Category Archives: In Progress

Figure Sculpture Workshop…

This March, I attended a figure sculpting workshop with sculptor Jim Lee hosted by Urban Arts OC, a studio in Newport Beach.

A couple years ago, I took a portrait sculpting workshop with Jim and found him to be a great instructor.

During this workshop, we had a model pose for us throughout the day as Jim guided us through measuring with calipers to keep our sculpture in scale, pointed out and described the anatomical reference points and structures, and helped us avoid the pitfalls of the porcelain clay medium.

I’m pleased with how my work turned out, and it should be ready to fire in May.

Once the work is fired, assuming it doesn’t crack in half, I plan to paint it as a polychrome work in naturalistic colors, preserving and slightly altering the model’s tattoos to add some conceptual layers and subtle social commentary to the work.

I’ll post another photo when I’m finished.

Progress on “The Fates” triptych…

First of three panels in oils made by Adam Townsend for a planned triptych screen.
First of three panels in oils made by Adam Townsend for a planned triptych screen.

Back in the summer of 2015, we refurbished the floors in our apartment with beautiful, dark composite hardwood.

The problem was, I ordered 125 square feet too many, and the distributor was going to charge me to take it back.

That’s when I came up with a vague idea to craft it into a mythology-inspired triptych with models in various motifs from history and world folklore and religion. All three panels would have female nudes reminiscent of the three Fates in Greek myths or the Norns of Norse legend.

This second panel is called "Hanuman and Kumbhakarna Play Bluegrass." Progress as of 1/24/2018. By Adam Maxwell Townsend
This second panel is called “Hanuman and Kumbhakarna Play Bluegrass.” Progress as of 1/24/2018. By Adam Maxwell Townsend

Now I’m about two-thirds done with the second panel and have detailed construction plans for a hinged set of frames. The piece will stand on its own some 7 feet high as a screen, backed with velvet. In other words, though I’m really pleased with how it’s turning out, it has become a baroque monstrosity fit only for an expensive brothel.

Luckily, I never expected anyone to buy it for the price I would demand, given the labor, so it will be an excellent show-piece to take around to art shows and garner clients.

This is a drawing/photo that maps out the design of the second panel, "Kumbhakarna and Hanuman Sing Bluegrass"
This is a drawing/photo that maps out the design of the second panel, “Kumbhakarna and Hanuman Sing Bluegrass”

I did my first sketch of a model I liked from the figure drawing sessions in October of 2015, then crafted my first approximately 6’X3’ arch-topped panel with glue and tacks.

First, I tried to use the traditional Renaissance method of gridding the original drawing and then scaling it up, square by square. Unfortunately, even though this results in an accurate copy, it loses something undefinable about the original. Plus, I painted it directly on the wood, which was not an ideal surface for oils.

I scotched that effort and wrapped canvas around the panel – a much better surface. Then, I used a light projector to project a copy of the original drawing on the canvas to trace, which allowed the drawing to retain its original vitality.

These are blueprints I set up to guide me in building my planned triptych, for which one panel is finished.
These are blueprints I set up to guide me in building my planned triptych, which is currently about half finished.

It took me about a year to finish, off and on, and it’s titled “Vanna and the Celestial Jukebox”

For the second painting, I was inspired by my May, 2016 trip to Bali, Indonesia with my wife. In the spirit of cultural mashup, I depicted two Hindu demigods/characters from the epic The Ramayana playing a banjo and a fiddle as the woman in the foreground looks to the stars beneath a sacred banyan tree.

For this one, I found a nude photograph I liked. Some other models at the art supply studio sessions were great, but didn’t work for this project. Also, considering I don’t have a proper studio, I didn’t want to be that guy who puts an ad on Craigslist to hire a chick to come get naked in his garage.

The third panel is built, but I haven’t yet designed the image. I’ll need to finish the second and stretch the canvas for the third while I work out my ideas in my sketchbook.

First of three panels in oils made by Adam Townsend
First of three panels in oils made by Adam Townsend

Stay tuned for further updates! I’ll post progress photos as I complete the work.





#LeroyJones Story Pitch

Recently, I finished my novel #LeroyJones: A Skip Maddox Mystery. I’m currently deep into the editing and revision process, but the book is in a form now I can start shopping around to agents and editors.

If you read my story pitch below and want to find out more, call me at 740-632-3819 or email to read the first 20 pages or receive a copy (print or digital) of the entire manuscript.

Here’s the pitch:

Unemployed sports writer and borderline alcoholic Skip Maddox is about as low as he can get. The LA Times laid him off, he separated from his wife and his landlord evicted him from his shabby West Covina apartment.

Things seem to be looking up, though, when second-tier sports news website hires Maddox to freelance at the fight of the century, starring the wealthy, flamboyant boxer and controversial civil rights activist Leroy “Panther” Jones.

But two days after the troubled Jones wins the fight, police find him brutally killed in front of his Beverly Hills mansion, a racial slur spray-painted across the front door. The murder is a media bombshell, and the online newsfeeds are dominated by “#LeroyJones” as millions of readers clamor for the full story.

StadiumCentral taps Maddox to cover the murder. He learns the FBI, led by combative East-Coast agent Tony Morone, snatched the investigation from local police control in a suspicious move. The same day, Maddox gets an anonymous tip: The murder isn’t the random hate crime the FBI has made it seem. When the hard-luck reporter questions Morone, the agent threatens StadiumCentral, getting Maddox fired.

Calling for help from his friend and former colleague, the esteemed ex-investigative journalist Harry Bloomquist, Maddox descends into an interstate conspiracy involving the mob, high-level corruption and gut-wrenching secrets lurking in Jones’s past.

From the opulent MGM Grand in Las Vegas to Beverly Hills; from the tough LA neighborhood of Watts to the industrial waterfront of Newark, NJ, Maddox and Bloomquist contend with a gang of mafia thugs, a recalcitrant criminal justice bureaucracy and an unscrupulous PI who’s not quite on their side.

The reporters are determined, but it’s not clear they’ll live to publish the truth.

New children’s book project

Manatee tells his teacher about his favorite band in this art marker illustration for a children's book by Gary Schwind. By Adam Maxwell Townsend
Manatee tells his teacher about his favorite band in this art marker illustration for a children’s book by Gary Schwind. By Adam Maxwell Townsend

I’m excited to be working on a preliminary set of illustrations for a children’s book written by Southern California author Gary Schwind.

I can’t reveal all the details, but Gary agreed to let me share a few illustrations on my website here. Some are complete, some I may decide to re-do. Not sure yet, but I’ll have to take a look at the completed work to see which ones need re-done.

The story is about a young manatee who is a super fan of a rock band, and by the end (spoiler alert) he actually gets to meet them and get autographs.

This is the first project I’ve done with a new medium: art markers. These are the same kind used in many graphic novels and comic books, and the colors are rich and solid.

I bought a set for $100 about a year ago and have been fiddling with them off and on, but this is the first project I’ve worked on where I feel comfortable using them. One advantage is that you can turn out finished work really quickly, which is why high-production illustrators like comics artists use them.

Self-Portrait Sculpture

Clay Self Portrait. Life-Sized. By Adam Maxwell Townsend
Clay Self Portrait. Life-Sized. By Adam Maxwell Townsend

This is a life-size self-portrait in porcelain clay that I finished this weekend under the instruction of Jim Lee, a sculptor from Northern California who held a workshop at the Jennifer Joyce Ceramic Art Studio in San Clemente.

The class was invaluable; I’ve already studied anatomy extensively in my study of paintings and stone carving, but there’s no way I could have come up with such a clean piece so quickly and accurately without the techniques, tips and shortcuts Jim teaches in his classes.

In the images posted here, the clay is still wet. The next steps include hollowing out the now-solid sculpture and removing the armature, allowing the drying process to finish, firing the clay to the hardness of porcelain, and then finishing the piece with paint and wax.

Not only was this class invaluable in teaching me sculpting/modeling technique, but it is also adding depth and perspective to my two-dimensional work.

I’ll publish another post in a few months when the piece is completely ready for presentation.




Preliminary Studies for Nudes Series

Preliminary sketches for a series of life-size nude paintings. By Adam Maxwell Townsend
Preliminary sketches for a series of life-size nude paintings. By Adam Maxwell Townsend

Sometimes the decision to create comes from the materials at hand.

In this case, I have about 125 square feet of extra dark, hardwood flooring left over from redoing my apartment. I can’t seem to get rid of it, so I’m going to assemble it into a series of surfaces for a series of life-sized nudes.

I’m going to let the wood grain show through in the background, and I’m going to be using gold leaf for certain elements.

Once each figure is done, I’ll be applying a coat of clear varnish, and then using a wash to add a patina, so the image looks ancient. Very iconographic. My inspiration for this approach comes from these early Christian portraits from Alexandria.

I’ll post them as I complete them. Right now, I’m assembling sketches during the figure drawing sessions at San Clemente Art Supply held every Wednesday.

I’m drawing the initial sketches in an 11″X14″ notebook, which I will then expand to life-size on the panel using the grid method.

Adam M. Townsend gets oily

"Crab 1" 8" X 8" Oil on wood panel. By Adam Maxwell Townsend. This is going to be a gift for the nursery of my friends' new baby due in April 2015. I completed this work in two afternoons.
“Crab 1″ 8″ X 8” Oil on wood panel. By Adam Maxwell Townsend. This is going to be a gift for the nursery of my friends’ new baby due in April 2015. I completed this work in two afternoons.

I have always avoided oil paints in favor of acrylics. I like the richness and instant gratification of acrylics because they dry almost immediately. More importantly, however, is the fact that they require no noxious chemicals are are thinned only by water and acrylic medium. This is a huge practical consideration because I have a small home studio. I live with a lovely, tolerant woman, however; she would put her foot down when her clothes and hair were constantly permeated with the stink of paint thinner and turpentine.

That’s why I was so excited earlier this year when I found out about water-soluble oil paints. These oil paints function exactly like traditional oil paints, but they are thinned with water. They are mixed with a detergent, the molecules of which allow the oil to bind with water droplets. You can thin this paint with water or an oil medium, you can mix the paint with traditional oils, if you choose, and the paint dries exactly the same as traditional oils because the detergent evaporates along with the oil and water. No fumes!

I had been working on an elaborate acrylic commission when I ordered my first set this summer, so I reserved their use as a treat for myself when I finished.

I did the small oil painting reproduced in this post in about two days. I’ve found a huge advantage to oils is that you can achieve the same effects with more fluidity, translucence and veracity than acrylics in just one layer of paint.

Consider the flesh tones of the boxers in the painting pictured: If I had painted this with acrylics, this would have taken me at least four layers to achieve with drying in between. With oils, however, you’re working in a single, three dimensional slick of oil, and you insert the pigments at different points within that medium. With oils, in other words, you can sculpt the form as a whole rather than layering colors in two dimensions.

I have a dozen or so small canvases and panels I’m going to paint in the coming weeks in order to get used to the new medium — including a nine-panel series of 8” X 8” nudes I plan to paint using the models at San Clemente Art Supply’s life drawing sessions.

Once I’ve completed these, I plan to start on a major, 4’ X 8’ work  in oils depicting a huge ancient Roman battle scene, or some similar subject.

BIKER BAR in Progress…

Lately I’ve been hard at work on a commission. The assignment was for me to paint 11 figures of the clients friends, himself, his girlfriend and a blues musician in a fictional bar in New Orleans.

For the pictures, he provided me photographs of all the subjects. Needless to say this isn’t ideal, considering they’re all mostly front-facing busts and the composition requires a variety of different poses.

Not only do I have to rotate the heads in my mind and render them on the page based only on a photograph, but I have to create each of the figures mostly out of whole cloth with just a few generic references.

It’s always better to draw from life, of course, but this is a gift and a surprise, so it can’t be helped.

If you view the Flickr slideshow documenting my progress so far, you see I layered the pencil drawing first in primary colored washes. Then, I layer the paint so that a little of the underlying layer shows through.

This is a handy technique for creating atmosphere, and giving flesh a translucence. I use this technique for all my major acrylic paintings and illustrations, like “Jazz Painting #4,” “Harem Painting,” and “Jazz Painting #5

You’ll notice in the background I’ve added a marching band, spectators and a couple of women flashing their tits (these aren’t fully rendered as of this posting.)

If you look close, you can see little clues as to the location of bar, though most of these will be difficult to see until the painting is done.

For instance, the Fleur d’Elise is a motif throughout the image, among other clues.

The slideshow featured in this post will update automatically as I add more images documenting its progress. Shouldn’t be too long — I set a deadline to have it done by the end of the month.