Sunday, February 27, 2011

I love getting to this part in a painting. It's the point at which I can look at it calmly and feel with confidence that it actually will be finished someday. And--even better--probably someday very soon!

Mardi was obliging enough to pose for this next photo, to give you a sense of scale.

(No need to bombard her with fan letters--I have already thanked her for you.)

Lindy served a similar role this afternoon, as I cut out a sheet of waste paper in the projected size of my next large painting, to give me a sense of how big it will be in the physical world (it's 94" x 19", for those of you keeping score).

This paper mock-up is useful not only as a tool to help me imagine the piece's potential aesthetic impact...but also to verify that it will fit in my car for transport in the future. Learned that one the hard way.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Here's another of the viola spotlights--this one in Albuquerque Magazine.

(You can click on it to view a version large enough to read, if you're so inclined.)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Time for another violin update, yes-siree!

When last I posted, I was working on the arch of the top, but have put that aside momentarily while I work on some other elements.

These are the matched pieces of maple ready to be joined to form the back of the instrument:

I planed the edges to make sure they'd fit together snugly, held them over a hot plate for a few minutes to make them as receptive as possible to the hide glue, then glued and clamped them (with a bit of help, of course).

Leaving that to dry and set, I turned again to the ribs. Peter helped me dig up a temporary back plate to attach to them, which will stabilize and support them during the next step. I first traced around the ribs to make sure the plate would be big enough...

...and then glued them together--with very small drops of glue (I'll have to break the seal later, so the smaller the adhered area, the better):

Once that had set, we were able to pop the second half of the form out, leaving just the ribcage attached to the temporary back. Then I started to glue in the linings (a process I was familiar with from having glued one set onto the other side previously). The clothes pins hold the linings tightly against the ribs so that they form a solid bond all the way around the curves.

I attached them all, then set that component aside to dry, too.

I then moved on to some preliminary work on the scroll. Exciting! Here's the block of headstock I'm starting with, all squared up after a few passes through the joiner, and sitting on top of a sheet of provided measurements.

Using a tried-and-true metal template of Peter's (which you can see a bit of in the upper left corner of the next photo), I traced out the shape of the scroll on both sides of the headstock--including pierced marks to indicate the curve of the barrels, and the places where the pegs will eventually go.

That's that!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

More painting has been going on! In early March I'll start a seasonal wage-earning job that will eat up my free time a bit, so I'm really trying to dedicate as many hours a day as I can to this piece, so that at least it will be finished this spring!

I continued with the cliff walls on the right side of the painting, adding some color to the landscape.

Then I did some work on the far right figure...

And today, I ping-ponged over to the left side to work on some rocks in the foreground.

Slowly but surely...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Check out what got delivered this week:

It's the first textbook I was contracted to illustrate, finally in print!

I did some thirty-odd images to accompany the text. Some of them were metaphorical or conceptual (like the tents in the first photograph, which illustrate the idea of protocols), while others were portraits, or depictions of straightforward manufacturing processes. The tiny painting of Bell (pictured above, in the upper right-hand corner of the right page) was the authors' favorite.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Painting update! Since I last posted I've put something like 20 hours of work in.

More divisions of the space, and some real, honest-to-goodness detail. Snow...which is new and strange stuff for me to paint, but which I'm enjoying rather. Here's a detail of that bit:

And then I did more snow detail...

Aaaaaaaaand, just for the heck of it and the surprise factor, more snow detail. Plus, a bit of rock and cliff-face work on the right side (under the third character). For the better part of the afternoon, I've been working on that cliff more, but it's too dark right now to document it in any way that's worthwhile, so I'll include it in the next update.

A quick break for the V-Day dinner Fred's cooking...then another few hours' work!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A sluggish start to this new piece; maybe posting my very slow incremental progress over the last week will shame me into further action!

Several coats of white gesso and some sanding happened on the panel; then I used an inch-wide brush to apply some sienna-tinted gesso to an area of eight square inches or so, brushed over that area in different directions continually until it was completely dry, then moved on to another area. The resulting surface is even smoother than the prior, sanded surface--with just enough tooth for paint to still adhere.

This took a long time. Then I did a second coat.

Normally, my painting location of choice is the couch, and I hunch over the panel while I hold it in my lap. This has proven to be technically possible, with this piece, but it may be one of those all-things-are lawful-but-not-all-things-are-profitable situations. Time will tell.

With it propped up on my knees, I blocked out the sky...

And did some detailed sky work:

And that's where it stands now.

Alright--I am sufficiently embarrassed at how little I've accomplished to be impatient that I'm still talking about it! I've got the rest of the day to really jump in, so I'm going to get to it.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I returned to the violin shop this morning, after last week's winter-storm+energy-shortage-induced hiatus. Everyone was in a fine mood, cheery and enthusiastic to be back. Someone had brought a box of bagels, which were dispatched with a sort of hilarious and not-completely-necessary assemblage of repurposed shop tools: the bread was halved on the band saw, toasted with tongs over an industrial hot plate, spread with cream cheese using the flat end of a file... (This is just between us, now, no need to mention it to OSHA.)

I was still laughing as I set the router to cut a height of 5.1 mm, but focused in as Peter helped me trim all the way around the face plate. That's still not as thin as the plate will be when all is said and done, by the way--as always, a few extra millimeters are left spare, to allow for goof-ups. As anyone who's worked with wood (or cooked a meal, for that matter) knows, it's much easier to take off a little bit at a time and get to a point slowly, than to go too far and be forced to redo the whole thing. You can't add wood back!

It's rather hard to see in the following photo, I know, but resting on top of the faceplate is an "arching guide," a simple model made from original blueprints of the original Guarneri, showing the desired arc of the top from neck to tail. When the guide rests against the plate, it's easy to see how much the curve needs to be adjusted--i.e., how much wood needs to be carved away from the contact points--so that there are no gaps in between them.

For the aforementioned carving, I got to use another of my favorite tools--the finger plane!

[I realize how girly the thing I'm about to say is, but I can't help it] Isn't it adorable?

By the end of the day, I'd produced a reasonable facsimile of the correct arch. However, the plate's still about 4 millimeters thicker than it needs to be--so when I come back in later this week I'll continue whittling it down, preserving the curve as I go.

Monday, February 7, 2011

A big chunk of a serious education in the arts used to consist of copying the works of the old masters. So this past week, as I've been engaged in doing more historical copies (works of the older masters) for the horse book, I feel like I'm in the spirit--if not the continent or style--of the practice!

Here's my rendering of some petroglyphs in Mongolia (which after researching, I now desperately want to visit, by the way):

....from Egypt....

...and a bison robe from not-so-far-away Taos.

Friday, February 4, 2011

This post won't be thrillingly visual for you, the reader--but nevertheless, I hope you can imagine my excitement to have the structural panel in hand for the Chimney Rock piece I mentioned a couple of weeks ago.

Around and about finishing the last set of illustrations for the horse book this weekend, I'll sand and gesso this panel, and start the real work on Monday.

In other news, last night I volunteered at SITE Santa Fe's members' opening, in order to get the earliest possible glimpse of the current exhibition, of which Amy Cutler's gouaches make up a third. She is one of my
of all time
In the stead of fangirl babbling (and believe me, I have plenty of it--and did in fact, write it all up here before deleting it in despair of ever describing her work adequately; looking at those pieces makes me feel the same way that listening to Ys does--does that help?), I'll say matter-of-factly that I think her work is incredible, and mention as an aside that she is giving an artist's talk at SITE on the 15th. And tell you that you should really, really, REALLY go see it.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

There's a piece that I've been slowly circling around for about six months now, ever since I visited Antelope Island, a surreal little ecosystem jutting out of the Great Salt Lake (where the dense brine fly populations coat every salty wave and make the shoreline move beneath one's feet like a mirage...and the innumerable orb spiders string themselves between bushes, and make strange dark constellations, silhouetted against the water...). It made a strong impression on me.

As per usual, I began the draft in photoshop, starting by constructing a panoramic view of stitched-together photos that I took on the walk up one of the island's higher points. I then began adding characters from some of my other, archived photos...I'd add a few here, take one out them for a couple of weeks, and decide they weren't balanced correctly...add a few more figures, switch a few around...decide the light wasn't right on one of them, and look for a replacement...realize the emotional impact of one of the expressions wasn't what I'd intended, and replace it...realize that those replacements threw the whole composition out of balance, and switch them around again...notice that now that everything had been moved, the light was all wrong AGAIN...and on and on and on! But now, after seemingly endless fiddling and agonising overanalyzation--literally months after I began putting the draft together--I've cemented the composition at last. (I tried to avoid using myself as a character--I really did--but I just couldn't get things right without the particular something that gesture adds.)

I'd also decided recently that I wanted to divide the image into panels--for practical reasons (please to remember the size of my current workspace), as well as aesthetic ones--so this weekend I printed out a few thumbnails to play with, to explore how differing divisions of the picture plane can affect its impact.

Looking at these studies, I'm leaning towards a division that creates a relatively broad central panel, rather than one that breaks the composition into more uniformly-sized chunks. After a little more examination, I'll settle on one, get the panel specs to my carpenter, and be working on it by the end of February.