudson River School for Landscape in Hunter, NY, the Founder of Grand Central Academy of Art in NYC, and the Founder of Water Street Atelier also in NYC. He has also taught at National Academy of Design, the Portrait Society of America, and the New York Academy of Art.

Jacob Collins

Drawing is my favorite Collin’s painting. Spreading out in foreshortened perspective are the paper and tools for drawing. Even if you are not an artist, you might have experienced the joy in going into an art store and seeing and feeling the textures of the papers, looking at the pastels and charcoals, and wondering how much fun it would be to make art. Notice the different textures and subtle colors of the papers in Drawing. You might notice the highlighted, ruffled, and delicately torn edges of several of the papers. I have fond memories of learning about different papers as an art student. One lesson we learned was to tear a really good acid-free 100% cotton rag paper to size using a straight edge–it’s a very sensual experience. Collins gets that tactile beauty of the paper down exactly.

Jacob Collins

In the painting, Candace, Jacob is doing several impressive things. One is that the composition is powerfully divided between the light and dark of the fabrics, which is echoed by the high contrast of light and dark on her body. The modeling of her body is superb. Notice the form of her left thigh, how the form rotates up to the highlight on the iliac crest, and then gently descends onto the plain of her taught belly. Her flesh-tone color is natural, rich, and subtle. Notice the pinkish fingertips, the crisp pearl-color of her breasts, the cool blue mid-tone of her ribs, and the ochre highlights of her thighs.

Jacob Collins

In Candace, and in Collins’ art in general, I cannot help but see hints of da Vinci’s attention to molding forms, Rembrandt’s hierarchy of light, and Bouguereau’s delicate skin colorization.

A funny experience I have had with musicians has been their use of the word “stagnant” to describe the form of painting. But Jacob describes light as it “bounces in soft and hard ways.” A good place to see this “bounce” is by comparing the highlight on her forehead, to the shoulder’s highlight silhouetting her chin, and to the highlight on her throat. Collins is “bouncing” the highlights through space.

The last aspect of this painting I will comment on is the exquisite detailing of the fabric. Collins painted her body first, then he set up the fabric with a mannequin so that he could paint the folds of the cloth undisturbed. By doing this, he could arrange the folds of the cloth to bring out their beauty, even down to the smallest details, and he gave himself all the time he needed do to them justice.

Many people wonder why artists go through all this work when they can simply copy a photograph. Collins volunteered that “photos are not as rich an experience as working from life.” Let’s take a cue from Collins, and enrich our lives by looking more closely at his universe of inquiry and light.

Michael Newberry
New York, April 2008
Originally published in The New Individual