The first five paintings of Portraits of American Teens were a perfect fit for The Warehouse Theatre’s lobby. Here are some photos from my artist reception. Had a great time meeting new Greenville folks and catching up with friends. What a nice surprise when my oldest daughter who lives out of town showed up for the reception.
Packed up the painting series “Portraits of American Teens” yesterday for the first exhibit at the Warehouse Theatre. I hope my visitors don’t touch because the paint is still wet although all the hard work paid off. I finished the painting of Violet just in time. In fact, I had to hang the show on Monday and was still painting on Saturday and would have been painting on Sunday if it wasn’t Mother’s Day. Yikes!! Talk about cutting it close.
I think they look great in the space. Don’t miss the artist reception next Friday night, May 26th at 6 pm. Hope to see you there.
I am thrilled to be one of the accepted artists from 9 different southern states to be part of Artfields 2017. This was also the first year I applied, so it was doubly wonderful when I got the news. My painting “Francesca” will be exhibited in the Seven Monogram Boutique which is located at 130 East Main Street. If you don’t know about Artfields, it is one of the premier Art Shows in South Carolina to honor artists of the Southeast with a weeks worth of celebration, events and competitions from April 21st – 29th. It is held in a the small town of Lake City, where the whole town basically becomes a living gallery.
Hope you have time to check it out!
Grace is the fourth subject in my current body of work Portraits of American Teens. She is a young woman who I met through my daughter Megan when they took classes together at the Fine Arts Center. Although Grace is the typical teen who loves to laugh and goof around with her friends, this is not the side of her that struck me most and what I really wanted to capture. Rather, it was her strength of character, work ethic and just like her name says, her grace.
I discovered these personality traits during our first chat session at Barnes and Noble where I sat down with Grace, her mom and her little sister. We talked about a number different things including school, dance, family and faith. I learned that she is a very dedicated dancer and has been dancing since a very early age. Dance was actually a family affair as she and her sisters spent hundreds of hours in the studio each year. It only made sense to do a photo shoot in this environment.
When we took the photographs, Grace’s little sister came along which helped immensely. Friends and family members sometimes assist me during these photo shoots as they can interact and engage the sitter in a more personal way allowing me to capture a more authentic view.
My biggest challenge during the shoot was the lighting. The studio was off campus from the main dance building where I originally thought we would be. The main studio, where I wasn’t allowed to shoot, had clerestory windows and white walls. This studio was dark, not very well lit and had some really weird yellow paint on the walls. So what do I do in these situations? I change my original thoughts and adapt. Even though the location was different than I originally intended, in the end, I really liked that strange yellow. It added some interesting contrasts to the cool color of her skin and leotard. Even though the location of the shoot changed, I was happy with the end result in the painting. I think I was successful in capturing what I was after in telling Grace’s story.
I thought I would take a break from posting about my project “Portraits of American Teens” and show you my most recent commission, especially since it’s a departure from the oils I have been working on. This piece was done primarily with colored pencil with a little pastel.
Gavin and Cole are twin brothers who live in Michigan and this portrait was commissioned by their grandmother for her husband’s 70th birthday. I just delivered it a few days ago to another happy client. I always feel very blessed when I am able to create a piece of art that has so much meaning for families. It truly is special to be able to share in their experience. I was also able offer a giclee of the portrait to pass on to another member of the family.
The pose was perfect for capturing the boy’s personalities as well as their special relationship. Cole, the twin on the right has cerebral palsy. Gavin’s arm around Cole captures the special bond that exists, yet also portrays Gavin as Cole’s protector.
For my primarily colored pencil pieces, as this one is, I adopted using pastels for my backgrounds after participating in a workshop by fellow portrait artist, Judy Carducci. She does amazing pastel portraits and uses a sponge to wet the pastel after blocking in the back. I have experimented using various sponges and sometimes big brushes which add cool textural and abstract effects.
Finally getting around to uploading this painting, although it was finished months ago.
The sculpture was a blast to paint and I have never used so much yellow ocre in my life! Throughout the process, I was surprisingly having to bump up the intensity. Then came adjustments to the orangeness (is that a word?) of the skin tone on her right side, viewer’s left. Yellow, more yellow. . . then more yellow orange.
Compositionally, I love how the sculpture cradles her body and also contains some interesting abstract value shapes. The development of hard and soft edges allowed me to pull the focus to the front of the sculpture and to Francesca who was contained within.
I hope I captured a few things that struck me most about this lovely young woman. Francesca seemed to be wise beyond her years. She was comfortable in her own skin. Even though she was unsure of where her interests would lead her, she looked to the future with anticipation. If only we all could have such an easy going nature! I would also describe her as creative, friendly, and poised.
Last I knew, she was living in the state of Massachusetts, although I hope that some day our paths will cross again. It would be lovely to know where life has taken her.
The following paragraphs are written by Robert Genn and shared from his twice weekly newsletter. For those of you who are not familiar with his work, he is an amazing painter and writer.
Not being in the habit of making comments on international affairs, I asked my American friend Elmer Waite what he thought of former U.S. President George W. Bush’s portrait paintings of world leaders. “Everyone,” said Elmer, “no matter how exalted or humble, has a right to the humility that comes with trying to paint portraits.”
Looking at some of the collection currently on show at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas, Texas, I couldn’t help but notice our Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. To my eyes, Bush’s rendition is a dead ringer for the guy who rents us canoes on the Yukon river. To his credit, George tried hard for the niceness of the Harper smile, but in real life Harper’s is a forced little one that happens more toward the outer ends of his lips and nearer to elections. Bush missed that completely.
Portraiture is a difficult business. Bush might have benefited from pointers from any of the several hundred professional U.S. portraitists who, I’m sure, would have put down what they were doing if they knew who was calling. Pointers might include: How to get the spaces between facial features and allot proportions. The high importance of silhouette in getting a likeness. The value of soft and hard edges in portraits. How to use moderate caricature in serious portraiture. What to do about teeth. The pitfalls of working from photos, etc.
Feeling bolder about mentioning this stuff, I have to say that I also never discourage anyone, no matter how important, from getting started. The real payoff is in the doing, as Winston Churchill noted in his brief but insightful book, Painting as a Pastime. Churchill took up painting in 1914 and continued through wars and political ups and downs until his death in 1965. Bush has only been at his easel since leaving the Oval Office. If George happens to be reading this, I suggest it might be an idea to do some relaxed and more casual sketches–perhaps a hundred or two. Good luck. You never know.
I am getting near completing the painting “Francesca” and will be posting it soon.
In the meantime, here are recent photos taken of “Ethan” and “Megan”. I don’t know about most artists, but I find that after I sit with a painting, I usually find things I can improve. Both of these paintings called for changes to the background.
With Megan, I still wasn’t completely satisfied with how the composition was working and how your eye moved through the painting. After looking at it upside down, sideways and backward . . . . meaning I looked at it a lot, I decided to extend the dark of the tree down the right side and also darkened some areas in the grass toward the bottom of the painting. I think this allowed for two things, one of which turned out to be a happy accident. In trying to solve a compositional dilemma, I found that it also effected the mood of the piece. With the portrait of Megan, one of my goals was to allude to her anxiety, and by darkening areas I ended up reinforcing this idea. Compositionally I think it works better because the darks starting in the left hand corner lead you in a circle around the painting, up the left hand side and around to her face.
On the painting of Ethan, I made some minor changes. I removed the bleachers in the background and replaced it with a simpler landscape. I think the bleachers were a little too distracting. I have included before and after photos.
I am so excited to get started on this next painting because this girl really intrigues me! We met two weeks before she was scheduled to move to Massachusetts and despite her life being in flux, I found her to be both calm and accommodating. I envied her spontaneity as well as her go with the flow attitude: two qualities I have always admired in others but find difficult to exhibit myself. While chatting over coffee, Francesca was like an open book and filled me in about her life. She talked to me about her family, friends, pivotal moments of her life, as well as her influences, hobbies, character and personality. I started to form some loose ideas in my head about how to capture my impressions of this interesting, quirky, creative and confident girl. A week later we were out taking photographs and in a couple of hours we were done.
Francesca is an only child from a close-knit family. Her mother is Columbian and has extended family living here in the United States as well as Columbia. I learned that her very free-spirited nature is also very descriptive of her father, whom she admires and considers her best friend and one of her biggest influences. Having had the opportunity to travel, she has developed an appreciation for other cultures as well as gratitude for the opportunities she experiences as a citizen in the states. Francesca has lived in several areas of the country and it may have been the necessity to adapt to her new surroundings that has contributed to her outlook on life: one of openness, willingness to change and a desire to learn and experience new things. Some of her interests include circus performing, visual art, travel, writing, language and drama.