My husband and I were in London recently taking a tour of Chelsea. Known as the epicenter of Swinging London in the 1960-70s, it was home to artists, musicians, and models.
Though today it’s a more sedate upscale neighborhood, we were lucky enough to find one artist that still calls Chelsea home. Nick Bashall, one of England’s leading portrait painters (who has painted British royalty), offered to do a head sketch of my husband during our visit. It was magical how he transformed paint into living flesh right before our eyes (my hubby also got to watch through a well-positioned mirror.) Nick talked about how important it was to paint from life instead of photographs to truly capture the essence of a subject. The shiny areas in the photo are because the oil paint was still very wet. Nicky’s finished sketch on the left.
While getting my MFA, I took several figurative and portrait drawing classes. I always worked from photographs as I couldn’t coerce others to sit for me for hours at a time. Watching him work while we watched makes me even more impressed with his talent. If you ever get the chance, I’d highly recommend getting a portrait painted by Nick Bashall.
This is a painting I did of my husband done around 2009. He’s is still a handsome devil, isn’t he? Or would we call him a silver fox now?
One suggestion to working faster and looser is to on start multiple paintings at one time. I use the same paper size and color palette to work up four different versions. That way, I can just move from painting to painting, adding a little here and there, letting it evolve more naturally. Everything is a little less important or precious so I don’t get as frustrated when a painting isn’t working out. I just move on to the next one and come back later with a fresh perspective.
I am experimenting with acrylic poured painting, a style of painting where the paint is poured onto the canvas and the paint manipulated by tilting the canvas. It’s different from painting with a brush in that the outcome can never be planned, and all sorts of interesting things can happen. However, a downside of poured painting is that it can use up a lot of paint and that can get expensive when using professional quality materials.
Luckily, these poured paintings seem to work just as well with cheaper brands like Blick Studio and Amsterdam Standard Acrylics, generally marketed for the budget conscience student or beginner artist.
One of the first things I do when getting new paint is to make a color chart to see what is looks like on paper (it’s too hard to tell in the tube). I paint a black line first, then over that, I paint a swatch of each paint color. If the paper covers up the black line, then the paint is opaque. If I can see the black line, the paint is translucent. I use this information to know which colors will cover up other paint, and which ones will make nice sheer glazes over other colors.
It’s also an indication of density which is important in poured paints. Opaque colors are usually denser and will “sink” while lighter translucent colors will float to the top of the paint pour on a canvas. Stay tuned, as I will be posting some of these poured paintings in the weeks to come.
If you follow my Instagram account (@kathyfergusonart), you’ll know that I love street art. I don’t mean that horrible tagging of initials that defaces everything it touches. I am referring to the beautiful, creative art murals by street artists that grace many city buildings.
Brazilian artist Binho Ribeiro
Long Island City has a history of great street art beginning with the famous 5Pointz building. It was once considered a mecca for graffiti artists before its demolition in 2014. Fortunately, Art Org NYC is bringing back great street art with “Top to Bottom”, a curated public mural project in Queens. One of these projects is across the street from my studio and I get to see new artwork created almost every week.
Artist dMote – I love the tongue in cheek story of the street artist being chased from the scene
Top to Bottom is a series of murals by more than 50 artists, painted on the three-story exterior of a city block long building at 43-01 21st Street in Long Island City. If you go, make sure that you walk all the way around the building, looking both high and low – there’s a lot to see! You might even see an artist hard at work creating a new masterpiece. I have included some photos of my favorites.
After several different careers in my past, I’ve finally taken the plunge to being a full-time professional artist. Such a strange description, “professional”. When I was a civil engineer or a marketing manager, I never felt the need to add “professional” before my occupation. Still, I wanted to make it clear that while I love being an artist, I also consider it my profession. I work hard at my craft, continually expanding my education, and challenging myself to grow in skill. Being an artist requires wearing many hats, the creation of the work being only one aspect of the total.
I thought it would be interesting to document my journey and start a conversation about the reality of being an artist. I hope you’ll follow me as I embrace my new artistic life.