A friend called last week to ask if I had four silk scarves in stock. She was a bit frantic. Her daughter is marrying a Turk and his family is arriving in Alaska for the reception. My friend fears they will be cold, so wanted to give the ladies something pretty and Alaskan to warm them on their arrival. I didn’t have the scarves already painted, so I made them to order showcasing Alaskan wildflowers. I was thankful to have some lovely crepe de chine silk on hand. It is a bit sheer with an elegant drape. I like it because the colors dye vibrant into the silk. Silk will warm the new relatives a bit, but I guarantee they will be borrowing polar fleece or wool for our cool evenings.
Who doesn’t like to play in mud? Probably lots of people, but I found a YouTube video and couldn’t resist gathering the supplies to play in my own mud. Sheetrock mud.
I gathered leaves, kitchen gadgets, buttons, a doily ( my IQ seems to drop at least ten points when I say that word out loud), and other odd items. I was looking at hinges on a door to use, but thought that might be going a bit too far. My husband is very patient, but even I would feel a bit sheepish explaining why the door was on the floor (…and would you please help me put it back?) Maybe I could find hinges without a door attached…
Here is a photo of the textures I created. The dribble of black was from an old library stamp. I forgot to clean the ink off first. It all gets covered with paint.
I’ll post again when they are painted.
Very few people know I carry a secret fondness for cows. Not “country” cows, but real dairy and meat cows. I’ve actually had my husband stop the car to take photos of cows. See, I told you he is patient. Here are some Alaska cows to brighten your day:
I’m not Sherlock Holmes, but I do love to nose around and look at my Facebook friends’ photos. It is so obvious to me what they love. It isn’t the volume of images, but the moments they capture and share. I’ve sketched a bird, a child, and a building. For the sake of variety and my whimsical nature, I chose this image for today’s post. I understand why a person would love a tractor. So much work shared to the rhythm of that engine. My boys loved getting rides in the bucket of Grampa’s tractor. It needs “Allis Chalmers” painted on it. A small detail, but love is in the details, right?
Many of my friends on Facebook post such excellent photos. The light or composition might be stunning, but honestly, I’m looking for the love: love of nature or the love of a dad for his son. It’s the element I’m drawn to more than light, color, and composition. It’s where beauty finds a home. It motivates and stirs me. The photos I find and put in my “to sketch” file are mere ghost images of what my friends love. Sketching them is like holding a precious jewel for just a moment.
Since the past two images I sketched were of living beings, I thought I’d mix it up a bit with a structure. My husband’s cousin owns a beautiful home in New Hampshire she calls “Joy Hill”. She is an excellent photographer and has posted many lovely images, but this one caught my eye.
In a sketching group on Facebook, we were asked to sketch a square from a photo of an Italian street. The finished images will be on display in Palazzo Moretti, Italy. I’m not able to travel to Italy this year, but my sketch will be taking up a little space in that beautiful country.
Below is the photo and my interpretation. It was begging for life and a bit of story. I like to think of it as “Before the Fall”. A couple ways you could take that: romantic or humorous…or both.
My Facebook friends have no idea I am going to paint one of the photographs they have posted. It makes me feel like a stalker…in a good way. When I emailed the above image to one of my friends, I waited to have him tell me if this watercolor looked like his son or if it looked like a distant cousin or the kid down the street. With portraiture, it has to be right or it is all wrong. I hoped to hear back from him within an hour or two. I figured the more time it took, the more likely he was trying to work out how to tell me it didn’t look like his son. In less than five minutes, he called. “That’s awesome!” This guy loves his little boy so much. Can you tell by the photo he posted, below? The light on his face is so strong and tender. I just couldn’t resist.
Some people want to know details and a bit of my process. Feel free to ask questions in the comments if I don’t explain something you might want to know. I took several workshops with Jan Kunz, so much of what I do is similar to her process. She is a great teacher and her book is excellent. I’ll post the colors and brushes I used in another post.
I started with a Bic mechanical pencil using a .7 lead. Don’t press too hard and don’t even think about using the eraser on the cap, unless you like permanent gray smudges. I use a gray kneaded eraser.
Below is the drawing with the first and second wash. I let each wash dry before adding the next. For the record, a wash is the same as a glaze, which is how some artists refer to it. It just means a layer of paint. I intended this layer to be bright so his skin would glow underneath the glazing layers. I have a friend who paints in oil and she calls her first layer “underpants”.
Pretty scary looking, isn’t it? This is progress, but still scary:
Below I’m starting to glaze over the yellow to get skin tone and facial shapes. Children’s faces are more about what isn’t there. No defined nose, eyes or lips. Lots of softening of lines and little bits of shading.
It would have been good of me to remember to take more pictures, but at this point, I become focused on painting and forget. I take photos at the end because I am more objective with a photograph of the painting than the painting itself. In the image below, can you see the back of his head and his ear is too light? His left eye is too squinty, the shirt is too yellow and so many other details, but this is when his character begin to emerge. The final stage is an elaborate game of hide and seek, glazing correct colors and values. I mold those delicate features with a little bit of cool blue or warm purple or the reflected yellow light bouncing off his shirt up onto the bottom of his chin, under his nose and the brow bone. One eye might be just right and the other one…not so much. Or the mouth might be just a little bit…odd.
There is quite a bit of mumbling in the studio during this stage. I don’t talk to myself, but I talk to paintings. Especially when they talk back. Or if they are giving me grief. This piece didn’t give me grief, but I did have to encourage him to have both eyes going the same direction. Some people think expression is held in the eyes, but it really is in the mouth. The mouth affects the eyes, not the other way around. If you smile really big, those facial muscles will push up your cheeks, making your eyes squint. His mouth is very, very soft with more transitions of color than lines.
“Well, hello, Neil!”
On to the next one…
I must have a stalker’s heart. My Facebook friends post photos which only tempt me to see more. More of that road trip. More of that family (oh, look! they have twins too!) More of that building project. More of those crazy pets. Some of those images reached out and grabbed me by the leg. Well, sort of. They spoke to me in one way or another. Usually it is the lighting in a photo that catches my eye. If it makes me catch my breath, it goes in the file. I’m not going to tell you what images are there, but judging by the contents, I’m eclectic.
This is the first one. My friend, Heather, feeds all sorts of birds. I’m jealous that she has Stellar Jays. She is only a hundred miles and a mountain range away, but those jays don’t live near us.
She feeds them from her hand and captured that expression with her camera. How could I not paint this handsome dude? I’m a sucker for electric blue eyebrows.
The next painting is on my painting table. I’m going to send a photo of the painted image to the “owner” and wait for a response. This one has to look just right or it is all wrong. Oh, to be a fly on the wall…
It is always an honor to paint a person. There is the responsibility to “get” the expression and put the eyes and ears in the right places, but there is a level of tender intimacy found when I look so long and carefully at just that nose, that ear, that personality. It isn’t the same as painting, say…cars!
These cars are all in Arizona. People drive golf carts around, too. I wasn’t sure what to put in the bottom middle spot. It would have been difficult to draw a small car across the gutter of the page. My friend, Elinor, suggested an Arizona license plate. Pretty cool idea, isn’t it? The page needed some text, so I added words from an old Country Western song. I sang it for my husband and he laughed.
We flew from cold and dark Alaska to sunny Arizona earlier this month. I sketched in the sun every day. A friend I met on Facebook, Stacy Egan, invited me to join her sketching group in Tucson. What an enjoyable and friendly group! We met at the train station and roasted in the sun to sketch this cool, old train.
I realized as I photographed these following images that there is a thread here. They are all passages: a door, a window, a gate. Last weekend my mother went through a passage from life to death. She had been at the doorway for so long, slipping away from us in bits as Alzheimer’s slowly took her from us. I believe with all my heart that she is with God now and that she was so very glad to go from here to be with Him. From this life to eternity. During this Thanksgiving week, I am thankful for having had a wonderful mother.