Abuelo and Alexander

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“Abuelo and Alexander (Portrait of the artist’s father, Carlos Lago and her son)”, Oil on canvas, 30″ x 40″, 2013-2016

This past August I finally finished a very personal family portrait of my father and son which turned out to be a true labor of love, begun 3 years ago. My patient father simply waited until I was able to work on it, a little at a time, in between my portrait commissions.

My father is a passionate gardener and the background of this painting is my father’s very own garden depicting his collection of azaleas, deciduous azaleas and rhododendrons. It is a fitting tribute to him and to the loving relationship he shares with my son. My favorite part being the tender gesture of their hands touching each other.

 

What’s on my easel: “Abuelo & Alexander”

WIP_AbueloandAlexanderWIP. I am almost at the finishing line of this portrait of my Dad and son. Yay! The reference here was taken 2-3 years ago. I started it and then had to put it on hold for a while due to commissions.

There will still be some refinement done to the figures and background before I am done. The next time you see this painting will be when it is finished and I have had my photographer take the official picture of it. I will blog about the creation of the painting then. For now, please ignore the glare in this cell pic.

 

Workshop Wednesday: Teresa Oaxaca, the Figure in Charcoal

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“La Primavera (self portrait)”,  charcoal on paper,  by artist Teresa Oaxaca.

This past weekend I ushered in the New Year with a bang by attending Teresa Oaxaca’s “Figure in Charcoal” workshop at the Art League in Alexandria, VA on Jan 2 – Jan 3rd. Considering that just the day before the workshop I was a little sleep deprived–and ok, maybe still “recovering” from the festivities, I was really happy and perhaps a little surprised when everything “clicked” for me during the workshop. But perhaps I shouldn’t have been, Teresa Oaxaca has a lot to share with her fellow artists so listen up.

Full disclosure: I have been a big Teresa Oaxaca fan from the very first moment I met her in Rob Liberace’s classes at the Art League. In fact, I own two of her self portrait drawings and one of her etchings (hint: when she says something is unsold over social media, that is your cue that you can purchase it). Teresa is one of my favorite contemporary artists and in my opinion the most promising. I just love the boldness of her charcoal drawings, the mixture of the gestural abstraction and rendered form. They are exquisite.  And the fact that Teresa herself is super sweet and down to earth–I just knew I could learn a lot from her and I definitely did.

The following are my notes from the workshop and I hope you gain as much enlightenment from them as I did.

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Teresa Oaxaca during her charcoal portrait demo.

-Teresa’s block-in is a big envelope, very loose, light & gestural.

-Sometimes the looseness (gesture) from the beginning is kept through the piece {I would add that it is this initial gesture that gives so much life & contrast of textures in her drawings}.

-She begins with a jumbo soft charcoal piece and initially adds a center line, eye line & forehead line followed by the shadow shapes of the eyes and nose. The rendering of the mouth and chin come second.

-Prefers Canson Mi Tientes paper (smooth side) and vine charcoal.

-Teresa uses a lot of straight hatching lines. “Easier to get structure in and keep it that way.”

-Usually works life sized and steps back from the easel often to check her drawing.

-If you want to use crazy, energetic hatch lines like Sargent did in his charcoals (and Teresa does) you must have a solid geometric structure underneath {This subtle but powerful advice was one of the things that really resonated for me}.

In process shots from Teresa Oaxaca's charcoal portrait demo.
In process shots from Teresa Oaxaca’s charcoal portrait demo.

-“Geometric shapes render & anchor the drawing.”

-Her subjects start off looking more exaggerated in the beginning and then get more accurate as she continues working.

-She spends most of her time developing the light & shadow areas and then will knit them together.

-The nature of charcoal is that it is just dust. Get used to the fact that you will be constantly readdressing your darks throughout the process  of creating a drawing.

-Uses a brush to soften along the core shadow on a cheekbone or will just drag the charcoal across.

-Shadows are solid, mid tones are a combination of blending or hatching (veiling).

-“I like to put the directional changes in the shadow shapes.”

-She will often put a little speck of white chalk highlight in order to key her values {again, advice worth the price of admission right here}.

-“If your drawing is failing it is because you are not obeying the light/dark patterns.”

-Ask yourself on the simplest of Master drawings, “What makes this really work?”. Dissect and understand it.

-Most of the drawing will be carried by the in-between places that are either smudged or hatched.

-Make sure the shadow pattern is correct, even on a smaller form like the eye. The big shapes still need to be rendered on the smaller forms. Same rules apply!

-If you know you don’t have time, stick to developing structure.

-She often veils in highlights on the planes of the forehead.

-Sargent spent all of his time on the structure and would throw his characteristic slap-dash bravura mark at the very last minute.

-If you don’t plan on rendering an area leave it as a block-in or else you will be forced to fully resolve it.

-Gesture is the foundation of a minimalist drawing.

-Take pictures every half hour, it will reveal your own process to you. It also works as a mirror to show you your mistakes.

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Process shots from my drawing of James created during the second day of the workshop.

 

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My completed drawing of James.

I want to personally thank Teresa for a wonderful workshop experience. Prior to this workshop, I never felt completely in control with Charcoal but I definitely feel more in control now and intend on practicing with it more often.

You can follow Teresa Oaxaca and her blog at her website www.teresaoaxaca.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/teresaoaxacafineart, on twitter and Instagram at @teresaoaxaca.

 

 

 

 

Caroline & Annika

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“Caroline and Annika”. Oil on canvas. 30″ x 40″. Artist, Suzanne Lago Arthur.

I am happy to share with you my last painting of 2014, a double portrait commission that I have spent most of this past year working on. These two beautiful sisters, separated by 10 years in age, were an absolute pleasure to paint.

[Unfortunately due to being sick right before the commission was due, I did not get it professionally photographed. Please excuse the quality of my cell phone pictures for now.]

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Detail of Caroline.

 

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Detail of Annika.

 

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Detail of Annika’s hands and dress.

 

 

Commissioning a Portrait

“Ben, Anna & Charlie”. Oil on canvas. 27″ x 38″. 2014. Private collection.

There are few things in life as artistically satisfying for me than to have the opportunity to create an heirloom quality portrait for a client. Perhaps it is the exhilaration of observing the client’s emotional reaction to the work that I find so rewarding. But I can’t help but feel that this is the way that I can best share my “gift” with others–by helping people honor and immortalize those they hold so dear.

I can create a pastel drawing or oil painting of your loved one or colleague starting at various price points. Below is an outline of my typical commission process:

  • Personal Consultation: Initial discussion to identify scope of work and client objectives.
  • Subject Observation: Meeting with subject (portrait sitter) to observe & better understand the personality and mannerisms of the individual. If possible, I will sketch and make initial studies from life.
  • Photo-shoot Preparation: Photo-shoot location & date identified along with attire and and other details.
  • Photo-shoot and Review: Photos are taken (for use as painting references), processed and reviewed with the client to identify candidates for the final painted portrait.
  • Painting/Delivery: Typically a year once the painting process begins depending upon the complexity and scope of the work. Note: A 50% deposit is required at the time of booking.

Please contact me directly for my 2017 Commission Prices. Suzanne@lagoarthurstudio.com.

 

What’s On My Easel

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This sweet little girl is part of a double portrait commission I am currently working on. You can’t really tell from this picture, but I am using a lot more paint here and aiming for more expressive brush strokes all around. And another new approach for me is the palette I am using, it is basically the Zorn palette with three additional colors (Cad red, Cad yellow light, Yellow ocher, Black, White, Prussian blue and a color similar to Magenta).