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.