George Lepp, the wonderful photographer and teacher, took the splendid photograph that my painting is based on. I give him full credit for capturing this fabulous creature in mid-lope. Usually, I take my own photographs of cougars at Animal Ark, but this image was irresistible.
Next month I will be visiting my friends at Animal Ark and hope to have lots of material for painting this summer.
This young deer was drinking at the birdbath with his herd.
My first try at painting him just fell flat. I knew it was worth a second try. He was so lined up in such a happy Dynamic Symmetry. I just could not give up on it. The painting went fast the second time around and I tried not to labor over it and ruin it.
I try to do the faces fast. When I struggle with some part, I will, without fail, overwork it. I am learning to wash it down right away and start over. Saves time. I want it to be the briefest expression of the lovely face. And if I do enough faces, I will learn so much about how a face is made.
I learned the indentation above the lip is called the philtrum. I love knowing that.
I have painted her before and she did not look any more like her then than she does this time. She is perfectly perfect. You would think all I needed to do was line everything up and there would be her likeness. I must have made some mistakes in lining everything up. She is still a pretty face and I like that.
Pink carnations are modest flowers, but they are among my favorites. Very serviceable too. The do not cost much and they last a long time. I hope I can get some more paintings from this bouquet before they must go.
This is the last of the mandarins from last year. The color is such a perfect orange. I have promised myself my own mandarin tree next year so that I can always have oranges with leaves at my finger tips.
Edna is a literary cat. We are not sure if she is named for Edna Ferber or Edna St Vincent Millay. Both maybe.
When I agreed to paint her, I was happy to do it, thinking it might not be too difficult. Was I ever wrong! What could possibly be so tough about that muzzle?! I think I corrected it fifty times. And here is an interesting thing--because this is a specific cat, I had to get her dimensions just right for her portrait, so I photographed her and measured to the inth degree. But the photograph lied. She just did not look right. Finally, I eyeballed it and it turned out much better. Can't figure that out.
This young deer was grazing in a shady place in the woods. Almost no light source to help me out. But I liked his serene expression and he was so young and gentle looking.
Still working with limited palette, I found the results a little disappointing this time. Somewhat somber, but the buck charmed me. I did not know they had long eyelashes under their eyes, like a horse.
I painted this small scene of nature on an extreme rectangle. It is more extreme than the Golden Ratio canvas, but it is fun because it is a little odd. I have done many "extremes" and plan to do more.
The palette was limited to ultramarine blue, alizarin permanent, yellow ochre, cad red light, and white, of course.
I have recently been fascinated by limited palette and have examined several. For this painting I used the most limited I found: ultramarine blue, alizarin permanent, and yellow ochre (and white, of course).
I am so amazed by the unity and range of color. I struggled with the painting and the process went haltingly, but I am pleased and eager to try another soon.
As for Louise Brooks, she is very cute with her bob, little bitty straight eyebrows, and pouty lipstick. They called the look Garconne. Louise is from the 20's, an earlier period than I usually use, but I like her very much.
The image from the internet that I used was not good resolution. She was a little out of focus. Maybe that is just as well.
We have Gray Squirrels here in Nevada County, CA, and we also have these adorable Douglas Squirrels. This one visited our bird bath regularly, and here he is getting ready to make the great leap from rock to bath.
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.