Friday, 27 February 2015 at 12:21

The Classic Portrait Approach - Andrew

About a year ago I felt the urge to really dive into portrait painting in oil again. So many references to the great painters I had admired my entire life ran through my mind. I started by getting really good image reference on my subjects. I had always noticed a place in our home that creates a great lighting situation. I set up the tri-pod and began to photograph the members of my family. I shot my son Andrew looking away from the window light source. I simply used the available light on this softly lit day. I have been trained to work from reference photos and the image created in my head. Many of the greatest realist painters, and even impressionists, finished their work in the studio away from the moment of inspiration. Or should I say with the inspiration that is locked in their mind.

From these photo images the spirit and character of Andrew that I had in mind were reveled even before I even took the pictures with a digital camera. I edited through all the images, played with the contrast and tonal balance in Photoshop, and printed out the ones that I felt strongly about. I built up a drawing on a canvas surface in pencil. I drew and redrew his image until I began to feel the painting evolve in my mind, a little different from my first intentions. I had this idea that Andrew was this Italian young man from the streets of Venice who wandered into our home. I would call this a portrait of an Italian man.

I start a painting laying down several layers of turpentine wash using Burt Sienna and Burt Umber along with Lamp Black to get the kind of warmth and glow baked into the grisaille I intended. Then, I selectively and carefully began to render parts of the portrait pulling the form from the flat surface to create volume and depth. I always strive to reveal the process in each painting with very selective areas being completely finished. I love the balance between the finished area of the picture that draws the eye, to the more abstract or unfinished areas that set up the drama of the light and form revealed. I think this approach creates a level of interest and engagement to the viewer different from completely rendering the entire image with the same focus. It creates a change of pace that makes the surface alive and active rather than passive and, possibly highly skilled, yet a little boring.

Shown at the start of the article is the finished painting my portrait of an Italian young man — Andrew, my son.


Thursday, 27 June 2013 at 12:32

Project Jazz Is…

This is about how an idea got out to the streets straight from my computer to some downtown buildings at this week’s international Jazz festival.  None of it would have happened without our Creative Collaborative. Here’s the context.

My friend and writing partner Charlie Myers and I are always tossing around ideas on how to create things that we could both get excited about.  We’ve been talking about creating something to complement the Jazz Festival for some time. We came up with an idea to develop a series of posters to express the emotional experience of what Jazz is. Now that we have an idea, where do we take it? Enter Doug Cole.

I met Doug Cole, the owner of SpeedPro Imaging Rochester through Creative Collaborative. Doug owns a pretty sophisticated large format ink jet operation in Henrietta. Doug, together with his young designer Jordan, is so much more than proprietor of a production house. Doug is like a visionary with large format print capability. He is also a really nice guy. I developed the initial poster to launch the Jazz Is series. I sent it to Doug and he loved it.

Doug called his friend Ken Sato. Ken is the creative force behind Big Picture Rochester. He has established relationships with people from the city and many of its building owners. In a matter of days, Doug called on me to prepare a high resolution file for a very large image. With Ken and Jordan doing the installations, were able to place large prints in two prominent locations. They will be visible to thousands of people during this year’s jazz festival.

It’s thrilling to me that this eclectic group of people was able to come together and make this happen in a remarkably short period of time. I think this is a prime example of the value of Creative Collaborative. You never know what’s going to happen when creative people get together.  All I know is that it’s great to get a piece out there for people to see. I also get to further a great friendship and develop some new ones. I think this is why I got into this field in the first place. Shown here are some action shots of our little hanging parties. One is at 488 East Main Street, corner of Grove Place, and the other is in front of the Wall Street bar on East Avenue between Union and Alexander.  For those who would like to see how the poster developed, I also have a separate post dedicated to its development.


Tuesday, 25 June 2013 at 15:13

Jazz Is


Ever since I can remember, I would listen to music when making art stuff. As a graphic designer, I use music today to motivate, inspire, focus, or shake up my point of view and mind-set when working on a project. Record album covers, then subsequent CD case graphics, are a big reason I fell in love with illustration and different conceptual approaches to image creation. Yeah...old-timer.

When the Jazz Festival was developed here in Rochester New York, I kept hearing from friends and folks who were questioning the musical performers or headliner acts. The issue seemed to be what defines jazz? What music should be represented under the name Jazz Festival? It lead me to some personal research around different types of music and how I might visually express various styles and genres of music through color, style, characterization, lighting effects, and image choice. I thought it appropriate that art could inform music. If properly expressed, it could both inform and create conversation around the definition or ideal of jazz. Talking this concept through with my longtime writing partner, Charlie Myers, the Jazz Is series was born. Charlie developed an extensive list of descriptive and emotive words that set us off in a direction. The first image to become a part of the Jazz Is poster series is my interpretation of the word pulsating. Jazz Is PULSATING.

At the same time, I wanted to experiment further with a digital/traditional blend of technology for image creation. I have loved many of the effects I get when I scan a pencil line on drawing tissue, charcoal smudge on textured paper, ink splats, ink dry brush or loaded watercolor brush.

Shown here are process images and the final of how I created the first Jazz Is poster. It started with a sketch or idea. Working from this core concept, many marks were made, scanned, and built upon on another with this idea of the final driving the process. I was looking for a quintessential, active, colorful, emotional, almost sexual image of the trombone player. The Trombone Shorty concert in the street from Jazz Fest past certainly played a role in the inspiration of this piece along with Charlie’s word, PULSATING. Shorty’s music certainly is that, and certainly seems to fit under the category of Jazz, maybe with a little New Orleans flavor built into its roots.


Tuesday, 20 December 2011 at 19:47

Tea Ring - Another medium...baking


Finished Iced Tea Ring With the holiday season upon us, the thoughts of my parents home and Christmas past took hold of me. I loved the way the kitchen heated up with my Mom turning into artisan and production artist all at the same time. I have often remarked that her kitchen is like my studio.  When she gets to holiday baking, stay clear of the kitchen..unless you wish to sample.

One of her many recipes that I really enjoy is her Tea Ring. I learned that it is essentially made like Nut Roll but is twisted into a ring shape and coated with maple flavored icing. The small nut roll cakes or cookies called Kolachi are a kind of mini version of the nut roll.  THese also bring on the Christmas feel when they appear. Deciding to go ahead and bring some of my past to our home, I gave Mom a call and she quickly emailed back with the recipe.  Since it was the first time I made it, I thought I would share. I put a little pressure on myself by counting on it as a client gift for the places I have had the good fortune of working with over the last year. A little pressure always helps a performance.

Even if I were to pull this off and have the Tea Ring come out well, that would still place me at least 3rd, probably 4th,  in the family for baking skill. I would tail Mom (Patricia), my brother Dwight, who is an engineer, and perhaps my sister, who makes some mean White Trash (the recipe that it).

Dwight always makes his own dough and would not think to use frozen. When Mom blessed the frozen, I I can definitely see where the dough would provide opportunity to take it to another level. That was a bit much to chew off the first time around, I thought.

Here is the recipe:

by Dr. Patricia Pakan

preparing nut mix paste
1 stick melted butter     +1 cup sugar     4 cups (1 bag) walnuts     milk as needed

Mix in a bowl. Add milk last and slowly. Mix should be moist, pliable, yet firm, not runny.
Should spread easily with a spatula.

preparing maple icing
1 cup confectioners’ sugar     2 teaspoons milk     2 teaspoons light corn syrup     1/2 teaspoon maple extract
In a small bowl, stir together confectioners’ sugar and milk until smooth. Beat in corn syrup and almond extract until icing is smooth and glossy. If icing is too thick, add more corn syrup.

preparing dough - Use 2 loaves frozen dough. Place in refrigerator the night before. Remove when ready to roll. Cut each loaf in 2 even pieces, each making a roll. Roll out to about 1/8th inch thick. Brush on butter after rolled out. Spread on nut paste evenly. Roll up as for jelly roll. Cut 6 slits across roll just revealing paste. Curl roll into a “C” shape and place on buttered pan. Let rise until double in size. Time varies but usually takes 2-3 hours or more

Bake 350 for 30 minutes or until browning begins.

When totally cool, drizzle (or coat) entire nut roll with maple icing.

Thanks Mom.


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