Thursday, June 14, 2018

Emerging -Painting Stages

Oil & Wax on Panel
24" x 36"
artist Lisa Larrabee

My Figurative Landscape paintings are intended to visually convey that people and nature are inextricably connected.  Although we often lose ourselves in our fast-paced lives, my hope is that we are reminded to slow down and contemplate how we are interconnected with others and the world around us.

What began as an idea, slowly developed through a combination of sketches, photo reference and experimentation by layering images in Photoshop.  I often blur or filter my digital image so that I  feel less restricted by detail and free to allow colors and textures to develop in the painting.

I began with an abstracted color field.  This is where I first explore different textures and methods.  In this piece I added a little cold wax medium to my oil paint because I like the drag it adds to the paint application.  I typically only use cold wax medium in this initial stage.  I used a brayer roller to overlap and layer colors made slightly more translucent due to the wax medium.  I decided to scratch "scribbles" across the panel in order to depict some of the tree textures in the next stage.  

I transferred my drawing of the trees by sparsely scumbling blue oil paint across the back side of the newsprint before tracing the drawing onto the painting.  Typically I would freehand trees, but I wanted to be more precise due to the relationship of the tree branches to the face (not yet added).

I roughly blocked in the cool blues and purples with a pallet knife and large brush.  I realized early on that the color and value relationships between the tree and the face needed to develop simultaneously, so I transferred the figure.

Although blue and orange are contrasting (complimentary) colors, it was important to keep the values similar so that they read as a consistent shadow for my figure.  By adding some simplified highlights, she emerged from the trees.

As I developed this painting, I was conscious of leaving much of the textures and energy of its early stages.  It was also important to keep the values in careful relationship so that the forms were not lost.

This was as fun as it was challenging for me.  I hope you enjoy it.

~ Lisa 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Baby Aubrey -Portrait in Oil

Oil  6"x6"
artist Lisa Larrabee

My first baby portraits were of my twin boys (New Day).  The painting was small because I wanted to portray them life-size.  I have since painted other tiny baby portraits and they give me such pleasure to try and capture their precious little faces.  These moments pass by so quickly, it is important to take the opportunity to hold onto them.

This painting of Aubrey was a commissioned baby portrait intended to pair with a previous piece created of her big brother, Wyatt.  I began by following the same process that I used for his painting.

After painting the light values in white on a warm background, I used transparent glazes to adjust the colors.

I went back and forth adding white, glazing colors and building shadows.  At this point, I followed the same process as I had with my painting of Wyatt, but I felt the features looked too harsh.

I chose a different technique to finish her painting.  Using opaque colors, I scumbled lightly over areas (shadows in particular) to soften transitions and adjust color.  Stylistically the painting works with her brother's even though I shifted course.  Having a wide range of techniques is helpful when you need to find a solution to a problem.  

In the end, I achieve what I intended ...a happy mama.

You can view a more in depth description of my painting process with Wyatt HERE

Friday, December 1, 2017

Changing Perspective

Bull Skull study I

Bull Skull study II

I frequently take the opportunity to draw alongside my students.  It helps me practice my drawing skills as well as provide an "extended demo" that students can refer to as their drawings progress.  I first allow students to set up around the still-life and then I find a place for myself.  This usually provides me with a contrasting view of the subject.  In this case, I ended up with a very similar perspective.  Because I work on the drawings in each class, they develop simultaneously.  I found that it was very helpful to slightly shift positions.  As I worked on one drawing, I would recognize measurements and relationships that we inaccurate on the other drawing, which I could then fix the following day.  Considering a different perspective (even if only a little different) will give you a better understanding of the subject as a whole.  This is true of both drawing and of life.

~ Lisa

Saturday, October 7, 2017

When It All Comes Together

to Love
9" x 12"
Oil & Cold Wax on Panel
artist Lisa Larrabee

Over the years I have picked up a variety of techniques that I felt would help me visually manifest the ideas within my Figurative Landscape paintings.  This summer I created paintings where multiple techniques came together in a way that felt fluid and natural.  It has been a very energizing experience.

To Love was my first painting of this series.  I began with a thin cool wash in order to create vibrancy against the warmer layers of color that were to follow.

I mixed oil paint with Gamblin's cold wax medium.  I applied the color with a pallet knife and used a brayer roller to move the paint around and create layers and color harmony.  

Building additional texture with a pallet knife, I also scraped marks down to the original blue base.

I used an oil transfer technique and experimented with applying color deliberately to certain ares of the drawing (instead of one color overall).

Thinning transparent paint with Gamblin's Galkyd, I blocked in the major shadow shapes.

I softened again with my brayer and then painted the highlighted areas directly.

This was the first of several paintings in this series.  Each piece created a different challenge and required a different solution.  I found that my previous experiences with a variety of techniques provided me with the solutions that I needed.  It is an important reminder to always keep learning new skills because you never know when they may all come together.

See more at

~ Lisa

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Drawing General to Specific: Pencil vs Charcoal

These are stages of a still life drawing that I did in graphite (pencil).  To begin, I lightly toned the entire drawing surface (white paper) with graphite.  Once basic shape relationships were in place I erased out the light shapes.  I built values using subtle hatch marks without blending.

This next drawing is of a similar still life using the other halves of each pair.  
The drawing was developed in charcoal and white chalk pencil on gray paper.

It is often less about what you draw than what you observe and share through the process of drawing.
~ Lisa

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Draw What You See General to Specific

It is easy to say that you should draw what you see when your goal is to draw with accuracy.  However, it takes practice to truly observe the shapes, values and relationships as they are and not how we perceive them to be.

During classes, I like to set up my easel and draw alongside my students.  This allows me to demonstrate how to build a drawing from start to finish beginning with general shapes, values and relationships.  Also, it's much more fun (and effective) than hovering.

This drawing is one from two semesters ago.  The following stages will show two drawings of a similar still life arrangement from two different perspectives.

The medium is charcoal and a white chalk pencil on mid-toned gray paper.

Draw from life and use a strong light source to create clear shapes.  Keep checking your shapes, values, angles and relationships as you go.  Drawing is a process.  Take your time and enjoy it!

~ Lisa

Friday, February 19, 2016

Paint Fearlessly! Exploring Cold Wax Medium

Oil  12" x 16"
artist Lisa Larrabee

I always try to challenge myself with each new painting.  Still, there is always the thought at the back of my mind that reminds me that I don't want to screw it up.  I decided that I needed to create a painting where I could play and try out ideas with without the fear of failing.  I picked up an old painting demo that I wasn't attached to and jumped in.

The purpose of this demo was to block in the values in simple basic shapes.  I loved the light on the portrait, but I had no plan to develop the painting.  It was the perfect piece to play with.

I borrowed some color inspiration from Monet and began massing in colors -some with a brush and some with a pallet knife.  Because the previous layer was dry, I had no fear of losing the form.  When I covered too much, I wiped or scraped paint off to reveal the basic shapes underneath.

At this stage, I was really happy with how loose and bold it felt.  I stopped because I was afraid that I would get tighter and fussier if I kept working on it.  I set it aside so that I could consider what, if anything, I wanted to do to it.

I have found a lot of inspiration lately in abstracted paintings.  I am drawn to pieces with textures and rich layered colors that begin to feel like atmospheric landscapes.  I noticed that many of the paintings are encaustic paintings or use a cold wax medium.  I don't like the fumes from the encaustic process, so I decided to experiment with Gamblin's cold wax medium.  At first, I was worried that I would ruin the painting I had started, but I then I reminded myself that I created this piece to be fearless and take some risks.

The cold wax is an interesting medium.  The texture is a thick paste, but it was easy to mix into the paint on my pallet.  I was careful not to mix more than 50/50 wax to paint.  I applied the mixture with both a pallet knife and brush.  I was able to skim across the surface and create textures unlike any I have created with paint alone or mixed with a gel-like medium.  The paint had a matte, cloudy translucency that I was able to scrape, push and blend.  I was able to create the soft hazy color transitions that I love while also building up an interesting surface.  I really enjoyed working with the cold wax medium and I have continued to experiment with it.

I had a wonderful experience and I would like to offer some advice. Try something new and don't be afraid to fail spectacularly.  Take risks and be fearless with your art.  It's fun.  It's freeing.  You can learn more with one risky failure than a dozen or more safe pieces.  In the end, it's just paint.  You can paint over it, but what you learn will stay with you.  Good luck!

~ Lisa