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Monday, January 19, 2015

Remembrance Service

There is a verse, in the book of Isaiah, that had never been brought to my attention before until this past year: See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me. Isaiah 49:16 ...this became a comfort verse for me when my dad died.

To add to that, this past December was the second year that I had been invited to paint on stage at a yearly remembrance service which is held to honor loved ones who have passed and comfort those left behind. What would I paint? The first image that came to mind was an outstretched hand of Christ. Open. Inviting. Welcoming. A visual reminder of the verse.

At the end of the service those who attended were invited to come forward and write their loved one's name on the palm. Amidst the freshly lit candles and photographs of those being remembered, this painting was the focal point as each person came forward with pen in hand. One name after another became a part of the painting, filling the palm and even spilling into the fingers. A quiet reverence filled the sanctuary. The air was heavy with the memories of those who had left us.

When I take a moment to look back at the variety of work I have had the privilege to create, I stand in awe.  My life as an artist is a rich one.

It was a large canvas, 36 x 48", which was a challenge to cover with paint in approximately 16 minutes.  The logistics required that I paint the palm ahead of time, in my studio so that it would be dry for the signatures. This also gave me more time to paint the fingers, wrist and background during the music portion of the service provided by the gifted Shannon Wexelberg. 

Isaiah 49:16
36 x 48", Acrylic on canvas

Rita Salazar Dickerson

Painting on stage always takes me to a place where I have to creatively let go of my perfectionistic tendencies and let come what may. Along with the preparation it requires a giant step of faith.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Dog Portrait Commission

Dog Portrait Commission
12 x 16", Oil on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson (c)2014
These past several weeks have been extra busy with travel mixed in with painting and pen and ink sketches. Today I'd like to share a fun commission that I had the pleasure of creating for a new client who wanted to make this portrait a Christmas gift surprise.

All of the preliminary work for this painting was done via email. After the initial inquiry, a variety of photographs were sent to me; I was given the freedom to create from those and work on the composition from there.

This is the photo I used as my main reference photo. As you can see, the ears on both dogs were cropped and by using the additional photos, I was able to paint them back in. Also, the photo was a bit dark in places and so I enjoyed the artistic freedom of adding light and color that I saw in some of the other photos.

Stage 1: The sketch. I approach every initial sketch for a portrait painting as though I am painting from life and so I paint it freehand, using the eyes as reference points for the rest of the features. Getting the angles and likeness right is very important at this stage. I really liked the pose of these two pooches; the way their beautiful faces came closely together, leaning into each other, was endearing.
Stage 2: Blocking in the main colors. Another nice touch to this painting was the way the the two dogs complimented each other with the color and markings of their coats. Because of some of their similar colors I was able to paint each of the dogs simultaneously. In this layer I did not worry about details and texture, instead I focused on their main shapes of color.

Stage 3: Completing the painting. This final layer is always pure fun for me. I enjoy applying thick paint with a palette knife and then moving it around with a coarse haired paint brush. Colors are enhanced and details applied. The final touches involved a small, fine paintbrush that gave me the ability to paint in the suggestions of their whiskers. 

The background was also a blast. My client requested light blue, grayish colors with touches of yellow. That was an easy request to fulfill since the colors of the dogs had already lent themselves to that type of background as a nice option.

Painting commissions are always an honor for me. To be a part of a story where kindness and generosity is involved is so special.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Aspen Tree Paintings

I have never thought of my self as an aspen tree type of artist until I took my palette knife out. And then it was a completely different story. A palette knife freed me from so many inborn tendencies to make straight lines and consistent edges with aspens. I also had fun with color and texture.
10x10", Acrylic on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson (c)2014

. Here is a step by step example of how I painted my second one.

Stage 1: Preparing the canvas. Tinting the canvas with a neutral color of ultramarine blue mixed with burnt umber toned down the bright white surface and enabled me to see my colors more realistically.
Once the canvas was completely tinted and dry I was ready to begin.

Stage 2: The underpainting. With this first layer I composed the background with three different shades of blues and purples. I worked quickly to blend since acrylic dries fairly fast even with a paint medium mixed in.
Stage 3: Painting in the trees. I chose ultramarine blue to lightly paint in the shapes of the aspens.

...And then I added a layer of white.
Stage 4: Using the palette knife. Once I had the underpainting of the trees in place it was time to apply the rest of the paint with a palette knife. The very nature of aspen trees gives me the freedom to interpret them with very few restrictions.
8x8", Acrylic on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson (c)2014

Both of these paintings will be at G44 Gallery's annual Holiday Show, November 21-December 24. There will be forty-four artists represented. All work is for sale. If you are in the area I hope you can stop by.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Draw Every Day

The thought of drawing every day used to overwhelm me.  Perhaps it was because an art professor in college once told me that every artist should draw at least two hours a day. He did draw and he was good at it. But did I really want to devote that much time to it each day? No. And so I didn't. Painting takes up most of my time. It was a good excuse.

I really wanted to draw though so I started out with lower expectations than the two hour challenge. What if I drew for 5 minutes, or ten. Or maybe at the most 30 minutes? Surely I could carve 15 minutes out of my day for drawing. Plus, it became self motivating when I was giving out sketch books like the art fairy to my adult children (who are artists) and challenging them to draw. And then when my son, Adam, challenged me to a drawing a day, I had to walk the talk.

I've heard it takes 3 weeks to develop a new habit. Now, almost 2 months later, if I don't take a few minutes out of my day to sketch something, I miss it. There is satisfaction in the doing. My eyes are getting stronger. I'm training them to see form, shape and shadow with confidence and much more quickly. To speed things up I usually use a pen so that I don't take time to erase and try and make it better.

I encourage you to draw. Don't let it become a big deal. Make it fun; draw what you like and what inspires you. It doesn't have to be perfect. If you only have 3 minutes, take 3 minutes. Keep it simple. And you don't have to show anyone unless you want to.

Here are some samples of what I have been drawing. Below each sketch is my inspiration for drawing it.
I like to think of each new day as a blank canvas. An opportunity to start anew with fresh ideas, hope and expectations for great things to happen. (I set up a miniature easel and canvas on my table.)
One of my favorite old paintbrushes.
A feather floated off the table where my husband ties flies.

My favorite honey jar.
I enjoyed a few minutes outside on a warm October day looking up at this small tree branch.
This is one of the last jars of canned peaches that I put up last summer. I hadn't canned peaches in years.
I attended my granddaughter's birthday party. I sketched quickly before the candles were lit. I gave her the sketch as an extra little gift.
I've been trying to drink more lemon water.
My Christmas cactus bloomed early this year. I loved the strong lines and bright red color. Drama.

Friday, October 24, 2014

 Sometimes I see something  that speaks to me with such beauty and personality that I just have to paint a portrait of it. In this case, it was this beautiful teapot.
Sadler England Teapot
8 x 10", Oil on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson (c)2014
Stage 1: The drawing. With a wash made up of Ultramarine Blue and Transparent Earth Red thinned with mineral spirits, I loosely painted in the shape of the teapot that was positioned on a shelf four feet away.
Stage 2: Blocking in the teapot. With a thin layer of paint I blocked in the major shapes, colors and values.
Stage 3: The background and foreground. After the teapot was blocked in, I painted the first layer of the background and foreground.
Stage 4: Adding more color and detail. At this point it was time to prepare the teapot with a second layer of paint for the flowers that were to come. I paid close attention to the shadows. Since I was working wet paint onto wet paint, I wanted the flowers to work into this layer -- allowing some of the paint from underneath to show through.
Stage 5: Completing the painting. Before working on the teapot I gave the background and foreground another layer of paint. Then, squinting my eyes, I looked at the teapot's flower design and painted my impression of it. Painting every last line of detail was not necessary. When I focused on the colors, shapes and design, the story of this teapot appeared.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Painting of a Little Girl: Julia and Julia

How fun it would be to visit a butterfly pavilion and discover that there is a butterfly there with your same name. And so my portrait title comes from the two lovely Julia's in this painting.
Julia and Julia
12 x 9", Oil on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson (c) 2014
Stage 1: The drawing. With a mixture of ultramarine blue and transparent earth red thinned with mineral spirits, I used a number 2 filbert brush to draw Julia and the butterfly freehand.
Stage 2: Julia's face. Painting alla prima(Italian, meaning at first attempt), I completed the face and hair while adding some color to the background so that I could create soft edges and compare color. I did block in her face with a thin layer of paint before I came back in with a thicker second layer. (Sorry, I forgot to photograph the first layer.)
Stage 3: Painting the dress, arm and hands. When painting wet paint-on-wet paint, I look forward to seeing how the top layer of paint will work into the blocked in color of the first layer.
Stage 4: Painting the second layer of the dress, arm and hands. I mixed a pale pink to give the  impression of the white design on her dress fabric.  I like what the fabric pattern does to the painting -- adding interest, detail and color.
Stage 5: Completing the painting. This unique background created an interesting challenge for me: to give enough information to help tell the story of this butterfly, Julia, and its surroundings with Julia the little girl -- but not make it too cluttered with unnecessary detail. Because I have a tendency to paint every last leaf in a painting like this, I combat this issue of mine with a palette knife. After I applied the paint with the palette knife I then came back in with a soft brush to create the illusion of plants intermingling with the butterfly and red flowers.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Dog Portraits: Freckles 1 & 2

Behind every painting commission is a personal story. When I accept the commission I view it as an invitation to enter that story. I feel honored every time. The portraits I completed this week feature the same dog, Freckles, in two stages of life; as a shaggy, sweet puppy and now in present day, as an older, wiser, faithful companion.
Freckles The Puppy
10 x 8", Oil on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson
Stage 1: The drawing. With a thin wash of burnt umber paint and mineral spirits, I draw the image of Freckles with a number 2, filbert bristol brush, freehand, using several photos for my reference. My goal at this stage is accuracy. If I capture his likeness now the rest of my job is so much easier.
Stage 2: Blocking in the underpainting. This is such a fun stage. With a large brush I lay down the paint in blocks of color knowing that some of it will  show through the top, thicker layer.
Stage 3: Completing the painting. This final layer is done with brush strokes placed with intentional variety and color. The background represents where Freckles was photographed, in a pale green, grassy field.
10 x 8", Oil on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson
Stage 1: The drawing.
Stage 2: Blocking in the underpainting.

Stage 3: Completing the painting. Freckles, as an adult, lost some of his pronounced markings. I also had to take in to account the changes in his hair and the way it fell. One trait that did not change was his alert, vibrant energy.