Portraits in the manner of William Adolphe Bouguereau, French, 1825-1905
Landscapes in the manner of Jan Van Der Heyden, Dutch, 1637-1712
Paintings in the manner of
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Every portrait is special to the commissioner, the subject and the artist. Tom will please all three by closely working with all three, listening and applying best principals. Anything is possible: charcoal, watercolor and oil portraits can be done quickly if necessary though Tom likes to take as much time as he can because the work is rewarded.
Tom likes to visit with the commissioner once a week, staying about one hour. If it is a home portrait, an email communication may be all that is needed. During that hour he will make sketches, take photos and have the subject sit for a few minutes. Children love the process and look forward to his visits. It is a sad day when he no longer visits. A drawing is done in pencil on the canvas using the composition ideas of the client, once approved the painting begins. Painting is wet on wet, each section is completed while the paint is wet. When the paint starts to congeal painting that section stops. When Tom starts a face he brings the canvas to the sitter for a live sitting. After working in the studio almost completing the face he will return for another live sitting. Tom borrows the sitter’s clothes and dresses up a wire mannequin for the clothes and works from life. The background is painted completing the portrait.
Sara & Walt Composition II, 24" x 24", Oil pastel on canvas, Blob manner, Commission
Sara & Walt Composition I
Melting nine oil pastel colors on heated canvas creates a beautiful colorful bouquet rendition of the subject.
Detail of thick paint
Detail of lower left hand corner before the light green, dark green and red spots were taken out
Ben's Girlfriend, 24" x 36", Oil pastel, Melted on canvas
Ben's image that started the commission
Anthony's Birthday Present, 12" x 16", Oil pastel on metal, 1/8" crayons, Ooctober 10, 2016, Portraits, Figures
Modified this image into a nine color blob painting.
Illustration for MARY ANNE REESE poem "Inauguration", Watercolor on paper, 8.5" x 11", February 23, 2017, Figures, Portraits
Tom's friend Saad Goshen publishes a book of poems matched to illustrations. This work is one of those illustrations. Tom lost interest in the work after completing the drawing and palette. Three weeks later he relearned everything he forgot creating figures with watercolor. Some of the staff of Hillary Clinton's Clifton, Cincinnati office played the roles: Caroline Lembright, Umeirra Umy Savani, Elena Saltzman, Radheya Kulkarni, Elena Saltzman, Jordan Thornlow, Jalakoi Solomon and Sean Young . Tom volunteered with them. Picking images of them off their Facebook pages. This incentive made it possible to plow through the work time from January 1 to February 23.
Evanswood Home, 20" x 16", oil on board, July 23, 2016, Home portraits, Traditional, Commission
https://flic.kr/s/aHskBY9ag9 has the detailed images of the work.
Working on a complicated four month long painting makes for mixing things up a bit. Herman Melville and William Adolphe Bouguereau would be in their studios all day and others did not really know what they did in there, Tom's wife thinks the same thing. It is fun to think they were working all the time on the work but they were not unlike Tom, answering letters, cleaning, working on peripheral things; spending a lot of time working on refining the craft, researching, making new devices and procedures that make the work fun and easier. After years of wanting to make videos of painting it was not until now Tom set up a technique to do just that. It came together when he found a contraption to hold documents while typing, similiar to a desk top lamp that clamps on the table and allows you to move it all around. It makes it possible to sneak into the painting space with a USB cable video camera.
In painting a complicated work the question comes up, “Is it worth it?”
Working to duplicate the old masters, taking time to study and produce, is the resource which is bottomless. Money may be in short supply but there is always plenty of time. Giving the work all the time it needs to achieve success is the least the artist can do. Material goods may be in short supply but never to the level of preventing work. No one askes how long did it take? They think the artist took as long as he wanted.
If an artist is attempting to emulate an old master work wouldn’t that mean he would spend as long as he needed? The artist is not setting the standard, the standard is already set.
Though it takes six months to paint such a work and the payment is a fraction of the time spent, is this a good use of the artist’s time? He enjoys matching the level of work and spending hours in front of a charming painting, albeit to him; not unlike sitting in a museum.
Tom learned that the painter he is emulating, Jan van der Heyden, created paintings for the market. He was an engineer and inventor of gas street lighting and firefighting equipment. Tom was disillusioned at the painters work, creating paintings that seemed fads in Dutch society. It may have well been a fad at the time and he was encouraged and rewarded to produce as many as he could. The resulting paintings do not have a heart and soul in it as Tom understands. Tom searched for personal commissions Heyden produced that had intimacy but found none. Though known to paint every brick and leaf, resorting to making a stamp you could apply to the wet paint to set up the painting of leaves and bricks, Heyden’s work has failed to inspire Tom though he has been a vehement follower for twenty years.
In the end, painting “Evanswood Home”, Tom feels the only take away is to continue to paint in transparent medium since it gives the painting an extra oeuvre. In the future Tom seeks to use transparent mediums with phosphorescent paint.
Image that started the composition.
Boathouse Painting, 10' x 18", oil on board, April 23, 2014
Details of Boathouse Painting, 10' x 18", oil on board
The long river view, ten feet long, ten inches high crescent, the oil on board goes above a garage in Clifton, Cincinnati, Ohio. The garage holds Tom’s thirteen foot Banshee sailboat. Tom is teaching the owner of the garage, Willard, how to sail. At first they sailed on his boat then his family gave him a nineteen foot pocket cruiser. Slowly Willard is learning the ropes and this year he will take charge.
The painting takes in the
Cincinnati Harbor from the Ohio River Launch Club, where the commissioner’s
sail boat docks, to the Licking River.
The boats on the dock represent all seventy boats. The head boat has a room up top for the dock master. The barge ahead is canted to push drift away from the dock. Behind the dock is Mount Adams. To the left is the Coliseum with the public landing below it. Next to the left is the Cincinnati Port Authority building and below it is the showboat Majestic. The Suspension Bridge Ohio entrance starts at this point. The focal point is here and from her to the left the girders on the bridge will start separating from being together.
Just after getting started Tom had a fall at a ski slope and will need his knee replaced. He still painted with his knee exercised and iced before the surgery.
Tom’s technique is transparent. His medium is tablespoon of stand oil mixed with six drops of oil of cloves. It makes for a tacky surface. The oil colors are also mixed with oil of cloves, 3/8’ ball of pigment to one drop of oil of cloves. The oil of cloves keeps the paint from drying giving it about ten days of working ability. Tom is painting this in strips of ten inches with the previous section being tweaked as current section is done taking about six days for each section.
To the left of the Majestic Show Boat is Great American Ball Park in the foreground and PNC and Crew Towers in the back. Above is a northeast storm front of mammalian clouds indicating the possibility of tornadoes. The storm clouds take up a third of the canvas with blue sky on either side.
Thomas Chambers (1808–1869) is the artist Tom is emulating. The events are supernatural. Water and sky take on diverse and dynamic stylization.
Kathleen A. Foster is the Robert L. McNeil, Jr. Curator of American Art and Director, Center for American Art. She is curator of the exhibition Thomas Chambers (1808–1869): American Marine and Landscape Artist and author of the concurrent publication (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art and Yale University Press, 2008).
“Chambers is astonishingly undocumented. Probably because he was poor, he left few traces. Most of the surviving records of his existence are census entries and city directory listings, information already excavated by Little and Merritt, who constructed a skeletal chronology based on Chambers’ arrival in New Orleans in 1832. By 1834 he was listed as a landscape painter in New York (changing to 'marine painter' in 1838 and 1839), where he remained until about 1840. He emerged in Boston in 1843, where he lived until 1851, always listed as an 'artist.' A stint in Albany from 1851 to 1857 was followed by a return to New York City, where he appeared sporadically in directories before disappearing in 1866.”
“The last important clue to Chambers’ identity was the discovery of the newspaper advertisement he ran in the New Yorker for two years, beginning in 1835.7 Describing himself as a 'marine and landscape painter,' Chambers also offered 'Fancy Painting of every description done to order.' A fancy painter might be asked to paint decorative scenes on chair backs, coaches, or signs. We know that Chambers produced 'cabinet pictures' with imaginary (that is, fanciful or fantastic) subjects, such as Landscape with a Road Leading to Water. Such generic views allowed patrons to identify the subject themselves (as the Hudson? Ireland?). His self-description confirms that Chambers lived professionally exactly where his work fits visually, in the territory between Thomas Cole and the legions of decorative painters who shaped the bold 'fancy' interiors of the 1830s.”
Tom has not seen a Chambers. He is applying his regular transparent manner to the painting. Heavily gessoed boards created by scrapping gesso over the surface with a pallet knife till all signs of grain are gone then scrapping a razor blade across the surface till it is smooth. Pencil is used for the drawing and alcohol is used to remove the pencil where needed using a cue tip if needed. When painting commences the pencil is removed almost entirely with eraser and tissue soaked in alcohol. Then the medium is mixed with the pigment and applied to the white gesso making up the white part of the color. Solid white pigment is added only at the end in the areas that are white. The surface dries smooth and shiny.
In this work the rendering is as simple as possible. Laying a color field and using painted line to delineate. The color field is massaged with a stippling brush and finished lightly brushing with a dry brush to smooth the transparent color.
On to the rest of the painting became exercises in moving the work dynamically. The color seems to be held back by the medium and pigment. It happens all the time. The stickiness is tough. It is a struggle to reconstruct the paint after it has set on the palette for a day.
Then there is the real purpose. The imagery takes the place of all that live there. All this is done while bobbing a maul stick to the pace of the strokes of a number ten red sable brush.
The storm front culminates above the city. To the south the clouds dissipate to clear skies. Way off in the distance a purple cloud line borders the gray clouds. The Kentucky shore is a line of low purple buildings turning to reddish trees and a green verdure along the water’s edge.
A coal barge makes its way
through the center of the painting. The front barge breaks the water causing
a large ripple that flows to both shores. The water is made up of strokes that
ebb and flow with various color shades of the sky and river.
Tom marked off the span of the upright supports on the bridge with a divider. One-sixteenth turn of the expansion rod marked from the left edge of the girder to the left edge of the opposite side of the bridge girder. The bridge does not have all the girders just enough for the illusion.
The sailboat is the Emma Lou owned by the commissioner. Tom is teaching his family how to sail. They sail all year round on the Ohio River. Crossing the wake of a tow boat is one way to experience big water. When the current and wind are from the right direction you can sail in place with the same sail set for as long as you want.
The tow wake dominates the water around the sailboat as she crosses the stern of the tow. The dark storm front gives way to blue skies as the painting goes to the Suspension Bridge’s Kentucky pier. Low rise buildings line the river under the bridge simulating the multiple villages from Covington going westward.
Painted in sections, removal of pencil requires an alcohol swab in the next section. Just the lightest pencil is left to put the transparent stand oil tinted with pigment using the white of the gesso as the white till the whitest areas are filled with white pigment.
The Kentucky Pier is slightly open towards the right. The color of the limestone is two, one on the lentils and darker on the stone blocks. The darker color is from the aging on the rough carving of the surface, then the darker color under the bridge due to the river.
The new development on the Kentucky side includes the Ascent. In the painting the entrance of the Suspension Bridge is under the base of the new high-rise.
Seven weeks painting, once dried it will be framed in simple corner molding stabilizing the glued two pieces of eight foot Luan used for the substrate.
This painting represents Tom’s life on the water. His first job was working for the Mike Fink’s Restaurant depicted in the painting moving up river just before the Ascent. Captain Beatty, the owner, was a river salvage operator who had salvaged many an old iron bridge for the World Was II effort then making Quonset Huts for the Army. Later he started a river party barge company that developed into a floating restaurant; Captain Hooks moored on the Cincinnati public landing. His next floating restaurant, Mike Fink, was on the Kentucky side and he put in the public landing. Tom’s family had a boat on the Ohio side a marina part of Captain Hook’s. He was in high school and as his first job took the bus from his home to downtown Covington and walked to the Mike Fink’s only to be told Captain Beatty was across the river at Captain Hook’s. Tom walked across the Suspension Bridge to Captain Hook’s and was well received by the Captain for taking the initiative. He worked for him into college leaving river life for the life of an artist.
Tom has taken the Ohio River
for sailing. After crossing the North Atlantic with three other experts in a
thirty six foot Pearson Bermuda rig, he vowed never to be without a sailboat,
having sailed others boats. Now, he sails year round whenever the temperature
is above fifty and sunny. The best time is always sailing close hauled in the
wake of a towboat.
A crescent shaped board that goes above a garage where Tom keeps his thirteen foot sail/rowboat. The panorama takes in the whole Ohio River at Cincinnati Harbor. Starting on the right with the Ohio River Launch Club which is really three miles upriver, next is Mount Adams with Immaculate Catholic Church at the top, then the US Bank Coliseum with the Showboat Majestic floating at the public landing. Above is the Great American Ball Park and behind it is the PNC Bank building, Crew Tower and the new Port of Cincinnati Building. Following to the left is the first pier of the Suspension Bridge then a tow boat with a large wake behind it and the Emma Lou crossing the towboats stern. Above the scene is a cloud front moving in from the northeast with mammalian clouds creeping across the sky bringing stormy weather. The sailboat is leaned over in a thirty know wind. Farther to the left is the Kentucky pier and the Mike Fink Restaurant docked at the public landing. In the background is the Ascent and the Butler office hotel condo complex. Finally comes the two limestone homes Roebling built for himself and his engineer before he built the bridge, ending in one of the antebellum homes before the Licking River.
Jami and Friend, 12" x 16", Oil on metal, September 10, 2013
Sunderland Home, 24" x 20", oil on canvas
Image that started the composition.
The Clifton cow "Cincy Freedom" Takes a Break From Her Escape
Monday December 15th, 10" x 8", Traditional
Evanswood Home, 16" x 12", oil on canvas, used on the cover of the Clifton Chronicle
Ohio River, 24" x 12", watercolor on paper, 2000; Painted for the masthead of The Appalachian Connection, a Cincinnati tabloidPainted as a panorama from Cincinnati, where Tom grew up, across the Appalachian Mountains to the North Carolina and his wife’s home state, you can see Pilot Mountain on the left and just to the right Chimney Rock on the Kentucky River.
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