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Monday, May 18, 2015

Peonies: Painting Class

There is something to be said for creating something colorful, soothing and beautiful where only hours before there was a blank canvas and some tubes of paint. Painting from life teaches me so much more than a photo ever can. I love the entire process, from choosing the flowers at the market to setting them up in my studio with just the right light. When I am painting, I am lost in moments of color, texture and movement.

This fresh new painting project was in preparation for my beginners painting class at Woodmen Valley. I realized that painting peonies might seem like a daunting task for the beginner painter, but what a fun way to jump into painting; color, simple shapes and value brushed onto canvas in just three short hours. Our goal was not to create a masterpiece for each student but to learn the power of paint, touch on the academics of composition and to have fun applying paint to canvas. I think we can all learn something about ourselves if we dare to step out of our comfort zones and try something new.
20 x 16", Acrylic on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson
Stage 1: Setting up the still life composition. It was a rather dark, rainy day but I was determined to paint from the natural southern light coming from my studio window. I arranged the three flowers following some simple composition guidelines that I could later explain to my painting class.

Stage 2: Painting in the lines of my composition. Using a thinned mixture of alizarin crimson and white, I broke the painting down into thirds.
Stage 3: Painting the flowers. Thinking in terms of thirds, even in the values of the flowers, I painted them with a light, medium and dark pink. With a single natural light source from the window, seeing the three values was much easier.
Stage 4: Completing the painting. Once the flowers were done, I focused on the leaves, the foreground and background all at once. With acrylic, working wet on wet, I had to work fast so that my background and foreground edges worked in well with the flowers, the leaves and stems before the paint dried.  Each leaf was 3 to 4 strokes. I put the main color of green down and then added the lights and darks of reds and yellows.  I had fun adding the colors from the flowers and integrating them into the background and foreground.

With the painting complete, I was ready to teach the class.
First, I started the class with 8 x 10" canvas boards to create a color study. This starts the thinking process regarding color and composition. It also helps get the jitters out.

After spending a half hour or so on the color studies, we pulled out the 20 x 16" canvases and got to work creating the actual painting.

 By the end of the second hour, colorful, fun peonies filled the class!
 I walked around the class and started taking photos of all the great paintings that were being created right before my eyes. Enjoy scrolling down and seeing the variety of beautiful results.

Standing back and looking at all the multiple paintings of the peonies took my breath away. Each art student's style and personality emerged. We are all unique, like our paintings.

Here are some favorite quotes I jotted down while I was at the Art of the Portrait conference in Atlanta, Georgia a couple of weeks ago.

"I like to paint order out of chaos...It doesn't matter how large or how small (your painting is) its gotta be beautiful and intentional." Quang Ho

"I look for passion, imagination and the means to communicate...Use all of your experiences, emotions, your life situation and put that in your paintings." Everette Raymond Kinstler

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

My Second Corporate Portrait: Part Two

It's always a relief when I reach this point in a portrait. Its time to leave the head alone and focus on the clothing.
Stage 10: Painting the suit coat. Painting a black suit coat with a single light source is a great opportunity to study values. I brushed in the darkest value first. I mixed two parts of Ultramarine Blue to one part Transparent Oxide Red to achieve the black that I needed.
And then I worked in the lighter values. The next step was to blend the lights and darks at their edges to that they transitioned well with soft edges.
Stage 11: The hands. I started the hands by blocking in the light and dark shapes. This underpainting helped me see their shapes in the simplest of terms.
Working wet on wet paint, I then applied the second layer with additional color and values.

Conor McCluskey
BombBomb, CEO
36 x 24", Oil on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson

Thursday, February 12, 2015

My Second Corporate Portrait: Part One

There are so many layers in the art world. The formal portrait is one of them. I meet many artists who, for various reasons, prefer not to go there. Regardless of the naysayers I have always been intrigued by the historical use of formal portraits as well as the challenge to paint them.  As Aristotle stated," The aim of Art is to present not the outward appearance of things, but their inner significance; for this, not the external manner and detail, constitutes true reality." (I wish I could have been the first person to say that.)

One of my most recent goals was to add two formal business/corporate portraits to my portfolio. This is my second one.
Stage 1: Painting in the image. After tinting the canvas with a thinned mixture of Transparent Oxide Red and Ultramarine Blue, I used that same mixture to lightly paint in Conor's likeness freehand.
Detail of the face.
Stage 2: Painting the face. I begin this stage the same way I would if I were painting from life instead of using a reference photo: lightly brushing in the shape of the head with a thin layer of paint as I familiarize myself with the features.
Stage 3: The eyes. The eyes tell the story. In this first attempt I aim for accuracy in shape, color and light.
Stage 4: Blocking in the face. As I apply this layer of paint I pay attention to the planes of the face as I develop the likeness through light, contrast and shadow.
Stage 5: Blending the colors. Once the paint is on the canvas I move the it around with my brush, pulling colors and values into each other so that they transition well.
Stage 6: Completing the first layer (underpainting). This is my last step -- blocking in the remaining shapes and colors of his face before I can complete it. 
Stage 7: Completing the face. I applied thicker paint for the second layer and then blended the colors and values together so that they transitioned well from light to dark and warm to cool colors.
Stage 8: Blocking in the tie and shirt.
Stage 9: Completing the shirt and tie. The intricate design on this silk tie almost intimidated me. I decided to squint my eyes and paint my impression of it.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Pen and Ink Portraits

Along with my painting, I have been having a lot of fun sketching with pen and ink. It started out with the challenge of doing a drawing a day. And then, without really planning to, I moved from sketching inanimate objects to drawing people. There is something about capturing the likeness of another human being, on paper or canvas, that I cannot resist.

One drawing led to another and soon I was accepting commissions for small, 4 x 6 inch, pen and ink portraits. They make unique gifts that become family treasures. And from those original portraits I have also had requests for giclee prints. The prints become additional gifts to extended family members.

Here are some of the portraits I have sketched recently. Enjoy!

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.