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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Wine Bottles Commission

Painting commissions are always an adventure. The adventure becomes even more interesting when the subject matter is something that I have not painted a lot of before. This was one of those adventures.

I have always enjoyed and often admired some of the art on wine bottle labels. They can add so much drama and appeal to the wine. The challenge in composing this painting was to arrange the chosen bottles in a way in which they would enhance and compliment each other. It reminded me of curating an art show -- deciding which paintings would go well "hanging" side by side on a gallery wall.

It was not only a challenging commission but a fun one as well. The canvas was 24 inches high by 36 inches wide which gave me the opportunity to add extra drama by enlarging the bottles beyond life size. Painting the light and shadows on each bottle along with the art on the labels seemed a bit overwhelming at first and so I decided to remain calm and break it down to painting one bottle at a time.
Stages 1 and 2: Drawing the composition with a thin mixture of paint and mineral spirits allowed me the freedom to play around with the placement of the bottles without feeling too committed to the plan. As it turned out, I arranged and rearranged a couple of times as you can see by my lines. From there I went on to my first wine bottle (stage 2), painting it as efficiently as possible. Accuracy of the Opus logo reminded me of the accuracy necessary in a portrait. Either it looks like the subject or it doesn't.

Stage 3:  Graceland. With this purple and gold lined label and the tiny house in the center, I had to bring out my smallest brush that I bought specifically for this painting.

Stage 4:  1981. This eagle and its numerous twigs and branches along with the detail in the bird itself kept me on my toes. I didn't try to replicate every single detail but squinted my eyes to see and paint the general idea of it. The small lettering on each of the bottles was approached the same way. 

Stage 5: CAYMUS.  This CAYMUS bottle was the intended focal point, front and (almost) center. It was pulled forward to give it even more attention. There is something attractive about a tall, slender bottle of wine with a gold, artsy label and red cursive. (Once again, my tiny brush saved the day!)

Stage 6: 1982. Another eagle to compliment and frame the CAYMUS bottle. These eagles were detailed but fun. As you can see, this painting had miniature paintings within the painting. And then it was on to a golden chardonnay...

Stage 7: Aubert and Proper. Time was running out. This was a Christmas commission and Christmas was just two weeks away. I was so thankful that these last two bottles were a bit simpler in label design. I was also grateful for my past experience as a professional calligrapher. You just never know when past experiences are going to come back to help you.

Stage 8: The background. David Leffel taught me that if you want the focus to be entirely on the subject, keep the background simple. I used Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Umber to create this warm black.

Wine Still Life
24 x 36", Oil on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson (c) 2016

Stage 9: Completing the painting. Once the background was done it was time to paint the foreground. I kept it simple. Adding the light hints of the bottles' reflections in the wood was the effect I was looking for. Because this was a commission, I intentionally chose a wood color that would go well with the new owner's home.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Baby Isla

This sweet little portrait was a long time in coming. I started it months before it was eventually completed. In between the beginning and the end was a flurry of commissions that demanded my attention. At last I was finally able to give it the attention that was required to finish it.
Baby Isla
14 x 18", Oil on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson
Stage 1: Sketching in the composition.  I tinted the canvas first and then with the same thinned paint I loosely painted in the figure.
Stage 2: Painting the head and shoulders.  Knowing that this was the first layer, I blocked in the major shapes and colors -- painting wet-on-wet, or alla prima.
Stage 3: The body, arms and legs were next. 

Stage 4: Painting the foreground, background, fabric and basin. My biggest challenge was to paint just enough information to make the cloth and basin believable. I also paid attention to my edges as I painted the background and foreground. 
Stage 5: Adding more details to the background. My goal was to keep this composition simple but I kept feeling like she was so alone in this big, empty room. After much deliberation, I added the shower curtain along with the corner wall and bottom portion of the bathtub.
Final Stage: Completing the painting. One of the many final touches was the baseboard on the wall behind her. It seemed to complete the "frame" around her. From there I checked values, edges and color and made necessary adjustments. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Standard Poodle Portrait

This standard poodle portrait commission gave me the fun opportunity to use lots of thick, rich paint in the subject as well as the background. It is such a beautiful breed -- he already had a lot to offer the portrait: textures, expression and interesting features that translate well in a painting.

10 x 8 inches, Oil on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson

Stage 1: The sketch. I loosely painted in the features with contour lines that would be easy to follow. My goal was to capture the likeness of Trio at this stage which made the rest of the painting so much easier. It was time well spent.

Stage 2: Blocking in. It helped to squint my eyes as I looked at the subject at this stage so that I could simplify what I saw and block in all the major shapes and values with a relatively large brush.
Stage 3: Completing the portrait. From here on out it was time to let loose and enjoy the creative process.  Using lots of paint and coarse brushes I wanted to communicate to the viewer Trio's gorgeous coat and contrasting marble-like eyes. He was a joy to paint.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Pastel Portrait Commission

I'm comfortable painting portraits in oil. Even though learning and growing as an artist is a never ending journey, I realize its easy to slip into a rut and do the creative process the same way every time. Therefore it was a nice challenge for me to work in pastel again. My brain had to wake up, look around and be alert. It was refreshing to pick up chalk instead of a press and rub and play with layers of color on paper.

Baby Girl Portrait Commission
14 x 11 inches, Pastel on Paper
Rita Salazar Dickerson

Painting a portrait with pastels seemed so appropriate for this beautiful baby girl. I was able to create soft lines and edges that matched the mood of this commission.

After lightly laying my first contour lines down, I began working with her eyes before moving down to her nose and then the rest of her face. It's so much easier not to smudge this way. I try to complete as much as possible the first time around so that I don't have to keep going in and reworking it.

 My client kindly sent this photo to me of the portrait matted and framed. A well chosen frame is such an important part of the completed pastel. I was so happy with the results.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

My Art Diary: August - December, 2016, Part 4

I like fun surprises and as a commissioned artist each Christmas season never lets me down. As I look back on this last holiday season I have sweet memories of painting on stage at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort. Traditional Christmas carols were played on a baby grand piano as I painted in front of a live audience. The event was a women's brunch; the air was filled with anticipation and excitement for the season.
Madonna and Child
36 x 48", Acrylic on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson

From this painting performance someone in the audience commissioned me to paint a second image of the Madonna and Child. The client wanted it to decorate her mantel at home and requested a smaller size. My challenge was to paint it with the same feeling and freshness that I painted the original.

Madonna and Child, II
30 x 24", Acrylic on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson

In The Shadow of His Wings
48 x 36", Acrylic on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson
This was my third year of having the privilege of painting at the Remembrance Service held at Woodmen Valley Chapel. Each December the pastoral care staff hosts this event for the community allowing those who have lost a loved one to grieve and remember. It is always a somber yet positive and comforting service. My challenge was to paint an image that everyone could relate to and take comfort from. I was asked to visualize Psalm 57:1, "...I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings..." Those in attendance were invited to come forward and write their loved one's name in the shadow of the wings.

I love my job.

Monday, January 25, 2016

My Art Diary: August - December, Part 3

One of the enjoyable aspects to creating commissioned paintings is the variety and wide range of work that comes my way. Though I do like painting my own dreams I also like the challenge of painting the dreams of someone else. Oftentimes it takes sketches, emails, conversations and more emails to land on that final vision that satisfies the dreamer. It's such a great feeling when everyone walks away happy. Mission accomplished.

In this post I'd like to share a variety of works that came my way because someone in each instance was inspired to give art as a special gift.

The following two acrylic paintings were given as personalized baby gifts. Isn't it fun to think about a newborn entering the world who is greeted with original art that honors him?        
16 x 20", Acrylic on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson

16 x 20, Acrylic on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson
 This next project was a birthday gift to a cadet pilot instructor. Who knew that one day I would be painting a flight jacket?
Custom Personalized Flight Jacket
18 x 18", Acrylic on leather
Rita Salazar Dickerson

Cedaredge Peach
6 x 8", Oil on panel
Rita Salazar Dickerson
This last piece was a gift to myself. After spending the day picking tree ripened peaches, my next desire was to paint one.

Friday, January 22, 2016

My Art Diary: August - December, Part 2

Mixed in with the pets that I wrote about in my last post, I was honored to paint these portraits that were to be Christmas gifts for loved ones. Every portrait has a story and this first one had an additional aspect to it, I was asked to paint two pastels of the same subjects. Same size. Same everything. Each would be going to separate families. The challenge didn't come until I had completed the first one and had it approved. Then it faced me. I needed to come as close as I possibly could to duplicating these two handsome boys -- keeping them as similar to the first portrait as possible. (I got to know these boys really well!)

I am usually asked to paint in oil so this was a change of pace to create in pastels.
Reid and Eli, I
20 x 16", Pastel on paper
Rita Salazar Dickerson
Reid and Eli, II
20 x 16", Pastel on paper
Rita Salazar Dickerson
After I completed Reid and Eli, I began the portrait of Mr. and Mrs. Carlson. It was also to be a Christmas gift. An added bonus with my work is the opportunity to take pleasure in hearing the story behind the this case the special memories shared between two people of a time and place they both enjoyed.
Mr. and Mrs. Carlson
16 x 12", Oil on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson