Martin Dimitrov artist blog. 

The Lady of Shalott

The Lady of Shalott, 14"x20" Oil on board

The Lady of Shalott, 14"x20" Oil on board

This is my painting inspired by the poem "The Lady of Shalott", by Alfred Lord Tennyson. It is also my submission to the #thepoetryofplace challenge by Donald Journey. There are actually two version of this poem, one from 1832 and one from 1842. The verses that inspired my painting are: 


A pale, pale corpse she floated by,
Deadcold between the houses high,
    Dead into towered Camelot
Knight and burgher, lord and dame,
To the plankèd wharfage came:
Below the stern they read her name,


Under tower and balcony,
By garden-wall and gallery,
A gleaming shape she floated by,
Dead-pale between the houses high,
    Silent into Camelot.
Out upon the wharfs they came,
Knight and burgher, lord and dame,
And around the prow they read her name,
    The Lady of Shalott.

Progression for the Lady of Shalott

Progression for the Lady of Shalott

And below are some of the studies that I created along the way. I drove around the neighborhoods until I found a couple of different ivy-like plants growing on a wall, and made drawings of them. I used one of the plants, and it is slightly visible in the background. But before all of that, I did several drawing of a female face from imagination and tweaked it (making multiple versions on transfer paper). I then transferred my drawing to the board using charcoal and pencil.

I also spent a couple of hours painting the water of a fountain near my house, but I did not end up using those studies (not literally, but painting the water gave me a better feel for it when I created my own design). 

Winter Poem

Donald Journey ( inspired me with his idea to paint a landscape based on a poem. It is a beautiful idea, and a beautiful poem that Donald picked for his #thepoetryofplace Challenge. Here it is: 

The sun that brief December day
Rose cheerless over hills of gray,
And, darkly circled, gave at noon
A sadder light than waning moon.
Slow tracing down the thickening sky
Its mute and ominous prophecy,
A portent seeming less than threat,
It sank from sight before it set.

Extract from: "Snow-Bound: A Winter Idyl" by John Greenleaf Whittier

Snow Bound, 12" x 14.5" oil on canvas panel

Snow Bound, 12" x 14.5" oil on canvas panel

The poem brought me memories of winter landscapes from Bulgaria. I used these memories as a starting point, but I also wanted to stay faithful to the poem and depict the hills of gray and the cheerless, sad sun. 
I started with a couple of thumbnail drawings in charcoal, to explore composition ideas. Next, I did a quick thumbnail study in oil. I was pleased with the small studies, so I started the painting. I painted on two versions of the painting in parallel. One of the two versions was looser and more experimental. It proved very valuable, since I was able to transfer some ideas from it to my primary painting.
Although I explored using some subtle color (on a thumbnail as well as on my second version of the painting), I decided to stay almost exclusively in grayscale. This is because, I felt that stripping down the color was more true to the emotion of the poem. Color simply did not fit into that painting. 

Cotton Fields and a Happy Thanksgiving

8" x 8" Oil on canvas panel

8" x 8" Oil on canvas panel

8" x 10" Oil on canvas panel

8" x 10" Oil on canvas panel

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! The cotton fields are in full bloom right now, and they are beautiful. However, if you would like to see them you have to hurry, because the machines have started picking up the cotton. 

I started an 11" x 14" painting (planning to work on it for several days). Unfortunately, I was not able to complete the painting, because I did not realize how quickly the cotton plant would change. In just a couple of days what used to be a green bud, had turned into a big bowl of cotton. However, while working on my 11"x14" in the morning light, I was able to complete the 2 smaller paintings (see above) in the afternoons. 

I also worked on another small painting, trying to capture an entire field of cotton (and not just the individual flowers). However, as I started that painting, the machines swooped in and collected the cotton from right under my nose. 

While painting the cotton, a native-american man approached me and struck a conversation. From our conversation, I could gather that he had spent the majority of his life in prison. He was very appreciative and respectful of my work, but said that he lacked the patience to paint himself. It was a very memorable conversation, and I cherish those experiences.


A gentleman and his wife stopped by to see me paint. They were so kind to email me some photographs of myself painting. I included those in the gallery above. Thanks Matt. 

A Crescent Moon and a Poem

Pretty soon early mornings will get really really cold and unpleasant for painting, so I am going to take advantage of this weather as much as I can. This morning, I was captivated by the delicate shape of the crescent moon. 

Crescent Moon Before Sunrise, 8"x10" oil on panel

Crescent Moon Before Sunrise, 8"x10" oil on panel

And here is a beautiful poem by Friedrich Hölderlin. I came across this poem while watching YouTube lectures on philosophy. In it, the poet says: "Once I lived like the gods, and more is not needed" - arguing that in life, quality trumps quantity. Regardless of how much you agree, it is beautifully written. 


"To the Parcae"

A single summer grant me, great powers, and
a single autumn for fully ripened song
that, sated with the sweetness of my
playing, my heart may more willingly die.
The soul that, living, did not attain its divine
right cannot repose in the nether world.
But once what I am bent on, what is
holy, my poetry, is accomplished:
Be welcome then, stillness of the shadows’ world!
I shall be satisfied though my lyre will not
accompany me down there. Once I
lived like the gods, and more is not needed.” 
― Friedrich Hölderlin



This Morning at the Sunrise Spot

The weather could not be any better nowadays (especially in the mornings and evenings). So I am really enjoying coming back out to my sunset and sunrise spots (except that there still are a lot of mosquitoes at night)

Electric posts before sunrise 9"x12" oil on panel

Electric posts before sunrise 9"x12" oil on panel

And here are a couple of picture with my phone of my sunrise spot. How beautiful in that place for painting :) 

Painting Companion

I did a full day of painting yesterday and I am quite happy. I love it when the weather is dynamic and the clouds are moving. I completed  a couple of nocturnal paintings as well, but have not photographed them yet ... so stay tuned. Below is a picture with my phone from a painting that I did in the morning. 

In the afternoon, I enjoyed the company of this handsome guy. He must have been quite bored, because he wanted to attract my attention in all sorts of ways. He finally succeeded, when he started stealing my paint tubes and trying to chew on them or dig them into a hole.

After I took that picture, I realized the he had quite a bit of cadmium yellow on his lips. So I grabbed his mouth and tried to wipe it as good as I could. That yellow maybe tasty, but its not good for you.

The dog stayed with me the entire time that I was painting. When I completed my night painting at 8pm, he was still there. I felt bad driving away. I have some more paintings planned from that location, so I hope to see him again.

Making My First Frame (part 1)

Buying frames is expensive (especially for small paintings). It also takes time to receive your frames; time during which your paintings could be hanging on a wall. And finally, if you make your own frame, you can place just the exact color on the trim in order to complement the painting. So I decided to give this a try.

To start off, I used a sample piece of frame that I wanted to make. This is simple L-shape floater frame. Most online frame-shops will ship you a free sample.

Measuring off of that sample, I purchased my wood (8-quarters poplar, ~$25 for a 72"x8" piece) from woodworker's source. I am not an experienced woodworker, so the recommendation that I followed from the wood-shop was to make the L-shape by cutting out the wood on the table-saw, and not by gluing 2 strips together (to make it easier). In order to make accurate rip cuts, I purchased a rip-blade for my table saw ($30) and also used a feather-block to prop the wood in place while ripping. You can see the resulting moldings that I cut out of that piece of wood. 

In order to make accurate corners, I had to make a "miter sled" for my table saw. Once you ensure that you miter sled is at a 90 degrees, then you can make a consistent cut every time. Here is a great video showing how to make the miter sled:

Once you make the miter sled, then you can cut the 4 pieces, brush some wood glue on each corner and secure them using spring miter clamps ($50 for the spring miter clamps). Here is another great video that I used as a reference on how to assemble a frame in this way:

Overall I am pretty happy how it turned out. This is an 8.5"x10.5" floater frame (for an 8"x10" painting). The corners are close to perfect. Any small imperfections, I believe I can remove by sanding a little or using just a little wood putty. I also made a slightly larger frame (11x14), which had more noticeable mis-alignments. Thus I believe that with my method, I will limit myself to making frames no larger than 11x14. This is because, the larger the frame the more precise the cut needs to be. My method seems to give in to error (maybe due to my miter sled) past a point.

In the second part of this blog post, I will experiment with some paints/techniques for finishing the frame and I will share my findings.

An Amazing Find

I was going around several Goodwill stores today in order to buy a small table, to re-purpose as a studio palette. I did find a table, but I also found this awesome antique coin-collection box that I bought for $6.

The thing about this coin collection box is that it has grooves for fitting panels of exactly 14"x11", which happens to be a perfect panel size of outdoor painting (good thing I had my measuring tape with me, since I was measures tables).  My Raymar panels fit perfectly inside this box (see below). Raymar sells plastic panel carriers for $30. The Raymar carriers hold 6 panels in 3 tracks (panels are back to back), while mine holds 20 panels in 10 tracks!!! I am now ready for an extended, plein-air painting trip. 

Fufu's House

Today I went to the second location, which I had found last weekend. When I saw it last time, the sun was setting and illuminating the face of the house. I called this painting "Fufu's House", since a couple of ladies stopped their car to see me paint, and said: "This is Fufu's house.".

Thumbnail for Fufu's House

Fufu's House, Oil on linen, about 10"x20" 

I wanted to paint Fufu's house in the afternoon, but I arrived there too early. So I stopped to paint the canal first and came back to this later. 

Deserted Industrial Place

I am not sure what this place used to be. Maybe it used to be a gas station, or a car wash ... I don't know. I was captured by the strong shadow shapes, as well as by the little squares of color from the storage containers in the distance.

While initially this place may look deserted - there was actually quite a lot of life around. There were a bunch of birds (I captures some of them). I also painted an airplane in the sky.

Deserted Industrial Space, 8"x16" oil on linen panel
The finished painting on the easel

Sitting Woman with Spotted Shirt

The sitter had a very pale-white skin, which I thought was beautiful. In order to bring out the skin tone, I darkened the background slightly. I also simplified the background, which I think helps keep the interest on the spotted shirt.

I normally use a combination of Terra Rosa, Transparent Oxide Red and Viridian for my skin tones (and white of course). However, under her powdery-white skin, there was a strong pinkish tint - which made me pull out the cadmium red.

I quite enjoyed myself tonight. After chasing a moving light, and trying to capture the faces of talking, moving and grumbling people on the street - painting in the studio was relaxing :). This was a 3-hour pose at Scottsdale Artist School.

Sitting Woman with Spotted Shirt, 8"x10" oil on linen panel

Shirtless Man

Dale was quite the grumpy fellow. He was constantly fidgeting and mumbling how he was wasting his time. A couple of times I tried to ask him to stay still, but he was getting annoyed. He was actually pissed off regardless of what I did.  So I stopped talking to him and just tried to capture whatever I could, before he would decide to leave. 

At some point, he looked like he was reaching his limit, so I decided to wrap-up, pay him and leave him alone. Then, he came around to see my painting, and said: 

- Man, someone is going to shoot you for doing something like this!

- Why? - I said. 

- Because, it does not look like anything. 

Quite the character. If he could sit still, he would make a great portrait - since his face constantly expressed so much emotion (negative emotion that is) 

Shirtless Man, 11"x14" oil on linen panel

Homeless Veteran with One Ear

Barney is a war veteran. He was missing one ear, and was telling me that he was shot in his back (I don't know where in the back). He was hungry and thirsty too (I gave him a bottle of water and paid him a fair salary for his work). A man stopped by and told me that Barney was a good man, helping others and working to get people off the streets.

Barney was sinking in thought, but then also flashing a big smile whenever people passed by and said "hi" to him. I painted him sad, but maybe another time I will capture his smile as well.

For this painting I decided to paint Barney from above ( I was painting standing up, while Barney was siting in his electric wheel-chair.) I felt that painting him from above made for a stronger statement - it emphasized the fact that he is disabled and people usually look down at him. It also made him look smaller and weaker...

Homeless Veteran with One Ear, 11"x14" oil on linen panel


I was facing south. Guy was back-lit and completely covered by the tree shadow. However, for a brief moment around 3pm the sun sneaked through the leaves and lit his book and his cap. I decided to include those warm patches of sun. I also included an element (in the upper left corner) which was not there, in order to complete the composition.

Guy, 8"x16" oil on linen panel