A few months ago I got a tablet, an iPad Pro with an apple pencil, and truth be told, ever since I got it, I’ve been doing so much digital artwork that I almost completely neglected my traditional media.
From the moment I held that Apple pencil it was like a new romance…. The freedom, the excitement! The endless possibilities of things to creat on the tablet! The world is only limited to the size of the screen 🙂
The first painting I made on it on the day I got it was this mermaid at night:
It was the best experience… to be there, breathing in the fresh air of the sea, looking at the stars and thinking of the freedom that that world offers. I was discovering new brushes and also breaking my head figuring out the structure and colors.
Since then I’ve used the iPad to create a lot more stuff. I started taking it to figure drawing sessions to draw from a model:
Doing inventive figure drawing and color studies:
Fairy in the forest digital painting
Cat Human Hybrid
I think that drawing digitally has made me bolder as an artist, because it put me in the habit of making big decisions (since it is easier to change things).
I hope to slowly update new digital artworks on the website as time goes by.
and I think today I have made a breakthrough in finding the answer to a question that has been bugging me for a very long time.
I’ve been trying to study the “right” and the “wrong” way of making art, to find some guiding principles, something to go by in order to make “good art”.
And at the same time asking myself – those artists that lived in the past and even in ancient civilizations, did they really know some magnificent secrete that we, in modern times, have lost? Why does their art seem serious and whole, while ours, which is more informed, more realistic, lacks that sense of telling a simple, fundamental truth about the world?
For example, one step in my chain of discoveries was that good art involves storytelling. And like any verbal storytelling it has to be selective. It has to be tied to the theme.
But can that be used, like some kind of formula, to create “good art”?
That’s what I question. Surely, yes, it can, to some degree. It can help you debug your novel when it seems to go awry with too many details, for example.
But fundamentally good art comes from the artist’s genuine desire to describe something, and their focus on that thing that they want to describe.
Not their focus on how to impress, not their focus on how to please a critic, but just a focus on the thing they’re expressing.
Ancient Egyptian art lacks realism, but the confidence it has in its style and its devotion to telling its essential story are what make it beautiful. There is sincerity of a mind describing a thought there.
What have we done in modern times? We have replaced that desire with an impersonal aspiration of some kind. We ran away from realism in an attempt to find “individuality”, and then we came back to realism in an attempt to find “excellence”, and neither attempt is really fully successful, isn’t it..
Of course you could make the point that someone with no art training at all would just create a mess, and that is a very good point indeed.
But also, someone with lots of art education and excellent execution can create something stale and formulaic.
To speak beautifully – you need words, and then you need to have an idea that is Your owN.
Art that has no hesitations about the fundamental way it should be done, is possible when the artist has taken the time to learn the tools they need for that execution. And which tool they acquired was dictated by what they wanted to express. And that the tools themselves are a result of a sincere quest for expression.
A self trusting soul is earned and created by the habit of not hiding from its own questions, but trying to answer them, instead.
It started with a square canvas which I built from wood. One of the first panels I ever made. It was the summer vacation in my Art school in Seattle and some of the students hired a model to pose for us for a long pose. 6 hours a day for 4 days.
I brought the canvas with me not knowing what the pose will be. When I finished the painting, working from life, it had an abstract background. I placed the figure in the center and I had no idea of what environment she might belong to.
I was really inspired by the pose but I felt that an abstract background did not fit it at all. A few months later, I realized what the right background for this figure is: It needed to be the inside of a tent, overlooking the desert at sunset, because the woman reminded me of some kind of Arabian royalty. The pose was very organic, and communicated confidence and relaxation at the same time. I imagined her being on a journey of some kind, and being royalty, the tent would naturally be luxurious and private.
So I decided to take the pose from the 4 walls of an art studio into a setting closer to a fancy bedouin tent. Having been in those a few times in Israel in the Negev desert, and getting a glimpse of that very simple, slow lifestyle, I wanted to paint something with that warm, slow atmosphere, something that adjusts itself to the pace of the desert where life moves slowly at the end of the day.
That new aspiration presented a challenge, because I had to invent the background and have it match the studio light – the light under which the model was standing. At that point I started searching for references for different bedouin tent elements online. I tried to get an idea of how a fancy Bedouin tent might look like and what kind of items would be in it. I used photoshop to try to arrange them together to get an idea of an environment. After a while of doing that I realized the complexity of the scene requires a much more realistic model to paint from, if I wanted the background to match the degree of detail of the figure.
I went to a craft store, where I shopped around for a few hours, gathering items and getting ideas. When I left the store I had almost everything I needed and I sat down to build the tent.
I made a tiny little sculpture of the women to “calibrate” the light. Used a clamp-on book light to replace the studio light and used a candle for a lantern. Overall there were 3 light sources in the painting.
I sewed the little pillows from various fabrics I bought wrapped around tiny pieces of sponge. I made the tent by sticking some wooden sticks into a corkscrew board. It was like building a tiny dollhouse.
I did a small value study to try to figure out the composition.
Once I had the tent, I was ready to paint. The first step was to do a perspective drawing. The strange thing is that here, I had to decide what the eye level is rather than it being decided for me, because I had to identify the original eye level according to the rendering of the figure.
Fast forward, I finished the background.
Lastly, I decided I had to change the direction of her head because to me, the meaning of the painting and the moment was in having this woman look outside, to the last remnant of light on the desert sand. So I drew a little diagram of the new angle:
Then, because I couldn’t have the original model posing for me again with the original light (though believe me, I have dreamt of it!!), I recreated the new angle based on the colors and values of the painting combined with this drawing (which was drawn with the aid of pictures). A note to myself was to always take notes of what colors I used in my paintings so that I can easily go back to them if needed.
Here is the study for the head. It involved a lot of interpolation since I did not have a model to paint from.
Lastly I needed to seam the edges of the figure with the new background and to add hints of light to match the new environment. Add little objects, like the teapot and the carpet, a little thorn to decorate the table.
It was a difficult painting but I gave this lady the environment she belongs to, as I saw it and now the painting is complete. 🙂
‘Glimpse of the Desert’, 23”x24”, oil painting on board.
This painting was completed in June 2014 and I wanted to present it with some of its earlier stages and thoughts while I was painting it.
It started when my friend came for a visit and graciously agreed to sit for a portrait.
I set up and started painting from observation that day when she was posing for me. I later finished the portrait from her photo.
Here is how it started:
My medium was half linseed oil half mineral spirit. The mineral spirit dilutes the paint and oil and breaks the paint’s bonds, making the pigment flow similar to a watercolor and the oil keeps the pigment flowing and glossy and bonds it to the canvas. I really enjoy starting out with translucent paint and then building up paint on top of it.
I selectively rendered some parts more than others and left others simplified and flat. The idea was to create visual contrast between the rendering style of different parts thus drawing attention to the part I was most interested in, which is her eyes.
Throughout the painting process her portrait acquired a variety of subtle variations in expression. Here are some photos
Values is a term in art that describes how light or dark something is. It refers to the grayscale value of a color.
How light or dark something is is one of the primary ways our visual system analyzes the visual world around us. It’s how we recognize something as a shape or an outline and it clues us to understand it as an entity.
In visual art it is a primary tool to emphasize and de-emphasize elements in a work of art. More specifically than value, it is the contrast that is used to make something stand out or disappear. When you start paying attention to how it is used in art, some of those lovely paintings and the way they were composed starts seeming very deliberate and not so random. It is not just that an artist gets an inspiration and an idea of what they want to paint, it is also that they then spend time composing the values of the picture to make the theme or subject of their painting stand out. So much so that in some cases it can almost seem shamelessly composed, yet seem entirely coincidental, unintended and realistic. Continue reading →