Film Project Vol.1 - Bailee

"Aaron Nagel Vol.1, Bailee" A Jamie Heinrich Short. Featuring Bailee Mykell. Cinematography by Jamie Heinrich & Max Ritter.

I have the distinct honor of being featured, (along with fantastic model and recent muse, Bailee)  in a short film series by filmmaker Jamie Heinrich. In progress for months, Jamie documented our reference photo shoot for a new painting, and interviewed Bailee and me about the process. I think it's a really interesting perspective on what goes into the planning stages of a painting, how model and artist interact, and what the process looks like in comparison to the final product. it's a side of things people don't often see, I couldn't be happier with how it came out. can't wait to do more! (also, make sure you watch in HD and fullscreen if you can.)

A huge thank you to Jamie for being so supportive, and of course, to Bailee for being a fantastic model and inspiration.


I was invited to participate in this years Dirty Show in Detroit MI, which opens Feb 12. I was initially hesitant to participate, as my paintings are often mistaken as erotica and it can get a little frustrating at times. There is nudity, but I actively try and steer away from anything that might be even slightly erotic -- it's really not what i'm going for. sure, there's always going to be people who see a nipple and think, "porn".  sure, our various social networking solutions wholeheartedly remove art containing nudity (i've had many " violation of..." notices), validating those idiots who don't approve. So my initial thought was that doing a purposefully erotic painting would be a bad idea; just having it out there making it harder for people to see past nudity...but I also really liked the idea of doing something so conceptually different. And If I did something really erotic, maybe I'd have something for those people to compare my other stuff to; "this one is not erotic at all, those are just boobs -- this one over here though, that one is erotic. enjoy!"



I'm barred from posting this one uncensored almost anywhere else, so feel free to click, save, and send around. info on the show below -- look at that lineup! a big thank you to curator Genevive Zacconi for having me!



Thought I would write a bit about my recent painting, "Lady With a Sphinx" which I humbly modeled after the Leonardo Da Vinchi painting, "Lady With an Ermine". This is my second attempt at a painting modeled after a classic, the first being my version (of Bouguereau's version) of the Piéta. That one didn't come out so good.  of course it doesn't help that the originals, in both cases, are amazing. but of course they are. I have always liked "Lady With an Ermine"; the lighting on the figure, the stark background, the lettering in the upper left hand corner, and of course, the Ermine (because what the fuck is an ermine?!). Thankfully, we have wikipedia, and a wealth of probably true information on Da Vinchi's Original piece (here). to start, an Ermine is "...a stoat in its winter coat..." and  "...[they were] a traditional symbol of purity because it was believed an ermine would face death rather than soil its white coat." cool right? (a stoat is a type of weasel by the way, I had to look that up too).

I thought it would be fun to redo the piece with a Sphinx, and I happen to know a model I painted for a small piece a few months back (here) that had one -- and a particularly weasly one at that. so, perfect!


trying to get the reference photo looking similar was a challenge but an enjoyable one, as I never have a concrete idea of how I want reference to look, so there tends to be a lot of trial and error. this time, I messed with it until the pose and lighting was right, then just took a few hundred pictures there, with very subtle pose and expression changes.  I ended up doing a bunch of work in photoshop post as well, especially because we shot the cat first, then worried about the figure -- so I had to combine elements from 3 or 4 different shots. I obviously took some liberties with the costume and hairstyle -- not exactly because I didn't care to get that specific, but I didn't feel those elements were necessities (and i'm no stylist or hairdresser). Margarita also has normal shoulders and collar bones, so the giant-trap/broken-shoulder look the Lady with an Ermine has wasn't gonna happen.

One interesting aspect I learned during the research (wikipedia, again...hopefully mostly true) is that not only is the black background on the "Lady with an Ermine" not original, but the lettering in the top left corner isn't either. Conservation is one thing, but adding text to a Da Vinchi?! pretty nuts. Also, whoever added the text, "LA BELE FERONIERE. LEONARD DAWINCI" mistook the subject for the Belle Ferronière, which " the Leonardo portrait in the Louvre, whose sitter bears such a close resemblance...". That piece is also known as Portrait of an Unknown Woman, so when it came to adding text to my version, I went with "LA BELE INCONNU", roughly translated as "the beautiful unknown". I decided against writing a Polish phonetical transcription of my own name.



IMG_1779 This is the last week of my show "Fathoms" at Lyons Wier Gallery in New York. If you're in the area on or before June 7th, please drop by and let me know what you think. It's had a really good response and i'm already very much looking forward to the next one.

The same day "Fathoms" comes down, "Three Figures" opens in LA (it's been a busy few months!). I'm very excited to be showing with Jeremy Mann and Sean Cheetham and to be showing for the first time with Maxwell Alexander Gallery. If you're in LA area, please come by. I'll have 4 brand new smaller pieces along with some fantastic work by Jeremy and Sean. See you then! (info below)

Adobe Photoshop PDF

NEW PIECES and "FATHOMS" opening

fathoms-emailheader My second New York solo show, "Fathoms" will be opening Friday, May 9th at Lyons Wier Gallery. 7 brand new pieces that I've been working on all hours since December -- if you are in the area, please come by and say hello!

Press Release from Lyons Wier Gallery:



"I happened upon Aaron Nagel's artwork while surfing the art-world blogosphere a few years back.  His images had all the makings of a great painting--wonderfully composed, impeccably painted, and slightly ominous. The work was swiftly etched in my brain and I had to find who this painter was.  Through due diligence, I learned that Nagel is an accomplished musician, graphic designer and self-taught artist.  Being self-taught added extra intrigue for me, as his painting prowess is simply astonishing.  I continued to watch Nagel's artistic growth and eventually added one of his pieces to our personal collection.  Living with the work allowed me to truly understand that Nagel's painting ability shares equal footing with his graphic design interest and skills, and that the work somehow has its own distinct yet indescribable timbre.

"Fathoms" evidences Nagel's enduring admiration for classical oil painting both in technique and composition. This exhibition builds upon his last body of work by advancing his understanding and use of light and shadow.  Working with live models and photography, Nagel seemingly sculpts the figure with brushwork and shadow play.  His renderings recall a litany of historical and contemporary painters that work with the female nude.  However Nagel transcends many of his contemporaries and comparisons in the way he encapsulates the spirit of his models with a blend of self-confidence, inner-peace and personal strength. There is a palpable sense of assuredness whereby one is immediately captivated by the conceptual context of the subjects' body language and eye contact (or lack of).

Another engaging element in Nagel's work is his use of typography as a compositional and aesthetic element. "The Accomplice Abettor MMXIV," (seen above) is not only the name of the painting but also a formal element that clearly pays homage to historical artwork as well as to the artist's skill in graphic design.  I applaud these efforts as I have always contended that if the title of the piece is an integral part of the work, it should be a part its composition."  - Michael Lyons Wier

"oubliette", 54" x 38", oil on canvas. 2014




I wanted to do quick post on how generous Jerry's Artarama has been in light of my recent purge (full story here). Jerry's Artarama is a chain of family-owned art stores on the East Coast w/ a pretty huge online e-store. I'd heard of Jerry's, but had never been a customer -- mostly because I'd gotten used to traveling to a few of my local art stores (all mostly now part of the Blick corp) for everything I needed. In the days following the loss of all my art materials, Katie from Jerry's Artarama got on touch and told me they wanted to send me a bunch of art supplies to help me get back to work. I told her what I generally use, and within a week, I had a shipment of art supplies on my porch -- from brush cleaners to paints (they carry a French brand called Charvin which I had never used before but really like). A day or two later, a utility cart, nicer than anything i've used before and built specifically for artists, was delivered. apparently there is an easel and studio light on it's way as well. let me repeat that I had no relationship with the company at all prior to all of this. i'd never even been a customer -- they just sent me all this stuff as a show of support. there wasn't even a request to help promote the company as a result (which I would have been more than happy to do). how amazing is that?! Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 1.00.44 PMSo I wanted to let you know what kind of company Jerry's Artarama is, because I think it's important.  i've gotten so comfortable paying an arm and a leg at various art store chains -- and generally assuming that none of them have any real support for the artistic community, beyond what they can readily profit from. Then Jerry's, a pretty large company by all accounts,  goes and does this for me, a not very well known artist from the other side of the country. I will be forever grateful. I was not a customer before, but I certainly am now.

So thank you Katie and Jerry's Artarama!


Below is my new piece, "Fallen", that will be on exhibit this Wednesday, July 10th at Lyons Wier Gallery for their Summer Group Show. This piece was especially challenging, not least because I had only a little over three weeks to shoot, paint, varnish, pack, and ship it to NYC. I spent a solid week painting 8-14 hrs a day before I moved onto detail work and glazing, which freed up a bit of time to take care of my cat, and get a little sleep. The process is incredibly stressful, but I am almost always happy with the outcome when I work like this -- if I could afford it (both financially and mental health), i'd spend all my time under deadlines. enjoy! nagel-fallen-web


A huge thanks to all that made it out to the opening last weekend. I'll post some pictures of us partying in that hot little room this week, but for now, I've added all the new work to the portfolio and portraits and studies pages. If you are interested in acquiring any of the new stuff, please contact Tova at the gallery, -- or shoot me an email. thank you again and i'll be back with some pictures this week!IMG_0431


My small solo show, "Bastion", opens June 8th in the new Shooting Gallery Project Space. I'm really excited to be showing in Shooting Gallery's new home on Geary, and I'll have a bunch of new work up. All pertinent info is below -- I hope you can make it! bastion-card_web




Thought I'd do a quick post about my glazing methods lately. It's become a really important and enjoyable step of the painting process for me, and I discovered a medium pretty recently that has drastically changed the way I approach it.  Being more confident with my glazing has also loosened up the way I do the first pass of a painting -- and takes a little bit of the pressure off, as I know I can go in once things are dry and have a good shot of bringing things to where I'd like them to be. Below are some shots of a small portrait study I did this week -- I tried my best to capture a few different stages of the glazing process. the piece is pretty tiny at 9" x 12", and fairly loose, but hopefully the progression is apparent (and possibly interesting and/or helpful).


1) This is what I started with. A few days after all the paint went down, things are looking pretty dull, and there is a lot of inconsistency in the sheen; matte areas, semi-glossy areas, etc. It took me years (literally), to learn that there was a thing called "oiling out" in oil painting -- which essentially is just applying a medium to a dry painting in order to re-saturate colors and bring everything to the same level. It's kind of a no-brainer, but one of those no-brainers that is really easy to miss. The concept of adding a medium (aside from varnish) to a dry painting to accomplish this didn't occur to me for years. [I did eventually figure it out on my own, only shortly before I discovered somebody had gone ahead and named it, and that it's most definitely a thing...but it took... a while.]

The medium I alluded to above and that I now use for both oiling out and glazing is called Oleogel. I saw an article David Gluck wrote in his Painting Stuff to Look Like Stuff blog (which is FANTASTIC by the way) where he mentioned he'd been using it so I decided to give it a shot. [I'd previously been using Liquin, which I still like -- but it doesn't work nearly as well for me with light colors...and i'm convinced that stuff is made of cancer]

trevor-glazing_progression22) So this is what the painting looks like with a thin layer of Oleogel (covering the whole thing) -- I just brush it on lightly with a clean brush. This is essentially oiling-out, and let's me see where everything actually is value-wise. This painting also cracked quite a bit in some areas -- probably because I didn't use enough paint, [the temperature in my studio is either freezing or way too toasty as well, which doesn't help] so the oiling-out really brings those out as well. I will try to cover those up as I go. If I wasn't planning to glaze, the painting would be done at this point -- i'd wait for the oil-out to dry (the "oiling out" effect will diminish a bit as it does), then hit the whole thing with a temp-varnish.

The main difference between Oleogel and old-favorite Liquin, is the consistency. Oleogel is a soft jelly, so it doesn't drip and is fairly slow-drying -- Liquin is...a goop, which can travel if you're not careful and dries a lot quicker. Liquin also dries glossy, which I was never a fan of..and like I said before, the stuff is super gnarly. Coating a painting with it would be pretty unbearable. [I've also read that it can potentially seal painted layers off from air entirely, which could lead to unstable paint -- but who knows... I got cracking paint here already so it wouldn't much matter in this case -- zing!]

trevor-glazing_progression33) I then add thin layers of paint directly onto the still very wet Oleogel. Unlike glazing with Liquin (where I mix pigment w/ the medium on the palette) I don't thin out the paint at all before it hits the surface. The Oleogel makes it pretty hard to over-apply paint, but is very forgiving -- so wiping away all or some of the paint I add is easy. For some reason, the difference between mixing a glaze (medium + paint) on the palette and this method of finding my colors without medium and adding it directly to the painting (where the medium is already waiting) is huge for me. I love it.

This shot is already pretty far into the glazing, all the darks (which I do first), and a few of the lighter values. I usually won't mess with the background on these studies, but because of the cracking and because it was a little too dark, I added some lighter values. For larger paintings, I'll often let darks dry before I start on the lighter stuff, just to make sure I don't get some unintentional muddiness in the glaze -- but generally the lighter lights and darker darks aren't right next to each other, so it's not hard to keep them separate.

trevor-glazing_progression44) Here is everything all glazed up. I added a bunch more lights here, making sure not to use too much white. [Adding light values to a dry painting has always been a challenge for me -- it's easy to go too light, which makes things kind of smokey looking and can make your subject look like they're wearing zombie make-up. White is a cool color, so for the most part, you'll never need straight up white on a figure painting -- even the eye reflections: never straight white.]

Glazing goes pretty fast and is really fun -- I have to actively try not to overdo it. It's super easy for me to zone out on whatever WWII audiobook i'm listening to and glaze a painting into oblivion; i'll loose all the brush strokes (which are rare enough) and end up with something doll-like, with very high-contrast, and ...not good.

That is the basics -- no idea how I managed to write so much. I hope that helps anybody looking for new things to try, and if you know what you're doing and have some tips for me, please send them my way!

also, while I'm being wordy -- I always feel the need to mention that I am not trained in the classical sense, this is just how I do things...lately. they will surely change, and there are likely better ways to do all of this, but I learned a ton from reading about how other artists work, so I will be forever trying to return the favor. thank you for reading!

PS. I'm considering re-naming this blog, "Ellipsis Abuse with Aaron Nagel"

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Here's a final shot of the new painting, "Sundown" currently on view in the Shooting Gallery winter group show. I tried a bunch of new things with this one, most obvious of which was the use of natural light for the original reference photo instead of my usual strobe lighting setup. That forced us (myself and fantastic model, Rosie O'Laskey) to shoot in front of what natural light was coming through windows -- which resulted in all kinds of light and shadow combinations, and a much more subtle and dark vibe. Very different to paint, and something I'll probably experiment with much more in the future. anyway, enjoy! If you are interested in acquiring the original, please contact myself or the Shooting Gallery. thank you!



I have a new print release this week with the good folks at "The Pale"(below) is the first print from my show last Oct in NY and I'm really happy with how it came out. It's a little bigger than usual, and the edition is 100 this time -- but considering the last two releases sold out within a day (very cool), if you are interested, go to now and hit the "alert me" button. I really appreciate all the support, It means so much.

In other news, I will have a brand new piece in the Shooting Gallery's Winter Group show this Saturday, January 12th. I've been working on this one for the last few weeks and it's a little different -- which is fun. I was able to shoot Rosie again in LA, who modeled for much of the "Sovereign" show, and did some experiments with natural light as opposed to strobes. I'll have a picture up later this week (hopefully...I'm kind of pushing it here). until then!

From the press release:

Shooting Gallery is pleased to present the last Winter Group Show to be held in the current gallery at 839 Larkin, before our big move to a newly renovated building. Helping us go out with a bang will be a great lineup of many of our beloved artists, including Ferris Plock, Casey Gray, APEX, Michael Page, Aaron Nagel, John Felix Arnold, Hugh Leeman, Jet Martinez, C215, Ernesto Yerena, Morgan Slade, Spencer Keeton Cunningham, Adam Rozan, Lauren Napolitano and Bryan Schnelle. All of whom have shared a part in shaping the space into what it is today. The growth and success of the Shooting Gallery is a testament to the talent we’ve been honored to work alongside and the support that the incredible arts community of San Francisco has provided. Join us for the opening reception Saturday, January 12th, from 7-11pm. The exhibit will be open to the public for viewing through February 2nd, 2013.


I'm back in the studio and predominately working on studies for the time being, getting in some practice and starting to think about the next series. not much else to report, but I'm going to try my best to post as many in-progress and studio pictures as I can remember to take. Also, added a little instagram feed over to the right, so if you're not on that particular social network, it's there -- and I've been liking that one lately.