Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Modern Portrait. . .

Charlotte  .  14 x 11"  .  oil on linen covered panel
I've been working of late on some commissions that can't be revealed or posted about yet - starting way ahead of Christmas gives a painter some breathing room, especially when portraits are involved, or anything of an intricacy for that matter!  

I'm breaking the silence today to feature my latest portrait of a young girl living way over on the other side of the country!  When I first saw her photographs, sent by her grandmother, I was instantly captivated by her old soul.  I always ask people to give me their impressions or thoughts of the commission subject as it makes all the difference in the world when attempting to capture a spirit and likeness.  Her grandmother is eloquent in expression and writing - she knew exactly what to convey about her beautiful eleven-year-old granddaughter!  That's an artist's dream when not able to paint in the flesh, so to speak.   

I find people really love the more modern thought of a casual portrait.  Yes, you can still see many traditional portraits (think seated in a formal setting with clothing the subject may never wear again, large bows in girl's hair, etc.) but like everything, taste changes.  The younger generations are desiring something more casual - smaller, yet intimate enough to capture your gaze immediately.  

Detail, Charlotte
Who can resist those golden, chocolate eyes?  Her old-world, Mona Lisa smile?  It's always interesting to me how some portraits absolutely seem to fall into place immediately - this was one of them.  When that happens you feel especially grateful, and it gives the whole process a rather mystical air. 

After painting Charlotte, I zinged immediately to a still life/pet combination commission, then on to two landscapes of Maine - commissioned to remind the receiver of his favorite place to vacation.  Although I overheard him say he put 1200 miles on the car over a two week period while there recently.  Just shows how the meaning of vacation is different for everyone!
Hmm. . .I'm thinking good book, outside, warm breeze, sun, quiet, island maybe, long walks.  

Hope your Thanksgiving is peaceful and loving - I imagine nearly all can agree it's one of the nicest of holidays and we are all probably ready for a reset this year.  Maybe it will begin Thanksgiving when we are reminded of our blessings as we gaze upon family and friends.  

We thank you for the mystery of creation:
for the beauty
that the eye can see,
for the joy
that the ear may hear,
for the unknown
that we cannot behold filling the universe with wonder,
for the expanse of space
that draws us beyond the definition of ourselves (and others).
  ~ from Prayer of Thanksgiving - Vienna Cobb Anderson, with a little addition by me!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Before summer begins to fade. . .

Dunes  .  8 x 10  .  oil on linen canvas
Available in my Etsy shop

Yeah, I know summer has it's typical HOT August month to go, but the light is changing here (already!) in North Carolina.  I did a couple of small, quick paintings this past month thinking of summer and the beach, and wanted to post them before leaves begin to fall! 

 Having lived 50 miles from the beach for so many years, then actually across the street from the beach - well, I can honestly vouch for my beach cred.  A friend recently moved TO the beach - I LEFT all traces of beach and moved back to the seasons.  In truth, we all have our centers of gravity, and I've about decided mine is firmly with the earth - I say "about" because the minute I walk a beach at sunset I become an instant liar. 

What's important (I'm thinking out loud now) is that we seek out that which nourishes our very being, our soul - hence, the flocking to the beach in the summer, the love of the mountains in the fall, the silent drift of snow in winter.  The natural world is our gentle mother, our gate keeper, calling out to the beating of our battered hearts and minds.  Sitting on the rim of the Grand Canyon is a beyond words experience, resoundingly spiritual.  If we could bottle it. . .Well, you get my point.  Maybe that's why paintings of landscape dominate galleries and buyer's minds. How fortunate that we have beautiful memories of escape to the natural world.  

Anna Maria Sunset  .  8 x 10  .  oil on linen canvas
Available in my Etsy shop

Hope your summer has been and will continue to be peachy, with trips planned to the natural world to round this season out.  
I have a couple of commissions ahead of me at the moment and won't be able to share them with you until they are received and permission is granted.  Please feel free to contact me if you are thinking of a commission for this Christmas - now is the time to begin the process!  

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

"Grit and guts are the magic. . . .

ingredients to your success."  ~ Irwin Greenberg

I'm in wholehearted agreement with Mr. Greenberg, as weathering the cycles of art interest/demand can be daunting!  If you've painted for a while, you are very keen on what I'm talking about, and have adjusted to the ebb and flow - in fact, I think it may be one of the most important aspects of making art that should be shared with those who are just starting out!  It does take grit and guts. . .

When we head into summer it's only right that much needed vacations, family reunions, wonderful weddings, happy graduations (need I say more?) are first on the priority list.  If left wondering where your next commission might come from, get busy!  This is the time to double down on the chores that make your art life tick.  Freshen your sites, organize your computer files, update your lists, clean out your supply cabinet, re-arrange your studio - all the while fitting in time to paint, paint, paint. 

You can paint strictly from the heart when painting for yourself, and if you do quite a bit of commission work that's an important way to get back to finding out what moves you.  

I've been doing all of the above these last couple of weeks and life seems lighter.  I'm astounded at what builds up in the name of clutter - especially in my computer files!  I've backed up, cleaned out, categorized, created new folders - whew, it feels good.

Meanwhile, for the much needed painting, I decided to paint magnolia blossoms as 'tis the season.  I placed blooms in my favorite bowl and painted from life.  At the end of the first day I had to photograph it for further sessions - you may know magnolia blossoms (sadly) don't last long!  Their creamy color and texture plus the fantastic familiar fragrance speaks to many of us. It's the top note in Estee Lauder's Beautiful Love perfume - if you Google "magnolia scents in perfumes" you'll find a whole host of suggestions.  

Southern Magnolia  .  12 x 16"  .  oil on linen canvas with painted 1.5" edge
~ Available ~ 

Finding I had only one 36 x 12" canvas left, I went for creating a new dog portrait.  I've painted a few dogs over the years, but really wanted to say something different:

Tyrone . 36 x 12" . oil on linen canvas
Tyrone lived in St. Augustine, FL., and was much beloved - yes, he's no longer walking this earth.  A goof ball and sweetheart who lived amongst 20-somethings and knew all their secrets!  He seemed to have part Australian Shepherd and Black Lab in him. . .his paint job was uniquely pure Tyrone and I believe stories are still circulating in St. Aug about this pooch.

 Freshly varnished this week and available:
Summer at the River . 11 x 14" . oil on linen canvas

Dogwood Grace . 24 x 30" . oil on linen canvas

Last, but not least - varnished and shipped this week - a gift my client commissioned to commemorate a special time in someone's life.  Sakura cherry blossoms in Japan.  Paintings do make heartfelt gifts and this particular client is loaded up with beautiful ideas and gestures towards those she loves.  Whenever I get the chance to contribute to her largess, I'm honored.

Remembering Japan . 8 x 8" . oil on RayMar panel

On a very personal note the last few weeks have been extremely emotional due to the tragedy in Orlando at the Pulse nightclub.  I lived, worked in the medical field and painted in Orlando for thirty-three years and was deeply involved with the community, serving on boards while loving and caring about my city.  I watched it grow from 1972 on. . .raised my daughter there and still consider it my hometown even though it's not my birthplace.  I did my best growing up in Orlando.

I learned that one is very personally affected when something like this happens in a place you remember with love.  My neighbors included the Mayor and others actively involved in the City Beautiful - I saw the pain etched on their faces.  My heart still aches for my friends, those who knew a young person who lost his life, some who lived very near to Pulse - their neighborhood.  It changes everything and the black cloud lingers.  You wonder how life can go on when such a thing has happened, and yet we know it does.  I am so sorry for the tragic loss of the many young people just starting out - the ripples of pain and guilt and sorrow will roll out through their friends, family and community. . .and they will not be forgotten.  My deepest sympathy to all.

Mary Oliver's Poem "Heavy"
(from grappling with grief at the death of her beloved partner of over forty years)

That time
I thought I could not
go any closer to grief
without dying

I went closer, 
and I did not die.
Surely God
had His hand in this,

as well as friends,
Still, I was bent,
and my laughter,
as the poet said,

was nowhere to be found.
Then said my friend Daniel
(brave even among lions)
"It's not the weight you carry

but how you carry it - -
books, bricks, grief - -
it's all in the way 
you embrace it, balance it, carry it

when you cannot, and would not
put it down."
So I went practicing.
Have you noticed?

Have you heard
the laughter
that comes, now and again,
out of my startled mouth?

How I linger
to admire, admire, admire
the things of this world
that are kind, and maybe

also troubled - -
roses in the wind,
the sea geese on the steep waves,
a love
to which there is no reply?
Love and peace to you all. . .

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

From small to big to small. . .

Feeding the Gulls  .  24 x 30  .  oil on linen canvas

This one is hot off the easel.  A universal scene you could say -  one that's especially familiar to city dwellers who count on visiting wonderful parks and lakes for their sanity and much-needed dose of nature.  I live close to Wake Forest University and I love to see the college kids stretched out on the grounds of Reynolda Village soaking up the first warmth of the season, the first promise of a summer ahead. 

Multi-tasking is the norm for this time of year, isn't it?  April tax time involves digging into records and taking an overview of paper work that seems endless.  Then spring just naturally invites us to clean out our files, our closets, our computers, our junk drawers, and it's as powerful as the impulse to pull out old recipes close to Thanksgiving.  Spring is about renewal in so many ways.  

With that in mind, I recently added "Available Paintings" to my portrait site.  These are paintings ranging from large, framed watercolors to oils as small as 6" x 8"!  Still life to landscapes to figurative, etc.  Soup to nuts.  When not painting a commission I try to mix it up a bit, go out on a limb and do something completely the opposite of what I've been doing, but paintings won't get seen sitting here in the studio!  So if you have the time or inclination, please visit my site, Feel free to share (the buttons are all there) and I always appreciate feedback/hearing from you.

St. Petersburg View from the Peter and Paul Fortress
14 x 11  .  oil on linen covered panel

This was done privately as a birthday surprise for a couple who have enjoyed visiting the unique and stunning city of St. Petersburg, Russia.  I spent hours of research trying to determine what exactly is displayed on the top of all these buildings - not so much as to replicate it, but just to give an idea of, a brushstroke flavor of, on this smallish support!  SO much history here and I came away from the painting with some kind of melancholy longing - for what I do not know. 

The Space Between (Italian Pottery)  .  24" x 30" x 1.5"
oil on canvas

Meanwhile, The Space Between made its way to Alabama to reside in a dining room - oh, if walls could talk!  I couldn't be happier about its new home and adore the new owners.  Happiness all around.  Shipping canvas often is a nail biting affair, as I've actually seen holes punched straight through heavy packing and a canvas! No, not one of mine, and fortunately it was repaired by a professional restorer - but it does make your heart pound and head spin when you see such damage.

I'm now working on an 8" x 8" commission, so you see. . .big, small, big, small. . .and everything in between!  Having recently lost an acquaintance, a creative peer, to the ravages of cancer and treatment, I've been reflecting a lot on the work I've been creating.  The ups and downs of painting, especially the work you don't see (varnishing, framing, paperwork, inventories, maintaining supplies, shipping, meltdowns in front of the easel, studying) along with often selling yourself (and no, don't go there - I'm talking marketing!) well, it's enough to question the sheer idea of sustainability.  Yet, life is short, I tell myself, so paint on and be grateful for every up, down, around and in between.  Then pray that you can hold on.    

The only place you find success before work is in the dictionary.
~ May V. Smith


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

New work for a new year. . .

Enchanting  .  14 x 11  .  oil on linen panel

Yes, I know I've been gone, but  now I'm back, and here we are well into 2016 with the tiniest hint of spring in North Carolina - I'm thinking this reprieve is totally a short preview meant to tease us, and soon we will be back to normal temps before long, but you never know!  I'm holding out for the warmer weather.

I will admit to feeling a bit like a blank slate of late as it was a mad dash to the finish line over Christmas.  The painting continued well into all of January and finally by mid-February I had met all pressing deadlines.  Post-party syndrome quickly set in as I realized the studio looked as if a bomb had gone off - cluttered, unorganized AND confusing - and frankly the rest of the house didn't look much better!  Hence a re-grouping in the best of ways.  

This often happens after getting work ready for a show, or when you're taking care of a waiting list - when it all is suddenly accomplished, comes to an end so to speak, you sink into something akin to a toxic cocktail of malaise spiked with doubt topped with the urgent need to get re-acquainted with your creative impulses.  Oh, but it gets even murkier as suddenly the sickening fear of a blank canvas is enormously daunting, and you ask yourself if you can ever do it (paint) again!  Such a crazy pattern, but if you converse with artists at all, from time to time, you'll find nearly all are familiar with this behavior!  Then finally, one day, you just do it.  Best cure ever.  So I have a few new paintings.  The one featured above is the latest.
Addie Lou on board ship  .  8 x 10  .  oil on linen canvas

She was only around age eight or nine - on board ship with her family right around 1939.  She recently happily celebrated another birthday so I painted her bright, cheerful child face as frankly, she hasn't changed a whit.  I see the young girl in her all the time - the photo was black and white so I made it up as I went, her favorite color being blue!  Don't you love the gloves?  I do miss the everyday natty dressing of yore.  You guessed right as I am the worst offender of such refinement as I careen around in my paint splattered jeans most days.
Taxi's Waiting  .  12 x 36  .  oil on linen canvasAvailable at
Well, that was a pleasant change.  A departure for me with an interior-like scene with lots of texture and knife work.  Hope to do more in the future.

Then on to take care of my landscape fetish.  The freedom of painting large is fabulous.  I've been meaning to do this one for what seems like years - a Florida scene from days gone by.  Yes, I lived in Orlando for 30 + years!  The afternoon storms would roll out as quickly as they rolled in - the bonus of living on a peninsula.  Confession:  I've been longing for Florida of late.
Remembering Florida  .  24 x 30  .  oil on linen canvas
Available - please e-mail if interested

Love's Promise  .  14 x 18  .  oil on linen covered birch

There's a lot of smiling going on when painting the newly married.  Such a happy occasion, SUCH a gorgeous couple, and now there is a lasting memory of their beautiful wedding - a "love gift" from the heart of a mother.  Always grateful and humbled when asked to paint such loveliness.

So there you go. . .seems I had a few words in me after all.  I'm sending spring-like thoughts your way - don't forget to change your clocks next weekend, the 13th!

P.S.  Elmwood Reflections found a loving new home in Florida recently.


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