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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Angel Christmas Ornaments

 I've had angels on my mind this Christmas season. Ever since I painted angels on stage in Lincoln, Nebraska earlier this month, I have thought about angels. They are so much a part of the Christmas story. And so when it came time to create my annual ornaments for my family, I decided to paint something similar to my "Musical Angels" but with a personal twist: the angels would represent each loved one. It was fun pulling out my pen and ink, using the quill pen as well as a small brush to depict each of them. I enjoy working with ink; the colors are vibrant and fun. I personalized the inside of the card by adding the family names and the year, 2013. From there I punched holes and added ribbon so that they could be easily hung from the tree.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Performance Painting: "Musical Angels"

When I am not painting in my studio, I enjoy painting on stage.

In early October of this year I received an email from the music director of a church in Lincoln, Nebraska. He had seen the YouTube video of me painting my "Musical Angels" and was in the process of planning special events for the December services. He asked if I was available to come and paint the angels. I am so glad that I was!

I flew into Lincoln on a Thursday, bought the canvases, paints and supplies and was ready for rehearsal with the band on Saturday.
When I am about to paint on stage, beginning and completing a painting in a short amount of time in front of a live audience (this time I had about 17 or 18 minutes), I am always amazed that there is this large blank canvas before me that will soon be transformed with the help of brushes, paint and prayer .
I begin my preparations about an hour before I paint, squeezing out plenty of acrylic paint and mixing it with a medium (to keep it from drying out too soon). The colors have been planned so that I already know what I am going to need.
I was given a copy of the "run" sheet so that I knew the plan for the service. 
Painting to beautiful music is one of the most exhilarating and creatively satisfying experiences. I feel like the music enters in through my brushes and flows out on to the canvas. The music becomes part of the painting and then the painting becomes part of the music. For this particular service I painted to live as well as recorded music. What was really fun for me was being able to complete this painting to "Adiemus", the same music that was on my YouTube video.
And then suddenly its over. The music stops, the brushes are set down and I walk away, grateful for the experience.
Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Family Portrait Painting: Part 9 - Completion

It was an ideal August morning in Colorado Springs. The air was still and the sky was bright blue. I had come to this park the day before (with my daughter and granddaughter) to check out various places in the park that would work for staging a family portrait. I paid close attention to the time as we walked from place to place to see what the sun was doing and where the light would fall on the shoulders of my subjects.
And so for the Johnsons, it was an enjoyable stroll through the park as we walked from one place to another, laughing and joking but still focused on what we were there to do, photograph them for this portrait.
Stage 24: Painting the lower stone steps. I enjoyed the variations in the stone steps. Once I blocked this area in with a solid color (the under painting), I came back in with a palette knife while it was still wet. I kept reminding myself to stand back and look at it from a distance just to make certain that the end result was realistic.
Stage 25: Blocking in and then completing the stone steps. I felt almost giddy when I realized how close I was to completing this painting. These stones were generally darker and rougher in texture than the others and so the under painting was darker as well.
The Johnson Family
36 x 48", oil on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson (c)2013
Stage 26: Completing the foreground. Although this photograph does not give an accurate representation of the colors in the foreground, (there are also warmer tones of browns, and rusts) I think you can see the textures I created with a palette knife to give it the feeling of small stones and gravel mixed in with sticks and dead grasses on the left. As with all of my paintings, I will look at this again in a couple of weeks to make any necessary adjustments and take a final photograph.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Family Portrait Painting: Part 8

Rocks, rocks, rocks. I spent the last couple of days and and both evenings painting rocks. Their variety of textures and colors were challenging and fun. But along with the time it took patience. The challenge was not just the painting of them, but making them fit into the composition realistically. I didn't want the stones to overwhelm the subjects. It kind of felt like I was painting rocks into a puzzle, making sure each piece fit around legs, arms and hair...
Stage 20: Blocking in the rocks. The simplest way to approach this challenge was to break each section into shapes and form, light and dark, blocking it in with flat color using a larger brush. "No reason to panic or feel overwhelmed", I told myself. "Just take it on, one section at a time".
Stage 21: Painting wet-on-wet. After the shapes were blocked in on the steps I came back in with more paint and additional color, creating the illusion of the steps and the path in the background. From there I worked on the stone wall behind Laurel.

 Stage 22: Painting with a palette knife. For the large stones I started with a brush and then realized the palette knife would be much easier to achieve the effect I was after of rough and smooth stones.

Detail of the stone path.

Stage 23: Completion of the stone wall.

Detail of the stone wall.

Another close-up of the stone wall.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Family Portrait Painting: Part 7

Its late and I'm tired, but I really wanted to get this post in before the Thanksgiving holiday tomorrow. I took painting breaks today to make cornbread for the stuffing, a pie crust, and then a pumpkin pie.

Stage 18: Painting the background. I started first by blocking in the main shapes of color on the bush behind Steve and Patty.
Stage 19: Continuing with the background. Knowing that the paint would still be wet from working on the bush last night, I got up early this morning and continued so that the paint would still be workable, wet-on-wet. From there I kept going, blocking in the light green behind the tree and then doing the tree and branches last. I love the light; its everywhere in this painting. And it always amazes me the way a background can  dramatically change the dynamics of a portrait(s).
 To my readers in the United States, Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Family Portrait Painting: Part 6

At last, I am here, working on Laurel, the final figure in this family portrait. Completing a figure a week in this painting at times seemed like a lofty goal when I have had multiple projects going on at the same time. But I did it and am so happy to be at this point. Relieved, really.

Stage 14: Painting Laurel's face. I used the same method of working wet-on-wet as I did with the other family members. Working on one subject after another with the same light source allowed me to get a similar approach going with each of them. I thought this would help me get faster with each one but it didn't. It still took me a similar amount of strokes and problem solving moments to get the features just right and the lighting and colors accurate. Because Laurel was standing closer to the camera, I had to adjust her size to fit in with the composition. Reference photos are helpful but not accurate when it comes to size and proportions. The camera lens had made her unrealistically larger than the rest.

Stage 15: Painting the red dress. If you follow the visual progression of Laurel's dress in these next few photos, you can see how I blocked in the shapes of the shadows and light with large simple strokes of color.

Stage 15...continued. The light, shadows and folds create visual movement in her dress.

Loading my brush with nice, thick paint (about the consistency of mayonnaise) and creating the final effects of light on the front of her dress was so much fun. I love being able to see the brush strokes. It is entertaining to the viewer.

While the paint was still fresh, I took a deep breath and painted her delicate necklace and its shadows.
Stage 16And then from there it was time to paint her arms and hands. Once again, the jewelry added so much to this composition. Eye catching details...yes!

Stage 17: Painting Laurel's legs, feet and sandals. I kept adding more color to her legs and then decided to hold off and not do any more until the background is painted in. Then, adjustments will be made to everyone I'm sure.
Painting in the background will add an entirely new dimension to this group portrait. I can hardly wait!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Family Portrait Painting: Part 5

Kelly was the next in line to be painted in this colorful family portrait.

Stage 11: Painting Kelly's face. This tonal method of painting a portrait was first introduced to me during a David Leffel portrait class at the Andreeva Portrait Academy in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Even though I was painting from a live model then, I still use this approach when working from a reference photo. Getting this first thin layer of paint down familiarizes me with the shape of the face and the features.
After the under painting was done but still wet, I came back in with a thicker layer of paint that I had mixed to represent Kelly's skin color.

Once the basic skin color was applied, I added additional color. Pinks, blues, yellows...Kelly has beautiful undertones in her skin that enhances not only her, but the painting.
Once Kelly's face and neck were complete I enjoyed painting the gorgeous light in her hair.
Stage 12: Painting the dress. And then it was time for her fun dress and belt. I used the same approach as before of blocking in her dress with the solid color and then while the paint was still wet I went in with yellows to catch the hi-lights and dark greens and browns to capture the shadows.
This belt was a fun treat.
Stage 13After the dress it was time for her legs and arms. Details like the sandals (and belt) add interest as well as a historical reference to the fashion of this time period.
And here I am, at last, with four subjects down and only one to go! When I first started this painting it seemed like it would be "forever and a day" to get to this point. Now it feels like it is going quickly.
 Laurel is next!


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Family Portrait Painting: Part 4

Stage 8: Painting Sarah's face and hair. When I'm painting a group portrait where the individuals are this small even a fraction of an inch in any direction can make such a difference in capturing a likeness. With Sarah's dark brown, distinctively shaped eyebrows, I knew that accuracy was important. I'm not convinced that I have them just right; time will tell after I take a break and then look at them again later. 

Stage 9 and 10: Painting Sarah's clothes and then her arms and legs. I forgot to photograph stage 9 when I painted her clothing. I really enjoyed the bright yellow blouse and vibrant orange-red skirt; they added drama to the painting. The morning light enhanced their folds and draping. When painting her arms and legs(stage 10), my concentration was on color, form and light. There were nice pink and blue tones to her skin. I'm pretty happy with most of the outer edges but will work on them more when I do the background.

Sometimes its fun to see sections of the painting close-up. I love adding details like the watch and bracelets. They are not only fun to paint but they also give us hints about Sarah's personality. They become part of the story.

The simple detail of the shimmery button on her blouse added a nice touch to the composition.
Kelly, you are next.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Family Portrait Painting: Part 3

Stage 5: Painting the face and hair. The lighting for Patty's golden hair was ideal; it glowed under the morning sun.

Stage 6: Painting the dress. Her dress was more of a beige color but the reflected color from her surroundings makes it look lavender at this point. I'm curious to see how it looks once the other colors are painted around it. I enjoyed the detail of the necklace and the way it caught the light.

Stage 7: The arms and legs. It was nice to paint the light on Patty's shoulders and knee. After I finish this post, while the paint is still wet, I think I'll add a little more pink to portions of her back leg where the blues seem a little strong. Sometimes just looking at the photo of the painting helps me see it more objectively.
Now, its time for Sarah.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Family Portrait Painting: Part 2

Stage 3: Painting the clothes. If you study clothing, it becomes obvious that there can be many reflected colors in them depending on the lighting and environment. For Steve's yellow shirt, there are greens and oranges with hints of blue.  His khaki shorts also reflected light blue and hints of orange.
Stage 4: Painting the arms and legs. In situations such as this, I feel like I've been given a break having  to paint only one full arm and hand with one leg. I did have to give his other arm and leg (partially exposed) my full attention just to make sure that they are believable and work with the composition. As with all my work, I gave it my all but know, deep down, I will soon see things a bit more clearly and will make adjustments and corrections.

Now its time to work on Patty, Steve's wife.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Family Portrait Painting: Part 1

It has been years since I have painted a family portrait and so it must be time. This 36 x 48" painting of the Johnson family will be a great challenge for me. Just getting started with the composition of five figures on the canvas was exciting enough all by itself. My plan is to paint one figure at a time.
Stage 1: Drawing the figures. With a thin wash of paint I used the reference photos I had taken to loosely draw in the family members, freehand. At this point I did not worry about getting their features just right; I was more concerned about the composition and proportions.
Stage 2: Painting the first face. With multiple figures I am most comfortable painting from left to right and so I began with the husband/father, Steve. Painting wet-on-wet, (alla prima), my goal was to complete his face as much as possible. I will work on him more later when I have fresh eyes - plus it will also be helpful to study him in person.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Sunflower Painting

24 x 18", oil on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson (c) 2013

Ever since I painted this still life, I have wanted to go back in a rework it. I kept waiting to see it with fresh eyes. At last, this weekend, I took the time to take it out of its frame, mix the paints and get it done.  

Monday, September 30, 2013

Painting Of A White Hen

Little White Hen
10 x 8", oil on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson (c)2013 
Painting portraits of chickens has become a nice little escape for me. When I take breaks from the paintings that I have committed to, doing a painting of a hen or a rooster becomes a challenging diversion. They are never as easy as I imagine them to be but once I start one, I have to finish (8 x 10's are a good size, they do not take long to complete and they fit in almost any kitchen).

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Fishing The Arkansas River

This painting is the first in my new Colorado Landscapes series. Even though adjustments will be made after some time has passed and I'm able to see it with fresh eyes, I am excited to do this post and share the stages with you.

If you have been following this blog for over a year, you might recall the color study I did of this scene when Robert and I were spending a warm fall day along the Arkansas River, near Salida, Colorado. While Robert fished, I painted. With the color study I also took photos of him fishing. This is the final result, a compilation of photographs and the painting I did that colorful fall day.
Fishing the Arkansas
16 x 20", oil on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson (c) 2013
Stage 1: Loosely painting in the lines, freehand, of the shapes and figure. I used a wash of mineral spirits and Transparent Earth Red. Next, I started with the sky doing an under painting of Ultramarine blue mixed with Cobalt Blue and Titanium White.
Stage 2: Painting alla prima, wet on wet, I used a palette knife to add a lighter blue to the skyline of the mountains. I have a tendency to be frugal with paint so when I apply it with a palette knife I am forced to use more.
Stage 3: Completing the sky and painting the mountains. Using the same technique with the sky, I painted the mountains.
Stage 4: Painting the background of trees and bushes.
Stage 5: Blocking in the under painting of the river. In preparation for the water I brushed in this thin layer of color before I added the thicker, final coat, alla prima. I worked around the figure, Robert. 
Stage 6: The water and  figure. Robert was a lot more challenging than I thought he would be. With the sun practically over head, he blended in with the water. 
Stage 7: After blocking in the foreground with a thin layer of paint I came back in with my palette knife to add the thicker paint. After the paint was applied I used a combination of brush and palette knife to get the effect I wanted.
Here is the final painting with the color study I did last October. Painting from life recorded the colors much more accurately than the reference photos. I have never regretted painting plein air; I learn so much each time I do.