Thanks for taking the time to visit my blog. It's a journal of sorts. It gives me a place to show my work-in-progress for my painting and photography. Comments are welcome --- add one at the end of an entry or email me at BarbBlumer@gmail.com.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

New Marc Rubin Painting Class at 171 Cedar Arts

Last night I joined at new class at 171 Cedar Arts taught by Marc Rubin, a very talented painter, who paints gorgeous still lifes.

I, and his fans, are amazed by the beauty of his surfaces and the thoughtfulness he gives to his still lifes.  His interest is in luminosity.  Checkout his website:  www.marcrubin.net  (He is one of the artists in my In Their Studios book and show.)

I have always wanted to know how he makes his magic. How the heck does he do it? 

Well, the first thing that surprised me is:

He paints directly on masonite without gesso!  He uses untempered, thick masonite.  Then, preps it by sanding it lightly and wiping off the grit with a paper towel.  The masonite is now thirsty. 

Next, he mixes a slurry of half turpenoid, half Liquin and paints it onto the masonite, and lets it suck into the surface.

We are ready to start the underpainting.  The first objective is to get the drawing correct.

Our still life is a little pumpkin sitting on a pillow.

There are 7 of us, a mix of painters I know and as well as some I don't know, making a total of eight including Marc. The perfect size for a class. He set up two still lifes, exactly the same. We huddled around them.

He had us use a palette of burnt umber (warm) and raw umber (cool), burnt sienna, ultramarine blue, alizarin, yellow ochre, cad orange, cad yellow and white.  I added cad yellow pale.

Using LOTS of turpenoid, we painted the still life, to get the drawing laid in, not worrying about lights and darks, but just looking and looking at the still life and drawing what we saw.

The surface SUCKS up the paint, and dulls it down, but it is really fun and easy to do.  Correcting your drawing is not hard as you are working thin.

The goal is to cover the whole surface quickly, including the background.

He recommends that you mix a big pile of your background and keep it for the whole time you are working on the painting.  (Didn't do this, but will next time.)

Once we got the surface covered, which means we got the initial design and drawing done, he pushed us to add color, especially the local color (the actual color of the pumpkin) and then to lay in the highlights, even though they will dull down.

Tips for working with still lifes from Marc:
  • Set up and get as close to your subject as you can.  He sits, about 2 to 3 feet away at eye level because he tends to like that perspective.
  • He paints 1:1, which means that he paints exactly what he sees, the same size on the canvas.  As a result, he can measure the height and width of things in the still life and then translate it directly to the painting.  If the pumpkin is 5 inches wide in life, then it becomes 5 inches wide in his painting.
  • He works in daylight and adds a color-corrected spolight(i.e., a special bulb)  to pump up the contrast.  Unfortunately, our class is in the evening so we will be struggling with the light.
I am reminded how painting is just like handwriting.  We can all paint the same subject and no two look alike due to our unique approaches to life.
Here's how mine looked the morning after the class.

Our homework assignment is to let it dry, then put a thin, smooth layer of Liquin on it before we go back again next Tuesday.

Note to self:  Especially with still lifes, it is hard to pick out what angle to paint, and to decide why I am doing this painting.  In this case, I think I am interested in the strong curve of the pillow in the light, swooping across the picture plane, and the idea that the pillow is cradling the baby pumpkin.  It is a small pumpkin. A baby.  I am thinking of it as a baby and the pillow as the cradle.  "In the Cradle" could be a title?


  1. Hi Barb, question about painting directly on masonite - he seals it with turpenoid and liquin? I've always understood masonite needs to be sealed against the acids in oils that will eventually break down the surface. That's the purpose of a ground. i can just imagine how thirsty the surface is! Jeff

  2. We used 50/50 liquin and turp, then started painting on the masonite immediately while it was still wet. The surface sucked up our paint. As a result, our underpainting sort of becomes the ground? I will ask Marc next week why this works and why we can skip the gesso. Thanks for your comment/question, Jeff.