Artist of the Month: Paul W. McCormack

Daughter of Hope (watercolor, 32×21½) by Paul W. McCormack was a finalist in the portrait/figure category of The Artist’s Magazine’s 27th Annual Art Competition.

Paul W. McCormack
Hometown: Glenham, NY

Daughter of Hope
The desire to paint my daughter Abigail began as the inspiration for the painting. When she was born I sent out photos and an artist friend responded, “You have subject matter for life.” While Abby was posing, I suppose her mind drifted to thoughts that upset her; she began to shed a few quiet tears. Her emotions prompted the concept of the painting and title.

Technically speaking, one difficulty I ran into was the background. The carved wooden background is actually an old 19th-century church seat. After painting in the entire pattern of the carved wood I found that the hard edges competed with the figure and the wood wasn’t receding as I wished. To resolve the problem I began lifting off as much pigment as I could with a wet sponge. By wiping it out and reapplying the pigment, the edges softened just enough to recede and pull the figure forward.

Daughter of Hope also began as a step-by-step demonstration for the North Light book, Watercolor Secrets. However, after several months of work I could only narrow the painting down to 18 steps and 12 pages of text; this was much more than space allowed, so instead I created two short demos: “A Head Study from Life” and “Painting an Eye.”

My Education and Career
I’ve been drawing ever since I was a child. By the time I was in was a fifth-grader I was drawing portraits of my classmates from life. As an adult I attended duCret School of the Arts in Plainfield, New Jersey. Immediately after art school I produced Scrimshaw for about five years—this was a great way of supporting my painting habit. I’ve been very fortunate and have always created art for a living, via teaching and painting. Today I mainly create figurative works in oils, watercolor and graphite.

My Process
I work from life and photos, however, I rarely combine the two; it’s either one or the other from beginning to end. I greatly prefer working from life and in a perfect world I would never work from another photo again. I never know what’s going to spark me to create a painting, although my wife, Karen, is a constant inspiration.

My palette is nearly the same in watercolor and oils; my basic flesh palette consists of a simple red, yellow and blue theory comprised of yellow ochre, cerulean blue and rose madder genuine.
My complete palette is:

  • cadmium yellow pale
  • cadmium orange
  • cadmium red
  • alizarin crimson
  • rose madder genuine
  • cobalt blue
  • cerulean blue
  • French ultramarine blue
  • yellow ochre
  • raw sienna
  • burnt sienna
  • raw Umber
  • sap green
  • ivory black

Edited by Cherie Haas, associate editor of The Artist’s Magazine.


Click here to learn more about Watercolor Secrets.

Artists of the Month are chosen from The Artist’s Magazine’s Annual Art Competition list of finalists.

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