Wednesday, October 24, 2018

30 in 30

It's fun to listen to podcasts and audiobooks while painting.  Music is great, but sometimes I crave conversation even if I'm just listening to other people having it.  Podcasts are my favorite, because they are bite-size learning opportunities, and I can tune in and out according to how much concentration my painting is demanding of me at a given moment.

One of my favs is "Artists Helping Artists" with Leslie Saeta and her cohost Margaret Sheldon.  I've listened to them so much, that I feel like they are friends of mine.
In August 2018, while working on a several-week-long project, their broadcast reminded me of Leslie's bi-annual painting challenge called "30 Paintings in 30 Days" which runs in September and February.  Even though I've given this a whirl in the past (but dropped out after a week), I was craving a chance to get back to some fast, daily paintings.  I decided to go for it again.  As soon as I finished my big commission, I began to prepare for the September challenge.

Now, the idea behind the challenge is to just help artists get back into the routine of getting into the studio daily and paint quickly, efficiently, and without fussing forever on a piece.  Some of the benefits of it are: 1.) The artist's skills will often improve rapidly throughout the course of the month.  2.) The public will enjoy seeing the daily works, will start looking forward to seeing them, and might possibly"like" and "share" the posts on their own feeds, which could contribute to 3.) more notoriety and sales.  Many artists, Leslie included, have claimed that this challenge basically lit a fire under their career.

Of course, I always bite off more than I can chew, so I decided I wanted to do 30-ish portraits (crazy!).  I really felt like my drawing skills were getting rusty and needed a tune-up.  Nothing challenges that part of the brain like trying to accurately draw a face.  To prepare, I stocked up on art supplies, and started calling my friends and family and scheduling them for a sitting. 

I really try not to be logical.  I just take the leap and see what happens.

My good friend Susan took a picture of me painting her.  See me standing?  Yeah, I abandoned the standing thing after the first portrait.  I thought, I'm not going to stand for hours and hours daily.  I'm too old for that.

Alisa posing for me at SullivanMunce Cultural Center in Zionsville.  She entertained herself with a book.  See me sitting?

One by one, my victims (as I liked to call them) would sit in front of me and my easel, and do their best to hold still.

Painting Kathy at the Lebanon Library

Sometimes I would look up from the canvas, and see this!  Ha!
Kathy M.            14x11"             Oil on panel

Some were super excited, and some were not so much.  Some were comfortable with it, and some were very nervous.  I did my best to set them at ease and to make it kind of fun with music and conversation.  Just the age-old tradition of sitting for a hand-painted portrait was an experience that none of them had ever had before, and many were intrigued to try it.  I often paid the ladies in chocolate and/or a glass of wine, along with my gratitude for them contributing their time to the arts.  They all know me and want me to do well in my painting endeavors.

Some portraits were of subjects that held very still, because they were from a photo!
My copy of a painting at the IMA called "Madame Crozat de Thiers and Her Daughter" by Jean-Marc Nattier.

Progression shots of my painting of Big Red, based on a photo taken by his owner, Karrie Coddington.

And one by one, these portraits, good or bad (minus the really horrible ones), were posted on Instagram (@conniehargittnobbe) and Facebook (@conniehargittnobbeart or my personal FB page Connie Hargitt Nobbe), and the image was tagged to the model.  Each portrait drew enthusiasm from my friends and the models' friends, as evidenced by several Likes, Comments, and Shares.  Most of the models were told just how beautiful they are (and they are!).  Since most of them are my coworkers, or past coworkers, it was fun for everyone to watch for whose portrait was going to show up next.  I started getting more and more volunteers as my skills improved.  

My night shift coworker of long ago, Jan!  This tough girl has survived more than you can imagine.
Jan             12x9"            Oil on linen

This project paid off, big time.  I greatly sharpened my drawing skills.  I became more efficient in my packing, traveling, setting up and tearing down routine.  I learned to take my iPad along for capturing a still image if my model was a self-professed wiggle-worm.  I learned the best ways to pose my model, and help my model get back into pose when they drift.  I refined my procedure for sketching, paint mixing, and then slapping in the colors.
I usually started the portrait by sketching with pan pastels, due to its softness and erase-ability.
Sharla took a break from her chair to snap a photo of me painting her.

I learned that I need sufficient light, or the painting suffers.  I figured out which surfaces I liked painting on, and which brushes those surfaces required me to use, and how gooey my paint would need to be for both of those factors.

Natale       14x11"     Oil on linen

I learned how to pace myself to finish in the 3-4 hour window of time, but usually I did do some touching up back in my studio afterwards.  I learned that I cannot partake in the wine if I want my painting to turn out worth a hoot.  Concentration on that level requires total sobriety!

Lauri      12x9"     Oil on linen

I also re-discovered the value of investing a chunk of time in visiting with a friend in real life (as opposed to just online, or in brief snippets at work).  This is easy to forget in our social media culture.  The conversations I had with my sitters were lovely and memorable.  It was wonderful to share on a deeper level our philosophies, dreams, fears, stories, jokes, etc.  I gained more perspective and learned just how amazing my sitters really are.  It was very good for my soul.

Charlee           14x11"        Oil on panel

As stated earlier, some of the paintings were good, and some were not (I warned each of my models that I might bomb out).  Because these were not commissions, and were for my artistic growth only, I have offered them for sale for dirt cheap (to help me recover costs). 

In September, I achieved 20 paintings, and a handful more in October.  Even though the 30 in 30 challenge is over, I know that I will need to continue to paint faces on a regular basis so that I can keep improving.  I'm so glad I jumped into this crazy project before I could talk myself out of it.
Elizabeth             12x9"           Oil on linen

Painting Brian Wenning who was appropriately dressed for "PINK OUT! Day" in Greensburg, IN.

Brian                  12x9"               Oil on linen

To all my friends and family who participated, THANK YOU!!!  By sacrificing your valuable time, you helped me in so many ways!  I had a wonderful time with you, and I hope you did too! 

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Wedding Cabana for Mitchell and Kristin

Mitchell and Kristin were married on this lovely Ft. Myers, Florida beach in 2014.  Mitchell's parents, Paula and Tommy, are friends of mine and my husband's.  Paula reached out months ago and commissioned me to paint a large picture of the cabana that the lovely bride had walked through on her approach to the beach where the groom and other loved ones awaited.

This evening, in the Mitchell's and Kristin's living room, with wine and cheese and Frank Sinatra playing in the background, Paula and Tommy unveiled the painting...

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Artists Paint the Town in Danville, Indiana, 2018

Heavy rains and thunderstorms showed up the morning of Danville's first official paint-out.  As I'm loading up the car in the early morning hours and getting drenched while doing so, I'm having a conversation in my head about it.

"Why are you doing this?  This weather is ridiculous.  Go back to bed."
"Because something good might come from this.  Other artists don't wimp out over the weather, so suck it up and go."   And so, despite knowing that rain water and oil paint do not mix well,  I went.

The Gallery on the Square (GOTS) hosted this event.  Flory Phillips, Joan Kisner, and Pamela Halliburton greeted artists in the Train Station building in Ellis Park with hot coffee and doughnuts.  Weather-resilient plein-air painters, plus me, launched into the scenic spots of beautiful Danville with our canvases stamped and our maps in-hand.

This photo was obviously taken in the afternoon when the weather was better.

I had scouted around town a bit the day before.  I had an idea about where I might go.  But, since I am not equipped to paint outdoors in a torrential downpour, I drove around looking for good interiors that I might be able to pull off.  After wandering around town in bewilderment, I did end up at the Danville library in hopes of some cool interior architecture.

I found a very kind librarian named Debbie Garvey on the 2nd floor who gave me permission to paint in there, and shared with me some history on the building.  She suggested the "Indiana Room" where local residents can comb through old Hendricks County records in their genealogy research.  The Indiana Room has a beautiful fireplace and mantle that served as a heat source in the original Carnegie library building.

These beautiful gargoyle carvings immediately grabbed my interest.  The wood was imported from Germany, and the green tile was from Italy, back in the day.  I set up my gear and gave it a go.

The start.

Work in progress.

When the timer in my stomach said "times up!"

By 2:30 pm, I was finished (am I ever really finished with a painting?) and quite hangry (hungry/angry), so I packed up and headed out (the sun was shining finally) for some food and then back to the Train Station to frame it and turn it in.

"Indiana Room Overseer"           12" x 9"         Oil on panel
Frank's Place, a wonderful local Italian restaurant, donated several delicious pizzas and breadsticks to the event for the artists and their family members to enjoy.  We were also treated to homemade cookies and drinks.  A judge looked the artworks over, and we all voted on the People's Choice award.  Donna Nolan Sanders, a local artist in GOTS, did an amazing speed-painting performance.

She painted this 5 ft canvas in less than 10 minutes, set to patriotic music.  So impressive and tons of fun to watch.

Awards were announced, and the winners received some nice prize money.  GOTS put on a wonderful event for the participants.  I really appreciated the opportunity to come out and play!  Thanks to the library staff for helping me find my subject, to GOTS for all of their hard work, and to all the donors who gave money for the awards.

I did not win an award, but I'm told that the judge wanted to give 4 more awards out to some deserving paintings, mine being one of them.  She told Joan that she thought I was creative to choose that subject on a rainy day, and to look inside for inspiration.  That was a very encouraging thing to hear.

I'm so glad I pushed myself out the door that morning. Good things did result from my NOT wimping out.  Besides meeting some truly kind and wonderful people...  Debbie at the library expressed an interest in having me do a solo exhibition there early next year!

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 his 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 studied an artwork closely, but if you take the time to copy it, you can uncover a whole new layer of information. In my sketch, 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


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 teachers aides.  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 have been a distraction in my painting:

Tuesday, March 13, 2018


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


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


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.


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.