Thursday, February 20, 2014

An Ancient Commission: The Khazne of Petra

When Jerry Gilley asked me for a two-panel commission, giving me free reign provided that each panel was 10X20 and depicted something to do with travel, it took me a while to figure out what exactly I needed to do.  A collage of travel images?  Perhaps the Great Sphinx (since Gilley has been to Egypt)?  None of the ideas seemed right for the smaller panels. . . until one day I was flipping through one of my mother's books on Petra.  I have always been fascinated by the abandoned ancient city in the desert and longed to see its monumental architecture, feel its mystique-- and I thought of my mother's stories of living in Jordan many years ago.  I also remembered that Gilley mentioned Petra as a place he too would like to see. . .

The symmetry of the Khazne seemed perfect for the project, allowing a variety of ways to display the panels-- together as one piece [above] or separately [below].  That said, I played with the composition of the underpainting and background to ensure that the piece was not symmetrical to the point of blandness. I tried to paint it in colors that suggested the building's rosy desert tones, but also added jewel tones reflecting the geometric splendor of Middle Eastern art.  Since it might hang rather close to the Rome painting I did for Gilley, I also wanted to make sure that the colors would not clash.  This piece will be ready for Gilley to pick up at the opening of my new store on Clinton Row next month, and I hope he will enjoy adding it to his growing collection of my work.  As for the store-- Stay tuned for more on that in my next post! 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Here's to 2014!

Columns and Swirls [above] and Seasons Change [below, with an extra photo showing the texture of the piece and echoes of 2010's Emerging Red] are the last two paintings that I managed to complete in 2013.  In a sense, I feel as if I still have a bit of unfinished business left over from last year-- two portrait projects and a two-panel commission-- but at the same time, a new year always makes me want to formulate new goals, so I suspect that these projects might go in different directions than I previously expected.  We shall see!

As for my other plans for 2014, I am excited at the prospect of opening a small public studio come March (if all goes well).  This will be a very new step for me, but hopefully one which will help me to better serve my community, continue to ascertain what I need in a workspace, and gauge whether I should expand my business into a gallery/larger shop, dive headfirst into writing and design, or do any number of other things in the future. . . so many roads spread out before me, and I must choose each one wisely!  Naturally, I will continue to do commissioned portraits, as I very much enjoy painting human faces and figures and find the happiness that a portrait can give a client extremely fulfilling.  I would also like to get started on an idea for a series of paintings that has been incubating in my mind for at least two years now.  The sheer number of ideas swarming my mind is exhilarating; stay tuned for quite a year!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Painting in the Great Outdoors

The idea of plein air painting has always appealed to me, filling my head with images of the Impressionists zealously painting myriad light and weather conditions, of the lone artist blissfully stepping out into the city or the poetic woods one sunny afternoon with an easel and a vision.  That said, while I occasionally sketch outdoors or go out with my camera for the sole purpose of photographing the world around me, I tend to work indoors

Fall in the Park [above] was my first attempt at plein air painting in five years (if not more).  I was not accustomed to the constantly changing light, the challenge of finding a place to set up my easel, the spiders and other insects in my paint, nor the hushed tones of passersby. . . yet spending the afternoon in Huntsville's Big Spring Park with two friends, trying to capture the scene before my eyes before the sun set and the breeze quickened, was an enriching experience.  I very much wanted to capture the light in an Impressionistic fashion and painted in an alla prima style, but I could not help picturing the scene in many different styles.

This plein air sketch was done in water-based oils on a 24X30 canvas and is available for $250.  If you would like to purchase it for your home or office, please contact me via the comments section or the Christina Wegman Fine Art page on Facebook.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Daytime in the Courtyard: A Demonstration

Earlier this month, I was invited to do a painting demonstration for Mrs. Bess Jernigan Desta's class at Huntsville's Grissom High School-- thoroughly enjoying group presentations as I do, and relishing an opportunity to answer students' questions, I quickly set to work designing a composition for the class.  The above photo of Bess and me shows the painting by the end of the presentation. . . the lines of the composition were established, and I had begun to block in some of the darker areas for contrast. 

 During the middle stages of the painting process, I added complimentary colors and continued to establish highlights, mid-tones, and shadows.  An abstract of this kind relies heavily on composition, line, color balance (a science in and of itself), and contrast. . . while the composition is based on a row of buildings with balconies and a courtyard setting, I wanted to convey atmosphere rather than individual objects or "realistic" architecture.  Moreover, as with all of my abstract pieces, I wanted it to be stylized enough to be a world of its own, a catalyst for imaginative exploration.

For me, adding finishing touches often means cleaning up or reinforcing lines and colors, brightening areas, blending mid-tones or softening transitions between shadows and highlights, smudging brush strokes as I see fit, or even adding areas of thicker paint for texture.

The completed piece [above] will dry over the next few months in a cool room, away from dust and humidity, then I will apply a coat or two of protective varnish (which also further brings out the colors and gives paintings a lovely sheen).  Daytime in the Courtyard, painted with a mix of water-based oils and acrylics, makes a bold statement with its warm orange/mustard base, splashes of electric green and tranquil blue, and large size (30X40).  If you are interested in this piece or any other featured on my blog (or if you have any questions regarding my work as an artist in general), please feel free to contact me via E-mail or the Christina Wegman Fine Art Facebook page!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Roman Holiday in Technicolor

Having seen many famous depictions of the Roman Forum, I have come to understand painting the Ancient world to be a kind of artistic Rite of Passage.  Add a dash of Romantic poetry, and the picture is complete-- bone-white columns, a dusty green and gray landscape, a mild, aloof blue sky tinged with Classical nostalgia. . .  

Yet "faded" and "melancholy" were not at all the words that came to mind when I walked through the Forum Romanum this year during my recent trip to Rome.  Rome is a wild tapestry of past and present, ever bustling, ever spilling over with waves of tourists from every corner of the globe hoping to experience the oft-celebrated mystique of the city.  On a late afternoon in early summer, the Forum is fragrant with the abundant chamomile and sage entwined with poppies on every hill, and the scenery is electrified by brilliant pale greens, dusty roses and vibrant pinks and oranges, alive with the voices of young and old walking along the same cobblestones as Cicero once did.  

The above painting, a 30X40 simply titled Forum Romanum, is my first completed piece directly inspired by my trip.  Trying to find the perfect balance between my angular, stylized approach, the rounded elements of columns, and intricacy to be found at every turn in Rome is an interesting challenge, as is expressing the life and modernity to be found even in the well-worn paths of the Forum these days.  Rome has surely given me many new things to ponder, and one of the lasting influences that I am beginning to see in my work as a result is a revitalized approach to color (I am sure that my painting of Adrianna and Hel also owes its color scheme to sunny Italy).

The Forum Romanum painting has already sold and is sure to look stunning in its new home (enjoy, Jerry and Jenn!), but a new Rome-inspired piece is already in the works if you, dear reader, would like one of your own, and I now have many pictures lovingly taken by me and happy memories to sort through for reference if anybody would care for a more custom piece!

Monday, September 16, 2013

On Display: Art@TAC Gallery

Last week, I dropped off two new pieces at the Arts Council Gallery in the Von Braun Center.  If you are in downtown Huntsville, be sure to have a look at Terra et Caelum [above] and Romantic Arabesques [below] as well as all of the other wonderful artworks on display and available for purchase!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Where Literature and Art Collide

Earlier this year, I created a portrait for my friend David based on a character from one of his stories.  The experience and results were thoroughly enjoyable, so I was thrilled when one of our conversations led to a new commission.  In one of the story concepts David is working on, Adrianna, goddess of storm, and Hel, goddess of the underworld, both fall in love with the protagonist; they are rivals for his affections, yet must be allies in order to help him become what he is meant to be.  It is a wonderful tapestry of fantasy, allegory, mythology, and religious and political commentary that could easily fill multiple volumes, and I wanted to portray the two goddesses in a modern and original way-- stylized faces, electric neon colors, nods to David's love of comics and cartoons (without losing the daring touch of fine art or becoming stereotypical).  It was thoroughly refreshing for me to work on Adrianna and Hel [above]; I hope that David will enjoy adding this new piece to his growing art collection!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Michele Times Two

When I first began offering commissioned portraits last year, my friend Michele was happy to pose for a portrait that I could keep in my collection to show prospective clients [below].  This year, a few friends pitched in so that we could present Michele with a smaller portrait [above, 16X20] for her birthday.  I like to think that this second piece gave me the opportunity to present Michele in a more personal, less theatrical light.  The first piece is far more glamourous, the second focuses on Michele's sweet eyes and impish smile.  My color choices for the second piece were influenced heavily by the neutral browns and beiges of Michele's house and her love for Ancient Egypt.  In fact, the pattern in the background was inspired directly by designs on Ancient Egyptian columns.  Since Michele also prefers realism over abstraction, I kept the piece fairly illustrative, taking it as an opportunity to use back-lighting to keep Michele's charming features soft.  I hope that she will enjoy her new painting for many years to come!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Recent Projects and Sources of Inspiration

What strikes me most about my last three commissions is that they are completely unrelated.  When creating custom pieces, I must be prepared for any number of different requests and challenges, and I tend to believe that my work actually thrives on this level of variety.  Painting the above three-panel divider for my friend Jennifer P., for instance, was a wonderfully liberating experience.  Jennifer was smitten by the free-flowing, colorful abstract patterns on the divider I keep in my studio (I enjoy wiping my brushes off on it), and picked out a color scheme that would match her home for a divider of her own.  She wanted a random-looking abstract composition, so I starting to play with washes, drips, and splatters, imagining branches in the rain as I plotted out the direction and balance of each element.  Because the panels are thick paper, I made sure that the runny acrylic would bleed through to the other side [see below]-- no matter which way she turns it, she will be able to enjoy it!

Phil's commission [below right, beside the painting that inspired it] was based almost entirely on one of my abstract color studies. . . he very much liked the composition, but needed a color scheme that would match his interior.  While at first glance the second painting may simply look like a copy of the first in different colors, I softened the lines and made a few subtle changes to make sure that the minty greens would not be overshadowed or become too jarring.  It is a much smoother rendition overall.  What does not show in the image is that I also employed the use of soft metallic copper paint in the new piece.  I met Phil at a local Hackerspace melting down aluminium cans, so I thought this metallic touch appropriate!

My third recent commission was a portrait; Janeil [below] was based on a photo taken of my client Rick's wife at camp in the 70's.  I know that Janeil likes to work on scrapbooks and make greeting cards and that her favorite color is purple, so I tried to incorporate all of these things into the composition.  As with a portrait I completed last year of Eugene and Georgia Baxley, my main reference photo was a scanned image of a small family snapshot.  I had to use a few school portraits of Janeil as reference to get an adequate likeness.  I find portraits of this kind to be incredibly difficult to do well because the reference material is often blurry or discolored, but it is also incredibly rewarding to be able to bring a cherished but faded or blurry snapshot to life in this manner!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

All Roads Lead to Rome

At last, Rome!  I have painted the Eternal City in the past, studied Latin, and many of my friends have travelled to Italy before me, yet it was not until this summer that I was able to see Rome with my own eyes (as well as Avezzano and Alba Fucens in Abruzzo).  With blue summer skies above and buildings as softly-colored as sherbert, ornate marble, ancient monuments, and throngs of excited people milling about, I wound up snapping 1,513 pictures by the end of two weeks.  Here is a small selection of my favorites!

The Colosseum by Night

The Colosseum by Day

The Theater of Marcellus

Wild Poppies and Summer Wheat

In the Shadows of the Pantheon

Traces of Ornamention Behind the Pantheon

A Chance Encounter

The Many Who Wish at the Trevi Fountain

The Dying Gaul and His Modern Mourners

The Crypt of Pope Hadrian

Nuns Leaving the Rose Garden on the Aventine

Summer Roses

A Roman Bee

The Basilica of Maxentius

A View from the Hills

The Temple of Saturn

The Roman Forum
View from the Palace of Domitian

Swiss Guard

Chairs for a Papal Event

Light Streaming into the Lateran Cathedral

Beauty Among the Ruins

A Rose in the Late Afternoon
The Aurelian Wall

Tombs Beyond the City Walls

 An Ancient Amphitheater in Alba Fucens, Abruzzo