Monthly Meeting October 2015 Report

“Dynamic Portraits Through Good Design” by Michaelin Otis

Otis demo 1

Otis demo 3Though residing now in Arizona, Michaelin Otis is a well know artist and teacher in the Twin Cites where she lived and painted for many years. She mentioned that her first teacher was Frank Zeller who taught classes in his garage. It was fitting that Frank was the subject of her portrait at our October meeting. Michaelin worked from a value sketch based on a photo of Frank. Her drawing on Strathmore illustration board with a vellum surface was an enlarged version of the sketch. She began the painting by putting down non-staining colors (raw sienna and cerulean) as suggested by another Minnesota artist, Cheng-Khee Otis demo 4Otis demo 5Chee. These colors can be lifted back to white, especially on the illustration board which she uses for portraits. She places raw sienna over the entire face wherever there is no white, then cerulean on the shirt. Her paints are mostly Holbein which reconstitute well.

Michelin then paints the skin tones with a mixture of raw sienna and alizarin crimson or carmine, and the shadows with burnt sienna and ultramarine blue. After these layers dry, she “smooths” the edges with a bristle brush. She then “messes up” the portrait with random brush strokes to get a painterly effect. Finally, she puts in the background which is generally quite Otis demo 6 Otis demo 7dark with some abstracted white shapes.

Two important design principles govern Michaelin’s work: 1)White and black meet at the center of interest 2) A variety of edges makes the difference between a good painting and a great painting. “If you enter a show,” she advised, “you must grab the judge’s attention in about 3 seconds. You can do this with color, line or value. I concentrate on value.”

This demo by Michelin Otis brought many old friends together and introduced many of us to another new friend.