Congratulations to the 30 winners of our annual art competition! Here (and in our December 2011 issue) we celebrate the winners from the Portrait/Figure category. By Rosemary Barrett Seidner
Atlanta, Georgia • www.thomasreisfineart.com
“Amelie was inspired by a young girl l saw during a trip to Paris,” says Thomas Reis. “The weather was cold and windy, but the child looked content in her warm ensemble. What struck me was her introspective gaze. Thankfully, I had time to shoot a photo.”
The photo, however, was only a reference. “I wanted to make the child appear to glow and radiate warmth,” says Reis, “so I chose the dark brown background. The hat’s windblown ties add movement to the design.”
Beginning with a linen canvas sized with rabbitskin glue and a double coat of lead white, Reis applied an imprimatura wash, using a mixture of raw umber and mineral spirits. He then wiped out the big shapes before the wash dried. Next, working to simplify the shapes while maintaining accuracy, he sketched the big masses with vine charcoal. Using a small filbert loaded with raw umber and medium (a 5:1:1 mixture of odorless mineral spirits, stand oil and damar varnish), he repainted and refined the drawing.
“With the drawing completed,” says Reis, “I applied a thin color wash, diluted with medium, to the major shapes, providing a rough roadmap for the painting. I then painted in the darks, beginning with the background, which helped establish the key.” Next Reis worked through the middle tones to the lights, redrawing as he went. “Once an area has been blocked in,” says Reis, “I refine it further via the addition of transitional passages.”
Reis stands while working and views the painting at a distance as often as possible. “Squinting is possibly my most important painting practice,” says Reis, who finds that maintaining an awareness of the big shapes and color masses helps keep them as simple and clean as possible.
With a master of fine arts degree from the San Francisco Art Institute, Reis divides his studio time equally between fine art and illustration. His illustration credits include work for major publications such as Time, Rolling Stone, the Wall Street Journal and Sports Illustrated, and his paintings appear in permanent and private collections throughout the United States.
Lea Colie Wight
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania • www.leawight.com
“I’m drawn to subjects who have a story to tell, who have depth,” says Lea Colie Wight. “Jenn is a joyful, emotionally beautiful person with a profound self-awareness. I chose to pose her as I did because I wanted her to be engaged with me as I painted.”
The portrait Jenn, Portrait of an Artist was painted from life in Wight’s Philadelphia studio. When the model was absent, the artist worked on other elements, substituting a mannequin for her subject.
The painting began with a few quick compositional sketches, which established the strong vertical format. Wight then began blocking in, using a grisaille mixture of burnt sienna and ultramarine blue with a touch of white. “I use mineral spirits as a medium at this point,” says Wight, “and just enough to soften the paint. I want to make firm, confident contact with the canvas and have the paint respond accordingly.”
With the grisaille sketch in place, Wight refined the drawing, paying attention to proportions and structure. Blocking in the main shadow masses gave her a sense of the composition’s strength. Once she began laying in the initial color passes, she developed form through color changes on the major planes.
Wight doesn’t hesitate to move or add compositional elements. “Among the final additions I made to this painting,” says Wight, “were the brushes in the foreground. I also added the spring clamp at the top of the easel, which stops the viewer’s eye from moving off the canvas.”
Mark Andrew Bailey
Vancouver, Washington • www.markandrewbailey.com
The title, In the Weeds, is a term restaurant workers use when the kitchen goes crazy trying to keep up with orders. Such scenes, rife with tension and energy, are what Mark Bailey most likes to paint.
He prefers painting from life, but with this scene, there was no way. The setting is the kitchen of Basil Thai Restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina. “My objective was to capture the light, color and energy of a fleeting moment,” says Bailey. “For paintings like this, I take as many photos as I can in order to really get an idea of the place and have several images to pull from. Sometimes I jot down color and lighting notes of things that might get lost in photographs.”
Bailey, in his 20s, places himself at the beginning of his career, still developing his process. He works in transparent layers, first blocking in major shapes and then breaking them down. “I remind myself that nothing’s sacred—that I shouldn’t be afraid to mess something up,” he says. “Sometimes I’ll take a broad brush and paint over a ‘finished’ area or scrape it off entirely. As scary as that is at the moment, that area usually ends up being far more interesting.”
Freelance writer Rosemary Barrett Seidner is a director of Miller Gallery in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Winners of The Artist’s Magazine’s 28th Annual Art Competition were featured in the December 2011 issue. Click here to purchase.
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