Showing posts with label portrait. Show all posts
Showing posts with label portrait. Show all posts

Monday, September 12, 2011

For Adebanji's Journal: Mug Shots

4"x 4" ea. acrylic on paper

We comfort ourselves by reliving memories of protection. Something closed must retain our memories, while leaving them their original value as images. Memories of the outside world will never have the same tonality as those of home and, by recalling these memories, we add to our store of dreams; we are never real historians, but always near poets, and our emotion is perhaps nothing but an expression of a poetry that was lost.
-Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space (1958)

Bachelard contends that our first home is forever imprinted on our soul. It is the place where we feel safe and free to dream.  I think, beyond shelter, home is a condition of feeling loved and secure. Of belonging. At home, true home, the world makes sense.  The act of being uprooted, whether through economic hardship, natural disaster, war, abuse, mental or physical infirmity, sets the stage for anxiety, fear and desperation.

The young married couple above were homeless before being arrested for and convicted of theft. For the next year and a half their home will be the Frederick County Detention Center. I don't know what combination of choice and circumstance led to their current predicament. I do wonder what dreams they may have for the future.

Adebanji, your book is on its way home.

May you all feel loved, and safe to dream.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Seeing Red (redux)

oil on gessoed paper
11" x 15"

Some of you may recognize this young woman from an earlier post from April. I resurrected her this past weekend to get my painting muscles going again. My friend Barbara graciously traded homes with me for a few days...a gift beyond measure as her beautiful home came equipped with a working studio and a gorgeous view of fields and mountains. My home came with Mom, a cat and two active dogs to care for. I spent a weekend painting hats of various shapes and color--black porkpie, blue knit, bright green with orange flower (I'm not kidding). Then I'd wipe it all out. I finally changed the background and her clothing, and returned to this odd headgear that's not too far from April's version. She's almost done. Thanks to Barbara for the much-needed respite, and to friends Pam and Mark for their hospitality on Sunday. Much appreciated!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Windows to the Words:Art Challenge

oil on canvas
9 x 12

This is my entry for James Parker's Windows to the Words Challenge.  The subject this month is old folks and wrinkles.  A friend of mine, Barbara Motter, has wonderful photos from her world travels, and kindly let me submit some for this challenge.  This is an old gentleman from Russia. Thank you, Barbara. Please visit the WTTW site to see the other entries, and also stop by James' blog to say hello.

Also thought I'd post the beginning stages. I roughed in with shades of burnt sienna, and then wiped out the highlights with a paper towel.  Then I came in with thin washes of more intense colors to establish rough value patterns and warms and cools.  

I hope that all of you Dads and Granddads had a Happy Father's Day!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Flower Girl and thanks, Akiko!

Wedding Reception, detail, 24 x 30 o/c

In the mid 90's, I attended a friend's wedding on the Island of Malta. The setting was spectacular. The ceremony was in a lovely church in the historic city of Mdina, and the reception was held in a converted palace complete with courtyard and formal gardens. Twelve years later, I uncovered the photos I'd taken, skipped over all of the landscape and architecture shots, and as an experiment, began a pastel on canvas of the maid of honor and one of the flower girls. Pastel on canvas was not a happy experiment. I scrubbed it, came over it with acrylic, then water-miscible oils. ack. Peeled off the maid of honor's head, re-gessoed and built up the paint again. Then painted over everything with regular oils. Someday I'll be brave enough to try the architecture.  

Thank you to Akiko Watanabe, who kindly sent me the Noblesse Oblige Award. Akiko's animal paintings and ACEOs are breathtaking. I spend a lot of time scrutinizing her work, and still can't figure out how she gets so much loving detail and spirit into such a small format. Please visit her site to see her extraordinary portraits of animals. Thanks, Akiko--am humbled and honored. (award details in May 17 post).

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Seeing Red

 I've been working for a week and 1/2 on my first portrait (no not this one!) for Sheila and Carrie's Art for Animals Project. I thought I was close with my painting of Trixie, who's being fostered by the great folks at the Prince George's County SPCA/Humane Society in Maryland. I sent a jpeg to my friend who volunteers there, and she gently pointed out that Trixie is a dark brindle, and not the pale grey I seemed to have her.  Today I darkened her, lost the shape of things, made mud, tried to "fix" the background to help poor Trixie, and generally botched it up.  Which brings me to today's post of another stalled painting.  

In Progress: Oil on gessoed watercolor paper

This young model was trying her best to stay alert to no avail.  I tried my best to get some spark, but no luck.  No matter what I did,  the heavy-lidded bored expression crept back onto my canvas.  I brought the portrait back to my studio to finish, and started to think of her as a contemporary Turandot.  Do you know the famous opera poster of Puccini's mysterious, dark-eyed princess?  I decided I'd give my subject one of those knit hats with the ear flaps and tassles that teens wear, give her a nose ring, and intensify the red.  On a whim,  I blocked in the changes, and came to a roaring stop. I have no reference for the hat, and I'm thinking she looks more Ed Norton from the Honeymooners than Princess Turandot.  She's now holding court in a corner of my studio with the rest of my Where do I Go From Here stack, which sits next to the What on Earth was I Thinking pile. Tomorrow I'll tackle Trixie the foster pup again. (Wasn't Norton's wife named Trixie?)

Thanks so much to all of you who have been leaving such kind comments.  You galvanize me to keep painting.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


22 x 28"
Charcoal on BFK Rives

When I left the corporate publishing world to paint and sail, I hadn't anticipated the initial isolation of  the freelancer's life, or the pitfalls of my naive lack of a plan.  I still had my friends at National Geographic, but, heck, they were working! I'd divorced, moved farther from the bustle of D.C. to the relatively quiet town of Frederick, Maryland, and wondered if I hadn't made the biggest mistake of my life. In a scramble to make ends meet, I painted murals, did faux finishing, worked for a florist, served for a catering company, sold art at local fairs, cleaned houses, and delivered a sailboat from Grenada. One of the first artists I met in Frederick was Andrea Burchette.  I signed up for her watercolor class, expecting to brush up on my skills, and perhaps make a few pretty paintings.  We started out painting dead bugs in sumi-e ink, and ended with Itten, and full color theory.  Concepts I had learned in college finally made sense. Inspirational, spiritual, thoughtful, intensely present, Andrea has that gift of empowering people to be better. I've been through many critique sessions over the years, and hers were revelatory-- always respectful, and astute. When she was unable to continue teaching her classes at Montgomery College, and Frederick Community College, she recommended my name, and bolstered me through my new instructor jitters when I was hired.   I would not have made it through some of the challenges of the past 10 years without her friendship and mentorship.  I snapped reference photos for the portrait in her Church Street studio just before she and her husband packed up and retired to Southport, N.C. 
Do you have, or did you have a mentor who's helped you in your painting career?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Live Sketch 2

Oil on gessoed paper
11" x 14"

I lucked out, and was actually close enough to the model for this studio session to see into the shadows.  My goal was to develop an orange/green/violet triad, and to paint the air around her as much as the features.  She was the most pleasant woman.  Her eyes shut by the end of the session, but she was still smiling.  She seemed to radiate light.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Nana Richards

Annie Richards
Soft Pastel
22" x 28"

This is my Nana Richards, my mother's grandmother.  She was Welsh, and moved to the U.S. as a young woman with my great-grandfather.  I based this on an old tinted photo from my mother's stash of keepsakes.  I've heard she came to visit when I was a newborn, and insisted on taking me out for an "airing in the pram" in a blinding snowstorm.  I was also told that she had a strong personality, and consequently great-granddad spoke little, and drank a lot of gin.  Some hat, huh!  

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Live Sketch

Live Model
oil sketch
11" x 14"

Moving models are a particular challenge to paint.  And by moving, I mean anyone breathing. Too often, I'm chasing subtle shifts in light and expression all over my canvas, forgetting the lesson to simplify and grab hold of the essence. The frustrating thing about sketching live is the time limit.  The great thing about sketching live is the time limit.  I can only "tweak" things for so long before the sitting's over.  Usually, I just pray I've learned something to take to the next painting.  It was heartening to read that Sargent would pace back and forth in front of his easel swearing, and that Degas' family would wrestle paintings away from him because he never thought they were done.  

Friday, March 13, 2009

Look Up

Study: features
5" x 5"
oil on gessoed paper

The eyes at an angle, looking into light, posed a challenge. How to keep them properly shadowed and in the socket, yet feel illuminated and wet, all within a relatively narrow value range. Like most painters I know, I've spent a good deal of my life studying the works of others - past masters like John Singer Sargent and John White Alexander, or contemporary painters like Burton Silverman or Jeremy Lipking --wondering about paint handling and mediums, light direction, the colors in shadows, and what gives a particular painting life. In the end, it isn't until I tuck the mental analysis away and just paint that things begin to come together.
Thanks to my first blog followers, things are looking up!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Up Close

5" x 5"
oil on gessoed paper

I had lunch with a good friend today who asked if the last post was cropped or the full image. Good question! These studies of facial features are the full image. I was zeroing in on the parts of the face I wanted to practice painting. Keeping the format small and intimate, I could concentrate on developing skin tones and color mixing without worrying about the dreaded "rest of the picture." Thanks, Clare!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


study: features
5 x 5"
Oil on Gessoed Paper

I've been wrestling all day with understanding the technical side of blogging and search engines. Whew, do I have a lot of catching up to do. So I'm posting a study that I did a while ago to remind myself to smile.