Saturday, April 30, 2011

Painter of The Point

Here was a random article that was published the other day. I was in Greenwich, CT for the Edward Minoff show and decided to kill some time by painting before the gallery opened. As I was working a Reporter asked to take some photos.

Painter of The Point

Boston artist Brian MacNeil paints the shoreline at Greenwich Point early Thursday afternoon, April 28, 2011. MacNeil said he is in town to support friend and fellow artist Ed Minoff who is having a show at Cavalier Galleries, Greenwich. McNeil said Minoff especially likes to paint seascapes at Greenwich Point, and that Minoff's seascapes will be part of the show that runs through May 11.
Brian MacNeil concentrates on his canvas while painting the shoreline at Greenwich Point early Thursday afternoon, April 28, 2011.
The tattooed hand of Boston artist Brian MacNeil, Thursday afternoon, April 28, 2011.
Boston artist Brian MacNeil's rendering of the shoreline at Greenwich Point early Thursday afternoon, April 28, 2011.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Charcoal Portrait Demo

Hey all I recently did a Portrait demo in charcoal to promote my solo show and to let everyone know I'll be teaching a portrait workshop this summer. Salem Art Works has asked me to teach a three day Portrait workshop in August from the 12th to the 14th. Classes will start at 4:00 pm - 7:00 pm.

This workshop offers a classical approach to portraiture. The first day of class will consist of learning how to block-in a portrait. The second and third days of the workshop will focus on constructing and rendering a portrait. The instructor will give demonstrations and individual guidance to each student through every step of the process, assisting participants at their own level.

Fee: $120 Students are expected to bring their own materials. Contact the office for a detailed list.

Salem Art Works
19 Cary Lane
Salem, New York 12865
Phone: 518.854.7674
Fax: 518.854.7684
For Workshops and Artist Programs Inquiries please email

First 20 Minutes

I started at a rapid pace just sketching the angles and major masses that I was seeing in front of me. My academic training would have urged me to take measurements and plot point. Because this was just a demo and I wasn't being commissioned for the work I decided to have some fun. 

work in progress
Now I did this drawing in the local coffee shop in Lakeville, MA. Somethin's Brewin' is one of my favorite places to get my morning Coffee. They are really great and love to promote local artist and small businesses. As far as ideal studio conditions it would not be my first choice but I was able to work from a consistent natural light. Typically I like to draw with the model elevated to my eye level and sight-size

40 minutes 
After I roughed in some general shapes I now have enough information to start refining the contours and planes of the drawing. The beauty of charcoal is that it is easy to push around and shape. I find that if I keep things loose in the beginning I'm less attached and I don't think twice if have to erase something that is wrong.

Tristen is making sure that I'm not turning her into Quasimodo

I'm heightening the drawing with White Chalk
The final Drawing
So after about three and a half hours this is what I came up with. I had a lot of fun and made a few more friends in the process. I would have loved to have more time with this but happy I was able to do this much. Hopefully Tristen will pose for some more paintings in the future.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Oil Painter's Palette Updated

Hey all it has been year since I last wrote about my palette and colors. I am constantly trying new things to improve my working habits. When choosing my colors I look for pigments that are archival, fast drying and require little oil. I also like to use natural earth pigments and limit the uses of synthetic pigments as much as possible. For example a pigment like Lapis Lazuli would be replaced by Ultramarine Blue due to its high cost and varying qualities that are still in existence. 

My Wooden Hand Palette
From my post last year I spoke more about the tubed paints bought from the art store and nothing about grinding ones own paints. My last stay in Florence I really focused on changing my working habits and started getting back to basics. Mulling my own pigments became one of those tasks of enlightenment in the field of oil painting. Having an art store like Zecchi close by provided me a great opportunity to purchase and experiment with a wide variety of pigments. I practiced using the cheaper nontoxic pigments to get the hang of it and find the consistency I like to work with. It made no sense to me to mull up some costly Vermilion off the ripe and mistakenly over saturate it with too much oil.
Venetian Red with Muller 
I have found many pros to mulling my own pigments. It is true that the colors are much richer and brighter than store bought paints. I believe that the fillers and extenders of store bought brands make for short and chalky paint. When choosing your pigments you have a much large selection to pick form. Raw Umber depending on the which region of the world can be bright and transparent or grey-green and quit opaque. Some vermilions can be warm and look like cadmium orange while others may appear cool and similar to cadmium red deep. 
A Domestic Yellow Ocher
The Cons I have found is that you must put in the elbow grease to do it yourself. The other more serious Cons are that some pigments are very poisonous and is not recommended to be handled without proper protection. Even the nonpoisonous pigments when airborne can be unhealthy to breathe.

Yellow Ocher During the Mulling Process
So the colors on my present palette are: 

  •  Lead White #2 ( From Natural Pigments mulled in Walnut Oil with no fillers. ) 
  • Cadmium Yellow ( I switch between Cad. Yellow light and Cad. Yellow medium depending on the paintings I'm working on. ) 
  • Yellow Ocher ( This is the only earth yellow remaining on my palette to this date. I discontinued using Raw Sienna because it requires over 200% oil which can then lead to rapid darkening. ) 
  • Red Ocher ( Pigments such as Sinopia, Venetian Red and English Red are often make their rotation on my palette. I find them very useful in painting the flesh. )
  • Burnt Sienna ( Like Raw Sienna this pigment requires a lot of oil, about 180%. But I find it a useful color because it's more orange and less opaque then the earth reds. )
  • Cadmium Orange
  • Vermilion Red or Cadmium Red medium ( Lately I have been using more Cadmium Red over  Vermilion. Current research I've found states that depending on Vermilions preparation and exposure to sunlight can lead to irreversible blackening and splotchiness. Although I have not experienced this in any of my painting I figure it is better to be safer then sorry. If anyone reading this knows any better about this pigment please contact me about your findings. )
  • Alizarin Crimson or Matter Lake
  • Raw Umber ( I tend to use a medium tone Cyprus Umber from the Harz Mountains. I love the Warmth and transparency of this pigment. )
  • Burnt Umber ( I had stopped using this pigment for a while because I hated the way it would sink in so drastically. Recently I found myself using it more and more. I lean towards Burnt Umbers that are warmer similar to Red Umber. )
  • Manganese Blue ( I started using this instead of Cerulean Blue. When painting skies in landscapes I find that it is much more of a vivid and transparent color. Cerulean Blue had always been too pasty for my liking. )
  • Cobalt Blue ( A Fast drying blue. )
  • Ultramarine Blue Deep ( I use this blue the most. I often mix it with Burnt Umber to create my darks and substitute using black.
  • Bone Black ( Lately I haven't be using it that often but still haven't kicked it off my palette. I use black as the last resort dark color in the final layers of the painting. )

My Glass Studio Palette
My Plein Air Painting Box

Lastly I wanted to share with you all a couple examples of what I do when testing out new pigments. I like to make color charts and mix colors that I wouldn't normally mix together to find interesting color to put in future paintings. I found making color charts very helpful in figuring out interesting and beautiful flesh tones. At times they can be boring to do but in the process not only do you learn more about color but also the individual characteristics of each of the pigments. You may find one is more transparent or opaque then the other. In other situations you will also find the tinting strength and drying times varies from pigment to pigment. So Below is a couple examples of my color charts.

Flesh Chart using mostly Earth Pigments
Flesh Chart Using Cadmiums and Earth Pigments
A Yellow Chart mixed with other colors on my Palette
I hoped you enjoyed this post and knowing me I'll most likely be updating this next year with new habits and discoveries. Thank You stopping by.

Friday, April 1, 2011

An Elephant in the Room

"An Elephant in the Room." 8 x 10 in. OIl on Panel
Hey everyone!!! For my up coming show I have been trying to paint more still life's. I have an Elephant collection that I started when I was young and this one made the cut for this painting. Because this was a small painting and not too complex I decided to draw straight on the panel. I started out with charcoal on a wood panel I prepared myself. Lately I have been working on wood panels or linen mounted on panel. When I prepare the panels myself I have a lot more control over the absorbency and texture of the surface.
My Sight-Size Set Up.
Recently I realized that I wasn't posting enough of the drawing stage of my work so for this painting I wanted to show a couple stages of that. I often draw with straight lines blocking in everything in a general way. I focus on the major heights, widths and angels to later break them down into the more complex shapes. Every drawing I do I think more about building a solid foundation to work off of instead of dressing it up with the little details.


Block-In Articulated
After I've articulated my block-in I now have enough information to start the painting. First I wanted to dry brush raw umber over the panel for two reasons. One reason was to elaborate the drawing and the other was to establish the tones.

Raw Umber Drawing
Raw Umber Drawing with Background 
After I've finished the raw umber drawing and background I left the painting to dry because it was bed time. I've learned long ago that when I'm tired I tend to make bad painting decisions and also caught myself rushing.

First Painting Stage

The first Painting Stage for me is sort like sketching in the approximate color of the still life. I try my best to match the colors I see in life knowing I'll be adjusting them later on in the painting. Like the drawing stage I aim for the big notes of color focusing on the masses of light and shadow. The details and nuances of color can be added at a later stage of the painting.
First Painting Completed
Here is the finished First Painted Stage. This base will serve as a color guild for me to finish my still life. Of course there will be many things to change and revisited such as color, tones and edges. First painting allows me to paint freer and more confidently in the last stage. I can think more about certain light effects or taking liberties with the colors.

The Finished Painting
The finished painting is basically a polished version of the first painting stage. I got to play around with the shine of the metals and the stains on the wood of the elephant. I wanted the head of the elephant to be more in focus then the rest of the body. So all of my sharpest edges, highlights and tonal jumps are all in the head region. I did push the colors a bit more intense then the where in life. Although I really did see these blues, violets and red and I was inspired by them. The last thing I'd like to point out is that in the medallions I built up some impastos to catch the light. I like impastos, they are kind of a cheap party trick but they definitely make a convincing illusion of shine and highlight.