Bob Baker, “Still Life, Apples and Bottle, in the Manner of Degas” (2017); “Still Life With Apples” (2017); “Altoids Challenge” (2017)

29 Apr

FullSizeRender (16)Bob Baker, Still Life, Apples and Bottle, in the Manner of Degas (2017)

I just got some new soft pastels and decided to try doing a still life in the manner of Edgar Degas.  I found a couple of good sources that elaborate on his technique, which involves first sketching the subject in charcoal and then layering in successive strata of color after first locking in the prior layer with a fixative.  It really works and allows for a very unique effect.  If you’re interested in this sort of thing here are links to my sources:

Below are two more recent paintings.  The first is another pastel still life and the second is my personal shot at the Altoids Challenge, in which the painter tries creating the best possible work that will fit inside the lid of an Altoids mint box.  It was a lot of fun!

17991010_10208597564718862_1090144793394683776_nBob Baker, Still Life With Apples (2017)

18056819_10208655389804453_6275532817780900475_nBob Baker, Altoids Challenge (2017)


Bob Baker, “Barn, Waupaca County, Wisconsin” (2017); Bob Baker, “Head Study in the Manner of Michelangelo” (2017)

8 Apr


FullSizeRender (11)Bob Baker, Barn, Waupaca County, Wisconsin (2017)

FullSizeRender (10)Bob Baker, Head Study in the Manner of Michelangelo (2017)

Here are my two most recent sketches.  I actually did a painting of the barn a few years ago and decided to do it again in charcoal and pastel pencil for a different look.  The head study is from Michelangelo.  I’m still working my way through Reginald Marsh’s Anatomy for Artists.

Bob Baker, “Figure Sketch in the Manner of Michelangelo”; “Head Sketch in the Manner of Rubens”

2 Apr

FullSizeRender (6)Bob Baker, Figure Sketch in the Manner of Michelangelo (2017)

The last couple weeks I’ve been studying Reginald Marsh’s excellent book, Anatomy for Artists (American Artists Group, 1945).  Marsh, who was an avid student of the Renaissance masters, helps you learn the old methods by guiding you through figure sketches by the likes of Michelangelo, Titian, Rubens, and Raphael.  Marsh shows you the original and then provides his own quick “starter” sketch as an aid.  You build on the Marsh sketch and eventually try to approach the masterwork.

I’m just getting started but it really seems to work.  Each of these two sketches took under an hour.  I’m no Michelangelo, but this is a great learning experience.  The Rubens sketch, interestingly, is based on an ancient Roman coin — Rome was already deemed ancient when Rubens was painting!

FullSizeRender (5)Bob Baker, Head Sketch in the Manner of Rubens (2017)

Reginald Marsh, as some of you know, is a favorite of mine.  He was simultaneously a student of the Renaissance and a dedicated modern immersed in the grittier side of daily life in New York.  His figures are larger than life in the manner of Michelangelo and his compositions are modern-day frescoes.  His favorite medium, egg tempera, is straight out of the Renaissance.  Marsh:

marsh-wonderland-circus-sideshow-coney-island-1930Reginald Marsh, Wonderland Circus, Sideshow Coney Island (1930)

Bob Baker, “Still Life With Two Apples and a Vase” (2017)

26 Mar

FullSizeRender (4)Bob Baker, Still Life With Two Apples and a Vase (2017)

Charcoal drawing from yesterday.

It’s a challenge rendering things in black and white but it keeps you attuned to value.  In visual art color seems to get most of the glory but the heavy lifting is actually done by value, i.e. the light and shadows that visually define objects.

Color is important to a work of art but value is even more important.  For example, if you lacked the capacity to see color you could still navigate; but if you lacked the capacity to differentiate between light and shadows you’d lack the capacity to see at all.  Generally it’s value, not color, that’s responsible for most of the depth and drama of a piece of visual art.

All of which is just a long way of saying that, in a world full of bright colors, it’s important to stay on intimate terms with value. One good way to give value its due is to use a medium like charcoal in which color is factored out.



Bob Baker, “Daffodils in a Windowsill (In the Manner of Van Gogh)” (2017)

20 Mar

FullSizeRender (1)Bob Baker, Daffodils in a Windowsill (in the Manner of Van Gogh) (2017)

This morning’s painting.  In search of a good way to capture the flow and movement of Daffodil petals — how to convey the idea without getting too academic about it — I blundered around for awhile before realizing the Daffodil is a Van Gogh sort of flower. It seemed to work.  Thank you Vincent!

Bob Baker, “Still Life With Lily and Daffodils” (2017)

19 Mar

Lily-daffodils-updatedBob Baker, Still Life With Lily and Daffodils (2017)

Here’s my painting from today — Lilies and Daffodils actually go pretty well together!  I’ve been focusing on still lifes lately and found Lilies and Daffodils on sale at the grocery this morning. I figured why not?  Have a good weekend.


Bob Baker, “Still Life With Roses” (2017)

12 Mar

Baker-still-life-with-rosesBob Baker, Still Life With Roses (2017)

Today’s painting.  Someone I know has a wedding this weekend and posted some beautiful pictures of flowers and it got me in the mood to do another still life — this time featuring red roses.


Bob Baker, “Sunrise, Streid Road” (2017)

5 Mar

fullsizerender25Bob Baker, Sunrise, Streid Road (2017)

Here’s my painting from yesterday, depicting the sunrise on Streid Road in Bloomington, looking west toward the airport.  This is another little 6″x8″ panel I executed in about a half hour, once again employing the limited palette of Anders Zorn: Ivory Black; Titanium White; Ochre; and Vermillion. Besides the limited palette I also consciously adopted the style of one of my favorites, Canadian artist Tom Thomson.

A quick word about imitating other artists: imitating another artist is one of the classic ways to teach yourself to paint.  It’s a great way to see the world through the eyes of another who came before you.  Somebody who breathed the same air, smelled the same smell, faced the same problems.  Imitation is hugely important.  No less an artist than Robert Henri strongly recommended the method in his terrific guide to artistic study, The Art Spirit.  To those who worry that by emulating another you’ll somehow lose being yourself, Henri offers the following sage admonition:

Don’t worry about your originality. You couldn’t get rid of it even if you wanted to. It will stick with you and show up for better or worse in spite of all you or anyone else can do.

Bob Baker, “Still Life With Three Apples” (2017)

5 Mar


Bob Baker, Still Life With Three Apples (2017)

Here’s my painting from this morning.  Every once in awhile I like to do a still life so went out to the grocery yesterday, shopping for fruit. These are “Jazz” apples — my son, Joe, and I ate them after their modeling career was over!

Bob Baker, “I-55 at Towanda” (2017)

25 Feb

i-55-at-towandaBob Baker, I-55 at Towanda (2017)

Today’s painting depicts I-55 at the Towanda (Illinois) exit around 7:15 a.m. this past Wednesday.  We’ve been having some beautiful mornings around here.  On this one there was a blanket of fog in all the low spots and it was around 50 degrees — in February in northern Illinois.

Once again I used the Anders Zorn palette: Ivory Black, Zinc White, Ochre and Vermillion.  Sometimes I deliberately shrink the palette for effect.  The short palette forces you to do  things, like amp up contrast and focus on value, that conjure up the past and stretch your abilities.  Happy Saturday.




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