Portrait of a very dear friend

Watercolor Portrait

“Doots”

My childhood best friend, who died last year was just so full of life! She loved to laugh.
We met in pre-nursery school, and were both “Doots.” We started the renowned “Doots & Doots Detective Agency”… solving all manner of crimes…often ones that we committed.
I was asked by her siblings to paint her portrait as a gift to her husband. I so dearly wanted to capture this loving, zany friend who was always looking for a joke or plotting something mischievous.
I have to say that this was the hardest painting I’ve ever done. Often I’d cry.
But the painting was presented to her husband last week, and I was so touched by his thoughtful note:
“I can’t begin to describe the impact of your painting. Such a blessing. God’s in His heaven and Sandy’s with Him. Love you.”
Oh, I’m so glad I was asked.

Here are a few thoughts en route to the painting

This is what’s called a “value study.” I gave arbitrary colors to the various values on Doots’s face, namely dark black and dark blue for the darkest values. The middle values on the face are purple/gray. The interesting thing I learned is that you can use ANY color in a painting and it will make sense as long as the value is accurate. It will look astoundingly right. Value is key!

I’ve enclosed a value chart here going from the lightest light to the darkest dark, so you can see the variations.

Doots’s brother stopped by, and we determined that he had the same coloration as Doots. These are the sample colors that I used primarily on her face in the painting.

I should add that the finished painting (above) is actually on white paper, so the colors are not accurate (sigh). The camera has a hard time registering white, and often gives the picture a yellow, red or blue cast. Frustrating!

Painting almost always requires many failed attempts. For instance, I couldn’t get the right side of Doots’s face without her looking truly bizarre, so I’m hiding it in this photograph… I, also, realized that her mouth was too wide. She also looked fat, and I didn’t want that, so I scraped the whole thing. Sort of like bad batches of cookies…

I didn’t take many pictures as I worked through this painting as I was so absorbed that I forgot. Next time I’ll do better…

Aside from my fine art paintings, I’m illustrating a book of fables that my husband has written called “Timely Tales.” I love them! Here are two preliminary illustrations. I’ll be posting new ones here as I trot along…

GOOSE'S INVITATION

Goose getting out of bed

It’s Carnival Day!

PIG'S PLAY

bored chicken

I’m bored!

                    Back to Work…

Well, now it’s time to get back to work… 

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Portrait of a very dear friend

"Doots" My childhood best friend, who died last year was just so full of life! She loved to laugh. We met in pre-nursery school, and were both "Doots." We started the renowned "Doots & Doots Detective Agency"... solving all manner of crimes...often ones that we...

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Spring News

Spring News

Spring is here (gorgeous!), and it’s time to tend to my long-overdue blog.

Oil painting of seated woman

Study of seated woman

I’ve been working on a number of pieces over the last months but I’m going to take you through this one that I’ve been painting over a number of weeks. I”m attempting a style of painting called “Tenebrist,” in which most of the figure is engulfed in shadow, but some parts are dramatically illuminated by a beam of light (in this case a spotlight fixed on the side of a black-encased box which is aimed on the model). Caravaggio, a Baroque artist, is generally credited with the invention of this style.

Start of glazing technique_oil painting

Study for Glazing

The first step in preparing the oil painting is laying down a background color, usually a dark reddish/brown, with an acrylic paint.

The next step is to lay out the drawing (this model is quite ample and a delight to draw), and lay in the lights. The oil paint is very much thinned down with linseed oil to create a thin glaze. I was fascinated with the way the light illuminated her skin, a bright red, winding it’s way up her leg, through her body and resting on her face. She has a wonderful head and chinline. I might add that she’s a terrific model as she never moves!

Second phase of glazing

Second phase of glazing

After the painting dried for several days, I next lay in a rose color as a glaze; namely a very thin layer of oil paint and linseed oil. The rose color, interestingly, over the dark brown becomes a dark blue. The remainder of the painting is done in layers of a thin glaze which, being translucent, gives a feeling of depth to the figure. Vermeer is one of the masters who used this technique beautifully!

Third phase of glazing with oils

Third Step in Glazing

This was the third week of adding glaze. It’s a long process and I have to admit I didn’t always glaze but added full color in order to move along faster. Also, I decided I’d enter a local competition and felt uneasy with this model being unclothed. So, using a slip that I had, I improvised and added a slip to the model. I’m sure it’s not as good as it would be if I had the real thing to look at but I loved the subtle colors of blue/green complementing the rose of her skin.

Close-up of study

Close-up of face of model

Oil painting of seated woman

Study of seated woman

That’s it for now. I learned a lot from this study, and I hope you learned something from my description as well.

I just started a watercolor of a barn and a horse, which I’m painting for a fundraiser at my daughter’s school. It’s for Derby Day, thus the horse. Next blog I’ll try and do a sequence of that piece so you can see how watercolor works. It’s very different from oils. I really love both mediums; each has it’s own beauty.

Happy Spring!

Sarah

What’s New This Time

What’s New This Time

Watercolor of Felder Ann

Felder Ann

I just finished my first commissioned portrait, and it was a stretch!! The difficulty with doing a portrait for someone you know is that it needs to look like them…obviously.

Closeup of Felder Ann watercolor portrait

Closeup of Felder Ann

Felder Ann has the most extraordinary eyes. I’m delighted that her parents felt that I captured them in the painting. Unfortunately, the photographs don’t capture the painting very well. New camera, wrong setting…

watercolor of "Going Home"

“Going Home”

I did this painting of “Going Home” a while ago from my imagination. It got triggered when I saw a large woman with her baby on her back during a fire drill in an apartment building in Alexandria, VA. That got combined with images from Saba, an island in the Caribbean, that had stuck in my mind. More and more, I see that I’m moved by scenes of vulnerability and light.

I want to redo this painting in time for the Telfair Museum Show in Savannah, November 11th. This time I’ll get a model (it might have to be my daughter, Katrina – I’ll just fatten her up…more Starbucks).
This is a big show, and I’ve promised myself I’d have a unified look. I’ll post things as I complete them.

Thanks!

Sarah