Thursday, May 23, 2013

Lasting Memories

This is Mac, who lived to the ripe old age (for a dog), of 14 years. His owner, Ron, commissioned me to paint a picture of him after he passed away recently. Ron loved Mac very much and although he owned many other dogs, Mac was special. He thinks that might be because Mac was acquired after their children left the nest. I think we do spend more time with our pets when we're not busy raising children.  It's only natural that our animals might become like children too, especially if they are bright and energetic, as Border Collies tend to be. I own a Border-Collie mix and he is a sweet, yet determined boy who is fiercely loyal but too smart for his own good.

Ron did not have many good photos of Mac, so I used a combination of pictures to get the details right. He had one request that could only be accomplished by an artist-- remove the cataracts that clouded Mac's eyes in the last few years of his life. We know he's seeing clearly in Heaven so why not have those lovely bright eyes looking out at the world?

11" x 14"
oil on canvas

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Elizabeth posed for my weekly portrait group and we had her do a slightly different type of pose than we normally might since she was only going to pose for one two hour session. (She'll return in June but doing a different pose). We have encouraged her to dress like Sargent's Lady Agnew but time will tell if that happens. I know we'll have a ton of people at the group if she does.

This is a challenging pose for the model and for the artist because the angles of her head is very tilted. It's important to draw the placement lines in right away in order to keep the face symmetrical. Still, it's not easy to KEEP it symmetrical, as I found out when I attempted this piece. As for the model, she had a difficult job. Her hand fell asleep and if she moved even slightly the lighting changed, poor thing.

I was happy with the final result, which shows a slightly sleepy yet beautiful young woman, but it was one of the more difficult alla prima pieces I have ever painted.

11x 14

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Interesting Backgrounds

When I finished this painting the background was empty: nothing there but a blue wash. Sometimes I will leave it like that and add a background later. The expression on the model's face reminded me of something and at first I couldn't think what. Then it hit me! Da Vinci's Mona Lisa was sitting in a similar position, with similar hair. I decided to add a background resembling the one in the Mona Lisa, a landscape heavily obscured by the presence of humidity. I stuck with my own color scheme, a mostly analogous piece with blues and violets. I think it adds to the 'story' and changes the painting from a posed portrait to a painting of a woman  who is actually living somewhere. Or maybe I'm just hoping it does that.

9" x 12" oil on linen
Modern Mona Lisa

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Lemons with Little Brown Jug

I am getting some new kitchen cabinets in a few weeks and the salesperson allowed me to take home a door sample so I could buy some matching paint to use on my paneling. I decided to use the door sample as a backdrop to my still life setup.

Everything is a tad bit more yellow than it is in real life but that's O... I feel like the lemons are so bright they affected the color of everything else. It's almost like applying a "waring filter" in Photoshop and using yellow as the key color.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Painting daisies on a good day

These unique daisies only grow in the wild in one or two places in the entire world. One of those spots is a rocky quarry near Marblehead and Lakeside, Ohio. I took some pictures the last time I was there and used them as a guide to create this piece.

Underneath this painting lies the skeleton of another painting I started and gave up on. And so it goes... painting is like living. Sometimes you have a good day and sometimes you wish you could just go back to bed and start the day over. It's quite possible to re-do your painting, unlike your life.

12" x 12" oil on canvas

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Using Complements to Create Color

I have a collection of old photographs. Some are family and some are from various auctions where people seem willing to sell their family history for a song. I like the look of old photographs, especially silverprints. Many of the subjects who posed have a solemn, enigmatic gaze. The mouth is almost always closed because it's not easy to hold a smile for the length of time a box camera required. The edges are often blurred and there is a sense of mystery.

I admit to being fascinated by the fact that these people are gone, yet they lived and breathed and walked the earth and someone cared enough to make a record of a day in their life. Yet no one cared enough to save that piece of history.

These old photos have no copyright, they belong to no one but themselves; they are fair game for the artist who wants to practice her craft and experiment.

It's a challenge to create a color image from a black and white reference photo. I can think of only one way to do it and that is to use color theory. Decide on the color of the light-- in this instance I chose yellow and the color of the shadow will become it's complement: violet. Of course local color will affect the color of everything too but making a conscious decision about the color of the light in the beginning helps to speed the process.

I like to add some fun stuff in the background to make it more interesting when I can't see much of what is behind the subject.

11" x 14" oil on linen
Dr. Wright

Friday, May 03, 2013

Home Sweet Home

I like front porches. I have a front porch but it's not "that" kind of porch. My front porch is covered in steel and vinyl and it is not 'inviting'. I do have a sun porch that is comfortable and invites visitors to sit and stay for awhile. But the old-fashioned porch of the 1940s and 50s is a rarity. My husband;s grandmother had one. Her house was a classic 'bungalow' style and faced the main road in town. The traffic could be annoying at night when you were trying to sleep but on a lazy summer afternoon it was a comfortable place to sit and watch the world go by. Neighbors out for a stroll or walking their dogs; all stopped to say a few words and remark on the weather. There were no strangers in this era.

When did we begin to enclose those porches with screens? Eventually the porches shrank until they were little more than a stoop with no room for a chair. Living rooms became larger to accommodate the ever-increasing size of new forms of entertainment like television. While our horizons became broader and began to include the world more and more, our local connections disappeared. My husband's grandmother knew the names of everyone on her street and probably two or three streets down. She knew who was getting married, who was expecting a child, what grade the kids were in and she never met a stranger. I know a few of the residents in my neighborhood, but most are strangers and we have lived here for 11 years.

I think the front porch has become a symbol for a kinder, gentler time. I filled this one with warm light to infuse it with a romantic and nostalgic feeling. I added a cat because I love cats.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Lifeguard Chat

Another small (6" x 6") painting in my series of beach scenes. Th lifeguard station at Lakeside sits on a  concrete dock overlooking Lake Erie. The water can be choppy and the day might be windy and cold or humid and sticky. You never know in Northwest Ohio. Lifeguards are notoriously underpaid, in my opinion. I've never done the job, but it has to be incredibly hard to sit for hours in a sweaty, slippery chair high above the fray and keep your eyes open. The sheer responsibility of it would be more than I could take. What if someone was drowning and I missed it? I was never interested in doing the job, so I have lots of respect for those who do it.