This is James and his new puppy. His grandmother (a dear friend) asked me to paint a portrait as a Christmas present to her son and his wife. She wanted a soft look, and watercolor is a perfect medium for that.
I was given a 3″x5″ photo from which to work, and the finished portrait would be 16″ x 20″. Help! Thank goodness for PhotoShop. I was able to blow the picture up and see some of the details. Next the colors. Would they be accurate? Mary sent me samples of hair and skin color as James lives in Colorado…I live in Charleston…
This is going to be a short blog as I got well into James’ portrait and remembered I needed to take photos. You can see some of the drawing here, and the puppy is well underway. I used a combination of Transparent Red Oxide and Quinacridone Sienna to arrive at the wonderful orange/copper color on the nose and highlighted in the fur. At this point, I’m just starting to figure out the fingers and hand placement. Also, what is going on with the rear paw? Which leg was it attached to (look at the photo below)?
Here is the sweet photo of James and the puppy.
I thought you might like a closeup of James’ sweet face. I really wanted to capture his intent, his thoughtfulness. I hope I succeeded.
Mary sent me this wonderful picture. “They love it!” she said.
I’ve not done very many paintings in oil, nor am I a still life painter, but I recently took a workshop with Chris Groves, a very talented,Â Charleston-basedÂ painter, and above is the result.
Oils are messy! But I LOVE that you can changeÂ up, reposition, and recolor, which is much moreÂ difficult to do with watercolors. I love the transparency of watercolors, but I love the texture and freedom with oils. They each have their own beauty. My only obstacle yet is to find the medium with which I can create line, which is my first love. I’m pushing to find where I can create what’s on my heart with which medium with the greatest effect. I truly welcome comments, critical or otherwise!
The idea was to set up the still life in a box with a light aimed on the subject creating a dramatic effect of light and dark, a technique known asÂ “chiaroscuro,”Â a method perfected by Rembrandt.
Still life set against cloth background
Here the still life is set up in a box using fabric and draped behind the vase and orange. The light is affixed on the left side of the box aimed at the vase and orange. The drama is set!
Laying in the ground
We first chose a color palette, from which I deviated enormously, so I didn’t include it. We next lay in a reddish/brown pigment on the canvas, and lifted paintÂ with paper towels while itÂ was still wet to create the values (from light to dark), and the composition.
Blocking in the colors
Here I’m laying in blocks of color, and trying to figure out what I’m going to do with all that fabric on the left side of my painting. Where do I want the focal point to be? Am I creating contrasts using only lights and darks? I want to remember to use cools against warm (the orange against the vase) to create contrast. You also have to consider that, even if you like something about a painting, you might need to eliminate it as it adds nothing. I was attracted to the shadow to the right of the vase, but I had to tone it back as it was drawing the eye there rather than to the vase and the orange.
This is the workspace with the actual still life in the background
This picture shows myÂ workspace with the still life in the distance. Â This was only a three-day workshop (six hours/day), so you have to work relatively quickly.
Now it’s getting to the hard part – looking critically at the composition and contrasts. Am I creating enough light and dark? Is the background staying back or competing with the foreground? Is everything too much in the “middle ground?” How do IÂ Â make the vase sit on the fabric; are the shadows convincing? These and many others are questions that go repeatedly around in my mind. How much reflection should the orange create? This is where I make my own decisions, and am no longer looking at the still life. I want the warm of the orange in the fabric, although it’s really not there. How far do I push it? Is the brown in the background a warm brown or cool? The shadow in theÂ fabric as it turns towards the floor needs to be warm in order to come forward in front of the blue vase.
Still Life in Oil
This is the final piece! In the painting, the vase is more aqua but I need to invest in a better camera… I hope I’ve given you some indication of how difficult painting can really be. It’s a shortcut, for me, to brain implosion. I don’t do landscapes because there are so many decisions to make, so many colors, so many lines, so many blocks of shade and light. Perhaps, when I’m more adept, one day I’ll attempt one and succeed. This painting, however, was great fun, and I felt somewhat successful.
We’ve finally settled into our new home. My studio is presently in the dining room….I like that it’s next to the kitchen…
HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO EVERYONE!
To Purchase any of my work, please phone 1-912-223-8674 or email me from my contact page. Thanks!
Drawing on Arches hot press paper using Faber Castell pencils.Â Â Â Â SOLD
I did this drawing as sort of a cathartic exercise. My youngest daughter was on track to be a prima ballerina from an early age. I can’t say how many hours we logged going to studios, schools, rehearsals etc. This past summer, we went to NYC as she had a opening with the American Ballet Theater. We were there a week, and she looked at me and said, “I can’t do it, I just don’t have the passion necessary for this…”Â – I could fully understand; it’s a life that demands everything…
Â She’s now in Colorado working on a Dude Ranch… she’s in heaven!
I thought I would do a series of ballet studies, and say my “Good Byes.”
The pointe shoe is really a beautiful thing. I wanted to portray not only the fact that the shoe itself was “done” but that, so often, we need to leave or bring closure on things in our lives that no longer “fit.”
Â This piece just won First Place in the Jekyll Island Arts Festival. That was nice.
Update on Anite!
The monies raised from the sale of the print have enabled 2nd Story Goods to build a toilet for Anite and her kids. Thanks to all who helped! The photo below shows the toilet in progress. If anyone can figure out what’s going on, please let me know! I’ve posted here a conversation that I’ve been having with Kathy Brooks, who runs the ministry, below:
Anite’s New Haitian Toilet
Kathy: hey love, I am so excited to give Anite the money tomorrow ( today , now)
She is working on her house , and really wants to put a toilet in for her family…
( so they don’t have to go out in the field) ..again, there really aren’t words for the
difference that makes for her and her daughters! I think that is a great use of
these funds… such dignity in that …. thank you for listening that creative
wild God we serve!
Sarah: Hard to tell what this is? Can you explain? It looks like a circular wall. Will it be a toilet?
Â Kathy: Yes. It is about 15 feet deep. It’s really hard to tell here. So sorry.They have already begun buying block to finish it. Takes SO LONG !! O. My. But it is happening.