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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Little Girl Portrait: Adele Maria

When I was a little girl, I drew people. As I grew older, in elementary school and then later in junior high and  high school, all I ever wanted to do was draw or paint people. Even though I have since expanded my subject matter, when I have the opportunity to draw or paint a person or group of people, I feel like I have gone back to my first passion. Portraiture.
Adele Maria
20x16, Oil on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson (c)2014
Stage 1: The composition. Drawing a subject free hand, with paint, is a good exercise for the eyes. The more one does it, the more confident and accurate one gets. I lightly painted in the lines of Adele for this painting using my usual thin wash of burnt umber and mineral spirits. Making adjustments and erasing unwanted lines is easy with a clean cotton cloth. 
Stage 2: Blocking in the colors of the face. With a #8, filbert brush, I began placing all the major color shapes on her face. At this point I did  not worry about blending yet.
Stage 3: Completing the face. Once I have all the main colors down, I blend and add more color as needed. At this point, I also painted in the front part of her hair so that working with the edges where the hair meets her face would be easier.
Stage 4: Completing her hair and headband.
Stage 5: Painting the background. With this very simple composition I thought it would be fun to add a little interest to the background by using large, dramatic strokes of thick paint.
Stage 6: Blocking in the coat. When blocking in the shape of this coat, I focused on the lights and darks.
Stage 7: Completing the painting. Painting this coat was fun and challenging. While using ample paint, I tried to communicate its thick, soft texture while keeping it simple at the same time. There was a lot of reflected color in this white coat: yellow, blue, purple, pink, green and gray along with various shades of white.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Portrait Of A Little Boy: Grant

After painting Adele's portrait, Grant's was a completely different palette of colors. His beautiful blue eyes and golden hair complimented his blue shirt. As I did with Adele's painting, Grant's background was a nod toward the season he was born in. Autumn. Grant is a lively two year old who is always on the go. I wanted this portrait to portray his energy and enthusiasm for life.

14 x 11", Oil on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson (c) 2014

 Stages 1 and 2: Drawing and blocking in. After loosely painting in Grant's features with a thin wash of burnt umber mixed with mineral spirits, I began blocking in the eyes and then the face, adding hints of color as I went.
Stage 3: Completing the face and hair. After his head was completed I blocked in Grant's hands. In this initial stage, my focus was on getting the proportions accurate. When working from reference photos it is important to remember that the camera lens will exaggerate and disproportion limbs that are close and far away.
Stage 4: Painting Grant's hands. I painted just a small portion of the shirt to make sure I had the color correct next to his skin and then used that same blue in the highlights.
Stage 5: Painting the shirt. When painting a shirt with a pattern such as this, my goal is to give just enough information to portray that it is a striped shirt without making it too busy and distracting.
Stage 6: Painting the background. Though I wanted the background to hint of autumn, I didn't want it to distract from Grant. I had background reference photos to pick and choose from and so I chose just a few of these simple, tall grasses painted softly into the golds and browns.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Portrait Of A Little Girl: Adele

Adele was a delight to paint. She was born in the winter and so I thought it would be fun to place her in a winter setting. We took her outside and captured the afternoon light which was gentle on this January day. There was contrast everywhere with this little subject: Adele's smooth, dark hair next to her white, furry coat...her large dark eyes against her light, peach colored skin.

16 x 20", Oil on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson (c) 2014
Stage 1: Sketching in the composition freehand with a thin wash of paint. In a portrait, my greatest challenge every time is to capture the subject's likeness at this stage instead of later when I'm painting. It's all about problem solving. Though it's hard for me to do, I try to force myself to slow down, take my time and draw my lines as accurately as possible. It's also a great exercise in training my eyes to draw what I see instead of what I think I see.
 Stage 2: Blocking in the shapes with a thin underpainting. Similar to what I would do if I were painting from life instead of a photograph, I brush in a thin layer of paint across her features to get a feel for her likeness. I study everything and make adjustments if neccessary. And then, while this thin layer of underpainting is still wet, I mix my paints and begin blocking in her eyes. From her eyes I apply the skin color. 
Stage 3: Painting her face.
Stage 4: Painting her hair and blocking in her headband.
Stage 5: Completing the headband and applying the underpainting of her hands. I liked her headband; it added to the composition but at the same time I didn't want it so detailed that it took the attention away from her eyes.
Stage 6: Completing her hands. I really enjoyed including her hands in the composition, they were so cute and chubby. Plus, they encourage the viewer's eyes to move around the painting, from one hand to the other and then back to her face. I also liked that her uplifted hands were individually framed in white by the coat's sleeves. I painted this small portion of coat sleeves next to her hands while the paint was still wet so that I could soften the edges of both her hands and the sleeves and not have to struggle with dry edges later.
Stage 7: Painting her coat. I blocked in the major shapes and values. It was great dressing Adele in this white coat. The contrast of color as well as texture between the coat and her hair was just what I was looking for.
Stage 8: Completing the painting. The challenge I found with this coat was to paint just enough information (brush strokes and color) to make it look like the faux fur that it was without it looking too busy or detailed. 
Every composition presents its own challenges and in this painting I decided to keep the background simple so that it doesn't take the viewer's attention away from Adele.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Collegiate Peaks

After hiking to Snowmass Lake, Robert and I had made special plans, a reward of sorts, for successfully making it back down the mountain trail. Our destination: The Mountain Goat Lodge near Salida, Colorado. I'm not even sure I can describe to you how good it felt to arrive at this haven after three adventurous days up in the wilderness. And after a restful night of sleep in a comfortable bed, this is the view that greeted me when I woke up the next morning. The air was still and the sun was just rising as its light gently touched this portion of the Collegiate Peaks with soft pinks and purples. Add to this scene, an occasional rooster crowing, goats and chickens wandering, waiting for their morning meal. It was ideal.
Collegiate Peaks
18 x 24", Oil on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson (c) 2014
Stage 1: Drawing in the composition with a brush and paint thinned with mineral spirits.
Stage 2: Blocking in the sky. I chose this warm pink for the underpainting of the sky.
Stage 3: Painting the second layer of the sky. With the pink underpainting still wet, I began brushing in the blues and purples of the clouds with the intention of leaving some the pink showing through.
Stage 4: With a large brush I applied lighter tones of white and then (with the same brush) pulled all the colors into each other.
Stage 5: Blocking in the shapes of the mountains.
Stage 6: Painting the second layer of the mountains. Once again I used a large brush and let some of the underpainting show through.
Stage 7: Painting the lower part of the mountains with grays and dark purple.
Stage 8: Blocking in the foreground. I blocked in two shades of purple...
...and added green and whites.

Stage 9: Completing the painting. Once I had the colors of the trees in place I pulled the colors into each other with a brush. This technique also softened the edges.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Painting Of A Stream: Snowmass Creek

Years ago, when we hiked Pikes Peak, my son, Adam, taught me the value of drinking water. Lots of water. He would randomly monitor my water bottles by checking them during rest stops as well as when we were on the move. He'd shake one and say, "Drink more. You're not drinking enough." It didn't take long for me to realize that hydration, along with calorie intake on a hike, determined how I felt until we reached our destination.

And so, when Robert and I backpacked in to Snowmass Lake last summer, I appreciated this pretty stream all the way up the mountain. Along with everything else at our campground, Snowmass Creek was beautiful. It was not only our important water source, it lulled me to sleep at night and was the first thing I heard when I woke up in the morning.

This is another painting completed for my Colorado Landscape series and will be for sale at G44Gallery in May!
Snowmass Creek
8 x 10", Oil on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson (c) 2014
Stage 1: Sketching in the composition with a thin wash of oil paint mixed with mineral spirits.
Stage 2: Blocking in the shapes. This underpainting helped me determine the colors for the rest of the painting. 

Stage 3: Adding more detail.

Stage 4: Completing the painting. Once I had added all the detail necessary for the underpainting, I began using more paint and applying some of it with a small palette knife; this was especially helpful with the flowers and their leaves.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Dog Portrait: Diesel

I would like you to meet Diesel, my most recent portrait commission. When I was asked to paint Diesel, I had no idea what he looked like but the minute I saw him, I knew he was going to be a fun painting project. Diesel gave me so much to work with. Long hair. Scruffiness. Personality. And eyes that see right through you.

10 x 8", Oil on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson (c) 2014

Stage 1: Sketching Diesel. With a thin mixture of Burnt Umber and mineral spirits, I used a #2 brush to capture Diesel's image. His head was slightly tilted so I had to make sure everything lined up correctly.

Stage 2: Blocking in the shapes. Working with three values, I applied a thin layer of paint for the underpainting, paying close attention to Diesel's features.

Stage 3: Painting the eyes.

Stage 4: Painting the nose.

Stage 5: Adding darker values.

Stage 6: Blocking in the background. I chose a warm orange as my underpainting for the background to compliment Diesel's hair color.

Stage 7: Completing the background.  To match the shine in Diesel's nose, using a coarse brush, I applied lots of thick, light blue paint which added drama to the background. I carefully allowed bits of the orange to show through as I placed wet paint onto wet paint.
Stage 8: Completing the painting. With a palette knife and brush I applied the the paint liberally to capture Diesel's magnificent hair which in turn added great texture and personality to an already charming face.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Colorado Landscapes Series: No Name

We have driven by No Name, Colorado, countless times and have never stopped before. With the changing autumn colors at their peak, this rest area, exit 119 on I-70, made an unforgettable first impression. When I looked up at its dramatic canyon walls, I felt like I was standing in one of the great cathedrals of Europe.
No Name
20 x 20", Oil on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson (c) 2014
Stages 1 and 2: Sketching in the composition and then painting in the background trees. I used a thin wash made up of Burnt Umber and mineral spirits to brush in my sketch.
Stage 3: Blocking in the middle ground.

Stage 4: Painting the trees and foliage.
Stage 5: Painting the canyon walls. I wasn't sure if my plan of action for creating the rock walls was going to work; using a palette knife, I did a small area just to see. Its fun to push paint around and try different techniques. You never know until you try.
...I continued the canyon walls with an underpainting by blocking in the different shapes and colors that I saw.
Stage 6: Completing the painting. Using a brush and palette knife while the underpainting was still wet, I applied the second layer of paint focusing on color and texture.