Sunday, March 26, 2017

Winding Down on Ravens... and "How Long Does It Take to Paint That?"

Above, eleven completed paintings after being sprayed with protective varnish. They're DONE!!! And all, but the two that are sold, are for sale at $125.00/each.

This week I completed painting the last of the 10 Ravens I had drawn on canvas and ready to go. I generally work on two or three paintings at a time, allowing some to dry while working on others. Some need to hang on the wall for a day or more, until I feel satisfied that they are complete and ready to go out to the public.

These past two weeks, I've averaged 5 paintings per week, working nearly every day on them. If they were larger paintings, more complex pieces, or subject matter unfamiliar to me, then each would have taken far longer.

By the way, one Raven is going out via Priority Mail to its new owner this week. And another painting - this one is a Gyrfalcon that belongs to our nephew, Tim in Wyoming, will also go out via Priority Mail this week. Here they are before packing.

Raven Preening (12"w x 9"h) is going to Red Bank, New Jersey to another Raven lover!

Gyrfalcon (10" square) is going to Tim, who raises gyrfalcons in Wyoming.

And moving on, questions of "how long did that take" often are heard by artists. Here is my take on that.

Time really doesn't matter to me, especially when I am painting. Even when I'm not! I haven't worn a watch for years, nor do I consult my cell phone for the time. When painting, one steps outside the boundaries of time/space and lives in the essence of meditation. Painting involves the totality of the artist - distractions rarely enter the time/space unless it comes from a strong outside source. With our children grown with kids and grand-kids of their own, I am rarely interrupted. My dear spouse of 51+ years, knows better than to do more than hover outside the studio hoping to catch my attention!

But it's surprising to me just how often people ask artists, "how long did that take you to paint?" It's truly irrelevant to the piece of art. Some pieces fly through the subconscious into the concrete world and almost paint themselves. Other pieces are done with intense scrutiny, deliberate intent, and incredible lengths of time involved in both thinking, planning, and executing a single piece.

For me, the Raven Series and the two Holstein cows - all painted on black, all went fairly quickly. They are not as detailed, they are nearly monochromatic - black, white, and gray, and much is left to the imagination of the viewer. The viewer becomes an active participant in relating to the birds and the cows.

On the other hand, landscapes and portraits of people, take me ever so much more time to plan, draw, and complete. I've always admired details - I love realistic photography and art, although I no longer choose to work in quite that realistic a manner. Realism takes TIME, lots and lots of time. When one is younger, time doesn't really matter. Perfection of a technique is often the driving force.

But as I have aged, I realize that in painting, as in real life, the details really aren't that important. It's the essence of what is being portrayed that matters. Just how one attempts to portray the essence of something is totally unique to each artist - author, poet, musician, actor, all creative people. It is our unique perspective and relationship with what we are creating that comes through to the viewer, reader, audience.

So the bird paintings are essentially coming directly out of my love for and nurturing of birds and wildlife. My painted birds seem to look directly at the viewer and ask for an intimacy between that viewer and the painted bird. And that is a delight to me! It is what any artist would be thrilled to have occur between the audience and the work. An interaction, an exchange, a connection.

My next series of pieces are more birds - can't get them out of my system, so I'm just going with them! Song birds, baby birds, a heron, a couple of Ravens. A dozen small canvases are now prepared and ready for paint. Tomorrow will begin then next period of time where I disappear into the studio and lose all track of time.

Baby Robin (10" square) above and Great Blue Heron (11"w x 14"h) below

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

So Much FUN Painting Birds!

Raven in the Snow - (c) Pat Dolan 2017 - 9hx12w" - Available

These past two weeks have been a time of intensive painting in the studio. I'm preparing for an open studio in early May, so I need work to have on the walls. Right now, most of my bird paintings are hanging in The State College Frame Shop and Gallery. Several have sold, and I will be picking them up next month. But it's always a good idea to have a lot of work on hand when people are coming to visit one's studio!

Here are several of the 8 Raven paintings that I've been working on recently.

Raven Complaining! - (c) Pat Dolan 2017 - 9hx12w" - Available

Shy Raven - (c)Pat Dolan 2017 - 9wx12h" - Available

Raven Attentive - (c)Pat Dolan 2017 - 9wx12h" - Available

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Continuation of the Raven Series

Raven Preening - (c) Pat Dolan - 2017 - SOLD

It's been great fun and also a bit challenging to reveal the personalities of the different Raven's I'm painting in this series. Without a personality, a bird seems so much less impressive! But I'm also noticing that there are many bird species that seem to appear to be identical to one another. Robins and Blue Birds both seem to be so similar to one another, not very expressive of their individuality as compared to one another in their appearance. Yes, they can occasionally take on a pose that sets them apart from all the others, and that is what I like to capture. The uniqueness of each bird...

Ravens seem to have very expressive faces and postures, at least the ones in my reference photos by Wendy Davis! Here are several of my recent pieces with a step-by-step approach so you can watch them evolve on the easel.

First, the drawing in white/silver pencil on the black canvas.

Initial layin of light and medium values.

Refining the values, bit by bit.

Getting close to completion...

Once the highlights are added to the eyes, the bird seems to leap forward and squawk directly in your face!
Raven Squawk - (c) Pat Dolan - 2017 - 9"w x 12"h - Available

Here's another step-by-step:
Only one eye is really showing in the photo and I began this way, but didn't like how it looked without a gleam in the eye that was turned away from us.

Building up the lights gradually...

Building up the lightest lights - rather boldly!

Accentuating wings with dark tones and the breast feathers with light accents.

Adding the "hidden" eye and softening the head feathers.
Shy Raven - (c) Pat Dolan - 2017 - 9"wx12"h - Available

Here's one corner of my studio where I can hang these paintings, let them sit for awhile, and determine if they need any changes or if they are complete as they are. You can see Wendy Davis' 2017 Raven calendar hanging on the wall, too! Her photography is so inspiring!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Painting & Learning More About Ravens

Caw (c) Pat Dolan - 2017 - 12"w x 9"h

I've started to read about the Raven population and am finding it quite interesting. I have 2 books, both by Bernd Heinrich, Professor Emeritus of Biology at the University of Vermont. The titles: Raven in Winter and Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds. His writing style is both informational and amusing. He provides plenty of antidotes which embellish his prose, to say the least. As a professional biologist, he has made a study of the Ravens since the mid-1970's or so. Actually, he reminds me a great deal of our son-in-law, also a biologist and an author - who can make information about trees, bugs, plants, stones, and the like absolutely fascinating!

Anyway, I'm not too far in the first book, Ravens in Winter, and the author has proposed plenty of theories and had most of them dashed by the objects of his studies. The stories make a great accompanyment for my painting of individual Ravens as photographed by Wendy Davis, a wonderful photographer living in British Columbia. She posts "Raven a Day" on Facebook, which is how I found her photographs. So captivated was I, that I wrote and asked for permission to use her Raven photos as reference material for my Raven portraits. She graciously agreed, and also recommended the two books that are enriching my experience of these wonderful birds.

Above, "Attentive" in process. Below, completed painting "Attentive" (c) Pat Dolan 2017

Below, three stages of "Preening" (c) Pat Dolan 2017

First stage of placing lights vs. darks on the painting, making sure of composition.

Second state, toning down lights and darks, or accentuating them, as needed.

Final state, adding appropriate details to capture the essence of the Raven as he preens his feathers.

Below are two photos of the early stages of "Caw" shown at the top of this entry. I started boldly, then tones down the lights to captivate this Raven cawing.

All Raven bird portrait paintings at this time are 9"x12" painted on black canvas with acrylic paints. Most are available for purchase.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Art Opening a Success!

Last Saturday's art opening at the State College Framing Company & Gallery was a wonderful event. It was especially nice that I had already sold three of my bird paintings prior to the event - the Male Cardinal, the Downy Woodpecker, and the Red-breasted Grosbeak all have found a new home.

Meanwhile, I had the first three of my Raven series framed in time for the show. I love how the frames work so well with the artwork! Here they are for you to decide if the frames are right for the birds!

All the above are available at the moment. Here is the gallery pricing.

I also brought a newly completed painting - not a portrait, but a Great Blue Heron on a 15"x30" canvas. I strongly debated adding something to ground the heron, but decided to allow it to stand noble and free of any distractions. I may change my mind, of course. I've considered adding a simple pencil drawing of reeds towards his/her feet. I'll think on it awhile longer before I make any changes.

And I'm gearing up for a large series of Raven portraits, like the three above. The canvases are now double-coated in black and ready to go. I've selected 10 photographs from Wendy Davis Photography after she graciously agreed to my using of them for reference material. Wendy has a great Facebook page here, if you are interested in Ravens and other wildlife in British Columbia!

Friday, February 17, 2017

A Raven Comparison...

The "before" photo, when I was really trying hard to add color to the Raven...

Baby Raven - (c) Pat Dolan - 2017 - 12"w x 9"h - Available

The "after" photo - when I was allowed to add some little bit of color to this Raven! This one is now ready to be framed by the State College Framing Shop and Gallery.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Beginning a New Bird Portrait Series: RAVENS

Raven Watching and Raven Warning (c) Pat Dolan - 2017 - 9"w x 12"h - Available

I've long been an admirer of Crows and Ravens. I've collected photographs, stories, websites and more in my efforts to learn more about these intelligent birds. And since I've been painting bird portraits for awhile now, it was only a matter of time before I began a series on Ravens/Crows.

And since my first Hereford portraits on black canvas, the idea of painting Ravens on black canvas was a natural first step into this series. I had originally planned to add colors - to liven up the personalities of each bird. I've seen wonderful crow paintings by such artists as Dean Crouser and Bev Jozwiak and I love all the colors they add to their works of art.

My first attempt on black canvas included using blues, purples, black and white to illustrate what I believed to be the personality of the Raven I was painting. I generally work on several paintings at a time, and I had three separate works on two easels and my drawing table. The second and third paintings wouldn't allow me to use anything other than black and white paint to portray the Ravens I had selected. The longer I worked, the more it became obvious that MY paintings were destined, at this time for sure, to remain monochromatic in black and white! Much as I wanted to add a dab of bright blue or shocking red, the birds involved were very much against such a portrayal!

Raven Watching (c) Pat Dolan - 2017 - 9"w x 12"h - Available

As artists, we do learn from our works. It sounds absurd that a painting tells the artist how to paint it or what colors to use, but the longer one works as an artist, the more one pays attention to the communication between the art and the artist. It is vital now, for me, to pay attention to what my piece wants to say and how it wants to say it.

Raven Warning (c) Pat Dolan - 2017 - 9"w x 12"h - Available

So here you see the three paintings I have thus far been working on. The one on top is, I think, not quite done. The other two are now at the framers to be suitably enhanced by a subtle black with silver-rubbed-into-the-wood frame. We tried lots of different frames - the black frames did nothing to enhance the work. The gray frames that had the slightest tint of wood tone or other warm color definitely clashed with the work. Finally we tried the black with a hint of silver and the paintings both shone with delight. The art also tells you what frame to use!

All three in the Raven series are 9" x 12" acylic paintings on black canvas. I'm uncertain as to whether or not the top Raven - which feels to me like a young bird - is complete or not. I have the feeling that it is not, so I'm just waiting for it to tell me what's next...perhaps a touch of blue to the eye, guaranteeing that it is a juvenile Raven. Time will tell - or rather, the bird will let me know!