It’s been awhile since I’ve been able to pick up a paintbrush or write a blog post.
My life took an unexpected turn last Thanksgiving when I took an emergency plane ride to Florida because my older sister had called saying she thought she was dying. Her blood tests showed this was true, she was in “imminent danger” of her blood clotting. Ah, but good ol’ Elise arrived, bringing some encouragement and cheer; my sister perked up and got stronger, strong enough to survive a major tumor surgery.
While not an easy time for our family, our Father answered our cries for healing and help. My sister lives! This is a painting blog so I won’t bore you with medical details, gruesome photos or tales about our subsequent exhaustion. I, too, have been recovering from the 24/7 days of nursing my sister. “Drama in Real Life” used to be my favorite part of Reader’s Digest magazine, but no longer. I’ve had enough “drama” to last my adrenals a long time! The stalwart souls who work in healthcare do a great service to the world…I have a lot of respect and gratefulness for many I’ve met and what I’ve learned over these past few months. I am also very grateful for the kind encouragement and help from friends far and near! Thank you so much!
And so, I return to my pursuit of the creation of fine art…
One of the best things about being an artist is that you can generally work ANYWHERE you happen to be. I didn’t bring much luggage with me – just two small carry-on bags – but I did pack my watercolor palette and some brushes. An art illustrator’s estate sale here in town provided me with some paper and then I was back illustrating a few weeks ago.
An old friend, Rebekah, asked awhile back if I’d paint her portrait with her beloved but recently deceased grandmother. I did so last year, in May. Then, last summer, news came that Rebekah’s grandfather was now ill, with advanced cancer. She then asked for another portrait by which to remember him. In this post, I’ll relate how my latest portrait revealed itself…
The Drawing – Laying a Foundation:
Scaling and drawing this small 14×10 1/4-sheet piece took about seven hours and because it’s hard on my eyes I did it in pieces, over several days. I wasn’t happy with Rebekah’s face at this point, but hoped to be able to improve her likeness with the addition of color and value.
I tend to feel some anxiety before beginning the application of paint. Perhaps this is because there is a process in getting to the intense concentration needed for mixing colors. I chose six colors with care and then began with the lightest areas of the work, in this case the background wallpaper, hands and faces. Once begun, this painting went very easily and it was fun to be in the groove again!
I hear from my northern friends that March brought some unusually warm temperatures. Here in Florida it’s been more than just warm. Because I needed natural lighting and couldn’t find a suitable location inside the house, I painted outside in the brilliant sunshine in both late morning and late afternoon/early evening. The early part of the day was too humid (and I was usually still catching up on sleep) and mid-afternoon was blisteringly HOT – 85 to 90 degrees. I set up a sort of “tent covering” with a sheet once, but it was awfully hot.
Their clothing was the next step. I wish I had used a more “painterly” watercolor style. Because of the heat it was difficult to even keep a wash going.
Working down the page, I painted Rebekah’s jeans. Thick cotton fiber provides worn spots and creases for highlights, needing lots of value changes and softening of edges. Windsor Blue-Red shade worked well because it is a staining color, which makes it easier to layer without the pigment shifting around. I also worked on Grandpa’s face and the clothing folds.
Then came Grandpa’s jeans, the piano and a mottled green carpet. The “peanut gallery” (my mom) was telling me that Rebekah’s left hand looked too large…I explained that this is because it was the closest hand to the camera and that it was not yet completed. Normally, I’d suggest painting what is lightest in value first, but I was impatient and painted the jeans before completing the shading on her hand.
Now I worked on value – adding darks – to jeans, the piano, etc. I’m left-handed so perhaps this is why I painted the right-hand side of the painting last.
Finally, I added in the right side of the furniture/piano, completed Grandpa’s hand – which is clenching the top of the piano bench, and painted his shoes. I believe there is a good likeness of each individual. Despite my time off from painting, somehow my brain seems to learn and grow with each portrait.
It’s done! Hopefully, this work for my friend, Rebekah, will bring her some comfort and fond memories of her dear Grandpa, who is missed by those who knew and loved him.
One of my Vermont painting students who played snowbird in Florida this winter offered me a ride home and so I’m hoping to head north in the next couple weeks, if all goes well with my sister’s continuing recovery. I have another commission request which I may begin before I leave. Until I blog again, I hope everyone has a wonderful week!
Love from your painting friend,
P.S. It is my longtime habit to choose a specific portion of scripture to add underneath my autograph…for this painting I chose Psalm 118 because I’ve turned to it frequently, due to my sister’s illness. Verse 17 was the verse that stood out for my sister, but here it is, in entirety:
1 O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: because his mercy endureth for ever.
2 Let Israel now say, that his mercy endureth for ever.
3 Let the house of Aaron now say, that his mercy endureth for ever.
4 Let them now that fear the LORD say, that his mercy endureth for ever.
5 I called upon the LORD in distress: the LORD answered me, and set me in a large place.
6 The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?
7 The LORD taketh my part with them that help me: therefore shall I see my desire upon them that hate me.
8 It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.
9 It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes.
10 All nations compassed me about: but in the name of the LORD will I destroy them.
11 They compassed me about; yea, they compassed me about: but in the name of the LORD I will destroy them.
12 They compassed me about like bees: they are quenched as the fire of thorns: for in the name of the LORD I will destroy them.
13 Thou hast thrust sore at me that I might fall: but the LORD helped me.
14 The LORD is my strength and song, and is become my salvation.
15 The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tabernacles of the righteous: the right hand of the LORD doeth valiantly.
16 The right hand of the LORD is exalted: the right hand of the LORD doeth valiantly.
17 I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the LORD.
18 The LORD hath chastened me sore: but he hath not given me over unto death.
19 Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the LORD:
20 This gate of the LORD, into which the righteous shall enter.
21 I will praise thee: for thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation.
22 The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.
23 This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.
24 This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.
25 Save now, I beseech thee, O LORD: O LORD, I beseech thee, send now prosperity.
26 Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the LORD: we have blessed you out of the house of the LORD.
27 God is the LORD, which hath shewed us light: bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar.
28 Thou art my God, and I will praise thee: thou art my God, I will exalt thee.
29 O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.