Artist of the Month: Derek McGowan

Girl’s Night Out, (oil on canvas, 30x40) by Derek McGowan
Girl’s Night Out
, (oil on canvas, 30×40) by Derek McGowan

Hometown: Baltimore, Maryland

Early Art Years
I have been drawing for as long as I can remember. I still have many of my early drawings, including one of Mickey Mouse as a vampire. I started painting in college and tried out realism in my second year. No one on the university staff taught realism and I was one of a small minority to try this path; thus I’m nearly 95 percent self-taught.

Inspiration for Girls Night Out
This painting arose from the curiosity in what women do and talk about when a group of them go to the bathroom at the same time.

Working Process
This method involves a tremendous amount of imagination and time. I began to use simple photo references; most interestingly photos of myself as all of the characters in a painting. I began to work only from exact photos and transferred them to the canvas with grids. Recently I was able to find a digital projector on eBay, now I project my images.

I paint between four to six layers with the first two being flat solid colors with no details or gradations, painted with Utrecht oils. In the next layer I add details; in the final layer I add glazes and then increase the contrasts. These layers are painted with Rembrandt oils. For any human skin that is exposed, my first layer will be a solid acrylic black. This is done to combat the transparent nature of the colors most often used for skin tones. I use soft, synthetic-blend brushes; mostly in the smaller size range. My standard colors include burnt and raw umber, ivory black, titanium white, burnt sienna, Venetian red. My extended palette includes alizarin crimson, yellow ochre and ultramarine blue among a few others.

Time Spent on Paintings

I’m a pretty fast painter with the average piece taking about two weeks to complete. I have been known to do them in as little as four days; in October 2009 I completed four and a half paintings.

Current Project

Right now I have three portrait commissions that I’m working on for Christmas, as well as a painting with the same compositional format as Girls Night Out that will involve an artist at work.

Inspiration as an Artist
Art fulfills my creative impulses; it gives me great satisfaction to see a drawing or a painting progress through its varying stages of completion. I also enjoy people’s reactions to my work.

Click here to visit McGowan’s webpage for more information about the artist.


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