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Friday, March 14, 2008

Pirate Self-Portrait

The final piece:

"Desire" charcoal, 18"x24"

Rendering the few remaining elements, last-minute adjustments, and DONE.
Here is the finished piece:

I am taking it over to have a friend take some good photos of it, and then to post it to the American Artist competition.


More costume and props development.


Let's add some swash to that buckle.
Now it's starting to look more like a human and less like a disembodied torso.
I'm playing with the exposure settings on my new camera.

Developing the foreground, the hand, and the arm.

More development of the background, and continuing down into the foreground with the hand and coin. I am using a replica of a spanish doubloon.

Now I am dissatisfied with the flag. It needs work.
However, I had a chance to work into some of the areas and strengthen a few things in the face that I was struggling with previously.

04/21/08: REDEMPTION.
After sitting down and taking a good hard look at the drawing, I decided that it could be salvaged.
Back to the drawing board...

04/18/08 – DISASTER!!!
I was working on the drawing, and finally pushed past the hurdles and the new drawing was pushing ahead of the old one. I had finally turned the corner. I was just beginning to think that I had made the right decision after all.

Suddenly, Clarence [the cat] jumped up and knocked the easel, drawing and all, over – on top of me! The central focus of the drawing – the face – was demolished. The eye, the nose, all the critical areas that I had worked so hard on… I was mortified! All the effort to get the light across the face, and it was a struggle….

Here is a close up of the damage:

I just couldn’t even think about it for the rest of the night. I had to go into the other room and sulk.

Developing the tones in the costume. At this point, I am second-guessing my decision to start over. The size on this one is better, but the light in the first drawing was more cohesive.

Here we go with the body...

...and a close-up:

I think the piece is beginning to take on a bit of a revlutionary war look and feel. lol
As a side note, I am really enjoying the conceptual aspect and the narrative in this piece; it is developing as the piece moves along, taking on a life of its own.


P.S I really like the drawing at this stage. I think this is my favorite phase of a portrait; just the face without any distracting elements. The face is at its most powerful and dramatic.

I am reading the biography of John Paul Jones. He was not only an American hero, he was father of the U.S. Navy, and considered by England as a pirate. His life story reads like a good adventure novel.

I decided to start over on the piece. While I did like the light and the form, the coarse paper texture was beginning to drive me out of my mind. Also, I had covered the entire surface with the charcoal, and rubbed it in pretty good to get into the texture of the paper. Because of this, I was having difficulty removing enough charcoal to get the lights to be light enough. I would not be able to develop the form with the subtlety I desired.
Plus, I decided to make it more of a 1/2 body portrait, rather than just the face. In order to do that, I needed to start over on a larger piece of paper, and place the face higher, leaving more room at the bottom.
Here is the initial block-in. I left the bare paper in the area of the face in order to control the lights better:

Further development on the face.

Developing the form.
I fixed the location of the eye, this is much better.

Here is a thumbnail, for use as my avatar in the pirate forums:

Chiaroscuro in charcoal it is.
Here is the initial block-in using the rub-out technique.

I like using the rub-out techinique; I like the 'feel' of texture in the background. It looks like a smoky tavern or the dimly lit cabin of a Captain's quarters on board a pirate ship.
That eye on the left seems a little bit high. I blame the model, he was an unruly cuss.

American Artist
Magazine is having a self-portrait competition.
I could not resist the opportunity to do a self-portrait in my pirate costume.
I liked the idea of dramatic, chiaroscuro lighting. I tried several different angles, from a complete side view to dead-on front view. Once I began the initial sketch, the ideas just started to flow. This is going to be fun!

The conceptual sketch:

I am still deciding whether to d a chiaroscuro piece in charcoal, or a full-color piece in acrylic. Also, what to do with the background: black, like the classic chiaroscuro portraits, as if in his cabin, or outdoors under a blustery sky.
Additional props and accoutrements are still being considered.

The image of the pirate is a metaphor for adventure, independence, freedom and an unrestrained spirit. It represents the willingness to pursue your dreams, regardless of the risks.

Pirates have a special place in my heart. Through pirating, I have traveled to exotic locations, had adventures and experiences that most people only dream about, and met some very interesting people.
Along the way, I have learned a great deal about myself, experienced pirate luck, and my confidence in myself and my intuition has grown.

Friday, March 7, 2008


I moved the position of the dagger, edited the hands, deepened the darks and developed the shading on the foreground leg.


I have always liked the Howard Pyle painting ‘Marooned’ (clipped to the drawing board for inspiration), and wanted to do a similarly themed piece, as it is a classic pirate theme. When this photo sequence came up, it was too good to be true. This may turn into a series, as the photos and characters were all good. Thanks to the crew of the Archangel.

Initially, the character was distraught, as is the character in Pyle’s painting. However, as the drawing progresses, a new narrative is emerging. When you look at this image, what do you see? More on this later.

I have been hankering to return to charcoal again, and really work up the values. Between this piece and the two figures (see I am doing just that. There are even a portrait or two in the works. This time I started loosely with willow charcoal, laying in large areas of tone. I love how soft and workable it is. Now I am building up the values with vine charcoal. It is about the same amount of work no matter what; I just like how the soft charcoal allows me to ‘paint’ loosely at first, and to get the broad general values laid in quickly so that I can start to get a ‘feel’ for the piece.

I am playing with the positioning of the hands and the knife, getting the gesture and the shadows to my liking, and also to go along with the narrative that is evolving.

I have a connection to this beach that goes way back. The photo sequence was staged at the very same beach where I would go swimming each morning at sunrise. Ironically, it is also the site of the ‘damn near drowning of Nigel’ from the First Annual "Walk the Plank Championship" at PiP ’04 (see photo)

Ah, good times.

It is also reminiscent of an experience I had while pirating in Key West long ago, that was a real turning point for me personally; "the Lucky Pirate Money Clip" story...

I am excited to develop this piece, and see where it leads.