Jeremy is a classically trained artist. Julie is a nutrition therapist.

View Jeremy's Gallery Website - jeremycsparks.com

View Julie's Food Blog - persnicketypalate.com

The Hardest Part of Finishing

So I know I haven’t posted in a while. Partly because I was out of town recently for a work conference and partly because I just haven’t been as active in my studio lately as I could have been.

I did manage a solid work day this past weekend working on this painting of Todd. I’m pretty happy with the drawing of the face though the color temperatures were starting to get away from me and I’ll have to correct that in the next pass.

Todd (in progress)

Todd (in progress)

I’ve been feeling a little mentally overwhelmed since I got back from the conference and I told myself that I needed a bit of a break to recharge the batteries. Having an extra day off this weekend for Memorial Day was both good and bad in this regard, it was an extra day to recharge but it also was a miss opportunity for a extra studio day.

Last night I remembered something that Eric Fischl told us at NYAA – “excuses are bullshit”. Various artists, and I don’t mean just painters but people working in any creative endeavor have said as much. I believe it was Dali who said something along the lines of “there is such a thing as inspiration but when it comes it had better find you at work in your studio”. Hemingway said something like, “inspiration is great for amateurs, the rest of us get to work.” You have to treat this not as a hobby but as a profession – I know that.

I didn’t feel like painting last night but I pulled myself down into the studio and found something that I knew the direction that I wanted to go in and could accomplish in a few hours — specifically the background for this painting of Todd. I had used this Prussian Blue before in some of the earlier layers of the portrait of Paul and Mandie. I love the hue but it was simply too dark for that painting so it was mostly covered over and I’ve been looking forward to utilizing it again for this painting.

Once I started painting all the weight I had been feeling left. I remembered why I enjoy painting so much and the hours flew by. I nearly missed out on dinner as I was so focused on my work. Fortunately Julie gave me a second (or was it a third?) call to dinner and I was able to finish up the background before cleaning up to eat.

Todd (in progress)

Todd (in progress)

Still a lot of work to do on this one but it’s starting to come together. But sometimes just starting is the hardest part of finishing.

In the Shade of the Old Oak Tree

In the Shade of the Old Oak

In the Shade of the Old Oak Tree (Nelson and Theo)

In the Shade of the Old Oak Tree (Nelson and Theo)
Oil on Panel, 18″ x 24″
© 2015 Jeremy C. Sparks

Todd – The Sum and the Parts

Got to sneak in a few extra hours of studio time yesterday. I’m almost done with the painting of Nelson and Theo, so it was awfully tempting to try to polish that one off but this painting of Todd was starting at me with so much potential that I really wanted to get the first real layer of paint on it.

Todd (in progress)

Todd (in progress)

I’m pretty pleased with how it’s coming along, considering this is the first real layer of detail and it’s only going to get better from here. I’ve been doing about four – five passes on a finished portrait lately so to have this one looking this nice so early on is really encouraging.

I was going back through some of my old posts from my early days at the Academy and came across an bit of instruction that I received from Harvey Citron who said my work was specific enough. What he meant by that was that I was focusing on making each line of the contour beautiful but in doing so I was losing the uniqueness and individuality of each line that added up to a beautiful whole.

I was thinking about that advice a lot when I was working on this layer of paint. I fear that I had fallen into that trap in some of my earlier paintings. It seems like a tautology that if the constituent components are individually beautiful the sum of the work will be beautiful but you also have to be faithful to the original and remember that this particular image chose you because it has some intrinsic worth or merit on its own.

Long Weekend Update

Had a day off this Monday and that means an extra studio day. It was supposed to mean taking the family to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, but mother nature decided that it needed to snow at the zoo on this particular day — so studio day it is then. Hopefully we’ll get to the zoo again soon though.

I still haven’t managed of finish off the other paintings sitting around my studio staring at me like so many puppies in the store window. But I really wanted to get started on this one. I’m not sure why, but these smaller format paintings really appeal to me. Going from 12″x16″ (192 square inches) to 18″x24″ (432 square inches) feels like much more than twice the work for some reason.

Here’s the first chromatic layer for this portrait of Todd; really just a thin wash or color. There’s still a very long way to go obviously but I’m really pleased with the start – this is going to be a great foundation to build the next paint layers upon.

Todd (in progress)

Todd (in progress)

I also worked this weekend on the painting of Nelson and Theo. I actually worked on it a bit more after I took this photo but the light is poor for photography in the studio today so I’ll have to post another image later on.

Nelson and Theo (in progress)

Nelson and Theo (in progress)

Now I need to restate the clothing and maybe glaze the leathery bits a bit warmer. Once that’s done I think it’ll just be one more finishing pass to get everything to the level it needs to be. Hopefully I’ll be able to finish it off this coming weekend.

Odds and Ends

I’ve mentioned in passing that I have a couple more paintings started that I haven’t posted here yet. I’ve really wanted to finish off some of the ones that are close before starting more but the paintings of Kayti and Nelson are pretty involved and are taking much longer to finish off than I had hoped.

This is one that I’m really looking forward to. Just the linear placement and a quick wipe-out to serve as a foundation but I’m looking forward to diving into this one.

Todd (in progress)

Todd (in progress)

I also have the next in my shushing series started. I’m just starting to block in the colors and separate the light masses. Hopefully it’ll move along quickly once I get into the next layers.

Shh (Linda, in progress)

Shh (Linda, in progress)

The Grind

I had some mild delusions of finishing this one off this weekend. But I left myself too much to do with the tattoos. There’s simply no getting around the fact that you just have to put in the hours to get them working right. It’s tedious work. And when Julie comes in she looks and says, “it looks better — what did you work on?”

I think that sums it up well. It’s clearly improving but the granularity is so fine that you can’t point to what exactly has contributed to the improvement.

Kayti (in progress)

Kayti (in progress)

At this point it’s really just about putting in the hours and pushing the rendering as far as I can. Whenever I begin to think about how much work I’m putting in for such incremental improvements, two of my mentors start to whisper in my ear.

I think of Alyssa Monks reminding us that, “you’re painting flesh; not the illusion of flesh”.

And also Vincent Desiderio who said, “you must be driven by the ravishment of the illusion”.

While superficially those quotes look like they are saying quite different things, I think they both really mean the same… good enough is not nearly good enough.