Danni Dawson

Class Work

201005 Leslie WIP
{detail of Leslie ~ 24 x 18 inches}

Here is a portrait work in progress from Thursday's class. It is a five session portrait sitting and this is as far as I got during the first class. The arms are pretty psychodelic because I have been experimenting more with bright underpaintings. This really helps the skin glow from a distance, the face also started out this bright, with an orange on the light side and a deep pink/red on the shadow side. I then worked wet in wet to develop the actual fleshtones. Leslie's eyelid got a little too blue, something I will tackle later in the process, today's goal with this painting is to get the other parts to an equal footing.
Below is a 1-1/2 hour color study sketch from Tuesday's class. It also started out with the bright underpainting, and some of it continues to shine through because of it being a quick exercise.

20100518 figure sketch 10x8

{Figure Sketch - 8x10 inches - Oil on Canvas Panel}

New Portrait & a Drawing


20100409 Marie 12x19 dwg

Marie – 12” x 19” – Mixed Media
This drawing was completed last month in Robert Liberace’s drawing class. This technique uses sanguine and black verithin colored pencils and a white pastel pencil and it is drawn on prepared paper that has been coated with shellac thinned in alcohol. In class it is called trois crayon, however I have come to feel that is a bit pretentious as it does not use the traditional chalks historically used for drawings labeled “trois crayon”. When describing its medium in juried show applications I tend to call it mixed media as it requires three very specific and different mediums. This drawing was accepted into the Art League's May show
20100506 Phillip 24x18
{portrait study}
Phillip – 24" x 18" (61 x 45.7 cm) – Oil on Canvas

The above painting was completed in Danni’s portrait class over three periods. On Thursday I totally re-worked the face to get the color and facial structure more accurate. There was a point where I thought it was just not going to work out and that I should wipe it out, then all the sudden it came together. Funny how things work out…

New Figure Study and Link

20100427 figure study 9x12
{one houre figure study}
How are you? I am stopping by for a short bit to share the most recent figure study and to share a great link that covers the National Portrait Society conference in great detail. I am still trying to figure out how to absorb all that was shown and discussed over the weekend...
Today I will be attending Robert Liberace's drawing and painting class {this term I am not signed up for him} because a friend will not be able to attend and gave me her slot! So I need to hurry and get ready.
Have a great weekend! Liz

New Figure Studies


Hello and thanks for stopping by to visit. Lately I have been letting the days slide by without posting current sketches and paintings. I have been busy with creating art, and similar to February a lot has been scraped down because of the various experiments not really working out. One of the new things I am experimenting with is really thick burlap-like canvas. The canvas grain is really heavy, it uses a lot of paint and wears brushes down some, but I believe it has amazing potential for being very expressive once it is mastered. Recently while at the National Gallery of Art I noticed that a Velasquez portrait was painted on this rough type of canvas and as expected it was wonderful. This and analyzing some paintings by Claudio Bravo (who also uses this type of canvas at times) inspired me to jump in and only use this canvas during my figure painting class this term. I figure nine weeks of classes and completing the homework on this stuff will provide sufficent time to get a hang of it.

20100420 canvas detail {detail of the canvas and the wonderful "holes" it leaves}
Also in the spirit of branching out and trying new things, tomorrow is the first day of the National Portrait Society Conference and I will be attending all four days! I am so excited to see all the demonstrations and learn as much as possible. A good friend is coming to town to attend it as well. If you are planning on attending I hope to see you there! Please let me know by leaving a comment.
Below are two 1-1/2 hours figure studies completed on the rough canvas. It is really fun experimenting with it, and I find right now that geometric shapes look really interesting on it.
20100413 figure study 9x12
{completed 13 April 2010}20100420 figure study 9x12
{completed 20 April 2010}
Good night, Liz

What direction to take ... in 2010...

20100112 figure sketch.jpg

Hello –

Now that we are into 2010 some I am now comfortable with what type of resolution to make this year. Compared with last year where I made three resolution categories that each had a specific item or a list of things to accomplish. This year I am only going to define my goals by establishing two key words that will embody my decision making process and direct my actions. They are:

1} Growth: the act or process, or a manner of growing; development; gradual increase

2} Inquiry: a close examination of a matter in a search for information or truth

Why these words? … Because after taking the big step last year to become a full time artist I realized that one of the most important factors to be satisfied with my work was to feel that I was growing in some way. It did not matter as much if the product is what I wanted or expected, but whether I gained something from the experience. Though sometimes I felt a nagging sense that all actions and projects must produce a “product” and at times it seemed to me that my sense of exploration and desire to learn was given a back seat for the more specific goals I had outlined.

Thus I want this year to be filled with growth, the gradual increase in skills and understanding of what a career in art making is all about, and where I allow my natural tendency to investigate further and to understand something in more depth is also given room to breathe.

I was inspired to pursue this method of making resolutions
by the talented Lisa Call and Anna T.
{15 min. study & detail}

I have been thinking about how to establish goals in 2010 for awhile and after yesterday believe using these defining words to give direction will work out.

Yesterday was the first figure painting class of the winter term. This term I will be exploring the differences in drawing the human figure versus painting the figure by taking a class in each. In the painting class we started with three 15 minute studies. With this one I used the gray ground to be the initial shadow mass and then started laying in the skin tone with variations in paint thickness and color temperature. After the timer when off, this sketch was scraped down and a new sketch was begun.

Workshop with Danni Dawson

09 2009 figs day 2.jpg

Hello ~

It has been an amazing and busy week. Monday was the first day of the five-day workshop with Danni Dawson. I was so excited about attending this class, excited about what I would learn, excited about what Danni would demonstrate and teach, and I was not disappointed!

During the five days I completed one painting and began another. Because we were painting still life items from her garden and most of the flowers were bloomed out, I focused on painting figs, leaves, and pears instead of painting flowers like I anticipated. Danni suggested that if you have a desire to become a still life artist it is important to plant what will be your subject matter. Something I will keep in mind once we get a house.

This is the first painting I worked on and was lucky enough to finish. It was of a branch of figs and leaves. Figs and leaves have historically been my nemesis where I have scraped down and given up on many a painting before this week.

Fig Branch – 16" x 12" (40.6 x 30.5 cm) – Oil on Canvas
{Day 4 – Final Painting}
Danni teaches in such a simple and direct manner, with great explanations that I am always inspired to reach beyond my comfort zone, and am almost always rewarded with a new breakthrough in my understanding and ability to paint with oils.
{day 1}

One of the first things Danni said on Monday morning was that still life painting requires a lot of planning and forethought on how to go about completing the painting. So when beginning, identify the part that will die/change the fastest. Once this is identified, block in the entire painting but strive to complete that part as quickly as possible. In my case it was the two leaves that were floating above the branch, by the next day they had curled up and fallen down.

{day 2}

On the second day I focused on the figs and the lower leaves, as I saw they had already changed significantly from the day before. Because the wood crate and background were not going to change any, I just blocked in the basic local color values.

{day 3}

The third day was spent refining different parts of the painting, adding highlights, adding further details to the leaves, and finishing up the wooden crate. The one thing I heard over and over again from Danni to me and my classmates was to “slow down”. She was always encouraging us to slow down and truly absorb what we saw. She also encouraged that we break down a particularly complex object into separate areas, and to just paint and complete the individual areas before moving onto another area. She said this was particularly important when painting highly reflective areas like a silver cup. Though one should never just dive into a specific area and finish it until after the whole painting is blocked in and the direction of the painting is clear.

{day 4 - detail of finished painting}

I spent most of the fourth day working on the background. To give it a sense of space, instead of it being a flat single colored surface. I worked with a variety of glazes and solid paint. I also selected areas of the leaves to bright up with transparent orange, an new color for me.

During the week I was exposed to a lot of information, I learned a lot, and know it will take awhile to incorporate everything into my working knowledge. Though the biggest thing I came to understand was the importance of which whites to use and keep on the palette. Over the summer I had started to shy away from using Old Holland Cremnitz White because for awhile it was over $30.00 a tube and I would go through it pretty fast. So I began to use WN Titanium White more and more because it was closer to $20.00 a tube. This looks good initially on the basic economic terms, however over the week Danni demonstrated all these wet in wet techniques that required the lower layer of paint to set up some, becoming a little stiff while still being wet and malleable. This can only be done with a stiff white like Cremnitz or Flake White. So I learned in order to speed up my painting I needed to ditch the slow drying/setting up Titanium White at times and use a lead white. So the expense of the Old Holland Cremnitz White has just proven itself as being a valuable player. (I have tried using the WN Cremnitz White before but it is too gooey and stringy like warm taffy for my liking)

Have a great weekend and once the second painting is finished I will post it.


New Painting Technique - Portrait

portrait cs 5 detail.jpg

Portrait of a Girl – approx. 10” x 10” – Not Complete

Currently I am taking a figure painting class with Danni Dawson. This is my third quarter of taking this class. She is an excellent teacher as she constantly challenges me to try something else, to explore painting technique in another manner. The class is organized in a manner that guarantees continuous learning, there are class demonstrations, and she assigns homework and then follows up with class critiques. I am learning so much.

Since the beginning of this term, she has told me to move to the next level. She would say this to me but not really articulate what she meant, as she does not believe in painting by formula. Instead she believes painting is an unstructured experience and should be approached as a spontaneous reaction to the specific requirements of the given situation. I really value this method of instruction as it encourages each student to learn and discover at the pace they set for themselves, even though it has been somewhat confusing for me to figure out what she meant when she would tell me that I really needed to move onto the next level. I pondered this for several weeks, and may not truly understand what she means, but my idea of what she means is this. When painting I need to heighten my awareness in more than just trying to record what I see. So I am now working to develop my technique more while also striving to capture emotive qualities. I need to think more about how to paint a scene not just objects to be copied.

As I am working on becoming more proficient and "moving to the next level" I thought I would show some of the steps I am taking. This is my first painting where I have continued to work and re-work areas. Typically I paint in a very direct manner and do not paint over what I have already laid down, but I am working to improve my skills and to make the most of what Danni teaches.

So here are some different phases of the first two painting sessions.

1st Painting Session, 1st Step:
I sketched out the composition with burnt umber, focusing on the main shapes and the Barque line demarcating the light from dark. I then started to lay in the base light colors and mostly mixing on the canvas not the palette. Some areas were more red, so I laid down cad. red and white, where other areas I laid down a more orange color

1st Painting Session, 2nd Step:

By this phase I had worked the light and dark areas with the first layers of the base colors. I was refining the colors and values, still mixing on the canvas. My paletted had various puddles of color, cad. green and white, cad yellow med and white, cad. red and white, cerulean blue and white, and so forth and so forth... As were required I would mix these straight color mixtures unto the canvas, working very lightly with my bristle brush, bearly skimming the surface, but with enough pressure to lay down paint.

Second Painting Session, 1st Step:
Getting back in class, I re-assessed what needed attention. In order to have my paint go down with softer edges, I first applied some linseed oil to the face, specifically the forehead and eye socket area. I re-blocked out the eye sockets and placed the highlights down. Also working on the neck.
Second Painting Session, 2nd Step:
After spending quite a bit of time refining the light side, I started to lay down the cool shadow colors. Using a lot of cerulean and viridian, along with areas of cobalt violet. The warm/cool tension between the light and shadow areas is an important thing to capture, however as you can see in this step, if I only kept the cool colors in the image the painting would be too fractured. There would not be enough connection between the light and shadow areas.

Second Painting Session, Final Step of the Day:
Since the last photo the biggest change was that I warmed up the shadow side some using cad. scarlet, cad. orange, and white. However if I had just placed the warm flesh tones over the cool blues, combining these colors on the canvas would have turned brown (because orange and blue are complementary colors and when mixed they make brown). So before I could lay down the warm flesh tones, I applied a "transition" color over the cool blues. In this instance it was a deep value mixture of perm. rose and white. Applying the cool red on top of the blues and then following up with the warm oranges enabled me to add warmth to the shadow side without losing the cool values below.

I also deepened the values of the light side of her face, as I started to realize that the light side was getting too white and pale. I needed to add some more depth and color to the lighter side.

There are still two more class sessions to work on this painting, so I will continue to refine the painting and develop it more than I have ever taken a painting. As it continues to progress over the two classes I will follow up with another post. I am hopeful that I will not over paint this one, but alas if that happens I will chalk it up to a learning experience. Until next time, have a great week!


A Sense of Being

Untitled 03 2008.jpg

Being with Oneself – 10" x 8" Oil on Canvas Panel NFS
{completed in class taught by Danni Dawson}

This painting was completed a few months ago. Initially it represented a switch in my sense of skill and mastery of paint handling. However it was not until this morning when I was looking at it on my wall that I realized that it means more to me than just an accomplishment. I feel a sense of understanding and community with the environment that is was created in. In the world where beauty is found in everyone, where life is full of vibrant colors, and the senses are encouraged to be heightened and expressed. Painting is such a wonderful experience for me, even when I go through slumps and wonder why and how to get out of them, it seems that there is always a way to navigate and to soon return to firmer ground where creating art will soon return.

Today I have had difficulty getting the momentum and focus to paint. I have used today to read and contemplate. And when I happened to glance up on the wall I was moved to realize that the ability to move forward and produce is within my grasp. Another painting today that also really captures the joie de vivre I have been thinking about is Karin Jurick's Emanicpation. Wow, I feel the power and confidence in the woman sitting on that beach, the lust for life and enjoyment in the moment.

When motivation is low, I tend to find sources that remind me of the good and wonderful in life. What do you focus on when there is a slump in motivation or focus?

Sketch of Gerry

Gerry sketch 2008.jpg

Sketch of Gerry from Danni Dawson's figure painting class
±9x12 inches Oil on Linen

I have had a very hectic week, and do not have another completed painting to post. However I wanted to share this composition sketch I completed in my Tuesday painting class. I like keeping current and posting what I have available to show.

This was a fun experiment; I am still practicing the “color study” method of Henry Hensche/Charles Hawthorne. So the under-painting is a variety of colors. I think for the skin tone, I started with cad yellow and cremnitz white in the light areas, and a cad scarlet and white for the shadow areas. The blue shirt the model was wearing had a lot of pink and purple undertones in it, so I first laid down pink values in the shirt area, and later laid the blue colors on top. To further differentiate the shadow areas from the light areas I applied different levels of paint texture. The paint in the shadow areas was laid down in thin layers, while the lighter areas have thicker applications of paint. So not only is there a color temperature difference between light and shade but also a textural difference as well. I think Manet was a master of using paint thickness to emphasize form and shadow, specifically the painting, The Dead Toreador.

It was not just the paint application that was fun, I also had fun with the pose. Compositionally I love this painting because of the hands, they are so full of expression. Gerry’s pose was set up to look like a business man just coming home from a long day at work. I feel the unwinding and ease in his pose, I almost expect to see him next reaching for a nice drink any moment. I know that is how I feel sometimes after a hectic day….

Standing Figure

Untitled Figure Feb 2008.jpg

Untitled (Standing Figure) – 8x10 Oil on Canvas Panel SOLD

This figure painting is a fun and exciting piece for me. I completed it during one of my figure painting classes with Danni Dawson, she pushed me to see and interpret the different colors on this beautiful woman. With this painting, I treated the female as a whole being, rounded and with volume, then to push the painting more towards a modernist feeling I flattened the background. I feel it makes the figure more dynamic and while also creating an environment that only she belongs in.

Thanks, Liz

Standing Figure

figure 1 2008.jpg

Standing Figure – 6" x 8" Oil on Canvas Panel

This winter I am taking a figure painting class with Danni Dawson. She is a very talented and accomplished artist, here a link to her website: http://www.dannidawson.com/. This figure is a small painting I completed on my own in response to the class. I typically focus on still life paintings, though I am interested in the human figure and thought this class would be good for expanding my skills.

I like the warm tones of the lady’s skin and the cool neutral background. It is a quite, but still active pose; I think that is why I like it so much.