No portrait painting today! It is harvest time in our kitchen garden, in particular for the tomatoes. Beside ketchup and sauces, Helma makes sun-dried tomatoes. Based on two canvas stretchers that I that I still had to hand I did some tinkering. (remember I wanted to be a carpenter?) With a number of slats, insect-screens, a hinge and four iron angle brackets. Maybe it turned out far too firm. It can stand rough handling, I’d say. When the tomatoes are dried in the sun, after two weeks, we will store them in olive oil. Moreover, that oil comes from the olive groves next to our garden, among others. We wonder how the sun dried tomatoes will taste! See some recipes.
How to become a better painter? That’s an interesting question, and to me perhaps one of the most important ones. You learn more from your losses than your wins.
I was lucky to attend at a very young age the drawing classes of Beatus Nijs. I’ve written about him before. As a painter I am self-taught. Autodidactism has pros and cons. A con might be the slow progress. When I was starting there was no internet yet! I bought dozens of books; good and bad ones. I visited “real” painters, some of them gave useful hints while others were too stingy to share. I saw thousands of paintings in numerous museums and I copied some old masters from time to time. An advantage of self-education however is that you never stop learning! You become, so to speak, your own teacher. You´re on your way to develop a personal method of learning. Through trial and error. I will give you an example. In the past I invented and applied this method: serial recordings.
Sometimes after finishing a portrait, I wondered if a previous stage looked better than the final result. So I started to make every fifteen minutes a snapshot. In hindsight I was able to judge better the whole process. More than once I came to the conclusion that, especially in the final phase, I drove into the ground a lively portrait with good brushwork, by trying to make it “nicer” or more “realistic”. The pitfall of superfluous blending. I tried to avoid that in my next portraits, and so taught myself something.
Recently I came across an image of a painting from the series “Portraits of Valencia “. It is called Man on the Bridge. I made some paintings with this theme probably more than ten years ago. I dedicated more time then to paint subjects other than portraits. Maybe I should resume this and make some uncommissioned work again. The painting was not bad, I guess. I say was, because it no longer exists in this form. One day I wondered if another cut would be better. With strips of paper I covered the picture to get an impression of a new crop. Recklessly I took the rash decision of putting the knife in. I trimmed the canvas! The truncated version hangs now at a friends place. I guess they do not know about the original version. But I regret the error. Why didn´t I see, I was about to commit a big mistake and ruin a good picture? So I warn you all, don´t be too quick with decisions that are irreversible.
I want to introduce you to my very good friend Ajubel. Our friendship dates back from about ten years ago. He is a designer and illustrator. He is an Artist. He has received numerous awards for his work from Italy to Korea, from Cuba to Portugal. His mind is a fountain of ideas, each one more brilliant than the other. His critical drawings for the press are of a lonely height. I don´t know any illustrator so brilliant or a designer with such great graphic abilities. Years ago he designed my website and I’m still very happy with it. He and his partner stayed with us yesterday and it has become late as usual. At the outside dinner table we had a lovely evening filled with friendship & fabulous stories. You should definitely check out his website and see that I am not exaggerating about his skills.
The workshops at Table-Tableau are done and I’m back at work in my studio. On the easel is a portrait of a lady. In September she celebrates her 70th birthday, for which the painting must be delivered. I hope that the client once gives permission to show you some images. So, I’m back behind my easel. The best place to be!
Whilst painting I think of my students of the past weeks. Everyone comes up with specific questions and I try my best to answer. My aim is to provide solid coaching. It is striking that many people are afraid of the shadows. “Is that so important?” You might ask. I believe so. In my long video tutorial I show why. Starting with the light flesh colours often a portrait ends up too light. And it is a difficult job to obtain darker values. Making beginners aware that they are shy of shadows is one of my missions during the workshops.