Waiting for the Blink

Portraits have been a love/hate relationship for me. When I’m painting them, time just flies by. The brush nudges a cheek into existence and with just a dot and swirl, there is an eye and I almost expect to see a blink. I often say, “Well, hello!” I honestly don’t know if other artists have this response. I don’t wait for it and I don’t expect it, but it almost always happens. That is the love part.

The hate part is that it might not work. This isn’t a problem unless it is a commission. In one commission, I had a parent ask if I could take off some fat and add some hair to her child. What child did she want me to paint? Another commission, the parent gave me a handful of photos and said to paint anything that moved me. I did. They said my painting looked just like the photo, but not like the child. “Can you make her look more like a monkey?” You meet all kinds.

This year I’ve joined some amazing artists from around the world in a special small group on Facebook. We post sketches online and the only obligation is to interact and exchange positively. We can’t just “like” an image. We are encouraged to say what works and what might need some tweaking. Sometimes there will be a challenge to sketch an “assignment” and they are always fun. Last week some of us sketched a portrait based on photos from their Facebook page. I chose Laura. This sketch took a little less than three hours from paper to “hello”.

"Laura" 10.5" x 7" watercolor

“Laura” 10.5″ x 7″ watercolor

A Home for Grace

When I started the “Painting Facebook Photos” series I looked at so many great photos. One of my friends told me about a friend of hers who lived in Kenya who took lovely photos of orphans. So I went to Kate’s Facebook page and to her blog and saw not only some beautiful photos, but a mother’s heart for her five bio children and the fifteen orphans she and her husband, Johnny have rescued. I painted their eldest “orphannomore” girl, Grace, and named the painting “The Shalom of Grace”.

I didn’t realize when I painted the series that all ten of the images I painted were really a study and a sort of mosaic of shalom, which means peace, but it also means rest, wholeness, safety and completeness as well as the process of all that. Painting Grace gave me an opportunity to see shalom from her perspective in a small way. I don’t know the depths of what she has gone through and won’t pretend to, but I know that she is now safe and in the process of healing and restoration because she is with people who love her and who are committed to care for her.

So in the spirit of shalom, I would like to help Kate and Johnny feed all those hungry mouths. I thought first of auctioning off the painting, but then only one person would have the opportunity to help. So instead, I’m going to give you an opportunity to help by having a drawing for it. If you donate $10 to them on their blog here your name will be put into the drawing. Your name will be added twice if you donate $20, three times if you donate $30, etc. No matter who wins the painting, everyone who gives will be able to help and give shalom. The drawing will begin today and end on Mother’s Day, May 13, at 9pm Alaska Time. You will be notified by email if you won and the painting will be mailed to you.

“The Shalom of Grace” original watercolor 10″x13″

I asked Kate what $10 would buy in Kenya and this was her reply:

“We can buy a thick blanket for a person in need.
Flour for a week or two
Almost 90 eggs (we use 35 eggs per egg meal)
8 lbs of meat (we usually use 4 lbs per meal)
2 lbs of butter
Medicines are relatively cheaper here, so that could buy malaria meds for one person.
40 avocados
15 lbs of tomatoes (we use about 10 lbs for spaghetti or chili)
25 large mangos
16 heads of cabbage”

Painting Facebook Photos 9

"The Shalom of Grace" watercolor

Her name is Grace. She is an orphan living in Kenya with Kate and Johnny who host an orphan home. There are also fourteen other children. Kate told me some of her story:

“We rescued her from an orphanage that made her work as a ‘maid’ for the home. She didn’t go to school and spent her days washing and cleaning for the other kids in the home. She was often beaten and just wanted out. Before going to that orphanage, her mother would leave her outside, not feed her, and beat her. So when she was six, a good Samaritan took her away from her crazy mother and put her in that orphanage.”

“Shalom” is a Hebrew word and although I don’t know many words in that language, this word is very special. In English we have words with many meanings, but this word has depth of meaning. From what I’ve learned, it means peace, but also restoration, wholeness, completeness, quietness, to be safe. But the incredible thing is that it also means the process and movement toward restoration, wholeness and completeness.

I called this piece “The Shalom of Grace” because she is at peace and safe in the love of her new family and she is in the process of restoration and wholeness. Here is a photo of Grace with her family, a picture of shalom.

Only one more painting left in this series. I still haven’t decided on which photograph I’ll choose. There were so very many wonderful images of my Facebook friends. Your comments on this blog and in person have been so encouraging. Thank you so very, very much.



“Snuggling Sisters” revisited

"Snuggling Sisters" watercolor

"Snuggling Sisters" watercolor in progress

Although there might not seem like much of a difference between the two paintings, the critic within relaxes. I’ve heard famous artists say there is always something different you would do in a painting, but when it is finished, just go on to the next one. So I’ve already started Painting Facebook Photos #9!

Thank you so much for your kind, encouraging comments!

Painting Facebook Photos 8

"Snuggling Sisters" 10.75" x 10.75", watercolor

Who could resist those precious faces and that hair? The mother of these girls told me they are always snuggling and love each other to pieces.

This painting has been going through what I call the “adolescent stage”. In case the term isn’t enough of a visual, I’ll explain. Most paintings have a beginning, a middle and an end, similar to a song or an outline for a book. In the beginning, I use large brushes, lots of water and relatively little paint. In the middle stage subjects take on definition. The last stage is for details with thicker paint using a smaller brush. The adolescent stage is when a painting seems to become uncooperative, stubbornly refusing to end and there is a temptation to torture it into submission. If you have ever heard “A Song That Never Ends” you will know my frustration. I know it is just paper, paint and brushes, but they do take on a personality. #8 needs a time out (maybe this one is in a toddler stage) and we need separate rooms for awhile.  I might erase the pencil lines and be happy with it and sign it or it might need tweaking just a tiny bit here or there…

I was away for several hours, looked at it and saw that there is a harsh line on the blonde girl’s jaw that needs softening because it is making her head look too big. I’ll post again tomorrow with the changes after I photograph it in the daylight. But their mother is eagerly waiting to see it so here you go, Kara!

Kara's Girls