Natasha 3 hour study- demo

Philip Howe Fine Art
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This quick piece was a direct study on rough canvas and has the look of a sketch. It retains a fresh, contemporary feel but I have always felt work done in this somewhat unfinished look are simply studies and not on the level as fully rendered paintings. They are, however, very popular in galleries, something I try not to think about as it might influence my working method. Only after a piece is done do I think more about whether I want to sell it or not.


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Pencil on canvas

I tend to start out with most paintings by either pencil or charcoal drawing the designed image out directly onto canvas or gessoed panel via projector or freehand, or- by brushing the drawing on, usually loosely so that just the most basic of edges are noted.
Here I have used pencil and my years as an illustrator still creep in and push me to draw in considerably more than I really need to. The better you get at painting the more likely you can do the effects you want right off without any need to restart. Illstration teaches you that you have one shot at it, because of deadlines, so it better be good. So while my mind tells me that there's no need to do much of a drawing at all anymore, just a few basic lines here and there, I find myself, on occasion, reverting back to the few minutes more that it takes to draw in more than I really need. In fact, the more tonal I get, the less I want ANY drawing. While I see some artists struggle to define the drawing from abstracted shapes and a bold start, they spend more time trying to find the accurate drawing then if they had just taken and drawn out a few guidlines in the first place. There are very few artists working today who have developed enough drawing skill to be able to go into fresh paint with no drawing and refine it until an accurately drawn face and figure comes into vision. You can see many examples of those who try, check out any current fine art magazine on realism. Those attempts always look mediocre at best but its good training I suppose. I know its helped me draw with the brush better, but beyond that it seems like more vainity than trying to do a good piece without an underlying sketch or drawing. I think I fall somewhere in between and advanced students will know what I am talking about - You don't want too fine a drawing to hold you back and you don't want too little of a drawing to force you to spend more time finding the drawing in the paint. To each his own. For now, I prefer somewhat less of a guide than what is shown here.

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Quick block in over lightly fixed drawing
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Full block-in at 15 minutes

You never know how long a piece will take. After a period of time something tells you to just stop and leave it alone. I could have easily refined lots of areas but it felt right to just leave it with this spontaneous look, I suppose because it was just that- spontaneous. After 3 or 4 hours I just stopped and moved on to something else. A lot of artists' best work are their sketches. If you ever get to see the illustrator Joe Leyendecker's studies then you are in for a treat if you like great drawing and fresh, nearly faultless brush technique. For me, I have to really work at leaving it alone since I am more of a finished-look painter as opposed to a sketch-look. Some guys can just throw paint on and it looks better than their finessed attempts. Its what is in each of us naturally that the best work comes out. Like some students just naturally grab up a lot of paint on their brush while others fear it and work in washes or a safer method. I am constantly looking at other techniques, wanting to pick up little tricks and methods that might make my work better and often easier.



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Near final at around 2 hours
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Natasha 3 hour study 20x30'

Above is the final. The freshness of each single stroke is left and not disturbed by blending, which I rarely do anymore. I prefer to just drop in more opaque solid color here and there for effective changes if needed. Everything to this point was laid in with a 3/4 inch bristol filbert. I prefer the longer tapered soft ones as they will hold more paint and give a clean drawing edge at the tip or heavy flat stroke if held sideways to the canvas.

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