Sunday, January 23, 2011

Susan Jositas's Oil Painting Demonstration, "Only paint what you see!"

Artist Susan Jositas, one of the members of Maple and Main Gallery of Fine Art in Chester, Connecticut, gave an oil painting demonstration at Hartford Fine Art & Framing, 80 Pitkin Street, East Hartford, CT 06018, on Saturday, January 22, 2010.

In her introduction, Susan explained that the still life she had already set up included a collection of the birds she has in her home.  The beauty and fragility of these singing messengers touch her on a spiritual level.  In order to capture the setup on canvas, she would be looking for shapes and lines, lights and darks, rather than on the individual "things" that made up the arrangement. She explained that she would be trying to lose the language that defined the "things" in order to better focus on the relationship of one to another. First, Susan quickly toned the canvas with thin transparent color. She uses lots of transparent red oxide and cobalt blue and viridian. Painting transparently allows her to make corrections in her drawings as she goes. Then, she wiped out her focal point, the whitest/lightest spot in the painting, the tiny white ceramic bird that has been in her husband's family for years.

At this early stage, Susan took time to put in her reference lines, explaining that it saves redrawing later. Throughout her demonstration, Susan kept checking the accuracy of the placement of these lines. "Squinting is the most useful tool you'll ever use," she pointed out.  Mrs. Jositas reiterated her intention to "lose the language of box, bird, and ribbon, and think in terms of shadows, lights, and darks."  Putting in a mass of darks transparently to go back into later, Susan said she looks at the angles of things, not the objects themselves--one line in relation to another. She was constantly wiping out her lights from the dark mass.

Squinting all the time she paints, Susan measures and remeasures, checking her lines and placement. After she got in her basic masses, she began to work on her focal point. She double-checked the drawing of the bird and got out a telescoping metal back scratcher as to use as a mahl stick to steady her hand. Since there were multiple cool light sources on the still life, she used warm shadows on the bird and elsewhere in the painting. She defined the bird by putting a shadow under its tail and noted that she was thinking about the values around the bird, saying that if she got them right, she would succeed in showing the space around the bird.  She put a spot of pure white on the breast of the bird and then just touched it with a white warmed with lemon yellow.

As Susan painted the ribbon, she used two different shades of green that she had mixed:  one warmer; one cooler.  There were lots of subtle color changes going on in the ribbon.  Not looking at the "thing" itself, she continued to look at edges and shapes and make them relate to each other.  Noting that she had been pretty controlled up to this point, she said she needed to start having 'fun' with her brush strokes.  She did, as did the members of the audience who were paying close attention to her.

Susan Jositas is a member of the High Street Painters in Brattleboro, Vermont.  In addition to serving on the board of the Maple & Main Gallery of Fine Art in Chester, Connecticut, she is represented by Susan Powell Fine Art in Madison, Connecticut.  Susan's painting My Grandmother's Threads (oil, 12 1/2 x 18 1/2) was selected for the 2010 Oil Painters of America Eastern Regional Exhibition held at the Walls Fine Art Gallery in Wilmington, NC.  This painting was also featured in American Art Collector Magazine.  You can view more of her work at

No comments: