A Painting a Day (1-5)

New Year’s Day was almost over, and I thought to myself, “Oh s**t! If I want to do a painting/drawing each day, I better start working on it right now.” I really don’t know where that came from; it wasn’t a New Year’s Resolution. I must admit that it was tempting forget about this crazy idea of doing one painting a day for one year, or even to leave it until tomorrow… But I didn’t. And below are the results from the first five days.

Isaac Hernandez. "This morning's coffee." Oil pastel on paper. 9x9" Part of the "A Painting a Day" Series: Day 1
Isaac Hernandez. “This morning’s coffee.” Oil pastel on paper. 9×9″ Part of the “A Painting a Day” Series: Day 1

This is not the first time I have started a painting/drawing per day. Once I had a summer dream in Spain, in which I did one painting per day for a year and it became an art exhibit.

Isaac Hernandez. "The Last Persimmon." Oil pastel on paper. 9x9" Part of the "A Painting a Day" Series. Day 2.
Isaac Hernandez. “The Last Persimmon.” Oil pastel on paper. 9×9″ Part of the “A Painting a Day” Series. Day 2.

I’ve managed to make some significant pieces with this process, but it has been at times stressful, for if the end of the day comes and I don’t have something created, I stress and draw something too quickly. This time feels different. Even though I started this project/process without any planning, but just as a sudden thought as the day was waning, it quickly has taken shape, in the form of a square (or close to it) filled with oil pastel. This idea gives the project continuity and somehow it makes it more fun and easier to commit to it. Also, each painting will have some continuity from the previous one, whether it’s subject matter, color palette or some other aspect.

Isaac Hernandez. "Self-portrait after Picasso's Harlequin." Oil pastel on paper. 9x9" Part of the "A Painting a Day" Series: Day 3.
Isaac Hernandez. “Self-portrait after Picasso’s Harlequin.” Oil pastel on paper. 9×9″ Part of the “A Painting a Day” Series: Day 3.

The fact that they have some kind of continuity has also inspired me to turn it into an exhibit. I thought it would be fun to hang a show in the middle of the year, when the project is still in progress, and add new paintings to the exhibit as they are created, so that the exhibit evolves. I could even paint at the show itself so that the process becomes part of the exhibit. I will talk to Roy about this, since he hosted my last painting exhibit.

Isaac Hernandez. "Self-portrait after Irving Penn's Picasso." Oil pastel on paper. 9x9" Part of the "A Painting a Day" Series: Day 4.
Isaac Hernandez. “Self-portrait after Irving Penn’s Picasso.” Oil pastel on paper. 9×9″ Part of the “A Painting a Day” Series: Day 4.

It’s been very much fun so far. If you like what you see, please comment below and encourage me to continue, so that I don’t give up in the process. Also, please let me know if you like the idea of an exhibit and if you have any suggestions for locations worldwide. Finally, I’m going to need a lot of frames for 9×9″ paintings; please let me know if you have suggestions as how to frame these, or if you have frames or funds you’d like to donate. Nevertheless, I will continue painting. I must remind myself the process is what’s important.

Isaac Hernandez. "Self-portrait after Van Gogh with felt hat." Oil pastel on paper. 9x9" Part of the "A Painting a Day" Series: Day 5.
Isaac Hernandez. “Self-portrait after Van Gogh with felt hat.” Oil pastel on paper. 9×9″ Part of the “A Painting a Day” Series: Day 5.

I’ve already drawn number 6, but it’s not photographed yet. I will upload the whole year in this blog as the oil pastels get created, sometimes daily, others weekly. Be patient. My priority is not posting, but painting. Thank you for following.

See other weeks of oil pastels: • Week 2Week 3Weeks 4-7

Please comment below. Every word you write serves as encouragement for me not to give up. Also, I invite you to follow me on Instagram to see daily progress photos of the paintings. Instagram keeps me honest to really create daily. And the photos turn out to be pretty fun.


Self as my Great Great Grandfather

Isaac Hernandez, self-portrait as my Great Great Grandfather, oil pastel on paper, 2010 (in progress). 35.6×43.2cm (14″x17″).

Back in 2010 I started a self-portrait as my great great grandfather. My friend Bob Porter wrote a poem then. He came to visit again yesterday, and we decided to start a collaboration with poems and paintings.

Isaac Hernandez. Self as my great-grandfather, the Conde de Lipa. Oil pastel on paper, 2010-11.
Isaac Hernandez. Self as my Great Great Grandfather, the Conde de Lipa. Oil pastel on paper, 2010-11. 35.6×43.2cm (14″x17″).

It was 2011 before I could complete the drawing/painting, and before I could finally shave off the silly beard. It looked good on my ancestor, but not on me (and I couldn’t get the beard to curl on the sides like he did). Here’s Roberto’s poem:

©2010-13 Bob Porter

Out of the shadows
Like twin brothers, those eyes.
Visions of egalitarian turtle eggs
The taste of upright turkish coffee
The smell of onions, turmeric and coriander
In his dilapidated briefcase,
He carries an old, musty typewriter
He chews tobacco, from Georgia,
He carries a letter from Nietzsche, or is it de Tocqueville? carefully folded in his inner vest pocket
He dreams of revolution and Robespierre
Bonfires and barricades in the street
The sounds of gunfire and the sights of twisted lovers
But the eyes are not sure
And so he waits and watches
Longing for an answer
Or a clue…
Longing, longing…
Waiting, watching…

My great great grandfather, that’s my father’s great grandfather, was Polish. And he was also a pioneer photographer. He also had the title of Conde de Lipa and photographer to the Queen of Spain. I always thought it was a good story, but didn’t really gave it much importance. But over the last few weeks I’ve become obsessed with his life, researching why Captain Ludwik Tarszenski went to France and then on to Spain. It turns out he was some kind of war hero. But I’m not going to write more about him here. You can read about him in Wikipedia or in CondedeLipa.com. On with the show.

My box of good oil pastels is lost and I’ve been feeling anxious about it; I thought I was going to start biting my nails. Finally, I just went and bought a new one with the Art Essentials’ gift certificate I received for Christmas, from my friend who I gave the pig painting to. It was kind of weird synchronicity. I gave her oil pastels on paper and she gives me a paper worth oil pastels.

Finally, I had oil pastels. I was ready to paint/draw. We were also having a party with many guests, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me. If I didn’t get my fingers dirty in oil pastels, I was going to go mad/der. I knew I had to entertain guests, so I did it the best way I could: they got to watch an artist at work. And some where inspired to create art. How great is that? At one point, I was retouching the painting, while Bob was writing the poem above, inspired by the painting, and Emma Jade was playing the piano.

Luis Tarszenski, Conde de Lipa, photographed by Amalia L. Lopez, one of his pupils.

I had the picture above on my phone’s screen while I painted the self-portrait, in order to keep a similar perspective and light, to inspire the mood, and to copy the suit. I also combed my hair to match Ludwik’s, but backwards (on the reflection of the mirror).

Even though I had a new box of oil pastels, I ended up painted with some left over colors I found: acid yellow and blue. I always try to use up all the colors in a box set; as I run out of my favorite colors, I use colors that normally I wouldn’t use, forcing me to try something new. I didn’t really want to paint it in black-and-white, because I tried those “colors” recently already, and I thought it would be boring to do the same thing again.

Since everybody says my paintings look like Van Gogh’s (I think they look like me, but I appreciate the compliments) I will bring up the painting that Vincent did of his mother from a photograph on view at the wonderful Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, and what he wrote to his brother, Theo: “I am doing a portrait of Mother for myself. I cannot stand the colorless photograph, and I am trying to do one in a harmony of color, as I see her in my memory.” This painting was in my mind as I drew myself as Conde de Lipa, but I hadn’t looked at it in years, until now. I didn’t remember the palette that Van Gogh used, but I remembered his words: “I cannot stand the colorless photograph.”


Happy and Sad

Isaac Hernández, Self-portrait, oil pastel on paper, 2010.

I’ve been drawing self-portraits for many years. It’s funny, because I don’t look at myself in the mirror very much, other than when I’m drawing a self-portrait. There are many days when I don’t look at myself in the mirror at all. After all, if you don’t shave or comb your hair, you don’t need a mirror. You can wash your face, floss and brush teeth without seeing you.

When I paint a self-portrait, the person in the mirror is a stranger. And since painting occurs very much as meditation for me, that person is often pensive. And those thoughts looks different every time. I’d like to capture silly emotions all the time, but do you know how difficult is to keep a big smile while looking at yourself in the mirror for hours? And with no make up! I invite you to try it.

Some people have given me a hard time for painting myself sad all the time. To them, I dedicate the self-portrait above. What can I say. I’m a happy guy. And I’m a sad guy. I treasure all emotions. I’m happy I’m sad. I couldn’t have painted myself happy without painting myself sad first, see below. Because if we were happy all the time, we would be bored from happiness.

Both portraits are still in progress. I guess everything is always in progress. When it’s over, you die. I’ve tweaked the one on the bottom several times, correcting different elements to make the forced perspective from down below work. Thanks to Libby Smith, who I had as a teacher, it’s easy for me to see what’s wrong in a face, mostly my face. Yes, I know, Libby, the ears need to move a bit lower still and the left eye (the eye on the left which also happens to be my left eye, since it’s a reflection) still needs more work. And the right could use some adjustments too. But I ran out of yellow. I painted until the oil pastel was the size of a grain of rice. I’ll get some more yellow, and I’ll continue working on it once I shave. I will come back to this blog and add the dimensions. Suffice to say that the sad golden portrait below is at least four times larger than the happy blue portrait above. What does it all mean?

Isaac Hernández, Self-portrait, oil pastel on paper, 2010.


Isaac Hernandez. "Sunburn (self-portrait)". Gouache on paper, 2012. ©2012 IsaacHernandez.com

Last week we celebrated the cast party for The Magical Seaweed with a barbeque that included a beach clean-up. I got a bit sunburn. It was the perfect opportunity to play with my son’s gouache paint set. Who knew gouache could be so much fun? I guess I did, but it had been a long time since the last time I played with gouache.