At our old house we had a plum tree. I painted it sometimes. I found some old pictures of the tree and here was this little plum snugged in behind the leaves. I like its plummy color next to the green leaves.
Ava Gardner--pure beauty. They say she had auburn hair and green eyes. I like to think she was also nice and smart. I have painted her before and will paint her again. But those Hollywood photos are so manipulated with back light and fill light that you cannot get a good light source effect, so I just make it up the best I can.
Posey belongs to my niece (that makes her my dog niece) and she asked me to paint her as a Christmas present for her family. I do not do commissions anymore, but I could not refuse the opportunity to paint such a great girl. Posey is not supposed to get on the furniture, but she was tired from swimming all day.
In our neighborhood, we call them cougars or mountain lions, but puma is closer to their scientific name. This is another of my Animal Ark friends. She was on her perch gazing serenely into the distance with her great soft paws crossed, ears down and peaceful.
This face turned out fairly good. When they do not turn out, I could blame it on their faces being just too hard to paint, but that is impossible. They are some of the world's best faces, very symmetrical, perfectly aligned, ideally composed. The true problem lies in the artist and her ability to make them as beautiful as they really are.
Here is a handsome coyotito. He lives at Animal Ark.
My journey with color has many chuck holes. I did not know this would turn out so midnight-ish by drawing with prussian blue, but the moon can cast shadows just as the sun does, so I decided to allow my palette to lead me on into the night even though my subject was photographed in bright midday.
The matilijas near me at Sierra College, Nevada County Campus, were in such a huge, dense array that people slowed down to look, got off their bikes to take pictures. I liked the way this shot showed them in a sort of tumbling cascade.
Painting these little faces is my favorite studio time. I always start with someone specific in mind, but as I paint, the face so often turns into someone else. That someone seems so real to me that I allow it to be and enjoy it instead of fretting over not capturing the likeness I had in mind at the beginning. I realize this kind of thinking would not take me very far if I were in the portrait painting business.
We enjoy visiting rescued wild animals at Animal Ark in Reno where I took this picture. I thought this adorable fox was asleep on his little shelf, but when I looked more closely I saw that he was watching me.
The matilija poppies are big wonderful wildflowers growing everywhere in early summer. They are known as the Queen of California Wildflowers. (Some people think they look like fried eggs.) They are large, maybe 6" or more across. They are pretty fabulous to see growing in huge clusters as you drive along. Painting them is a good discipline in painting white.
More susans, this time on a warm background. Painting the warm flowers on a cool background is a big challenge. So easy to turn out as a 50/50 painting and I do not want that.
Painting a series presents many opportunities to work out problems. The next composition is lined up and I am eager to get started. I will try again for the warm on cool and try to get the proportions right this time.
Another gift from this good garden. One corner filled with woody dead stalks came forth in a profusion of black-eyed susans. A series on each of the flowers I discover here would keep me happily occupied for a good long time.
We have roses at our new place, and they are where the deer cannot get them. I am hoping for many poses from these roses.
This little painting took four tries. I just knew it could work out although I decided to give it up over and over again. I really expect a lot from my canvas to withstand the scrubbings it sometimes has to go through.
I have a lot to say about this. First, my subject is so fabulous that it is impossible to capture even a fragment of her beauty. Second, this is not what I am aiming for. I wanted it to be much more abstract, but I got caught in the process of finding her presence that I forgot to be expressive with my paint. Some faces are easy to paint and others resist it. This one resisted. I worked very hard on it. I should have known I was heading down the wrong path. If it is that hard, I am probably too deep into the parts that I do not want to paint but that are jumping up and down demanding attention. I want it to be a painting, not a drawing.
Last week I painted Phoebe for a friend to give to a friend. I do not know Phoebe personally, so I used a photo reference. I think she looks like a dear, and she probably is. After all, someone wants her portrait.
I often use photo references, but they are almost always ones I take myself. Even the ones of wild animals I take at Animal Ark in Reno.
Phoebe certainly does not look wild. What a gentle soul.
I will not point out the specific flaws that I now see. There are probably plenty that I still do not see. I just cannot see everything. If I keep looking, maybe I will get better at seeing. Our own faces are not perfectly perfect either. I still think she is beautiful.
Faces. Without doubt, my favorite thing to paint. I am currently choosing the black and white photographs of the actresses of the 1940's. The lighting is usually interesting, and the poses are a mixture of allure and innocence or pure sophistication. I prefer that to the broad, heavy-handed treatment of sex-appeal that is so often used these days.
The big gray squirrels drank at our birdbath all the time and I loved them. Then one day there was a new kid on the block, a douglas squirrel. Smaller, more color, and just adorable. He is a favorite now, but the birdbath did not survive the move, and our new location is a bit too low in elevation for the douglas. The grays are here though and I am glad about that.
We moved. From big house to little house. Have you ever done it? It is an amazing experience requiring more creativity than painting a picture.
One day I saw that a crummy, dead looking bush in the new yard had sprouted the most delicate blossoms--a stellata magnolia! It kept changing daily and showing forth more and more blossoms. I photographed it for days. It was wonderful--until the deer ate every last flower in one night.
I still have the photos though. How good of my new place to give me this gift to start me up painting again after being away from the easel for so long during the move.
I took the photo for this painting at the Reno Animal Ark, a wild animal rescue refuge. One of my favorite field trips. Taking the photo was easy. Painting the picture was hard. I had to try three times. "What could be so hard?" you may ask. My answer is, "I don't know. It just was."
I have painted Michel and Mamacita before, but separately, never together. In this one, I painted their faces the same way I do eyes, both at the same time. Even so, it is still twice as much work to paint two cats as it is to paint one.
A host of bright red poppies! How to paint each one and yet give the image a focal point. I think the thing to do is to make some of them touching to create a shape that draws the eye, leaving the others as supporting cast. Now I think of that. I painted what I saw and forgot I could move things around if I wanted to.
There was a riotous display of these Oriental poppies in the planter along the parking lot at my post office. I took lots of pictures, just random shots, not knowing if anything could come of it. There were hundreds of poppies, but I chose just these few petals to paint this time.
I am glad I tried these robins on the extreme rectangle. They would have been OK on a conventional format, but the extreme fit them fine I think. Their wonderful red breasts were so bright this spring.
These poppies grew in the parking lot of my local library. The way the front petal dipped over was as pretty as a picture. Poppies are delightful with their pure bright color, but the trouble in painting them comes in choosing a background color. Nature usually provides the perfect complement, but in painting nature, my work sometimes looks...not so good. Here I kept the colors mainly in the same family instead of going complementary. Maybe not so bad.
Cats are very cooperative models. They will lie still
or strike poses, but when you are lucky enough to get a good picture of them
doing something, like jumping, playing, or washing, it is even better. Mamacita
is my favorite model because she is so very white and her ears are so very orange. A real beauty. (Isn’t it interesting to try to paint pure
Painting from photographs can be tricky. The camera does not see as well as our eyes do to discern subtle variations in color and shadow. But when you try to paint from the black and white glamor photos from the 30's and 40's, it gets even trickier. The photographers would use back light, fill light, and I don't know what else. It is hard to know where the light source really is. Very tricky. But the beauty and glamor is thrilling to paint. I think I will never tire of it. Meanwhile, I get to work on my color theory. Nothing in a B&W to influence and confuse me.
As time goes by I hope to do better with likeness. Sometimes it comes so easily, and other times, not so much. I loved the angle in this pose. I naturally want to straighten and line up the features as I paint, but I did a pretty good job of leaving them on an angle this time.
This week's Daily Paintworks Challenge was to paint something that is beside your easel. I looked around and did not like the pots of brushes and trays of paints. What could I paint? Then I saw this little friend who holds my color wheel. He has never helped me paint a figure although I think that is the intention of this little tool. I just think he is cute and I like having him around. So I painted him. Here he is.
Imagine how restful it would be if all you had to do right now is lie in the sun. I liked the way the sun hit that little foot tucked underneath her with her other foot and tail hanging loosely and relaxed in the shadow. I almost chose to do just her face, but her whole pose captured my deeper interest.
If anyone were to ask me who this is, I would have to decline to answer. That is because I did not get the likeness and they would know I fell short of the mark. I did not try to fix it because I always worry about overworking the paint, and besides, as she became someone else I started to like her.
This is a little surprise I made for my friend Rabbi Greenbaum, who retired this year. We are going to his retirement party today and we are not supposed to bring gifts, but this is not actually a gift, is it? I hope they won't be mad.
Each face I do becomes my favorite face. I am enjoying this so much I have forgotten my original goal which was to try for abstract expression and value-color choice over local-color choice. By saying that I remind myself to pay attention to my intention. We will see if I can do it. Abstraction! It is so difficult.
Loy. What kind of name is that? Nora Charles I understand. Is it Irish?
Claire Trevor was always interesting to watch. The photograph for this painting must have been taken when she was seventeen. She was as flawless as an angel. She looks a little mad here, but she really was very pretty. I loved her in Key Largo.
Carmen Miranda, the girl in the "Tutti Frutti Hat." She is very adorable. I dreaded painting her teeth, but I could not avoid it. So many of the glamorous ladies of the period had the sense to keep their mouths closed, but Carmen could not contain her personality. She was great fun to paint, teeth and all.
We all know that daily painting is good for us. I wish I could paint daily. Even though my recent work is not daily, it is more frequent than it sometimes has been, and I feel the difference! I can hardly express how important I believe it is to paint, paint, paint. You gain more confidence with your brush and paint when you paint all the time, but what happens with yours eyes is the main thing. How much more you begin to see when you are looking, looking, looking. I guess this is old news, but it is still exciting.
Last week's Challenge enlivened an old love of mine--people! For me, there is nothing so interesting as the face. With the inspiration of the Challenge, I am lining up some of my favorite faces and wishing I had nothing but time on my hands!
I love this Challenge. Use value, not local color. I will definitely try for this again. It makes for some very interesting paint. My goal for a long time has been to become more abstract. I find that to be the biggest challenge of all because I lose myself in what I am painting and the details begin to fascinate me and I forget what I am doing. In this one I tried very, very hard to concentrate on the planes of the face, not the details. And the Challenge to use value, not color, helped. (I should have made her lips blue.)