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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

World War II Portrait: Pete's Shiny Black Shoes

At last, I've made it to the shoes! I've been wanting to paint Pete's shiny black shoes since I started this piece and it was just as fun as I imagined it would be. Whenever I see a man or woman in uniform I am impressed when he/she has meticulously polished shoes. A crisp, clean uniform is always impressive but the shoes complete and emphasize "the look". And then there was the challenge of the gun. Not being familiar with guns, I'll admit I was a little leery of  painting it just because I was completely dependent on the photo for a reference. Many times I wished I had that gun right in front of me. At this point, my husband stepped in and became my guide, explaining the mechanisms and the coloring since at times I could not tell which parts were wood and which were metal (working from a black and white photo). Finally at 11:00 last night I had to tell myself to put down the brush and walk away...that I could go back and make adjustments, if necessary, when I go over the rest of the painting.

Friday, May 27, 2011

World War II Portrait: The Handmade Booklet

The details of this painting are so interesting to me. The handmade booklet that he is holding in his lap is still a mystery and I plan on researching it more as time allows. My first thought was that it had a leather cover but when I examined the photo even closer I could see that there was a slight indication of a wood grain running through it.( I still need to play around with the color.) The metal brads do appear to be attached to leather straps and then the entire book is looped together with a leather string. The word "Army" is three dimensional and perhaps glued to the wooden cover. I wonder if Pete ever imagined that this booklet would someday be considered rare and unusual and included in an oil portrait of himself.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

World War II Portrait: Shapes, Shadows and Folds

Ahh, the challenge of fabric! Painting the shapes, shadows and folds of fabric has always fascinated me. My plan was to paint just the upper body and hands but once I started working on Pete's uniform, I could not help myself (does that sound odd?) and continued on with his pant legs. By 11:00 last night I knew that the hands would have to wait until today. I make adjustments as I go. The right arm and shoulder had to be pulled in and his forearm straightened slightly. I love details and so I'm looking forward to painting the book cover, one of my favorite parts of this painting.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

World War II Portrait: Olive Green

Research for this painting has been enjoyable. After  checking out U.S. military uniforms from 1941 on Google, I decided it would be helpful  to put in a couple of movies. First, I watched segments of Tora Tora to catch glimpses of the army uniform in color. My second and even better choice was Pearl Harbor. (And then of course I had to have popcorn to go with it.) The variations of the accessories for the basic uniform were confusing at times; light ties, dark ties, light hats and then dark hats. I think the values of the hat in the reference photo were helpful in finalizing my decision to go with a deep olive green.

Friday, May 20, 2011

World War II Portrait: Painting Someone's Vision

A new commission is always exciting to me because I have the challenge of painting someone's vision that I adopt as my own. Plus, there is the story behind the painting which never fails to intrigue me. And so now I enter into the story of Hjalmer "Pete", the son of Swedish immigrants who settled in Saint Paul, Minnesota. This photo was taken in 1941 when he was drafted into the  U.S. army. My goal is to capture him on canvas using a black and white reference photo while transforming it into color. After lightly painting the composition in with a thin wash of oil paint, I am ready to begin. Stay tuned, this is going to be fun!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Family Traditions

I love family traditions. Three years ago when my first granddaughter turned two, I thought of how fun it would be to present her with her very first oil portrait that she could call her own. I realized even then the commitment  I would be making to all my future grandchildren. And so here I am at portrait number two in a series that I hope will continue for quite some time. If I am to be blessed with grandchildren, why not celebrate each one with a portrait?

I really liked this pose of Julia because it was so natural and relaxed. No one had fussed over how she looked that Christmas morning or whether her hair was combed just right. I liked her lopsided satin bow on her dress and the way her thick velvet strap fell off of her shoulder. It was such a carefree morning that my only goal was to take a few pictures of her in her special dress before it was nap time. I had not planned on any of these photos being used for her official portrait but when I looked over the shots I had taken, I knew that I had "the one" I was looking for. Enjoy!

Miss Julia
 oil on canvas, 16x20

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Playing With Paint

When each of my children graduate from college their gift from me is a painting. And not just any painting -  it is created from one of their own  photos they took while in college. I love this challenge because I  paint something that brings back memories for them and at the same time it enables me to create a piece I would have never thought of doing on my own. My daughter, Megan, took an art class in Spain during the spring of her junior year and chose a photo that she had taken of the city, Seville. She specifically requested a size she thought would work best for the subject matter, 14x40". Since the reference photo was an 8x10", my challenge was to create it as a panoramic. I brushed in the sky and clouds first. As I worked on the buildings I took out my palette knife to add texture and more color. There is an added sense of freedom when I am working with a palette knife. It can do things that a brush cannot. As I spread the colors across the wood panel I felt like a child again, playing with paint. 
 Oil on panel, 14x40"
Rita Salazar Dickerson

Saturday, May 7, 2011

South Africa: Her Skirt

Her skirt was my final pleasure in this painting.  As I painted it, it felt like I was completing an important part of the story. Like the hat, I enjoyed the detail and the striking contrast it created next to her shawl and grass. Once I was satisfied I moved on to the final details of her hair, the grass and even added a bit more shimmer to the shawl. I decided that some of the edges on the canvas needed to be left undone and so they remain as they were from the beginning. Her surroundings  accentuate her striking countenance. I wonder if she realized how amazingly beautiful she looked that day.
 oil on canvas, 16x20"

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

South Africa: Golden Grass

I've enjoyed every step of this painting and once I get to this point it seems extra special because I am seeing my vision become a reality. There will be a lot of last minute adjustments toward the end - but it is still exciting because the colors are in place and the mood has been set. It was early fall when I was there in March and so the tall, golden grasses  provided a perfect background that added texture and contrast  to her dramatic  costume. This grass, like everything else in the painting, has been more challenging than I thought it would be and I still feel like there's more to do. Yet, I am ready to move on to the final blank section of the canvas, her skirt.(Wait until you see it. It really completes her outfit.) I've been painting late into the night (sometimes I wish I didn't have to sleep) and enjoying every minute of it. This painting is so much fun! 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

South Africa: Candy Apple Red

I realize that I was attracted to painting this woman for many reasons - one of them being, she was wearing red. And not just any red - but bright, shimmering, candy apple red! In addition to her red shawl, she was wearing this wonderful bracelet that added just a touch of color and detail to her wrist while casting a shadow on her arm. Everything she was wearing seems so right to me. If I could have had a say in how she dressed that day, I would not have changed a thing. The excitement is mounting for me as I progress with this painting. Once I get this far into it I begin to have trouble sleeping because all I really want to do is paint or think about painting. I cannot get her out of my mind. There is also a deadline coming up: the Fireside Gallery intake and installation for the South Africa exhibit is this Thursday. I love and hate deadlines but they keep me on task. I can't wait to paint tomorrow!