Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Denise at the Firehouse

I did this of Denise on a canvas I had gessoed over an old painting. The surface was a little slick and their was texture from the painting underneath. The slickness and the texture made me less shy about thicker paint and I worked in many layers and with opaque and transparent sections. I could have gone further but ran out of time. Karen

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Denise, Deborah, and The Feather Boa

Every time I look at this painting I think of the wild west. Our model Denise brought a dress she formerly used to deliver singing telegrams. Diana set her up against a bright red background (it was a some fabric hanging from the foldable screen). Costumes aren't my thing, but even I have to admit the effect was dramatic, and it was a welcome change in our routine. I manipulated the background to make it more interesting, shortened the wall and added Deborah, who always draws these incredible portraits in pencil. In this 16 x 20" acrylic, what works is the clear emphasis on the model: saturated vs muted, warm vs cold, sharp vs soft, more detail vs less detail.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


This was fun to paint because Denise brought a wonderful costume and a beautiful piece of red fabric, which we used for the background.

More work is needed on the hands/gloves, which are just barely plausible right now. The background also needs work, to bring out the pattern. I'll probably add some other colors to relieve the red mush. And, of course, the chair needs to be refined into something that looks like a solid, sittable object with real contours.

All of that will be pretty easy. More challenging will be the necessary work on the model's right eye. Something seems slightly wrong with it, but I can't figure out what, exactly.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Poet Karen

At first, one sees the person who is modelling; but little by little, all of the possible sculptures that could be made come between artist and model. Alberto Giacometti

I struggled with this painting! The right hand was in a difficult, foreshortened position. The left hand was somewhat hidden, but the visible parts were no less difficult. Resolving the hands took a good half of the six hours I devoted to this 24 x 24" acrylic. The enjoyable part turned out to be Georgianna's figure in the back, and the many grays in the background. In the end, I decided the hands were not going to stump me, and I kept at it until they came out ok. I worked on the hands and face, and then worked on the background if I got too tired. That's how I managed to finish. I figured if it did not end up a wonderful painting, I would at least learn something about painting hands in this position. Rebeca

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Rather than struggle with my hopeless portrait of Ricardo, I painted over that canvas. Vicki brought the pretty blue fabric for the background, which made all the difference.

This painting still isn't finished. The table, book, and pillow need refinement, as does the interaction
of the model's left elbow with same.

Overall, though, I think this is almost as successful as the portrait of Aurora. I feel as though I'm groping toward something like my own "style" of portraiture. It involves sharp outlines, smoothly modeled skin, patterned backgrounds, rich colors, and a large scale.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Our Two Year Anniversary

East Bay Figure Painting has experienced an influx of new people, so I thought I should write a short history of its origins, in celebration of our two year aniversary on November 28.

Susan Brand, Susan Newman, Karen Zullo Sherr, Barbara Maricle, Mike Warner and Rebeca Garcia-Gonzalez met at the figure drawing class that the Richmond Art Center then offered. Their first session was inspired by an invitation from Mike Warner to continue drawing and painting during the Richmond Art Center's winter break. He offered his shop in El Sobrante as our first location. Rebeca created the listserv, a Google group then called West Contra Costa Figure Drawing, on November 15, 2007. It was meant to keep everyone in the loop as they figured out how to keep the sessions going.

Back then, the group was primarily interested in painting the figure, so on November 28, 2007, they met to draw each other - they had no model! The second session took place at Rebeca's studio, and the third, at Karen's. The group hired amateurs until it was able to secure an account with the Bay Area Models' Guild. But the guild booking person at the time thought that sending models to rotating locations would be confusing, so Rebeca offered her studio as the primary location until the start of RAC classes. Soon after, Karen and Rebeca decided a three hour pose was not such a bad idea, so they began scheduling models with this in mind (as opposed to the 20 min poses at the RAC).

After a few weeks of this, they began discussing ways to make the volunteer-run environment welcoming and supportive, and settled for a few principles that are still part of both groups: Membership involved neither fees nor a portfolio review, just a commitment to painting, because they wanted members to have diverse approaches and levels of experience. Through a non-teaching environment, they wanted to encourage and support the development of members’ individual styles, believing this diversity contributes to a developing critical dialogue. And they encouraged members to share their knowledge of online communication, digital image processing, and the art market through free member workshops and joint projects.

At the same time, Karen and Rebeca began painting outdoors together. Their first session took place in 2007 on a very cold Tuesday. On January 8, 2008 they went to Inspiration Point in Berkeley, and they almost froze! They returned there the following week, but did not develop a steady routine until later. For a few months, it was mostly just them and a schedule that moved between Tuesdays and Mondays. From the beginning, they thought about painting on weekends but a busy family schedule made this difficult. Ever so slowly, they began meeting painters who had these days available, and who were very committed to painting outdoors. Mike found Larry Hatfield painting near his house in El Sobrante, and Karen brought Vicki Salzman. They were added to the proto-listserv, which was then open to anyone who wanted to join and held the names of those interested in figure or outdoor painting.

On February 2009 (fourteen months after its start) the listserv was vandalized for the second time and Rebeca was forced to close it, delete it, and start a new one with a new name: East Bay Plein Air. This list continued to include people from both groups until August 2009.

The first blog was devoted to plein air painting, and made its debut in May 4, 2009. Rebeca wanted to have a public space in which to announce locations, since the listserv was no longer open to the public. She also envisioned it as a collaborative space where members could post work done during the group's painting sessions. It quickly gained a big readership because it is updated frequently with members' work. The group also began advertising on Craigslist and on Facebook. Because of this the listserv has also grown, and now sends updates to 42 local artists. East Bay Plein Air sessions now meet twice a week, with anywhere from six to nine painters attending at any one time.

For more than a year since its beginning, the figure drawing group continued meeting in Rebeca's small studio, which held a maximum of five painters. Karen and Rebeca did the booking and coordination jointly, and quickly discovered that a small group of drop-ins cannot always afford the model's fees, so they decided to seek a more spacious location in the spring of 2009. This was the Richmond Art Center at first, but because the center was undergoing a renovation, it was very difficult to stay. This prompted Karen to broker an arrangement with the members of Berkeley's Firehouse Collective during that summer, and to think up a new name. By August, Rebeca introduced a blog and a separate listserv for this group, and Karen took over the booking and the coordination. The group, now named East Bay Figure Painting, began advertising almost immediately on Craiglist and other venues, to ensure they could cover the model's fees in the new location. The Berkeley location has attracted a steady group of about seven painters, and they have achieved a supportive environment respectful of diversity in artistic approaches.

During the fall of 2009 and as a group of long-time members contemplated exhibit opportunities, Karen and Rebeca held discussions on the direction in which these two groups should go. They decided to keep the two groups together as a collaborative network, Re-Emerging Artists. Its mission is to facilitate the re-entry of mature artists into the art world, so now the groups' interactions are centered on supporting clusters of re-emerging artists.

All comments are welcome!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Encouraged by the good results I got from working large last time, I painted Ricardo on a large scale today...with less success. The only parts of this painting that I'm happy with are the hair and the right hand. The shirt and background need a lot of work.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Aurora at the Firehouse

I did two paintings of Aurora. One of her alone and one in the series with the painters and the model. Although a few people had problems with her moving in her pose it did not bother me. She had a presence I liked. I usually don't pin down the exact shapes of the figure until very close to the end so I am not bothered much by changes in the pose. Both are acrylic on canvas.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Greek-American Woman

Aurora was very accomodating to a group like ours (since we have portraitists, figurative painters, etc.). She was sitting at a place where she was lit by both the outside light and an incandescent bulb, so that was interesting in itself. I had a 24 x 24" birch panel for this acrylic (because I ran out of canvas), and this one session to start and finish. Towards the end I added her cell phone and Ann's figure in the background, which I really like. Then I went home and finished the background, subduing it a bit so that our model could shine.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Poor Aurora fidgeted and drifted a lot. But, somehow, in spite of that, I got a painting from the session that made me happy.

The canvas was so big it didn't fit my easel, and I had to prop it against a board. Working so large made it harder to get everything in correct relative proportion...and, in fact, the lower body came out too small for the head, and I had to correct it. But working large made it easy to get a lot of detail into the face, which made up for the other problems.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Adrian and Diana at the Firehouse

I worked on this since we painted Adrian trying to develop a unified feeling and story of the model and the painter.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Adrian, Our Actor Model

I didn't really have a big plan for this picture, other than achieving a likeness. In all of them, I have tried to paint the figure and not necessarily to do a portrait. I did strive to catch the quality of Adrian's body, as he is a thin guy with a well-toned body. I was also into his shirt, which was he most wonderful green color. I used a lot of tranparencies for the skin, and some new (better quality)paints I bought: cadmium yellow deep and pyrrole orange. Rebeca

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Today I had a yen to draw, not paint. So I was able to do three portraits of Adrian.
The first one, in charcoal, is the best. The second one, in bright colors, gave me a chance to go crazy with oil pastels. It was fun, but the results are only so-so. The third, in pastels, sanguine conte, and pencil, came out okay.
(I don't understand how this blogging program orders the pictures! The first one I posted, the charcoal drawing, came out last when published.)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Leaving out the detail

In both these paintings I tried to leave out as much detail as possible as long as possible. Rain I worked on in the studio afterwards. Adrian I was planning on working on but decided to leave it like it is.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Rain is an aerialist, young and athletic, so
we asked her to do a standing pose and she
agreed. She held the pose well and did a great
I'm not sure about the background on this one.
The stark black-and-white screen almost overpowers the figure. My favorite part of this painting is the head and torso. It's nice to paint some bare flesh for a change!

Monday, October 12, 2009


I agree with Diana that Bruce is an excellent model. This 20 x 16" acrylic painting flowed. A good part of it is that he sat perfectly still, his pose never changing, not even by a centimeter. The other part is that we worked in absolute silence, broken only by Nina Simone and Diana Krall.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Bruce really knows how to sit still. Maybe it's because he meditates while he poses. In any case, he's great to paint.
I spent so much time on his face that some other parts of this portrait were a bit rushed. I may go back to the forearms and hands (aargh! those hands!). Also, it seems like the crotch is a bit short, as if it belongs to a smaller person than the upper body. That would be easy to fix. All in all, though, I enjoyed the session and feel happy with the painting.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Joaquin at the Firehouse

I did not like the way I had done Joaquin at the first session. And the composition wasn't right. At the second session I added two new figures and worked on the surface quality adding the text. It improved but I want to experiment with a variety of mediums and additives for the acrylics. Karen


Joaquin is an excellent model and I had a lot of fun painting this. I painted over an old portrait I didn't like, so the background is sort of blotchy. At one point, I thought the portrait of Joaquin might pop more if I changed the blotchy white background to some other color...but I'm glad I didn't. The weakest part of this painting is probably the arms, which are somewhat too short for the rest of the figure. However, it isn't too terribly noticable. Overall, I'm happy with this piece.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Becca at the Firehouse

Becca was late for both sessions at the Firehouse. The best part was when she saw a spider and slammed her shoe against the wall (while in the pose) and I thought a gun had gone off. But she had a sweet, sad quality and I feel like the painting reflects that. It is 16" by 20" in acrylic on canvas.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

When Models Move

It was hard to pin down a pose for Becca. I settled on this one (this is where plein air experience helps) then worked on the view past the wall separating the lobby from the inner gallery. Still, some parts look successful, like the foot closest to the viewer. The small canvas helped, but 11 x 14" isn't my favorite size, something about the movements my arm has to deal with makes it uncomfortable.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Painting Solvieg

This week we are painting a young women named Becca. But I am still working on the paintings from our last model Solvieg. I photographed it after the two sessions with her and again today after working on it for hours. I think this might be the last version but maybe not. Hope you can tell which is the latest version.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Today was my turn to set the pose. I improvised a settee and had Becca take a semi-reclining pose--a nice change from all the seated/chair poses we've had.

This painting came out a little cartoony. Also, the composition's a bit odd, in that the model's looking left, but there's a huge empty expanse at the right. I'm not sure whether to add something else to break up the whiteness, or just leave it alone, since it's a break from my usual tendency to fill every space.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Solveig is a fine model, but this painting of her was a big disappointment to me. Normally I can finish a painting in three hours and capture a decent likeness. This one doesn't look like Solveig, and it's far from finished. The only part I sort of like is the shirt, and even that isn't all it could be. This canvas may end up getting painted over!

Carla, Belatedly

This is the first painting I did with the East Bay Figure Painting group. The whole experience was very positive. The Firehouse is conveniently located, the painters who greeted me were warm, welcoming, interesting women, and Carla was great fun to paint. I had such a great time I joined the group.

I'm pretty happy with this painting, except for the shape of Carla's shadow, which looks a little artificial.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Barbara's a great model. She's punctual, motionless, accurate, and fun to paint.

While doing her earrings, I noticed that they're not identical--in fact, one is the upside-down version of the other!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Another Barbara

This is probably one of the tiniest paintings I have done all year, 12 x 9 inches. It was a masonite board I bought at Utrecht because I left my canvas at home. It is harder for me to work in this size, because it requires more control over my movements. I was happier with the way I handled her shoes this time, but what I really should have done is bring down all of the values in the painting so that the sparkle from those sequins done with pure titanium white would read like a sparkle. That was hard, though, because the blue light from the window was difficult to ignore, it was so bright and attractive.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Diana and the Painter

This small acrylic 12" by 16" was done when Diana modeled for us. Diana is also a painter and this was in my mind when I reworked the composition and the figures after the session.


Thursday, August 13, 2009


These are two portraits of Bonnie that I did at the Firehouse. They're both 18" x 24" and done in acrylics. I like to work fast and finished each one later.
Diana Blackwell

First blog!

Rebeca is kindly showing me how to blog. Her instructions are clear and easy to follow.
Yay! Watch out--soon I'll be posting regularly.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Barbara and the Painters

This small acrylic, 12" by 24'', continues a series I have started on the model and painters. I worked at it over two sessions with Barbara, our model, and then did more at the studio. My figure looks somewhat like Barbara and I wonder after a conversation I just had about portraits-- Is it a portrait?

Karen Zullo Sherr

Barbara At The Firehouse

I thought this was one of my better pieces for the summer, so I am using it as a first post. Barbara is a very experienced, excellent model from the Bay Area Models Guild, the oldest model organization in our area. This acrylic on canvas was done during a three hr session and it is not very big (16 x 20"). We placed her near one of our storefront windows, so she gets some of that great outside light.