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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Performance Painting: Geri's Memorial

Every once in a while I receive a special invitation to paint at a funeral or memorial service. My invitation this time came from a family who is grieving the loss of a beautiful woman who's life exemplified the arts. Creating art was not something she just did, it came from within. And so her loving spirit and vibrancy for the arts became the focus of the service. I was blessed to take part in a sacred experience of painting for her friends and family as they honored her.

Art has the power to touch people in a unique way. If I were to have a conversation about art therapy, I would have to include performance painting as a new but valid avenue for facilitating the healing process. Even though the audience is not creating the art, but seeing it created, that visual experience can be emotionally therapeutic. With each brush stroke it goes beyond entertainment -- reaching out to bring comfort, encouragement and peace. 
Painting the background: I usually have 20 to 30 minutes to do a complete painting (in front of an audience) that starts with a blank canvas. This time though, I was given 10 minutes of painting time on stage with the understanding that I would paint the background before hand. I painted this ocean/beach scene in my studio. With my composition plans in place I came ready to focus entirely on the subject's image.

40 x 30", Acrylic on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson (c)2014

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Painting A Dog Portrait: Skeet

"Dogs are our link to paradise. They don't know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring--it was peace."
                                                                                                                            - Milan Kundera

10 x 8", Oil on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson (c) 2014
Stage 1: The drawing. With a thin wash of mineral spirits mixed with burnt umber, I used a #2 brush to paint in the lines (freehand) of Skeet.

Stage 2: Blocking in the underpainting. With a larger, #8, filbert brush, I blocked in this first layer of paint, paying attention to the shapes without the details. And then I started the background.
Stage 3: Painting the background. With lots of thick paint on my flat brush, I lavishly applied the blues and touches of brown to the background. 
Stage 4: Completing the painting. Skeet had a lot of fun features to paint. Plus, there was drama with his white hair around his eyes and snout. I used plenty of paint to enhance his tousled hair but really, Skeet is a character all unto himself. To see him is to love him.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Cat Portraits

"A cat has absolute emotional honesty; human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not." Ernest Hemingway

I enjoyed meeting these pretty kitties just a few weeks ago. Their owner, Colleen, and I were not sure how it would go. We were both thinking it might take more than one visit (just to get to know me a bit) before they would be willing to "pose" in front of my camera. Just the opposite happened. Instead of running underneath the nearest chair or couch, they both remained relaxed and relatively still. It seemed as if they understood all along the purpose of this visit. With some nice back lighting from the living room window, Klowee and Kalli Kitti looked and me and waited just long enough for me get some nice reference photos for their portraits before they moved on to more important matters.

8 x 10", Oil on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson
Stage 1: Drawing Klowee with a thin wash of paint.
Stage 2: Blocking in the first layer(underpainting). After choosing my colors I used a large brush to lay down the paint in the basic shapes.
Stage 3: Final layer. While the underpainting was still wet I came in with the top layer of thicker paint to add texture and detail. I started with the background so that blending the edges would be easier. After the background I painted the eyes and then moved on from there until she was completed.  Painting Klowee's whiskers was so much fun. 
Cat Portrait No. 2: Kalli Kitti
Stage 1: Drawing in Kalli Kitti with a thin wash of paint.Since I do this freehand I have a cloth that I use as an eraser to wipe away any unwanted lines, making adjustments as I go.
Stage 2: Blocking in Kalli Kitti with bold colors and contrast.
Kalli Kitti
8 x 10', Oil on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Flower Painting: Painting Irises

I noticed these dramatic irises when I was looking over my daughter's fence at her neighbor, Howard's, garden. Howard very kindly welcomed me to come over any time and paint in his back yard. I didn't have the luxury of taking my time. This was the end of the iris season.
10 x 8", Oil on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson (c)2014
Stage 1: The composition. Drawing the flowers with a thin wash of paint. I tried to take my time here so that my focus for the rest of the painting would be on color, values and brush strokes.
My set-up for this painting was quite simple. I borrowed a couple of plastic chairs from my daughter, Megan, put a blanket over Howard's nicer one so that I didn't get paint on it, and then set up my easel and palette. It was mid-day; the light was overhead and didn't change much.
Stage 2: Painting the flowers. I adjusted the chair with my easel so that I had a clear view of the flowers to the right of me.
Stage 3: Completing the flowers and background. I had less than a couple of hours to work on this painting and so there was little time to stop and take photos. It was hot. Spiders and ants kept crawling on me. I was having fun but was ready to be done. 
Every time I paint  plein air, as uncomfortable as it can be sometimes, I am always glad that I did it. There are so many things to learn when I paint outside, in natural light, with a clear plan and focus. If you haven't tried it, I hope that you do. Or, if you have but haven't gotten out yet this year, the time is now. It doesn't have to be with paint. Pencil and paper will do.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Sketch Book Drawings: Hospice

I have a lot of painting to do but clearly, this has not been the time. I have been staying at a hospice center with my mom, waiting for my dad to pass. So, instead of painting, I turned to my sketch book to help break up the hours and record memories as my family waited and took turns holding his hand.

This sketch was drawn as my sister, Barb, gently held his hand. I think she was holding on to more than just his hand. She was holding on to his warmth, his love and sweet memories, 

Joseph was named after his grandpa. He waited too. The hours were long for this patient 8 year old.

Rhyan, also 8 years old, seemed to understand the gravity of the situation. She stood at her great grandfather's bedside and rubbed his arm. Posing for this sketch was a nice break. She sat so still! An ideal model.

The flowers in the room added beauty to a solemn situation. 

More flowers...

With lots of other family members coming throughout the day, I took breaks from my dad's room and wandered around the hospice center looking for other things to draw. This graceful green pitcher caught my eye. With permission, I moved it to a sunny window and sketched it there. I also photographed it with plans to create a painting of it someday.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Visiting the Met: Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC

I got in trouble at the Metropolitan Museum of Art the other day. As a rule, I try to avoid trouble, but sometimes it just happens anyway.
Pen and Ink Study, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Rita Salazar Dickerson

I planned this visit to the museum with my drawing pen and sketch book in hand, ready to sketch paintings that caught my eye. Drawing works of art from the masters forces me to really look at the painting and study it more closely than I would if I just gazed at it or took a photograph.

Pen and Ink/Pencil study, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Rita Salazar Dickerson
 After completing "Head of a Young Woman", I moved to the next room and began "Portrait of a Man". All was going well with this stylish young man who boldly faces the viewer with confidence and determination when a guard appeared out of nowhere and asked me what I was drawing with. I thought he was just trying to strike up a friendly conversation.

"What are you drawing with?", he asked. "A pen", I smiled. "A pen?" "Yes, a pen." "Not a pencil?" "No, a pen." "Its not a pencil?" "No", I replied. "Its a pen. See the nice little tip? Its a drawing pen."(I was so proud of my new pen.) "You cannot use a pen in the museum", he said sternly. "But this is just a nice little drawing pen." I replied. "No pens in the museum. Look." And he proceeded to show me the museum policy written in their brochure which he had hi-lighted in red ink. Red ink. Really?

I was so surprised I just stood there. He walked away and I continued to stand there thinking that maybe my drawing time was over. But no. Wait. It can't be over. I was really enjoying this special time, studying and drawing. Could I really give up so easily? No, I could not. Quickly I sprang into action, asking another guard (someone who didn't know my past) where the nearest exit was out of this incredible art maze. I tried not to run down the long flight of steps to the bookstore on the main level. I quickly purchased this fine drawing pencil, complete with the museum logo. A keepsake that I never knew I wanted.

 And then it was back to the "Portrait of a Man", now a mixed media sketch. Pen and graphite.

Pencil Sketch Study, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Rita Salazar Dickerson
My final sketch of the day was this interesting portrait of "Maria Teresa". Her hair was adorned with translucent, crescent shaped ribbons woven into her massive waves. She was so much fun to draw. Velasquez must have had a blast.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Mother and Child: Pen and Ink Sketches

Here is a collection of pen and ink sketches I have done in the last few years. In honor of mothers everywhere, enjoy.

A Mother's Love
Her love is like an island in
life's ocean vast and wide...
A peaceful, quiet shelter
From the wind, the rain, the tide,
'Tis bound on the North by Hope,
By Patience on the West
By tender Counsel on the South,
And on the East, by Rest
Above it like a beacon of light
Shine Faith, and Truth, and Prayer;
And thro' the changing scenes of life
I find a haven there.

Author Unknown