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Nick Baxter: Realism Techniques II

Nick Baxter: Realism Techniques II

By Nick Baxter
After recently finishing my newest series of paintings for my show in May/June at Last Rites Gallery, I had a chance to revisit an experimental painting I’d started this past summer while attending a workshop by my friend Jeff Gogué, a phenomenal painter and tattoo artist in Grant’s Pass, OR…

To backtrack a bit: I convinced Jeff to lead a workshop for me in an attempt to break away from my well-worn habits and artistic routine. I find the intentional abandonment of familiarity and comfort to be a crucial element of any learning process, and knowing that Jeff has a drastically different technical approach than I do, I knew I could round out my own knowledge and expertise by absorbing some of his.

Jeff and I in his studio.

This proved to be quite challenging and downright frustrating (perfect! or in the words of comedian Will Arnett, “That’s how you know it’s workinnng!”) as I grappled with my ingrained artistic tendencies. (Side note/Cliffhanger #1: I’m preparing a thorough explanation of this concept for a future blog post.)

I started a simple painting that week, abandoning myself to Jeff’s process, with no clear vision of what my end result would look like nor how I would get there. My stay in Oregon ended before I could see this painting through to its conclusion, and I quickly forgot all about it for months while keeping busy with other projects.

How it looked when I left Oregon.

Fast forward to March, and here I am with a unique challenge of revisiting what I’d learned at the workshop in order to finish what I’d started several months prior. I finally had a vision of where I wanted to take this piece, and I made the decision to adapt the foreign process I’d started the painting under, to my own familiar process for finishing pieces, creating an interesting synthesis of two people’s techniques and approaches. A mental collaboration, with only one person executing the plan.

Here’s a step-by-step document of a portion of the painting, consisting of wafting tendrils of black smoke, being completed with my familiar glazing process. Glazing over previously dried layers is the only way to build up smooth transparencies of color–perfect for the illusion of smoke. I’ll post the entire completed painting once it’s been properly photographed.

(Interesting side note/Cliffhanger #2: In deconstructing this process by studying the progress photos I’d taken, I realized a much more efficient method of layer buildup that I could have used, which I predict would also be conducive to even more realistic results. A compare and contrast to the 2 approaches will be the subject of a future Realism Techniques post.)

The smoke was completed in 5 stages, each a transparent glaze layer, consisting of a high alkyd-to-pigment ratio, applied over paint that had been allowed to dry completely.

(Nick can be found here: www.nickbaxter.com)

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