Burnt Umber

After a few pencil sketches, I was ready to start painting. I enjoy drawing with pencils and all, but I would rather be painting. This entire oil sketch is done with 2 colors: Burnt Umber and White.

Oil on Paper, 12” x 9”— 28 September 2021

While painting today, I kept thinking about the time when I went to see Michelangelo’s drawings at the MET Museum some years ago. There were so many impressive drawings by him, but the one that caught my attention was his hand-drawn grocery list for his guests. The list is owned by the Casa Buonarroti museum, Florence, Italy. Sometimes, when I am executing an oil sketch–and as hunger strikes–I think about that grocery list.

In the same spirit of sharing grocery lists, here is one of my simple meal to go when I am painting elsewhere: homemade bread, sardines in olive oil.

Je’s Sourdough Bread Recipe

  • 280 grams of sourdough starter
  • 200 grams of water
  • 5 to 10 grams of salt
  • 360 grams of unbleached flour

Instruction: Mix all the ingredients together & knead for 10 minutes or so–keep in mind that this is very wet and sticky dough. Put the dough into a proofing basket, let it rise for 2 – 3 hours in the room temperature (or leave it overnight inside your refrigerator), and then thrown the dough in the oven for 40 minutes at 500 degrees F.

This is my simplified version of the traditional sourdough bread making process. I encourage you to search the internet for detail versions.

Making sourdough bread requires a similar patience required when painting with oil colors–one must plan ahead, and execute flawlessly when the time comes.


A Long Pose after a Long Pause

To me this painting sums up a bizarre chapter that we have lived through since our lives have been disrupted by Coronavirus–this is my first painting from a long pose that lasted 3 weeks. I have done smaller paintings from shorter poses in the recent weeks, but they were color studies.

Painting from the Art Students League of New York
16″ x 20″, Oil on Canvas–Livia, our model, posed for Sharon Sprung’s class at the Art Students League of New York. Inside the studio, only the model was allowed to take off her mask.

It has been a pretty intense three weeks. There is never a dull moment these days. Everyday, I worried that the painting sessions would be interrupted by another surge of Covid-19. I suppose, every painting is influenced by internal and external factors, but it’s pretty terrible when a project comes to an unexpected halt.

While filled with what seems to be all around bad news around the world, there we were, in a studio full of ~20 fully vaccinated artists and 2 models, painting away. For 3.5 hour stretch of daily painting session, my attention simplified by shutting down the distractions and by focusing on basic necessities: lighting, heaters for our model, colors, and accuracy of my drawing.

All has gone safely thus far after 3 weeks of painting at the Art Students League of New York. I am grateful that the League has reopened and that I am able to continue my search, whatever that maybe. Thank you.

The long pause has forced me to reassess and adjust my plans so I can continue to paint. The change of plan was absolutely necessary.

What’s Happening?

  • The Delta Variant of Covid-19: The confirmed cases and death have been going up in many parts of the U.S.
  • Cryptocurrency: China has been cracking down on cryptocurrency. In their latest move, it stated that all cryptocurrency transactions are illegal.
  • The Debt Limit: Unprecedented spending by the U.S. government will likely require increasing the debt limit.

Oil on Canvas, 16 inched x 20 inches

As you can imagine, there are lots of different canvas size choices for a painting. After spending 2 weeks drawing and painting from the same model, I finally experienced the “A-ha” moment, allowing me to decide on a canvas size: 16 inches high and 20 inches wide.

On the easel – After 1st sitting

I had bought some cotton canvas some months ago, and I decided to prepare it for this project. I know it’s a lot easier to make use of already prepared canvas and all, but I do enjoy building every aspect of my project. For this particular job, I built a frame which allowed me to stretch the canvas so I can apply gesso.

There are so many materials to choose from when preparing canvases. One can spend considerable amount of time going through various options. For me, the most important aspect of canvas preparation for oil painting is to ensure 3 things:

  1. Smooth surface – I like little to no texture on my canvas
  2. Low oil paint penetration – There is nothing enjoyable about painting on a surface that soaks up oil paint.
  3. Portable – Whatever the size, it needs to fit through NYC subway.

I look forward to continue working on this painting next week.


A New Beginning

After months of anticipation, I have returned to the Art Students League of New York earlier this week, painting among familiar and new painters at the league. It has been beautiful to paint from life once again as it has been done before the pandemic.

You see, the League and the artists there had survived the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 2018. Fast forward 100 years, we are now in the middle of battling Coronavirus Pandemic, but better equipped to fight thanks to multiple vaccines that are now available–I suppose only time will tell what happens next. At the moment, New York City is preparing all its school students to start 2021-2022 school year on Monday, 13 September, including under 12 year old students who couldn’t be vaccinated.

September 13, 2021 — I spent some extra time with the model today, getting the likeness by moving some paint.

September 10, 2021 — Here is my first oil portrait that I have worked on this week. I chose to work on a small canvas board to test drive all my materials, including some new brushes and colors.

On the easel – 10 September 2021 – WIP