Sunday, July 26, 2009

Color Palettes: Michael Klein (b. 1980)

Michael Klein is an American, realist painter currently living and working in Argentina. His artwork, meticulously planned and executed, shows a wonderful mastery of subtle color and tone control which belies his young age. Not yet in his thirties, Klein has already amassed an incredible body of work, and has secured representation with one of the nation's premier contemporary realist galleries, Arcadia Fine Arts Gallery in New York City. When he and his wife move back to the United States in 2010, his return will be marked by his second solo show with the SoHo gallery. Clearly, his is a career on the rise, and one which shows the fruits of hard work and an unrelenting dedication to one's craft.

Born in 1980, Michael Klein was only nineteen when he began his serious program of atelier-manner study. His first teacher was Richard Whitney, one of the nation's most honored figurative painters, and an heir to the teachings of R.H. Ives Gammell and the Boston School Tradition. After two years with Whitney, Klein continued study along the same artistic lineage by entering The Atelier in Minneapolis, the very school founded by Richard Lack, the artist whose singular efforts were largely responsible for the revival of traditional art skills in the United States. Seeking to broaden his experience, Klein next left his home in the midwest to move east, where he began studies at the Art Students League of New York, most notably under the tutelage of portraitist Nelson Shanks. Then in 2002, Klein moved to what would become his final school, the Water Street Atelier, where he apprenticed under founder Jacob Collins until 2005. By 2008, in culmination of his studies, he held his first solo show at Arcadia Gallery at the young age of 27.

Citing the Naturalists as his inspiration, Klein has worked diligently to reproduce the lighting effects of an overcast day in many of his paintings. His studio in Argentina even has an addition with an open roof, personally built by Klein, which allows for natural sunlight to filter in through various scrims, while he himself works protected from many of the problems usually associated with plein air painting. Unlike the Naturalists, however, Klein recreates these atmospheric effects without benefit of photographs to provide an underlying structure, preferring instead to draw and paint solely from life.

Despite the appearance of limited colors, Klein uses a very standard color palette. His color choices consist of (from right to left on his palette):

  • Raw Sienna Light
  • Cadmium Yellow Pale
  • Yellow Ochre Pale
  • White (Either Cremnitz or titanium, or a mixture of the two)
  • Cadmium Orange
  • Cadmium Red Deep
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Permanent Alizarin Crimson
  • Raw Umber
  • Burnt Umber
  • Cobalt Blue
  • Ultramarine Blue
  • Ivory Black
  • Cobalt Violet
  • Viridian Green

Michael typically works on lead primed linen, or on a high quality alkyd or oil primed linen like Claessens #13 DP, Portrait Grade. He often primes this with an imprimatura of ultramarine blue and burnt sienna, mixed incompletely and diluted with turpentine, applied with a rag and rubbed down on the canvas. His usual brushes are Royal & Langnickel 5590 Sable Flats, and Robert Simmons Signet Flat Bristles.


Michael Klein offers two DVDs for sale through his website, the newer of which, Flower Painting, I recently had the pleasure of viewing. Produced and directed by Klein, it is unlike any other art video I have watched. In many respects, it is really more of a documentary film about the making of a painting, and not a traditional instructional video. As such, there is as much artistry devoted to the film-making, as there was devoted to the painting itself.

The DVD opens with Klein sweeping the dirt floor of his Buenos Aires studio, which immediately gives the impression of an old-world artist beginning his day. It continues over the next sixteen days following Klein through his skillful painting and rigorous planning (I for one, who have not painted any flowers beyond a single sitting, would never have considered accounting for the bloom time of a rose from bud to full-flower). Klein does not talk much through the video, but his judicious use of words is always informative and to the point. He does not give a step-by-step account of his procedure, but much can be gained by watching him throughout this creation, from his choice of composition, through his drawing and transfer to the final canvas, to the completed painting.

This DVD is among my favorites, and I recommend it to anyone wishing to watch traditional painting methods in action.

Below are images from Klein's other DVD, Black Dress.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Studio Tools: Glazier Points

A simple, inexpensive, and clean way of securing a painting panel into a wooden frame is to use glazier points, which are available at nearly every hardware store. Glazier points come in several shapes, but those best suited for this use are small pieces of sheet metal, pointed at one end, with two flanges bent perpendicularly to the main body. These flanges provide purchase so that a screwdriver or putty knife can be used to drive the point into the wooden frame, or so that, with a pair of pliers, the point can later be removed more easily. Normally, glazier points are used to hold glass panes in window frames, but they are perfectly suited for this job as well.

Installing the glazier points is easy. After laying your picture frame face down on a soft surface to prevent any scratches to the finish, place your painting panel, also face down, inside the frame. Place a glazier's point flat side down on the back of the panel with the point facing the rabbet. Using a screwdriver tip positioned behind the vertical flanges, slide the point towards the inside of the frame. At this point, it will probably require a little finesse to insert the point: either work the point back and forward while applying pressure, or use a finishing hammer to lightly tap on the back of screwdriver to drive the point into the wood. To keep the frame from moving, you can place the side you are working on against a wall. If the point does not easily go into the frame, you may need to reposition the point left or right to find a softer section of wood. Repeat this process every few inches, or as is necessary according to the size of the frame.

Of course, using glazier points only works on frames which have a rabbet of greater depth than the thickness of the painting panel. Also, if the frame is plastic, or plastic coated wood, it will be much more difficult to drive the point into the frame, and glazier points might not be the best choice for your framing project.

Friday, July 17, 2009

New Jeremy Lipking DVD in the Works

Just yesterday, Jeremy Lipking finished filming his new instructional video, Painting the Nude Outdoors. I hope that the editing and post-production phases go quickly so that it will be released before the end of the year.

To see examples of Lipking's accomplished plein air nudes, visit the previous Underpaintings post, Painting the Nude Outdoors.

Upcoming Exhibits: The Naturalists

Dr. Gabriel Weisberg has announced an upcoming exhibit tentatively entitled, Illusions of Reality: Naturalist Painting, Photography, and Cinema, 1875 - 1918. The show will open October of 2010, at the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam and will showcase an international collection of artwork from this all-too-often under-represented art movement.

From Dr. Weisberg's website:

As part of his long-standing commitment to Naturalist painting Dr. Weisberg is serving as Guest Curator for the Van Gogh Museum (Amsterdam) in the organization of a large international painting exhibition tentatively entitled "Illusions of Reality: Naturalist Painting, Photography and Early Cinema," Opening in October, 2010, at the Van Gogh Museum this exhibition will reveal the international agenda of the Naturalist movement while demonstrating how various artists created their works while under the influence of photography. In a similar vein the importance of these associations also influenced the direction of early cinema in Europe and the United States. This section of the show will explore long unknown direct ties with film through the integration of film stills, film and other media examples with the large-scale oil paintings drawn from all over the world. A detailed catalogue will be published with essays by Dr. Weisberg, Edwin Becker (Exhibition Curator, Van Gogh Museum), David Jackson (Professor, University of Leeds), Professor Willa Silverman (Pennsylvania State University) and international digital photographer Jean-Fran├žois Rauzier.

Unfortunately, there are no plans to bring this exhibit to the States, so to see the show, buy your plane tickets now, or, at the very least, reserve a copy of the illustrated catalog as soon as its publication date is announced.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Upcoming Auction Preview: Bonhams & Butterfields

Bonhams & Butterfields Auctioneers is hosting an auction of California and American Paintings & Sculpture in August. The bidding begins at 6:00 PM on the 3rd, but the auction is in previews leading up to the auction in both San Francisco and Los Angeles. It is another great opportunity to see this wonderful artwork all in one location.

It looks like an incredible group of works for sale, especially in the arena of California art. Artists in the auction include Edgar Payne, Maynard Dixon, Richard Schmid, William Wendt, and Granville Redmond, just to name a few. To see the lots, check out the online exhibition catalog.

Previews begin July 24th in San Francisco, and continue through the 26th. On the 31st of July, the previews open in Los Angeles, and remain on view until the auction. Whether San Francisco or Los Angeles, viewing hours are from 12:00 PM to 5:00 PM. For more information, visit Bonhams website.