Monday, March 14, 2011

Joshua LaRock - New Paintings and Interview Part 1

"Woe" by Joshua LaRock
Click for Hi-Res
I was lucky enough to sit down with Josh in his studio last week and talk to him about the making of his new painting, "Woe", as well as hear a little bit about his time before, during and after Water Street Atelier/GCA (included in part two of the interview.) Josh teaches in the core program, the cast night class, and the long pose portrait night class. This summer Josh will also be teaching a 10-day portrait drawing and painting workshop at GCA, as well as performing weekly cast and figure drawing demonstrations in the summer one-month drawing intensive (you can find more information about these workshops here.) 

As an artist so inspired by the greats of the 19th century, how do you channel their ideas and aesthetic into your own work while remaining original?

Waiting to Cross
  I try to study them, imbibe their character and learn as much about their lives and culture as I can. I try to read the things they read, study what they studied. I’ve done some paintings that were copies, essentially - at least of their compositions. I tried to set up the live model in front of me how the original artist would have, while at the same time examining the original.  In a way, I was trying to reverse engineer their work.  I would look at the way Bouguereau painted an ear, and then I would go paint an ear, and compare and think back, and learn a little more. Then I’d do it again and learn something else. There are a thousand little lessons in their works that start to influence you via the image library in your mind. I think that was really helpful in terms of supplementing my working method and, after all, executing copies was always a part of the 19th century training, too.  So I simply try to look at their work a lot, examining technique and compositions. I have been reading through some compositional theory and analyzing different paintings I like to see if they fit with the ideas.  For me, its a matter of understanding the basic character and taste of what they were doing as best as I can discern it, and loving what they loved - the pursuit of truth and beauty. I have that reverence and awe of nature they shared, and I want to connect with it in the same way.

Could you explain your process on your new painting, “Woe”, from start to finish?

Portrait of the Artist
  This is related to what I was saying before; as I’ve been studying the 19th century, I am trying to follow what they did as closely as possible, piecing together what I can from the various sources. I started with the basic idea; I wanted to do an emotion and chose “anguish”.  But then I was able to hire John Forkner, who is a great model, so I thought we should do something a bit more difficult in terms of a pose.  To prepare, I filled up a page of my sketchbook with little thumbnails of the basic gesture, and I picked a few that I liked. During my first session with John, we tried out these poses, seeing what would work compositionally and gesturally concerning the lines and shapes, and what was possible under the limitations of the live model. From that I saw some different things that I liked which I chose to include in the final drawing. I used toned paper with graphite and a little bit of white chalk to help suggest the form. I worked out all the different proportion and anatomy problems there, and then had to do some drapery studies. I did the drapery over the top of the final drawing on tracing paper, so I didn’t have to deal with proportion or scale and could focus solely on the beautiful folds that wouldn’t last. I did a number of those and picked out my favorite “pieces”. Then I projected the figure study onto a large sheet of paper making a cartoon at the actual size I wanted the finished painting to be.  I made any corrections that I needed to at this stage because, at this larger size, things can become apparent that may not have been as obvious before, such as a hand being slightly too big, for example.  I then drew the drapery onto the cartoon from the studies, piecing them together.  I had John back in for a final drawing session to make sure it all worked together, and once I was satisfied I transferred the cartoon onto the final canvas with graphite and finally ink. In between there I did a few compositional studies in oil trying to see where I wanted the patches of light and dark to fall, and the different colors, as well as what I was going to use for the background.
  The background idea actually changed; I was going to put him in a throne-like chair but it seemed better to have him in a more natural setting, so I figured that out afterward. I decided on an arid climate, which dictated some of the earth colors I would be using. For reference, I was looking at different paintings that I liked and had a similar setting, trying to get a sense of their character. I love the Hudson River School, so I was looking at their work a lot to see how to describe hills and far-off distances, adapting it to the piece. Specifically, I was looking at a fantastic work by Frederic Church called “Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives.” I did the background in a layered approach as well, so the first layer told me if it was achieving the desired effect and whether it was working with the lighting of the already finished figure.

You can see more of Josh's work at :

5 comments: said...

Great questions and clear in depth answers. Nice work!

David Gluck said...

You start to feel all good about your artwork, and then you check the GCA blog, and think...dammit.

Anonymous said...

beautiful work,does josh take commisions for dog portraits?

Anonymous said...

Excellent blog post...when will Part 2 be posted?

Connor de Jong said...

Anonymous 1: If you are interested in a commission piece from Josh, it is best that you contact him directly.

Anonymous 2: Thank you, Part 2 will be posted tomorrow.