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Martin Dimitrov artist blog. 

Blissful Sleep

Blissful Sleep - Bronze

Blissful Sleep - Bronze

My Inspiration

When my son was born, and my wife held him for the first time, I was amazed at how tiny he was, and how beautiful they both were. I also knew, that he would grow up fast and that I needed to capture a piece of this memory. The work "Blissful Sleep" was inspired by the moments when my son was sleeping in his mother's arms. His head was tilted back, and his mouth was open in a pure and peaceful abandon. I chose sculpture as my medium for expression, since I wanted to depict the form and emotion, but also true to life-size, the sculpture would physically embody how small a baby really is..

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My Process

I started sculpting my son just 4-5 days after he was born. I moved my sculpting supplies in our bedroom and worked on the sculpture while he was sleeping or breastfeeding. Sometimes, I carried the clay head around the house and sculpted wherever he happened to be. He slept soundly at the time and was not much bothered by my working close to him. Once, the proportions were correct and all the major features were in place, I mounted the head on an armature and proceeded to sculpt the finer details. I sculpted at different times of day and night, and under different lighting, to help me refine the forms and the shadows that they create.

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I completed modeling in clay after about two months - reworking some of the features several times, as they needed refinement, but also because they were gradually changing as he was growing.

Casting In Bronze

"Blissful Sleep" was cast in bronze using the "lost wax" method. This method has been used for thousands of years and remains largely the same today. It involves a number of steps, but at a very high-level, it is as follows. First, a rubber mold is created from the clay sculpture. Then, the mold is used to make a copy of the sculpture in wax. The sculptor refines the wax and ensures that it is ready for metal casting. Next, the wax undergoes a process of coating in a slurry of silica. The coating is allowed to dry and it is fired at a high temperature, such that the wax melts away and a ceramic shell remains. Molten bronze is poured into the ceramic shell and after cooling off, the shell is broken and the bronze remains. In the final step, the sculptor works together with a patina artist to color or "patina" the artwork.

The bronze before patina.

The bronze before patina.

Study with Blueberries

10”x10” oil on panel

10”x10” oil on panel

For this study my focus was on:

  • Exploration of edges - soft, sharp, broken etc.

  • Composition using minimal number of values - I pushed the values close to each other and combined them whenever possible. I also omitted some values. For example, I did not paint the highlights on the cup. The highlights would have introduced another value and would have disturbed the quietness of the composition.

  • Somewhere along the way, I decided to include some purely abstract shapes into the painting. Because it was fun.

Lost and Scared - Bronze

It has taken me a while, but I finally got around to photographing my bronze of “Lost and Scared”. It is my first bronze, and one that I loved making. At times, working on the sculpture felt like I was touching my boy Oggy.

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Happy Thanksgiving from the New Art Studio

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

I have a lot to be thankful for this year. My wife and I are expecting a new member of our family (a boy), we bought a house, and I have a new art studio!

The studio is spacious, light and inspiring and it was built by the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. It has a massive north-facing window, overlooking a lemon tree, vaulted ceilings, and warm, wooden walls. It is a dream come true.

I am eager to start painting. But once I settle in, I am also considering to start teaching there (if you are interested, let me know or sign up for my email newsletter to get notified. )

Happy Holidays!

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Large-Scale Nocturnal on Location

50"x60"

50"x60"

A new project - painting a large nocturnal painting, on location. I loved the mood created by the warm street lights, the flickering distant city lights, and vast shadows. Since the lighting of the scene did not change much during the night, I was able to return to the scene for multiple sessions. There were some interesting challenges: 

1) Transporting the painting. It was too large to fit inside my car, so I made a wooden box, which attaches to the roof-racks. The canvas slides inside the box and is secured using bolts, so that it does not move during the ride. 

2) Lighting. A book light does not work for a large canvas. Thus, I decided to use battery powered furniture lights. The lights were held in position by a smart-phone "goose-neck" holder, and the smart-phone holder was secured to a telescoping stand. It was a strange contraption. 

3) Easel and wind. I used one of my studio easels - a basic 3-leg easel. The easel had a weight attached for stability. The canvas was additionally tied down with ropes to guard against the wind. 

On to the next one. 

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Times Past 2

28" x 36" oil on canvas panel

28" x 36" oil on canvas panel

I have not posted to my blog in many months. I hope to reverse that trend, and make my blog, once again, the place where I share my latest works, thoughts and process. 

The painting above was completed a number of months ago. However due to the heavy paint application in the background, I had to wait before varnishing it and taking a photo. It was painted using the natural morning light. 

Painting in process

Painting in process

Below is a thumbnail study. Maybe 3"x4". I always do these preliminary studies to help me evaluate the composition and to decide on the crop and dimentions of the final painting. 

small thumbnail study for Times Past 2

small thumbnail study for Times Past 2

Mold Making for "Lost and Scared"

The mold-maker has cut up my sculpture "Lost and Scared", so that he can make the rubber mold... 

Front legs were cut. The wooden sticks will serve as exhaust channels when pouring the wax. 

Front legs were cut. The wooden sticks will serve as exhaust channels when pouring the wax. 

The back legs, as well as ears and tail were also cut. 

The back legs, as well as ears and tail were also cut. 

Making the mold of the torso

Making the mold of the torso

Packing for Spain

Two weeks from now I will be in Spain, on an adventure of a lifetime - thanks to the Donald and Kim Jurney Travelling Fellowship. I am pretty much ready with my planning, and I thought I would share the painting supplies that I will be carrying. 

I hope to make a bunch of videos of my travels in Spain, and if you would like to follow along, please follow my youtube channel. 

Here is the text to include with your paints in the checked bag. Thank you Melanie Thompson. 

ARTISTS’ PIGMENT ENCLOSED The US Department of Transportation defines “flammable liquids” as those with a flash point 140 degrees F or below. Artist grade oil colors are based on vegetable oil with a flashpoint at or above 450 degrees F. THEY ARE NOT HAZARDOUS. If you need to confirm this, please contact TSA at 866-289-9673 or their Hazardous Materials Research Center at 800-467-4922. Take care when inspecting to prevent getting colors on clothing. THANK YOU for keeping us safe. To contact this traveler, dial (Your number here)

Lost and Scared

My wife and I adopted our dog Oggy about a year and a half ago. Since then, he has brought us so much love and happiness, that I cannot understand how we ever lived without him! Oggy is a sweet, loving and fun dog. 

However, when we first adopted him, he was skinny and shaking like a leaf - scared of everything. The people from the shelter told us that, he was dumped on the street from a car, and the car just drove away. 

I have been deeply touched by Oggy, and I felt so sorry for him when he was scared. I imagined him being lost and scurrying around on the streets after been abandoned. It is this image and this story, that I wanted to capture in my work. And while the work is inspired by Oggy, I did not want it to be a portrait of him, but rather a vehicle for expressing an emotion. Thus, I worked a lot from imagination - in creating the gesture of the pose, in exaggerating his undernourishment and more. Below is the finished clay, which will be cast in bronze (I have re-touched it a little after taking the pictures). 

After some months of work, I finally took it to the mold-maker today. In future posts, I hope to share some of the process of getting the wax and bronze. It has been a very challenging and rewarding project - I really loved working next to my boy, studying him and observing him. Observing how he moves, how his anatomy is expressed, etc. A fun example below, is how I measured his paws by dipping them in coffee and pressing them on paper. 

The timid and scared Oggy is now only a memory. He is currently confident and spoiled :) Here is one of my favorite videos of him playing with a sprinkler. 

Thank you for reading

Composition in Candlelight

24" x 36" Oil on linen panel

24" x 36" Oil on linen panel

This is the last painting that I completed in 2016. Working on it was challenging and inspiring (not to mention that it required burning a lot of candles). 

The colors, that the candlelight created, were absolutely beautiful, and I enjoyed contemplating them for hours. I painted them from memory (after periods of observation), as well as by using small book-reading lights shining on my canvas. The book-reading lights were carefully blocked off with panels so as not to interfere with the candlelight (Even thought, I captured a bit of their bluish effect in the shadow areas in the painting, especially in the white cup and the shadow that it was casting). 

The images above, show a couple of progress shots. A block-in with burned umber on the left, followed by a monochrome (values only) painting and a color study on the right.  

Using string and nails at the appropriate vanishing points, I made sure to understand the perspective correctly. 

Recipient of the Donald and Kim Jurney Travelling Fellowship

I cannot begin to describe my excitement when I learned today that I have been selected as the recipient of the  Donald and Kim Jurney Travelling Fellowship (http://jurneyfellowship.weebly.com)! It is an opportunity of a lifetime and a dream come true. I will travel to Spain for at least 2 months, paint daily and enjoy the work of all the amazing Spanish artists - Velazquez, Sorolla, Ramon Casas, Picasso, Antonio Lopez, and others.  

I am very honored and humbled and I hope to make Donald and Kim Jurney proud. I am very thankful for the opportunity that they have created! 

Feature in International Artist Magazine

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My painting "Times Past 1" was selected as a finalist in the International Artist Magazine competition and I was invited to write about my inspiration, design and working process. Here it is, thank you for reading: 

My Inspiration

There was a time, when objects had more dings and scratches, more character, and many memories associated with them. A simple cooking dish like an iron pot, was sometimes passed down from one generation to the next and seemed to carry the family history with it. It could spark memories of all the meals that grandma used to make in it, and the summers spent with her and grandpa at the seaside. But that old pot can can also help us see, how quickly our years go by and how irrecoverably gone are the days of our childhood. It is that sense of beauty and character of an old object, that inspired me to paint this work.

My Design strategy

I wanted to balance two primary objectives in this composition. First, I wanted to have a clear main character - the set of iron pots. As in painting a portrait, everything else was to be subordinated to my main character. To achieve this, I placed the pots prominently in the center and rendered them with the utmost precision. As the eye moves further away from the center of interest, it sees less contrast and less detailed (even unfinished) rendering. Second, I wanted the scene to appear more impromptu, more real - as if the owner of the house placed these objects there temporarily, and then left home never to return, leaving the viewer with a window through time. To achieve this subtle mood, I used diffused cool lighting (which created almost no shadows). Thus, the objects do not appear to be purposefully lit, but rather receive ambient light from elsewhere.

My Working Process

I do not use photographs in my work. Therefore, the initial drawing (with the required level of accuracy) was one of the more difficult and time-consuming steps. I used a Dürer’s Grid (a wooden frame with equally spaced vertical and horizontal strings), to help me get the overall proportions correctly. After noting the proportions, I developed a pencil drawing on paper. Next, I transferred the drawing to a canvas and created an underpainting with black, burned umber and white. After the underpainting was dry, I started painting in color. Some areas were painted in multiple layers, while others were left untouched after an initial block-in - always keeping with my main objectives and leaving out detail that did not contribute to them. Note, that my process varies in different paintings depending on my goals, as well as depending on time, light or other constraints (if painting outside).

Sedona Plein Air Festival

I was privileged to be invited to the Sedona Plein Air Festival this year. It felt like the perfect vacation to me - a vacation, in which you spend 10 days in a beautiful place and you don't feel guilty that you are not painting (because you are painting all the time). 

The festival arranged for a free accommodation to my family (my wife, my dog and myself), in a beautiful rustic house, with a yard for the dog and an unobstructed view to the most iconic rock in Sedona, Cathedral Rock. I would wake up before sunrise and take a hike with Oggy. We saw rabbits, deer and such a huge coyote that it might have been a wolf. I would look for a good painting spot during our morning walks, but I never really ended up going too far from the back yard to paint. All the great subject matter was right there in front of the house. 

Painting "Last Light on Cathedral Rock from the house I was staying in. 

Painting "Last Light on Cathedral Rock from the house I was staying in. 

"Last Light on Cathedral Rock", 18"x24" oil on linen panel

"Last Light on Cathedral Rock", 18"x24" oil on linen panel

"Skull" 11"x14" oil on linen panel

"Skull" 11"x14" oil on linen panel

"Grass on the Red Rocks", 8"x10" oil on linen board

"Grass on the Red Rocks", 8"x10" oil on linen board

The festival also arranged for several plein-air paint outs and sales in beautiful locations. Take a look at this video of our paint out in Seven Canyons, and a lot more stuff on the SedonaArtsCenter Facebook page. 

https://www.facebook.com/SedonaArtsCenter/videos/10155341189883858/
https://www.facebook.com/SedonaArtsCenter 

At the end of the week of painting, there were awards and a closing ceremony. My painting "Last Light on Cathedral Rock" won the image award of the show and will be featured in all of next year's advertising - billboards, magazines, etc. 

Sedona Plein Air Festival awards ceremony

Sedona Plein Air Festival awards ceremony

Thank you Sedona Plein Air Festival, thank you to our hosts Caroline and Gary, and all the great people that we met there!

Dry Peonies

18" x 21" oil on linen

18" x 21" oil on linen

For this work, I experimented with 2 indirect lights to enhance color: a cool light bouncing off the ceiling, and a nearby warm light bouncing off the floor. The warm light contributed to the orange glow on the wood, as well as the subtle shadow on the fabric. 

The still-life setup, with supporting boundary tape and horizontal/vertical middle lines to help with accuracy in the drawing. 

The still-life setup, with supporting boundary tape and horizontal/vertical middle lines to help with accuracy in the drawing. 

New Still-Life Paintings

I  have spent the last several months mostly focusing on still-life paintings. These works have allowed me to slow down and to really think through the design and the mood of the work that I want to create. 

Times Past 1, 28"x36" Oil on canvas

Times Past 1, 28"x36" Oil on canvas

White Cup, 26"x22" Oil on linen panel

White Cup, 26"x22" Oil on linen panel

The painting "White Cup" above has been accepted in the juried show of International Guild of Realism Artists in Gallery 1261 in Denver, Colorado. I am looking forward to visiting Denver in August!

Fish Study

Fish Study

The fish was more experimental and a quicker study (painted over a couple of days). The apartment did smell very nicely during those couple of days.  

Times Past 1 - just delivered to the gallery and hung on the wall. 

Times Past 1 - just delivered to the gallery and hung on the wall. 

Grapefruits

Grapefruits, Oil on canvas 24"x28"

Grapefruits, Oil on canvas 24"x28"

The last painting that I completed in 2015 was of a grapefruit tree, on the west side of a quiet street in Tempe, not too far from my home. I painted the tree over what seemed like many days. But every day, when I arrived in front of the tree and looked up at its fruits, it brought a smile to my face - the grapefruits were so beautiful. 
    I painted in the afternoons, when the sun had turned behind the tree, and the fruits were away from direct sunlight. Even with the sun behind the tree, the colors were changing significantly throughout the afternoon. Thus, it was between 3:30pm and 4:30pm when I tried to make my most important color and tone decisions.  

This complex scene, separates into only 3 main values - the light of the fruits and the sky, the mid-tones of the leaves, and the darks of the deep shadows. 

This complex scene, separates into only 3 main values - the light of the fruits and the sky, the mid-tones of the leaves, and the darks of the deep shadows. 

I started with a drawing on a 24"x36" paper to determine the composition. I then transferred the drawing to the stretched canvas. 

I started with a drawing on a 24"x36" paper to determine the composition. I then transferred the drawing to the stretched canvas. 

Still-life with white cup

24" x 30" Oil on canvas

24" x 30" Oil on canvas

I find paintings of "white" things to be some of the most beautiful and fascinating. For instance, I admire, how something "white" could be painted with so much color, in the work of a master. Or how amazing it is, that such a mud-colored passage would look like snow when seen in relation to the rest of the colors in the painting. White things in paintings are beautiful.  

The subject of this painting is the beauty of a simple white cup, colored by the morning light. Everything else in the painting is subordinate to this idea. To select the best composition to express my idea, I created a number of studies (see some of them below). For example, in one of the studies (top right), I have rendered the background cloth. Subsequently, I decided that the detail on the cloth competes for attention, and I decided to leave it out. 

Some of the composition and value studies 

Some of the composition and value studies 

Below is a detail of the painting. I paid utmost attention to edges, such that even the hardest edge has some softness to it.  

Detail

Detail

My appreciation for still-life paintings has evolved significantly over the last couple of years, thanks to past and present masters of this genre. Here I would like to share just a couple of my still-life influences. 

Emil Carlsen (1853 - 1932) - one of the best ever in my opinion

Emil Carlsen (1853 - 1932) - one of the best ever in my opinion

Michael Klien - One of my favorite contemporary artists

Michael Klien - One of my favorite contemporary artists

Rober Lemler - I have taken classes with Robert and I absolutely love his work. Love the strong values and simplicity. 

Rober Lemler - I have taken classes with Robert and I absolutely love his work. Love the strong values and simplicity. 


Horsenettle Berries

Horsenettle Berries I, 8"x10" Oil on canvas panel

Horsenettle Berries I, 8"x10" Oil on canvas panel

Horsenettle Berries II, 9"x9" oil on wood

Horsenettle Berries II, 9"x9" oil on wood

I am so glad that my Horsenettle Berries I has found a new home! Thank you Gallery Russia for the sale. 

I painted the two Hornettle Berries over multiple sessions at my "sunset spot" overlooking South Mountain. At one point (on two consecutive days) I had encounters with snakes (see the picture below). I could see why snakes like this place - it is packed with chipmunks burrowing holes in the ground. The snake in the picture simply glided into one of those holes (looking for dinner I assume). 

I was indeed worried to see snakes where I was painting ... 

I was indeed worried to see snakes where I was painting ... 

Below are some "in-progress" images.

Oleanders Before Sunrise

9"x12" oil on linen panel

9"x12" oil on linen panel

This painting was the product of a number of studies and a couple of failed attempts. The picture below (bottom left) shows a larger composition, which I started but quickly abandoned, since the flowers had changed too much on the following morning and I decided to paint smaller (Actually a lot of the flowers were trimmed by landscapers a couple of days into my work. Fortunately, some flowers were left behind, so that I could continue pursuing a painting.) The picture below (bottom right), shows a very similar composition to my final painting, which I attempted to complete on location over a couple of sessions. At the end, I was unhappy with my efforts outdoors and decided to take my memories and studies to the studio. 

For the studio painting, I decided to pick an even earlier time of day - before sunrise and while the street lamps were still lit. This is when I found the colors most appealing. I went back out and created a couple of color studies of the sky and the flowers and that time. I also made a detailed drawing and combined these as my references for the final painting. 

At the end, I was pleased with my painting. I also very much enjoyed my mornings, greeting the sunrise and the early joggers and neighbors walking their dogs. 

Figs

It was such as pleasant experience painting the figs, because the tree smelled so good!!! I painted the figs in the early morning (just after sunrise), while they were still in shadow. The painting took me several trips to the location, and over time, the green figs turned purple and I was still working away. 

9"x12" oil on panel. 

9"x12" oil on panel. 

After completing the first painting, I did another one (in a looser style) of the same fig tree.  

9"x12" oil on panel

9"x12" oil on panel

I worked on the figs using a "sight-size" technique, placing my easel right next to the fruit and stepping back to compare.