What a treat it was to paint sisters! I completed this commission for two sisters, Desi and Willa – at the request of their parents. They both recently achieved some major milestones in their lives by completing their master’s degrees, so Tom and Reba (their parents) decided a great way to celebrate was having their portraits painted. I’m so grateful that I was able to be a part of this!
The first step in the whole process is a discussion of what kind of portrait you would like. If you look at my paintings, some of them are a bit looser and some are more refined. Are you looking for a casual or more formal look? Will it be a head and shoulders; or part, or all of the body? Loose abstract background or more details? Inside or outside? Do you want your dog in the painting? You can see there are lots of possibilities. Once the initial decision about direction has been made, the actual process begins.
My process (for now) has been to ask for 3-4 hours initially with the subject I’ll be painting. I take tons of photos, so that we can find some that seem to suit the person I’m painting. Then I spend some time doing a head study to record that person’s coloring in paint. Photographs are not the same as real life. Ideally, it’s wonderful to have the opportunity to paint the entire portrait from life, but there are few folks who are willing to take the time for that.
At that point, sometimes I will do a small, quick study for the client of the painting concept. Otherwise, I will begin the actual painting, using a combination of photographs and my study from life. I have recorded color notes in paint that will help me “translate” the photographs. Once I feel that the painting is complete, I will arrange for the client to view that painting, either in person or by photographs. This is an opportunity for the client to make adjustments. There are details that are important to the client that I may not be aware of — so this is an opportunity to make sure I have addressed those.
Portraits become heirlooms that are passed down in families — reminders of the people in our lives who are the most special to us. I am grateful for the opportunity to play a part in this process. There is something special and magical about painting someone. Hopefully a bit of their “soul” comes through in the process.
Recently had the opportunity to paint one of my favorite people – Hanah – from life. I love our little painting group. We hire a model virtually every week and paint from life. We paint for three hours – 20 minutes then hopefully a 5 minute break if we don’t get too chatty. It is probably one of the best things I’ve done for my learning in painting. Seeing those colors in people’s faces that you only see from real life. Photos just don’t do it! And I know I’m prejudiced, but to me there is something magical about capturing someone on canvas. Someone described it as “capturing their soul”. Don’t know if I’d go that far, but I still think it’s special.
In addition to the wondrous opportunity to paint from life, there is a wonderful camaraderie between our little group of painters. We share our latest tricks, gadgets and ideas. We critique each other’s paintings — always with kind intentions — because we are there to grow and learn. And sometimes we just can’t see where we’re off. It’s so helpful to get that feedback. It seems we all have areas that we are blind to. For instance, I invariably make everyone’s chins too short.
Sometimes I’ll take these back and complete them with the photo I take. In Hanah’s case, I have not done anything additional. Haven’t decided yet whether I will. Sometimes I like the freshness of the painting, even if everything is not perfect.
The last few sessions, I’ve been experimenting with the Zorn palette: yellow ochre, cadmium red medium and Mars black – and white of course. I love it! With this piece of Hanah, I did add a little Ultramarine Blue to get that color in her shirt. I recently completed a much large painting – 30×40- completely with the Zorn palette — I will show you that soon.
Should any of you be so inclined, please let me know if you’d like to model. We’re always looking for new faces! We provide chocolate, coffee and friendly conversation — as well as payment of course!
Thank you Hanah for allowing us to paint you from life!!! It was an honor and a privilege!
I had the lovely opportunity to have a one woman art show at Free Range Brewery here in Charlotte,NC. The brewery is owned by some folks who love art, and happily are providing an opportunity for local artists. The show runs from February 1 to March 14th, and combines portraits and plein air pieces. There’s great wall space and lighting. Sarah, one of the owners, has an art background and gallery experience— so a great eye! She chose the pieces and hung the show. Thank you Sarah!!
The beer was wonderful! I normally am a wine drinker, but discovered I really like their stout made from oysters! Who knew!!! The selections also include many other beers, cider, kombucha, soda and coffee. The brewery is family friendly as well. We had a crowd —- thanks to my incredible group of friends —- and happily we sold three pieces that night!!
Here’s Michael and I enjoying friends and brew. Don’t know what I would do without him. He’s so supportive of my art obsession. He also has a great eye, so I frequently get his feedback on paintings. It’s always spot on!
Thank you to all the lovely people who joined me that evening! Hope any of you who might be interested will take some time to see the show and taste some of the great beer and other selections at Free Range. http://www.freerangebrewing.com
Excited that this piece is a finalist in the Richeson75 Portrait/Figure Show 2015. It also recently received an honorable mention in a local show for the Guild of Charlotte Artists. I’m thrilled of course. Most of the RIcheson75 shows are online only, but in this case they ask that you ship your painting to their gallery in Wisconsin for a final judging. So cross your fingers! I’ll ship it the beginning of October.
Many of you have asked why I named this piece “Harmonica Mark” — since he’s playing a drum. Mark plays music with my husband and a group wonderful musicians, who jam at our house on a regular basis. He plays harmonica, but also some percussion. When he posed for this painting it just felt right to include this drum.
I’m in process of producing a whole series of musicians pieces. I’ve done color studies of several and taken photos, but commissions have slowed me down getting back to the larger paintings. Hope to begin them again soon.
All the best to you and yours! And to those who it applies “Happy Painting!!”
I love to paint people and portraits, but recently I’m trying to push it a bit beyond realism. I love paintings that have undefined boundaries like the work of Terry Muira, Mia Bergeron and Carolyn Anderson. There are many others who’s work I admire —but I love the “atmosphere” that’s created. A likeness for a portrait is essential, but some of the most wonderful people paintings have little to do with that.
So I’m experimenting. I was pleased with this painting before — when it was a bit crisper, but felt compelled to try to take it somewhere else. So I started “mushing” and scratching at it. The image underneath the most recent layers held true so only the last layer could be moved around. But I like it. I think it adds to her pensive, sullen mood —hence the name “Flowers Aren’t Enough”. Our model had good reason to be sad, having recently lost her brother. She’s one of my favorite models for that very reason. She doesn’t hide what’s going on with her and as a result we get so much more as painters.
The other way I’m trying to push myself is with a palette knife. I do quite a bit of my plein air with the knife and more recently pushed into portraits. It’s a mixed bag. Very frustrating when you do want a likeness. Not sure how that will all pan out. It’s all an attempt to push my paintings beyond realism and hopefully in a direction that is impactful.
Recently I got an email announcing that my painting “Kalvin, Portrait of a Young Man” had been juried into the American Women Artists 2015 National Juried Show. Needless to say I was excited, humbled, overwhelmed and even a bit weepy. Being an artist is such an emotional roller coaster. Constantly painting and working… trying to improve. Trying to create something that feels right, conveys some emotion, is visually compelling in some way. It’s a huge challenge, one that I don’t think you ever “reach”, but so compelling for me that I can’t stop. And then on top of that, if you want to make a living at it, you have to put it out there for the world to see and hope and pray that some like it — hopefully love it.
So I’m thrilled that this painting will be part of the AWA25 show at the Bonner David Gallery in Scottsdale, AZ, November 12-30, 2015. There were close to 1000 entries from 400 artists and 60 paintings were chosen to be in this show. There will be a week of festivities since this is also the American Women Artists Organization’s 25th year. American Women Artists is a non-profit organization dedicated to the inspiration, celebration, and encouragement of women in the visual fine arts. I so appreciate their mission and am grateful to get to be a part of their celebration!
Always something to learn! That’s what I tell my husband when he wonders why I keep going to workshops. If I walk away with one thing that inspires me, points me in a new direction, solves a problem I’ve been wrestling with, it’s so worth the time and money. You see I’m old. I didn’t keep at this painting thing after college. I studied painting in school but I had that idea that I could never make a living at it so I tried everything else. Everything else always seemed to be somehow related to art though. Stained glass —there may still be some restaurants in Kankakee, Illinois with some of my windows. Handpainted and silkscreened clothing — children’s line and an adult beachwear line. Graphic design — did titles for Marty Stouffer’s wildlife series. Faux finishing and murals—painted lots of houses here in the Charlotte area. I’ve finally come back to strictly art for art’s sake. I love to paint! I am passionate about it — plein air, people, dogs….
This portrait was done in Dawn Whitelaw’s portrait workshop. I’ve always admired Dawn’s work. It has a loose freshness that I really enjoy. And I was pleasantly surprised at what an incredible teacher she is. She obviously takes it very seriously and puts lots of time and energy into preparing her workshops. One of the things she stressed was to really look at your subject and decide what to focus on. What’s compelling about that face? She also asked that we really address our whole canvas as we go. How to handle the background, etc. It’s so easy to just focus on the portrait and fill in the background later — but they all relate. We studied lots of successful portraits to see what worked and didn’t.
I’m pleased with the results of this painting of Don. He was an incredible model. Typically the model sits for 20 minutes, takes a break, sits again, etc. Don was happy to keep sitting despite our efforts for him to take a break. He has such a strong face with so much character — I think that makes it easier. This is one of the few paintings that I have not touched since that session— frequently I will rework them once I get them back to the studio.
This painting thing is a never-ending source of joy and frustration! I’m happy to say I’m completely addicted. Always challenging and always something to learn! Happy painting!
Finally posting this palette knife painting that I did of a dear friend, Mark. It’s been at the Elder Gallery waiting for their June Salon Show of Carolina’s Got Art. I am so pleased that it was accepted! I’ve missed having it around. Despite the fact that it was a labor of love, it was quite a challenge. After incorporating palette knife into some of my plein air paintings, I decided to attempt one of a portrait. First I did one of my daughter, from a photo. I was excited about the possibilities. I’m always trying to strike some balance between realism and pushing the edges to create a loose excitement in my paintings.
Along the way I decided to start a series of portraits of local Charlotte musicians. My husband plays music with some folks and quite often they jam at our house. I love the music and the musicians, so it was a compelling concept. Mark was the first of that group. And silly me, I decided to give the palette knife a try. I blocked it in with a brush, but committed to the knife for the rest of the painting. I found out along the way that it’s best to complete an area before moving on. Once an area that has been knifed is dry, it’s very difficult to go back in. As a result, I sanded out Mark’s face many times until I was satisfied.
I was surprised at how well the knife worked for Mark’s hands. Hands are such a challenge for me, but they seemed easier with the knife. I can’t get too anal with the knife, which is why I like and hate it. I haven’t decided whether I’ll keep the knife for the whole series of paintings. I think I’ll let the subject and the painting determine that.
I’m hoping to incorporate some audio in the final show. If anyone knows where I can get a relatively inexpensive way to have a small audio player with each painting, I would so appreciate the information. I’d love to have a snippet with each painting. The gentleman in this painting has done some amazing spontaneous poetry in the middle of a blues jam! Would love to share that with his painting!
Wish me luck with my palette knife portrait pursuit! I’ll need it! Hope to see you at the Elder Gallery on June 5th for the opening of Carolina’s Got Art Salon Show! And hopefully at the show of my Charlotte Musicians! All the best!!!!
I just recently started painting from a computer monitor when working from a photo reference. I love to paint from life, but sometimes that’s not a option; or, I’ve started a painting from life and I want to work on it some more to complete it. That was the case here. I have gotten frustrated with trying to work from photo prints. First of all the ink is really expensive. And typically I have to do many prints to arrive at one that I’m happy with — right color, contrast, size, etc.
Here are the advantages to painting from a computer monitor as I see them:
Closer to real life than print
I can resize the photo at will at any time. Choose a part of the photo and blow it up if need be.
Adjust color right then and there
No ink costs
Initial outlay of cash for monitor and the rest of the setup
When measuring I’ve managed to get some paint on the monitor! LOL! Cleans off with Alcohol usually. I may put some clear acetate over it to protect it.
It took some research to find the articulated arm to mount the monitor on. The next challenge was finding a way to mount the whole thing and make it flexible enough to take down if necessary. My husband came up with the brilliant idea to get a wooden ladder. It’s stable enough to handle the weight and it’s easy to take apart if need be.
The only other consideration I might mention is that I went with a cheap monitor to start out. To make sure this whole concept was going to work. It doesn’t have the greatest resolution particularly for color — especially compared to my Macbook’s resolution. So eventually I’ll probably upgrade to a better monitor. In the meantime I’ve found if I use my photo editing program I can boost the colors so that they look better on the big monitor.
Here’s the result from the painting you see in the photos.
I would say that my painting from a computer monitor experiment has been a success. Now I’ll be keeping my eye out for a monitor with better resolution. Happy painting!! All the best!!
Palette knife painting has become my new obsession. In my desire to loosen up my style, it seems a natural choice. You can only get so detailed with the knife. It’s frustrating at times — when I’m trying to get some little area done and I desperately want to pick up the brush. I’ve done a fair amount of knifing during plein air, but recently I decided to try it with portraits. This is from a photo of my beautiful daughter Katie. It’s interesting. Not my best painting but interesting enough that now I’ve started a large portrait/figure piece using that technique. Part of it my desire to “make a painting” not just a picture of someone. We’ll see how it all pans out. I definitely haven’t forsaken the brush, but intrigued.