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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Growth Charts: Hand Painted Christmas Gifts

Inspiration for this project first came from my daughter, Emily, who months ago asked if I could make a growth chart for her little girl; something that could be easily moved when necessary. This request triggered  memories of a growth chart we had for our children years ago that was not so movable. It was the white painted wood door jam of a 1950's kitchen in our home in Durango, Colorado. This growth chart was not restricted to family members. Anyone and everyone who wanted to be measured would stand up to that doorway and stretch as tall as they could; I would take my ruler and pencil to mark their place on that wall with their name and the date they were measured. It was so much fun for everyone to compare who was taller than who and track the progression of our children and their friends as they grew. Our tallest entry came from a good friend and co-worker of my husband's. His name was Jack and he measured in at 6 feet, 9 3/4 inches. Jack was a tall man. The kids squealed in delight when they saw his mark.

I never realized how special that growth chart would be until the day the movers came and everything we owned was loaded up into a large moving truck. The only personal item remaining in that empty house was the immovable growth chart, a small memorial to the many years of growing and changing that took place in our little house. I cried.

And now I fast forward to today and the creation of growth charts for my granddaughters that will never have to be left behind. I painted them on a pre-treated canvas fabric with acrylic paint.( My kind next door neighbor, Susan, hemmed in the edges for me.) They turned out to be quite the Christmas project. Each one took longer than I had planned but in the end, they were wrapped and ready under the Christmas trees waiting for their unveiling.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Santa Claus Nativity Paintings: Completed

Wise Men Still Seek Him I
11 x 14", Oil on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson (c) 2011
Wise Men Still Seek Him, II
11 x 14", Oil on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson (c) 2011
Wise Men Still Seek Him, II
11 x 14", Oil on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson (c) 2011

Wise Men Still Seek Him I, II, and III
11x14", Oil on canvas
The Series Completed
Rita Salazar Dickerson (c) 2011 

Creating a series of three Santa Claus paintings, a project that started in September and ended in December, has been interesting, challenging and extremely enjoyable. Each painting was designed specifically for the client with their special interests in mind. 

In Santa #1, it was the figurine  at the window with Santa kneeling in prayer in front of the nativity.

In Santa #2, with Santa still kneeling, I added three Nutcrackers on the radio, a Hess fire truck on the floor by Santa's bag, and the famous leg lamp from the movie, A Christmas Story, at the window. 

In Santa #3, the window was replaced by a fireplace with personalized stockings hanging above the hearth, Gund teddy bears on the mantel, and multiple clocks added on the walls. Instead of a nativity, a vintage Lionel train and a large baby Jesus replaced it beneath the tree. 
Adding these personal touches to each painting and varying some of the colors kept things interesting and original. 

Each time a painting leaves my studio(especially the ones that are given as gifts), I try to imagine where it will go and how it is received. I look forward to hearing the stories on these three.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Santa Claus Nativity Painting: Decorating the Christmas Tree

Santa Claus Nativity Painting
11x14", Oil on canvas
6th Session

At times it really felt like I was actually decorating a live little Christmas tree with lights and ornaments that flowed from my brush.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Santa Claus Nativity Painting: Saint Nicholas

Santa Claus Nativity Painting
11x14", Oil on canvas
5th Session

Painting Saint Nicholas was more fun than I had imagined it would be. Since red is my favorite color I thoroughly enjoyed the experience!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Santa Claus Nativity Painting: Painting In Miniature

Wise Men Still Seek Him
11x14", Oil on canvas
2nd Session
Wise Men Still Seek Him
11x14", Oil on canvas
3rd and 4th Session
I underestimated how challenging it would be to paint everything in miniature. Painting baby Jesus half the size of my little pinkie's finger nail was so much harder than I had imagined. To keep myself from giving in to sudden urges to run stark raving mad into the street, I decided to take a more positive approach and play a Christmas movie. Sometimes just having something light and comical in the background keeps me slightly distracted and entertained. My first choice, A Christmas Story. Ralphie makes me laugh.
Having actual figurines from my parents' nativity helped me match colors and set the tone.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Santa Claus Nativity Painting: Pencil Sketch to Canvas

The Santa Claus Nativity Painting
Preliminary Pencil Sketch on Paper, 11x14

Christmas started early for me this year. I was approached mid-summer by a potential client who asked if I would consider painting not just one, but three special paintings that he wanted to give as Christmas gifts. The common theme he envisioned for each painting would be the same, Santa Claus kneeling, praying, at the foot of a nativity. Beyond that, each 11x14 painting would be customized for the recipient with images that recognized or paid tribute to their special interests. I was intrigued and readily accepted the challenge. I must admit I have never imagined painting the likeness of Santa Claus and here I was, planning to paint three of him!

The Santa Claus Nativity Painting
Tracing the Sketch, 11x14

The requested personalized image for this first painting was a cloth sculpture sitting on a table at a window in the living room with the traditional cookies and milk waiting. After I received approval of the11x14  pencil sketch, I traced my drawing with a pencil, then followed the pencil lines with an oil pastel on the back side of the tracing paper.

The Santa Claus Nativity Painting
oil pastel transferred onto canvas

I then aligned the 11x14 tracing paper on top of the same size stretched canvas and gently rubbed over the pastel drawing lines. The pastel rubbed off onto the canvas under the pressure of my thumb nail. 
The Santa Claus Nativity Painting
oil on canvas, 11x14
1st Painting Session
The first painting session began with a fairly detailed depiction of the scene painted with a thin layer of transparent oxide red. My inspiration for the nativity came from childhood memories of my family's set. Not long after I started this project I was able to visit my parent's home, rummage around in their basement (with my mom's help) and find the few pieces that have survived years and years of use. I painted the clock that is hanging in my own living room; it seemed to fit the mood. As for Santa's pose, I used the statue of The Thinker by Rodin as my model for the general pose though The Thinker is sitting instead of down on one knee. This pose was also a specific request from my client.

The next session, adding color.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Little Girl Portrait II: Gracie and the Balloon/6th Session, The Completed Portrait

oil on canvas, 11x14
6th Session
I had so much fun painting yesterday afternoon and into the night, I could hardly stand it! It is exciting when I imagine what  the completed painting will look like and then have it actually turn out the way I was hoping. Since this is not always the case, I like to enjoy these moments when I can!

I decided that the green grass in the background was not necessary and in fact detracted from Gracie and the overall composition. Once that was replaced with blue sky, I painted in the balloon and then as a final treat, added the bubbles, entertaining additions to an already light and airy composition.

Now, the time has come to let the painting "rest" a few days before I look it over one last time with fresh eyes and make any additional changes. Since Gracie is a Christmas gift, she will need time to dry before delivery and framing.

It has been such a pleasure painting both of Gracie's portraits.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Little Girl Portrait II: Gracie and the Balloon/5th Session

oil on canvas, 11x14
5th Session

The pale pink of Gracie's dress works well with the light blue sky. They compliment each other in a way that enhances her features and adds a softness to her presence. The day I photographed Gracie, the weather, lighting and her pink dress all worked so well together. Gracie was a painting waiting to happen.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Little Girl Portrait II: Gracie and the Balloon/4th Session

oil on canvas, 11x14
4th Session
Painting little arms and hands kept me busy last night. Since I am painting wet into wet paint, there was no turning back; it was midnight when I finally felt I was at a stopping point. Of course by then I wished I could have painted all night (which I have done sometimes) but I made myself stop with the reminder that tomorrow is another day and if there is something to correct (which there usually is) it can be corrected later. And so for now, here are Gracie's arms and hands. Her dress is next.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Little Girl Portrait II: Gracie and the Balloon/3rd Session

oil on canvas, 11x14
3rd Session
I'm really having fun now! Though I'm still not certain what I'm going to do with the background yet, I like the way the light blue and her face have such an ethereal feel to them. It feels like I'm painting a little angel.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Little Girl Portrait II: Gracie And The Balloon

oil on canvas, 11x14
1st Session
One of the nicest compliments I can receive from a client is when they ask for a second portrait of the same subject. I really enjoyed painting Grace the first time and now, I have the pleasure of capturing her on canvas again. This second piece will be a smaller size, 11x14, and is from the same set of reference photos I took for her fist portrait. Now that I have the rough sketch taken care of I am excited to begin. Besides the balloon, there are some other fun surprises that I get to add to this composition.
This will be a Christmas gift and so I had better get busy!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Portrait Of A Little Girl: Elena Running/ The Completed Portrait

Elena Running
oil on canvas, 16x20
8th Session
As I have mentioned in earlier posts, one of my favorite elements in a commissioned painting is adding personal information that has significance to the subject or subjects that I am focusing on. In this case, the English garden in the background marks a time in Elena's life where she has had the opportunity to spend part of her life there. The roses also hold special meaning because of her middle name, Rose.  Art that tells a story; this is so much fun!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Portrait Of A Little Girl: Elena Running/ The Background

Elena Running
oil on canvas, 16x20
7th Session

The background in a painting can play an important part in the completion of a portrait by setting the mood and  complimenting the main character. One of the opportunities I like to take advantage of when possible, is to make the background a meaningful part of the visual story. The public garden in which Elena is running through marks a significant time in her life. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Portrait Of A Little Girl: Elena Running/ 4th Session

Elena Running
oil on canvas, 16x20
4th Session

I must admit that I was very excited to paint in Elena's striped headband with the pink satin roses. I love details and color!
My next challenge, her arms and hands. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Portrait Of A Little Girl: Elena Running

One of the things I love about the Dutch artist, Johannes Vermeer, is that his portraits were often of people doing something. With this new commission I have the opportunity to paint a contemporary portrait of a little girl doing what she loves to do, run!

Tonight I finished the rough sketch with a thin wash of transparent oxide red oil paint. This is always a challenge for me, getting the subject on the canvas with the overall composition in place. I painted the sketch free hand (without the use of drawing aids) and have found that the more I do it this way, the faster and more confident I become.  Necessary adjustments and corrections will be made as the painting progresses. 

I am excited to begin adding color and detail. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Tibetan Pole Painting

I can't imagine a better way to be greeted on a cool fall morning than with a cup of freshly brewed coffee made with a special blend carefully chosen from distant lands.

And though my reason for this visit was not the latte, it was certainly a nice way to start my work day.

My job, this time, was far removed from my usual portrait or landscape commissions that I create in my studio. This was, by far, a calling to do something I had never dreamed of: to paint, on a beam, a Tibetan prayer pole. I love projects that create unusual challenges and this one fit the description

When Mark and Carrie called and said they would like me to come to their home and see this pole, I had to laugh inside. Who calls someone and asks them to paint a Tibetan style pole in their living room? I guess outrageous, creatively original people do. And since I love to push the boundaries of what I can paint and where, this commission was a perfect fit.

To make my job easier, Mark had prepared the wall with a base coat of a lightly tinted primer.

Mixing the acrylic paint is fun. It also is a time to mentally prepare myself for what I am about to do.

Since I had to climb a six foot ladder and balance precariously at times, I decided it would be best to start with the highest, most dangerous part while I still felt fresh and rested.

Next came the sky blue paint that I painted right up to the edges of my clouds.

Starting at the top, I painted the blue with a slight gradation from dark to light to imitate a Colorado sky.

This photo was taken at the bottom of the stairs which is the way it will appear to anyone who looks up from the living room.

I had an art instructor once tell me that a good painting entertains the eye from a distance and then draws you in and entertains the eye close up.
In this instance, I was happy to complete the Tedder's vision of this Tibetan pole (and apply my instructor's theory) by painting a verse that they had chosen from Psalm 19:1 - something that can only be seen upon closer inspection.

Mark and Carrie visited Tibet and then fell in love with the Tibetan people; a love so deep that they wanted a visual reminder each day to pray for the country, the people, and its leaders.

Oftentimes, after a commissioned work is completed, I walk away in awe at the experience and the privilege it was to be a part of something much bigger than myself.  

Monday, October 3, 2011

Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area Plein Air Painting

If someone ever asks you to backpack into the wilderness of Colorado to catch the last of the summer's wild flowers, eat freshly caught trout, and sleep under the it! For the past couple of years my husband, Robert, has been asking me to go. I have always been hesitant for numerous reasons (bears, mosquitoes, and the lack of flushing toilets, to name a few) but when he lured me with one of the amenities being incredible views for artists who enjoy plein air painting, I finally agreed that I had to try it. I could no longer ignore the beautiful photos that he and my son, Adam, took each time they went that were taken miles from the familiar and more accessible Colorado landscapes.
Since we did not set up camp until it was almost dark, I knew my opportunity to paint at our campsite would come first thing in the morning. After a delicious hot breakfast of oatmeal and tea, Robert set off to fish at the lake down below our campsite and I excitedly got out my acrylic paints, painter box and brushes to record this breathtaking view with the early morning light.

My little French easel was perfect for this adventure. It comes with leather straps and  has its own built in palette and space underneath to store small paintbrushes.

I settled in and began to paint quickly.

This mountain range before me was absolutely breathtaking. At that moment I knew that the five hour car ride, the additional two hour four wheel drive to the trail head of this remote area, and then the two hour hike to our campsite was all worth it.

I quickly painted in the shape of the mountains,

and then began working on the middle and foreground of trees, the lake and the the mountain side.
Once I had all of the major shapes and colors in, I relaxed and knew I had time to add some details.
I had only one direct encounter with the local wildlife. It was this brazen jay bird who decided that she would investigate what I was doing and examine all that I had. She landed on a tree stump nearby and then squawked and flew at me. I jumped up to get out of her way and she boldly flew down to my paint supplies. She picked up my painting towel and then dropped it, grabbed my extra painting panels one by one and threw them down, scattering them around, and then perched on the edge of my can of water I was using for the paints and looked at me. For the love! 
After that little painting break, I added some details: the snow on the mountains, the hint of yellow wildflowers on the mountain side and the rocks jutting out here and there.

Two exhilarating hours later it was time to pack up my paints and head back down the mountain. I felt satisfied and happy. 

This experience has changed my perspective. In my journeys to other parts of the world, planet earth has always seemed smaller. But when I traveled to this amazing place right here in my home state of Colorado, the world seemed like it had grown so much bigger.   
"I will lift up my eyes to the mountains..." Psalm 121:1

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.”
John Muir