Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Tail of two whales(part2)

This is my first painting in almost 7 years; it’s been way too long. I started this whale painting back in March 2011. My original plan was to do another bird painting for a Quails Unlimited auction here in California, I had donated one back in 2004, but time didn't permit. I waited too long to get started and couldn’t meet the deadline in April. That bird painting is now in the works and I will revisit that in another post. I do have two other bird paintings that I started back in 2004 and I could have finished one of them but they were not working for me. I decided to do them differently at some later time and since another whale painting was also on my to do list, well here I am. This painting is something I have wanted to do for a long time now. I should say that it is something that I should have been doing! My Dad encouraged me to do two paintings for him back in 1979 (see part 1), but they were similar to the work of another artist, Richard Ellis, so it was time to do some from my own ideas.

This is the original painting by Richard Ellis. My Dad gave me a book of his art, (The Book of Whales), to encourage me to do some whale paintings of my own. I actually used a black and white 4 X 5 picture from either a magazine or the news paper of this painting to do the one I did back in 1979. If you click on his name it will it will take you to his web site. Here is another site to check out also.

Gray or Humpback? Which one should I do first? Another Humpback was what I decided to go with for now so I used the 1979 Humpback painting as my starting point but changed it so it would not look anything like the first one. I was able to find a lot of good reference material on the web, which I did not have for the first one. It is a little hard to get on a plane or boat sometimes and go where the animals are. Even if I could have done that, they don't just pose for you (if they even show up), so you have to get creative. Someday I would love to actually swim with whales in the ocean, just another dream of mine.

Some of my reference material and the sketch of the Baby whale for the new painting.

Ok, it is time to slap some paint on the board! As I got started, things moved quite well at first. It felt good to finally start painting again. It is hard to explain the feelings I had when I laid down those first few strokes. Back in October of 2010 I had primed three boards to do some paintings and once I did get started, I was excited. Maybe I got a little too cocky in the beginning but by the time I had finished, the experience had humbled me.

The background took two attempts to get it the way I wanted. My first thought was to do it as if the light was streaming down through the water but on my second try I went with a U shaped blending from light to dark, top to bottom and felt that was much better. Next I focused on the underwater waves at the top of the painting. If you look at that area of the painting, you will notice that there is a slight slope going from right to left. I wanted to force the angle to give more of a sensation of the whales diving. I worked on that part over and over again about five or more times (probably more) trying to get it to look right. At one point I had to go back over the background at the top because the angle on the left side was getting a little weird. It was sloping way too much on that side. I had to re-blend the top part which was not fun but I got it to work. I actually had to paint over the baby a little but that was no problem. You will notice as the painting progresses how much the top area changes from the beginning to the final piece. Every time I felt like I had it the way I wanted or how I thought it should look, I would go back and change it. I got so frustrated at times I thought I would never get it right. I still don't think that it is but I learned some things in the process and it will help me on the next painting.

My first attempt for the background

My second attempt on the background. More better!

This was my first attempt at the underwater waves. 

I took a break from that area of the painting at one point and decided to start on the whales. It was a good thing I did because they went a lot quicker and it did help me to figure out how I wanted the top to look when I went back to it. It would have been better to do the top last anyway but another lesson learned! There was some reworking on the whales at times in regards to color, shading and details but for the most part there were no real problems like the top of the painting. The two drawings show just how much I changed things from the first painting. The top drawing was for the 1979 painting and the  bottom is the latest one. You will notice how much more detail I added to this one. Compared to the first paintings, I wanted this one to be more realistic, like you were right there in the water swimming with the whales. Once I decided on the pose of the whales and added the details I transferred the drawings to the painting. The reflection on the baby is one area that I could have done better if I had more time. The mother was further down in the water so I didn't feel like she should have the reflection and I wanted her tail to be fading off in the distance to give some depth to the painting. I remember telling myself, “if I had another day, week, hell I could have spent another month and probably still would have taken it to the last day”. I know the more I paint the less I will re-work areas, then again maybe not! I am just too much of a damn perfectionist!

Drawing for the 1979 painting

Drawings for my recent painting. I changed the look of the tail 
on the baby before I transferred the drawing to the painting. 
Didn't like the way it looked.

Added the baby to the painting and started work on it

The mother being add next

Painting the outline of the mother. You need
a steady hand for this.

Once I had the outline done it was time to get started adding some color.

Still in the beginning stages but both whales are stating to take shape. 

Moving along. At this point I was working on defining the shape and color of the whales 
and how the light would affect them. 

Here the whales really started to take form. Getting some depth to the painting to. 

Thar be Whales! Adding more detail and color to both whales. Still need to
work on the top part of the painting! If you click on the picture 

you will see the white line just below the mothers left flipper.

You will notice that there are some fish in the picture too. The ones under the mother are there on purpose, but the one down farther is not. I saw a piece of hair on the board and thought I could remove it without any problems…NOT! I should have just left it alone but it was bugging me. It’s just one of those things that no one else would have seen. Anyway, when I lifted it off there was a white line that was very noticeable. I think I swore at the time but I knew from the last to whale paintings I did that I could fix it. That is why the fish is there.

Itty biddy fisheys. The one at the bottom covered the
white line.

When I had started the painting I had no intention of entering it in any exhibitions. I just wanted to paint again! I had been checking the internet and going to art shows here in San Diego where I live to see which one(s) might be the best to get into at some point down the road, hopefully next year. I have a lot to do though to meet that goal! I think someone at work mentioned the San Diego County Fair to me. All of the big art shows cost $600 to $700 to acquire a 10x10 booth and you have to submit your art to be accepted first. This is normal for most of the art shows but that was way more than I could afford and I didn't have enough paintings to meet their criteria, so it was out of the question for now. But the fair was very reasonable at $16.00 to submit one piece. You could enter two per category and as many categories as you wanted. I made the deadline by the 29th of May, which was actually the last day you could enter. Not that I was trying to procrastinate. I thought I would have to show a picture of the painting when I signed up but I didn't and I found out that I still had until the middle of June to finish the painting, which was good because I was not done.

The mother and baby were pretty much done here.
Still working on the top of the painting!!!!

At this point I decided to redo the background to fix the underwater waves at the top. 
You ever just have that feeling like something is not right and you try to fix it but it is not working out!
I could have left it this way but I am more satisfied with the look of the final piece!

It was time to burn the midnight oil and I did. I was still working on the painting the morning before I had to take it in for the judging and I still didn't think it was done. The day I had to take the painting in to the Fair, I went in to work first to frame it. When I showed it to one of the ladies, Patti Gabrielson. She mentioned how the baby and the reflections on it looked great; she really liked that part of the painting. I said, “Really? That was the one area of the painting I was still working on that morning and didn't think it was done or looked right”. I am somewhat apprehensive to show people what I am doing until I finish it but I am learning that it is better to get help while you are painting so you can overcome the hurdles that you might have. I had to tell myself that morning, “stop Mark and go with what you have”. I remember being so frustrated thinking it would not get entered but I had to let it go and submit it the way it was, even if I didn't think it was done. I had been telling myself from the beginning, “it is not about whether you get accepted or win any awards it is about painting!” That was the best attitude I could have because it helped me in the end. When I took the painting up to the Fair that day and saw all of the artwork I remember saying to myself, “Man there are a lot of good pieces of art here”. I felt like this was going to be tough to get in. It was intimidating to me. Walking back to the car I just had to tell myself, “you can't worry about it. If you get in, then you get in. If you don't, you don't! It is about painting again”! I know I am repeating myself and I will continue to because it really helped me to get through it!

The finished piece, framed and ready to go to the fair for judging.

Did I get in? I was not really nervous waiting to see if the painting had been accepted which surprised me but I kept that attitude of, “I am painting again”! I had to keep telling myself that. Family and friends kept asking me, “did you get in?” and I had to say, “I won't know until the middle of June”. The day I got the email from the Fair it didn't say if my art had been accepted or not. It just said “Congratulations, attached is a file of the art that was accepted into the Fair this year”. Talk about the suspense. Can I have a drum roll please! I downloaded the file to see if my name was there and when I saw it, I think I shouted “Woohoo!” Then I said, “Who’s your Daddy”. It was just that all the hard work and frustration had paid off. Now I had to see if I had won anything.

Next was the awards ceremony. At first I was not really thinking of going. I wasn't sure I wanted to get into all of the showmanship, but I am glad I did go. I am not big on getting up in front of people and please don't ask me to speak. I would not have had to because there were a lot of awards to hand out; people just went up to the stage to get their award and then returned to their seat. I do know I am going to have to speak at some point down the road. Boy! What have I gotten myself into? I can be a shy person sometimes and I feel like more often than not I say the wrong things! Open mouth and insert foot! What is in my head and heart doesn't always come out the way I want and it can frustrate me. It was fun though and it was another learning experience! The day before the awards ceremony I had asked a dear friend of mine, Martha Lopezllera, to go with me. I was nervous about asking her, (Mister shy boy that I am), especially at the last minute. But she said yes and I am glad because it made the night special having someone there to experience the event with me. I didn't want to go by myself but I would have if no one else could go. I wasn't sure if anyone else could attend, the fair didn't specify that on the invitation. Now I know that everyone and his mother-in-law can come. So you’re all invited next time!

I was a little nervous and excited at the same time at the awards ceremony. I know, I'm weird, it is just who I am. I kept telling myself, “Whether you win something or not, you got in and that is an accomplishment in itself Mark”. Out of 1400 entries, they only accepted about half. So getting in was a reward for me. As they started to read off the names of the people who did receive awards, I remember feeling a little disappointed but I came in with the attitude that no matter what it is about painting again! I really feel that not winning anything was the best thing that could have happened to me at this point and time. It will push me to paint more! Maybe this was another humbling experience for me so I don't get too cocky! The rewards will come but for now it is the painting! After the awards ceremony everyone was allowed to walk through the exhibit hall to see all of the artwork. As Martha and I went through the section of artwork that won awards she said, “You should be here”. I commented, “Maybe next year”. I learned some things about what the judges might be looking for next time but I know in the end I have to paint what I like. I have spent almost my whole career doing art for other people. Now it is time to paint what I enjoy. If you like it, that is great and if not, it’s OK! Not everyone will. This painting was a real labor of love for me. I had days of frustration and excitement. There were days when I thought I was not going to get it right and I felt like I wanted to give up. There were times I felt like throwing it in the trash can and starting all over again, but I hung in there and I am glad I did! I learned some new things through the whole process and I was humbled by the experience in the end. I have started another whale painting and have more that I want to do but they are not going to get done by talking about it. It’s time to slap some more paint on the boards!

Me at the fair with my painting a week before it closed. Boy do I look like a starving artist or what?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Tail of two whales (part 1)

I decided to begin with some background about these three paintings first instead of the one I just completed; you will get a better idea of why I did the latest one. In 1979 my Dad had asked me to do some whale paintings for him. I was just out of college and looking for work, so I had some time on my hands. I know he was trying to get me to do something with my art back then. If I had stuck with it, I would have been a lot further along than I am now. He had an interest in oceanography, and that is putting it mildly. I remember as a kid the whole family sitting down to watch Jacques Cousteau when the specials came on TV or when my Dad took us to either the Bird Rock tide pools or the jetty at Mission Bay to explore. I think that is when I got interested in it myself. 

Bird Rock, San Diego, CA, 1964. My little Sister is standing on the rock
 My Brothers and I are in the background.
I am the one in the red shorts.
I love the ocean and have always enjoyed getting into the water to explore or just watching the waves. I am definitely an outdoors kind of person and I love to get out and experience nature. When he asked me to do the paintings I was not sure if it was something I could do and I even told him that. To this day I will never forget what my Dad said to me. It wasn’t “try, I think you can” or “see what you can do”, he just said “Yes, you can!” in a soft and confident voice. It was not the response I had expected him to give but it gave me the motivation to do it. He saw the God given talent in me and always encouraged me to never give up on it. Those words have really stuck in my head since my Dad passed away in November of 2009 from Alzheimer's. I owe it to him and everyone else that has encouraged me to fulfill my dream.

My Dad at Sea World of San Diego, CA.
I think this was taken in the 1980's

Gray whale painting I did in college

I had actually done a smaller painting of the gray whales for an assignment back when I was in college and I think that gave my Dad the idea that I should do some larger ones. It took me three days to do each painting. They are replicas of another artist, Richard Ellis, but with some of my own artistic embellishments. The backgrounds I airbrushed with gouache watercolor paint and then painted the whales on after with gouache and acrylic watercolors. I remember that I had a problem with water getting on my hand when I dipped my brush into the water bucket and it would get on the painting which caused spots on the background. Had I sprayed workable fixatif on it or sealed it with a varnish before I did the whales I wouldn't have had that problem. At first I didn't know how I was going to fix it, I really didn't want to redo the background. So I started to use a cotton glove and then turned the spots into fish. At the time I didn't know that the whales have fish that follow them. I have also learned to keep paper towl around so as to get rid of any excess water on my brush's and to use a piece of heavy paper to lay down on areas that I have already painted. Every time I look at them I am amazed at what I did. They were my first attempt at that size of a painting, both 22” X 28”. That was probably another reason that I was not sure of doing them when my Dad asked me. He might have even said to me, “paint them as big as you can”. If he had had his way I would have done them on the walls in the house and I think he did say that. 

Humpback whale painting

The Humpback whale painting is now in Hawaii at my Aunt’s home. I took the painting over there as a gift in 2007 before my Uncle passed away; it was my last trip to Hawaii before I had my heart attack in 2008. I had been traveling to the big island every year since 2003 and wanted to do something nice for allowing me to stay at their home. One day my Uncle was proudly showing it off to some neighbors that had come by and I remember how special I felt when he did. He was a lot like my Dad. It reminded me of how my Dad used to show off both of the paintings whenever someone came over. He would say, “Look at what my son did”. I would try to look nonchalant and be cool, like it was no big deal. Every person would say, “You should be doing that full time!, or “what would it cost to paint me one?”. My Uncle and Aunt helped me at a time when I just needed to get away from San Diego and recharge my batteries. I can’t think of a better place for the painting to be now.

Da kine Uncle and Aunti, aka Doug and MurielKeauhou Beach Resort, 
Big island of Hawaii, 2005. 

Gray whale painting

The Gray Whale painting I had given to my Sister but it is now back in my hands. When she and her family moved to Texas they couldn't take it with them. When I originally gave it to her she started to cry. The Sunday before my sister and her family moved to Texas, I went to their church with them. The preacher’s sermon was about, “what were you born to do?” What is your dream? What are your talents? And what are you doing with them? Something that seems to be happening to me a lot lately and that I do think about from time to time. My sister looked at me and said, “Ya Mark”! Was it coincidence? Maybe. I believe that things happen in our lives for a reason. It is what we do about it that matters. A singer on the radio station that I listen to a while back made a comment about one of his songs, “God doesn't care about where you have been! He cares about were you are going”! I believe that is true in every aspect of our lives! The paintings are special to my family and I because of what they meant to our Dad. When we look at them, they remind us of him more than the fact that I actually painted them and I like that. Time to get back to it and paint some more!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Yes You Can

I am finally getting back into painting, wow! Maybe the best way for me to describe it is finding that long lost love and never wanting to let go again. You know you are going to have to work hard at it, “really hard”, in order to keep it this time but the rewards will be worth it. Painting again has been a lot of fun for me and I have learned some new things as usual. Yes, there have been frustrations and times when I just want to give up on it, but I've stuck with it. I had to keep telling myself, “You can do this Mark, don't give up” My mantra is, “YES YOU CAN” something my Dad said to me a long time ago when he asked me to do some paintings for him and it has just stuck in my mind since he passed away in 2009. I do not want to give up on my dream this time and I can't. I would be lying if I said I wasn't downright scared because I know I have to promote myself at some point and it is not one of my better qualities; writing isn't either! And I am, well, somewhat intimidated by doing this blog. I have had a lot of support and encouragement from family and friends over the years and I owe it to them to keep at it. Time to take that leap of faith and step out of my comfort zone! I owe a special thanks to Jennifer Wheeler for her help in the “editing” of my thoughts for here and my web site. Thank you dear! I hope you enjoy my blog and that you will learn and be encouraged by it as well as I do also from those who comment on what I post.