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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Steamboat Aspens

This is another new painting in my Colorado Landscape Series that you can see at G44 gallery. When the owner, Gundega, asked me last summer if I was interested in showing a fresh body of work this spring, May 9th seemed so far away.  But when time is counted by brushstrokes, it didn't take long at all. Please come to the opening if you can, Friday, May 9, 6-8 p.m. Gundega hosts a beautiful reception.The show is up until June 7. All work is for sale.

I had fun with this last piece. It is from the plein air study that I did when visiting Steamboat Springs.  Colorado aspen trees are more commonly painted in the fall with their golden leaves. I chose instead to focus on the dance movement of the tree trunks. Curving, bending, seemingly swaying to the music of the day.
Steamboat Aspens
8x10", Oil on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson (c) 2014

Stage 1: Drawing in the trees with a thin wash of paint thinned with mineral spirits. And then the background painting begins. (Honestly, I almost forgot to photograph this first stage! Try and imagine it without the blue.)
Stage 2:  Painting the sky. I added in hints of green to add color and interest.

Stage 3:  Working colors and values into the background. Its always important to remember to have at least a light, medium and dark value in your painting.

Stage 4:  Blocking in the trees. Aspen trees have such interesting shapes. Rarely do you see one that looks perfectly straight. 

Stage 5: Completing the trees. There are not many rules to painting aspens. Their shapes, markings, colors and values are consistently inconsistent. So much depends on lighting, location and season. This was so much fun, I'm going to have to paint more of these.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Portrait Of A Little Boy: Grant No. 2

This week I am attending the annual Portrait Society of America Conference near Washington D.C. It's a time to gather with hundreds of like minded portrait artists, nationally and internationally, to listen, learn and be inspired. I'm loving every minute of it. Tomorrow will be another full day, but before this day ends, I want to share another portrait that I completed before I left my studio.

I was asked to paint little Grant's portrait twice. Every painting presents new challenges regardless of who the subject is or how many times I have painted him. I enjoy it all.
20 x 16, Oil on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson (c) 2014

Stage 1: Sketching the figure with a thin wash of Burnt Umber and mineral spirits.

Stage 2: Painting his face.

Stage 3: Painting the shirt. Grant's blue shirt was striped but before I could add that detail, I blocked in the solid blue as well as the blue underpainting of his pants and his mother's skirt.

...and then added the stripes in a lighter blue value.

Stage 4: Painting his hands. One of the endearing aspects to this composition is Grant's hand holding on to his mother's. This creates a connection that speaks of love and trust between a mother and son. The mother then becomes part of the story in this painting by the gentle presence of her hand.

Stage 4 continued: I blocked in Grant's hand that was linked to his mother's.

Stage 5: Completing the hands.

Stage 6: Blocking in the background with solid shapes of color.

Stage 7: Completing the background.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Little Girl Portrait: Adele Maria

When I was a little girl, I drew people. As I grew older, in elementary school and then later in junior high and  high school, all I ever wanted to do was draw or paint people. Even though I have since expanded my subject matter, when I have the opportunity to draw or paint a person or group of people, I feel like I have gone back to my first passion. Portraiture.
Adele Maria
20x16, Oil on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson (c)2014
Stage 1: The composition. Drawing a subject free hand, with paint, is a good exercise for the eyes. The more one does it, the more confident and accurate one gets. I lightly painted in the lines of Adele for this painting using my usual thin wash of burnt umber and mineral spirits. Making adjustments and erasing unwanted lines is easy with a clean cotton cloth. 
Stage 2: Blocking in the colors of the face. With a #8, filbert brush, I began placing all the major color shapes on her face. At this point I did  not worry about blending yet.
Stage 3: Completing the face. Once I have all the main colors down, I blend and add more color as needed. At this point, I also painted in the front part of her hair so that working with the edges where the hair meets her face would be easier.
Stage 4: Completing her hair and headband.
Stage 5: Painting the background. With this very simple composition I thought it would be fun to add a little interest to the background by using large, dramatic strokes of thick paint.
Stage 6: Blocking in the coat. When blocking in the shape of this coat, I focused on the lights and darks.
Stage 7: Completing the painting. Painting this coat was fun and challenging. While using ample paint, I tried to communicate its thick, soft texture while keeping it simple at the same time. There was a lot of reflected color in this white coat: yellow, blue, purple, pink, green and gray along with various shades of white.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Portrait Of A Little Boy: Grant

After painting Adele's portrait, Grant's was a completely different palette of colors. His beautiful blue eyes and golden hair complimented his blue shirt. As I did with Adele's painting, Grant's background was a nod toward the season he was born in. Autumn. Grant is a lively two year old who is always on the go. I wanted this portrait to portray his energy and enthusiasm for life.

14 x 11", Oil on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson (c) 2014

 Stages 1 and 2: Drawing and blocking in. After loosely painting in Grant's features with a thin wash of burnt umber mixed with mineral spirits, I began blocking in the eyes and then the face, adding hints of color as I went.
Stage 3: Completing the face and hair. After his head was completed I blocked in Grant's hands. In this initial stage, my focus was on getting the proportions accurate. When working from reference photos it is important to remember that the camera lens will exaggerate and disproportion limbs that are close and far away.
Stage 4: Painting Grant's hands. I painted just a small portion of the shirt to make sure I had the color correct next to his skin and then used that same blue in the highlights.
Stage 5: Painting the shirt. When painting a shirt with a pattern such as this, my goal is to give just enough information to portray that it is a striped shirt without making it too busy and distracting.
Stage 6: Painting the background. Though I wanted the background to hint of autumn, I didn't want it to distract from Grant. I had background reference photos to pick and choose from and so I chose just a few of these simple, tall grasses painted softly into the golds and browns.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Portrait Of A Little Girl: Adele

Adele was a delight to paint. She was born in the winter and so I thought it would be fun to place her in a winter setting. We took her outside and captured the afternoon light which was gentle on this January day. There was contrast everywhere with this little subject: Adele's smooth, dark hair next to her white, furry coat...her large dark eyes against her light, peach colored skin.

16 x 20", Oil on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson (c) 2014
Stage 1: Sketching in the composition freehand with a thin wash of paint. In a portrait, my greatest challenge every time is to capture the subject's likeness at this stage instead of later when I'm painting. It's all about problem solving. Though it's hard for me to do, I try to force myself to slow down, take my time and draw my lines as accurately as possible. It's also a great exercise in training my eyes to draw what I see instead of what I think I see.
 Stage 2: Blocking in the shapes with a thin underpainting. Similar to what I would do if I were painting from life instead of a photograph, I brush in a thin layer of paint across her features to get a feel for her likeness. I study everything and make adjustments if neccessary. And then, while this thin layer of underpainting is still wet, I mix my paints and begin blocking in her eyes. From her eyes I apply the skin color. 
Stage 3: Painting her face.
Stage 4: Painting her hair and blocking in her headband.
Stage 5: Completing the headband and applying the underpainting of her hands. I liked her headband; it added to the composition but at the same time I didn't want it so detailed that it took the attention away from her eyes.
Stage 6: Completing her hands. I really enjoyed including her hands in the composition, they were so cute and chubby. Plus, they encourage the viewer's eyes to move around the painting, from one hand to the other and then back to her face. I also liked that her uplifted hands were individually framed in white by the coat's sleeves. I painted this small portion of coat sleeves next to her hands while the paint was still wet so that I could soften the edges of both her hands and the sleeves and not have to struggle with dry edges later.
Stage 7: Painting her coat. I blocked in the major shapes and values. It was great dressing Adele in this white coat. The contrast of color as well as texture between the coat and her hair was just what I was looking for.
Stage 8: Completing the painting. The challenge I found with this coat was to paint just enough information (brush strokes and color) to make it look like the faux fur that it was without it looking too busy or detailed. 
Every composition presents its own challenges and in this painting I decided to keep the background simple so that it doesn't take the viewer's attention away from Adele.