Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Chicago day trip to see John Singer Sargent

Gushing over the paintings of old masters is what I and many of my artist friends love to do.  Portrait artists are well-acquainted with the work of this American painter, John Singer Sargent (1856-1925).  While there have been many amazing portrait artists through the generations, he was a top artist of his generation.  He was a maestro with the brush, and he painted many famous and wealthy patrons, as well as fellow artists and working-class paid models. 
This one of James Whitcomb Riley is at The Indianapolis Art Museum (Newfields):

Here are a few of my Sargent favorites (not necessarily in the Chicago show):








A group of us loaded into a van (thanks for driving, Kim Thomson!) on 8/9/18 and headed to the Art Institute of Chicago to see this exhibition of his work (see this short video created by the museum):


                                                                                    


This show was wonderful!  There is nothing like standing in front of these paintings.  Such a precious piece of history!  Many of them are life-size, and his subjects are fascinating.   I could go on and on about his style of painting but I will do my best to be brief.  But just look at this close up of a boy's foot...
He can paint a shoe with just a couple of perfectly placed dashes of color. 
I was most excited because I could see a Zorn palette of colors over an initial red undertone, just as I recently did in my own mother's portrait!  I never imagined that he had ever started painting on a red ground, but there it was, peaking all around that shoe!!  I really nerded out over this.
Me at the opening reception for the Hoosier Salon 2018 Annual Exhibition
My friend Stephanie and I had our sketchbooks ready and did some sketching at the show. 
Copying a master work, even certain portions of it, is an excellent lesson. You may think you have looked at an artwork closely, but you can uncover a whole new layer of information when you take the time to copy it. Here I was imitating his use of line. I felt a connection to what his thoughts and decisions might have been at the moment he drew this hand. I could almost imagine it in video. I need to do this WAY more often!

Another venue we packed into our day was the Palette & Chisel Academy of Fine Arts.   

This organization has a rich history going back 115 years.  Here is one borrowed photo from their website:
Look at all these MEN artists!  Such were the times then.
 Here is that same room now (music added later):

This is the 3rd floor of P&C.  Artists gather here to paint from live models or to take classes and workshops.  We are already discussing a day to return to this historic studio to pay our $20 and paint from a live model for 3 hours.  Sure, we can do this in Indy as well, but how cool to do it at the Palette & Chisel!  If I lived in Chicago, this would be my hang out for sure!

Thank you to Daralyn for showing us around, and for allowing us to tour your own studio there on the 2nd floor!  It was a pleasure to meet you!



Friday, July 6, 2018

Longing

My very sweet and cooperative mother and her (less-so) feline roommate posed for a portrait for my camera.  I painted this quickly back in my studio, so I could enter it into the fast-approaching Hoosier Salon deadline.  I finished painting it, photographing it, and submitting it online JUST before the stroke of midnight!  Whew!!  And guess what!  It was juried in!  Yay!!
"Longing"       18" x 24"      Oil on Panel


I like the suggested narrative of the scene... with the subject looking toward the window in deep thought, not noticing her cat who is approaching her with caution or concern.  I hope the viewer imagines a story for the characters.  Is the lady lonely?  Is she traveling in her memories to another place and time, or is her mind fading to the point of ignoring her pet?

The truth behind the scene is:  My mom, at age 85, remains pretty sharp.  She works at an elementary school for 4 hours a day as a "Grandma," which is a program for retirees who come in for nominal pay and help as a teachers aide.  She sits with children and helps them work on their reading or math.  She gets lots of hugs.  After a full morning, she likes retreating to her little apartment for the rest of the day.  She wants to continue contributing to society as long as she can.

Another truth is that this old Persian cat is not nearly as beautiful as my mom.  So, her face did not make it into the portrait.  A visitor never knows if this cat is going to hiss at them or be nice to them.  Her attitude can change in the blink of an eye. She keeps my mom busy because of all the matted hair and snot coming from her almost non-existent nasal passages.  A face (that only a mom could love) like this would surely be a distraction:

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Intention

This little two year old is the daughter of a friend of mine.  Her name is Leah.  She has volunteered her cuteness for my portfolio.  She is looking pretty serious about her cookie.  I named this drawing "Intention" because she seems to have one.

"Intention"       14" x 12"      Pastel and Colored Pencil on Canson Paper

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Thursday, October 19, 2017

Norma

My very dear friend, Susan, lost both her parents within a short amount of time this past year.  Her heart is very heavy right now.  She was showing me some photos of them, and I fell in love with a photo of her mother as a young child.  She gave me permission to go for it.

I used a technique that master artist Richard Schmid talks about in his book Alla Prima II - Everything I know About Painting, and More.  He talks about using transparent oil colors within a color family, where you paint it on thinly and wipe away the lights to expose the white of the canvas.  He uses reddish-brown colors, which gives a vintage, timeless feel to the painting.  This is my first time to try it.  I used transparent oxide red, transparent oxide brown, and permanent alizarin crimson in the making of "Norma".

Norma was born in 1936 to her (full Italian) parents, and raised in Bloomfield, New Jersey.  Susan is not sure how old she is in this image.  Norma grew up to be quite a stunning woman, with a gorgeous smile, a zest for life, and a sweet disposition.  Susan said her mother was her best friend and a light in her life.

Susan inherited her mother's thick, wavy black hair, those brown eyes, a fun sense of humor, and sweet personality.  Susan is a light in my life, and to all who are privileged enough to call her their sister, mother, or friend.

Norma        11" x 14"     Oil on canvas board

Here is a gif file to show the progression of the painting...





Today we picked out the perfect frame.  I hope Susan finds at least a tiny bit of comfort in this tribute to her mom.  


 

Monday, September 25, 2017

My Experience of Painting Pastor Steve Reeves

SHORT AND SWEET VERSION:

I painted this for our retiring, talented pastor of 31 years.  It was a big deal.  It was unveiled for him on his last weekend as one of his gifts of gratitude from the church.  He and his wife loved it.  Scroll for photos.

THE VERY LONG VERSION:

First, my testimony...


Steve Reeves is why I started REALLY wanting to go to church.  Back in the 90s, my heart was in a dark place.  I started going to Brownsburg Christian Church (now known as Connection Pointe Christian Church) at the recommendation of a friend.  As soon as I started listening to Steve, I knew I had found a spiritual leader that I so badly needed in my life.  Week after week, he taught me about the biblical account of Christ and how He wants us to live.  I needed this firm foundation, as I was drifting, spiraling, self-destructive.  Steve reminded me of my dad, very witty, intelligent, and direct.  When he talked, I was totally tuned in (and I have zero listening skills...big time ADD).  When he talked, he did not take just one point and belabor it.  He gave us good content to take notes on.  Food to get me through the week...  Purpose. Goals. Action. Boundaries. Love.  I felt sometimes he was talking straight to me, although actually he did not know me personally.  I slowly healed and my life has greatly improved.

One of the things he taught us is that we are made to serve and glorify God in our own unique way.  I was thinking, yeah, I'm trained as a nurse (obviously I could do medical missions), but God has wired me as a visual artist.  That is the area of my brain that works the best, and I'm very passionate about it.  How cool it would be if my art skills could be used to serve and glorify God.  Could it possibly make a difference in this world?  I was not sure how.  It does not feed the hungry, house the homeless, or treat the sick.  Art falls under the category of a "want" and not a "need."   This harsh world has some really desperate needs.  I asked God to find some use for my art skills.

Now, the story of the painting:

 

The Brainstorm

A couple years ago, as I was sitting 4th row center as usual,  I started thinking that there would come a day when Steve would retire (a day I rather dreaded).  I imagined how I would like to paint his portrait sometime, as a gift of gratitude for what he has done for me.  Well, his announcement came, and I mentioned to my husband Jeff what my idea was.  He said, "If that is something you want to do, you had better be saying something to someone!"  So I did.  I told my dear friend Brian Fike, who is also a employed leader at the church.  He liked the idea, and mentioned it to the elders and other key people at CPCC.  They looked at my website, and liked what they saw.  I met with elder Craig Hanson, and he shared his vision of a portrait of Steve and his wife Kristen together.  But, more meetings happened within those church walls, and then Teresa Byington asked me to do a collage of scenes of Steve baptizing people.

I was resistant at first.  Oh my, that is a LOT of little portraits in a complex composition.  No way could I do that in the time allotted.  I'm way too slow.  The stress of trying would make me crazy.  What if it turned out looking stupid?  The whole church would see it!  The thought was overwhelming.  Teresa gave me an out and said, "Well, if you could find one photo that sums up baptism, then we could just go with that."  She showed me online access to all the baptism photos from the past 4 years.  I perused those and found that I could not narrow it down to only one.  It became apparent that a collage would be necessary to describe all the stages and moments within the baptism experience.  A collage would also illustrate God's love for all ages, all races, and both genders.  This was the vision of my church.  I was offered the privilege to make it a real thing.  I've been well-trained for this moment.  And the Holy Spirit was talking to my brain.  
"Let's do this."  Matthew 19:26

I sent a photoshop layout of photos in the best composition arrangement I could come up with to Teresa.  She said it was so good it made her tear up.  Uh oh, more confirmation that this is what I needed to do.
So, I did as I was taught by Steve.  I gave it to God.  I felt as though God was telling me to just pedal this bicycle, keep my eye on the road, and He would get me to the end.  He navigated.  Burdened lifted. He carried it.  I stopped worrying about it (mostly), but I still took this job seriously.
Little color study to get me started.

Getting Down to Work

I was fully focused and engaged.  I was told that Steve is quite humble and would not want the painting to be all about him and his own face.  So, I really wanted to make the painting be about the love and joy of being cleansed and becoming children of God.  Steve's images should be secondary to the moments he is assisting in.  I needed to visually capture Steve's work, but not glorify Steve.  I re-examined the brushwork of John Singer Sargent, who knew how to put paint on the canvas with accurate bravura.  I also studied all materials from modern day master Richard Schmid.  Every lunch break, I studied paintings by current masters of color and heavenly light... Zhaoming Wu, Dan Gerhartz, James Gurney.  Anytime I had a question, answers came.  Often they came while I was dreaming.  One night I could not sleep.  I turned on the most sleep-inducing show that I could think of, "The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross" (ya know, "happy trees" and all that).  It did not make me sleepy.  I watched him do some fancy stuff with a fan brush (while talking about God's miracles all around us, as Bob Ross often did in his soothing, whispery voice).  The next day, I picked up my fan brush and did something cool with it.  I also pulled out my notes from taking classes with Indianapolis artist Charlene Brown, and implemented some of the approaches she taught me.
 
My family members would come in every afternoon with a fresh eye, and give me their opinions for what was good in the painting, and what areas needed fixing.  I didn't always enjoy what they had to say, but they were right. Every. Single. Time.

Every session was started with prayer.  I played Spotify music, mostly focus instrumentals and contemporary Christian music.  I invited the Holy Spirit into my studio every time.  I needed help.  The large central figures were from a black and white photo that was pixely when I enlarged it, so I had to invent color and guess at some details.  It was so important that I get this right. 

My Rewards

 
I became familiar with working on a surface that was new to me, the Raymar L64C belgian linen panel.  I tried some new colors, brushes, and mediums.  I improved on mixing flesh tones.  I learned more about simulating bright light.  I am more aware of value control, and it's importance in communicating the concept.  I am better at moving my eyes around so that my eyeballs don't play color-perception tricks on me from staring at one color for too long. 

I learned how to quit goofing around on the internet so much, and get into that studio and start treating my painting career like it's my job.  I developed a solid routine for setting up in the morning and shutting down in the evening.  I discovered that too much exposure to solvents is bothersome to my airways, so I learned how to minimize that.  I was too focused on the painting to feed my sugar addiction, and now I crave it less.  While pushing paint around, I had time to think and pray and work through some personal issues.  My standing muscles got stronger.  I learned to trust God more.  I became braver.  I slayed some giants.

Ultimately, I participated in the creation of a unique and personal gift for Steve and Kristen, who deserve it.  I finally found an opportunity to serve with my artistic skills.

The following video was filmed by my daughter Alyssa (thanks sweetie!).  I was too nervous.  I just wanted to watch the moment.




Okay, I must insert here that it was surreal seeing my own easel with my painting on it up on that stage, and hearing my name mentioned by Greg Moore in front of the whole church.
Taken after the ceremony
After the ceremony, once they figured out who did this, I got big warm hugs from the Reeves.  Steve said he loved it, and would cherish looking at it everyday from this day on.  He said he was blown away, and that it could not have been more perfect.

The next day, their son Nate told me that, at first glance, Steve did not even notice himself in the painting.  All he saw was the baptism scenes.  That thrilled me, because that meant that I had successfully communicated the concept that I intended to.

My art may not have made a difference in the world, but it made a difference for someone who has made a difference in many lives.  Thank you Steve, for talking straight to me.

Thank you so much to Teresa Byington and Laura Basso for your kindness and availability to me, and for your moral support and patience with all of my questions and crazy requests.

Thanks also to my husband Jeff, and my kids Jake and Alyssa.  You were awesome throughout, with hugs, taking over (most) domestic chores, and lugging my equipment when necessary.
Tribute to Steve Reeves        30" x 30"    Oil on panel









It's on to the next thing now... right after I clean my house.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Agnes

This young lady is the 4th child in her family, and she has been waiting for her portrait to be done so it will hang with those of her siblings.  We had to wait for her to grow though, so her portrait would match the ages of the others in their portraits.  Also, I understand that Agnes is a little less inclined to sit still and pose, so her mother took several photos over a few months, trying to get a good shot.  I would have tried to take the photos myself, but they live in Germany, and that's a tad too far away (although I should have traveled there and called it a business trip)!

Anyway, here's Agnes...

"Agnes"         11" x 9"         Colored pencil on Stonehenge gray

Friday, June 23, 2017

Falling in Love at The Cup

This is a portrait of my daughter, Alyssa, at her favorite coffee shop in her college town.  The Cup, located in The Village near BSU, was a treasured oasis for her.  She came here several times to "get away from it all," so much so that the staff knew her name and what she was going to order. The student artwork that graced the walls were an inspiration to her creative soul. She loved sitting at the back table by the stained glass window where she could sip her chai, do her homework, and write her novels and poetry.

I journeyed up to Muncie a handful of times to join her in this quaint little creative zone, so I could hear about her college life, admire the changing art exhibit, and savor my own toasty-hot chai tea.

Perhaps a more apt name would be Falling in Love With The Cup.

Falling in Love at The Cup      16" x 30"     Oil

As I was putting finishing touches on the painting, a song came on the radio which inspired the perfect name for the painting.  Here is the video "Falling in Love at a Coffee Shop" by Landon Pigg.   I have fallen in love with this song.



I am excited and honored to announce that "Falling in Love at The Cup" is an accepted entry in the 2017- 93rd Annual Hoosier Salon Exhibition!  Thank you to judges Sherrie McGraw and Jim Wodark!  Of the 619 entries received, 159 were accepted, so it is quite an honor.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Marshall

Last year I painted this for my friend Emily.  She commissioned this portrait of her fiance's beloved dog, to be her gift to him on their wedding day.  She did the photo shoot, and sent me the files to pick from.  I got the portrait done just in time.  The paint was still wet when he opened it.  Meet Marshall:

"Marshall"           11 x 11"         Oil on canvas panel
Emily generously loaned it back to me, so I could varnish it and enter it in a show.  I so very badly wanted to enter this one in the Hoosier Salon, but the rules say that it must be for sale.  Other quality shows, as far as I can tell, have the same rule.  Obviously, "Marshall" was sold before I painted it.

I did a lot of things right in this painting that I have been trying to do in past works.  I like "Marshall" so much I really want to keep him, but he needs to go back to his rightful owners now. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Jeff's Sketchbook Easel (for me)

I'm a fan of the work and writings of artist/author James Gurney.  I also had the pleasure of meeting him and his wife Jeanette at the Portrait Society of America 2016 convention in Reston, VA.  I've been admiring the sketchbook easels that Gurney has created and recreated.  At one of his presentations at the convention, I took some close-up photos of Jeanette Gurney's easel and showed the photos to Jeff.  Borrowing from Gurney's and his blog followers' ideas and suggestions, and incorporating a few adaptations that I had requested, Jeff has come up with very nice easel for me to use for sketchbook work "In the Wild" as Gurney would say.






I love working with Jeff in designing these sorts of things (in this case, a re-design of Gurney's design).  He's a very creative craftsman and problem-solver.  I throw some pretty challenging problems his way, and somehow he gets it figured out.  Thanks Sweetie!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Sketching at Sullivan Munce

I recently started attending a weekly (almost) open drawing/painting session at the Sullivan Munce Cultural Center.  We sketch from a live model.  I would say that the majority of artists in this group are there to practice portraiture, rather than full nude figure.  Therefore, the model is usually clothed and much of it is long pose.  We all divide the model fee among us, so... the more, the merrier (cheaper).  A couple of the models are my coworkers from the hospital.

Here are my Thursday night sketches:

"Reclining Girl"    black and white charcoal on gray paper
"Kassandra"    black and white charcoal on gray paper

"Stephanie Painting Greg's Portrait"     Ink and watercolor
"Sharla"   11 x 14  Oil on Senso canvas

 It's so much fun to connect and paint with other artists!