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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Little Girl Portrait: A New Commission

It is always exciting when I start a new portrait commission. It marks the beginning of a new challenge. The colors and setting for this painting will be completely different from the portrait of Elena that I just completed.

Now that the rough sketch with paint is done and I feel good about the composition, I'm ready to start laying colors down.  (As you can see in the third photo, I had fun rubbing the wet paint around with a cloth - just playing with the shadows a bit.)

These three photos show the progression of my first session.

16x20, oil on canvas
1st session

Friday, August 26, 2011

Portrait Of A Little Girl: Painting the Rug

oil on canvas, 16x20
7th Session

I am now at a place where I can stop and let this painting "rest" for a couple of weeks. Already I see minor changes that I want to make and am certain there will be others that I don't see yet. It feels good to be at this point - especially with the rug being much more challenging than I had expected it to be.
It was a busy week. I think I need to rest too.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Portrait Of A Little Girl: The Background

oil on canvas, 16x20
6th Session

I thought I would add these two photos that show the painting progression of her great grandmother's buffet. It serves as an interesting background in that it is detailed but does not overpower the subject.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Portrait Of A Little Girl

I can understand why some artists get hooked on doing children's portraits. American artist, Mary Cassatt,  is one of the first that comes to mind. She painted beauty, softness and innocence.

I feel fortunate each time I have the opportunity to paint a child's portrait. It's exciting every time. And in this instance, if you add to that a handmade blue dress lovingly sewn by her mother that is embellished with little white satin flowers handcrafted by her grandmother, it all becomes sentimental and lovely. In addition to that, I will go another layer deeper and tell you that her mother was painted in a portrait when she was a little girl and she sat in this same rocking chair. Another bit of family history in this painting is the buffet in the background - it was passed down from her great grandmother. History once again mixing with art and telling a story. I love it.

Now that I've drawn in her image with a thin layer of burnt sienna, I am ready to pull out the rest of my paints and get busy.  


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

9/11 Artifact Restoration

When asked if I would be interested in painting one of the 9/11 artifacts from the World Trade Center, emotions that I didn't even realize I still had, resurfaced. This was a commission involving subject matter that still touches the hearts of our nation with pain and anguish. My mind was filled with the visual images of that September 11, morning nearly 10 years ago.

As I accepted the job, my heart started beating faster with excitement and anticipation. I felt honored and privileged to be invited to work on this piece of steel that now represents a life changing part of our country's history. It will be displayed as an outdoor memorial at NORAD (Northern American Aerospace Defense Command).

The goal of this project was to preserve this steel beam artifact so that it will always look as it did when it was pulled from the rubble at Ground Zero: ripped, twisted, rusted and with the original markings of numbers and letters. In order to achieve that goal, it was first photographed with accurate photos that captured the details and coloring. If left untouched out in the elements, it will continue to corrode and rust and lose its original markings.

My challenge was to paint the steel artifact with a faux finish that captures the likeness of how it looked when it was taken from that rubble. Since this job would be impossible to do in my studio, I worked each day at a local paint shop (Taint Paint) that specializes in electro-static applied custom powder coating. It almost felt like I was working with ground pastels or chalk.
When I started painting, it seemed so quiet. Even though there were others working in other areas of the paint shop, I felt alone with my thoughts. As I touched the rough piece of steel and began applying the paints, I could not help but think of the lives lost on that beautiful September morning. Sadness. Horror. Tears. I felt like I was surrounded by it. It was sobering. I have been to Ground Zero and when I was there, looking at the devastation, I never imagined that one day I would be touching a piece of it. That it would follow me home.

After each layer of carefully laid paint was placed on the beam, it was then baked in a large, walk-in oven. The beam weighed 850 pounds. Moving it was not easy. The workers at the paint shop were so helpful and ready to assist. I stood clear and let them do the heavy work. Once cooled, I would start on the next layer.

A little over a week later, my job with the artifact was done. As I watched them load it back on to the flatbed to be transported back to the construction company, I felt the same way I always feel when a commissioned painting is completed and taken away. A part of me is going with it.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Completed Portrait

oil on canvas, 16x20"
completed portrait

When I complete a time consuming, labor intensive, challenging portrait such as "Sofia", there is a sense of joy mixed with relief when I sign it. I feel drained and happy. The crazy detail on the stairs was important to me; I wanted the busy, colorful pattern of the rug to contrast and yet compliment the simple, solid form of her dress. Something to entertain the eye. At times it tested my sanity. I took deep breaths and watched videos of the old I Love Lucy Show while I worked - to help keep things light toward the end when I just didn't think I could take painting one more swirl of color

It feels good to know that Sofia and Julia each have childhood portraits of themselves sitting on the same stairs - painted from photos of Christmas morning.

Sofia, oil on canvas, 16x20"
Julia, oil on canvas, 16x20"