As I'm doing my usual Friday morning catch-up, it occurs to me that you might be interested in knowing a few things about me. You see me posting my art work fairly regularly on Facebook and my Pepper Portraits blog, but did you know that besides being a completely committed artist, I hold two part time jobs? Winning a few awards and getting published, does not guarantee a regular pay check. Nope, I go months sometimes without a sale. I'm married to a wonderful guy who pays most of the bills, but by no means makes enough money for me to do art 24-7. I have to at least cover groceries and vet bills, which with 2 older dogs and three cats, adds up, believe you me! So I continue to work as a vet assistant in a small animal veterinary practice. I've been working with vets since 2011- started in my 40's and still doing doggy yoga as I near 60. I feel like a thirty year old with no time to get old! My other job is a gallery portrait artist- picture framer -Girl Friday for a lovely little gallery, in a haunted brick building, in the small river town of Milford Ohio. There I teach portrait classes, frame picture, assist hanging shows and whatever else they might need of me.
12x20"Light fast colored pencil on linen mat board. This piece is created for an exhibition honoring the newly renovated Stonelick Covered Bridge in Clermont County Oh. The references are mine, taken while hiking both sides of the river on a lovely spring morning. I found the shadows and multicolored reflections in the river fantasy-like, the carmine red bridge playfully reflecting itself in the stream. Pure Walt Disney! Using Mineral spirit to spread color and layer values, I used q-tips, cotton balls and an old paint brush. To add detail and sharp contrast, I broke so many pencil points on the textured surface with my tick marks and fine line work, my studio looked like a colored pencil massacre. I often choose linen mat board as my surface because it allows me to add layer upon layer, much like an oil painting, starting with darks and ending with lights. Look closely and you will see the many colors used to build this river-scape.
Ha ha, Just kidding! My recent post of the "finished" commission was about two more full days and a lot of erasing away from being finished. My client was happy with first edition, but not completely. She asked me to make the bangs more "blonde" and soften the bags under the eyes. And if I didn't mention it before, she asked me to change her teeth a bit from the photograph. She never liked them. So this is what doing commissions is all about! And this is why contracts are a good idea. Changes take time. In this case though, I couldn't charge her for my extra efforts. The changes were too subtle. And the teeth were part of the initial agreement. Unfortunately, working this small, forced me to erase back almost all of the cheeks and face in order to lighten the bangs and find the correct over all values. Once completed, this little graphite drawing took as much time and effort as a full color 8x10"! It was very difficult, but worth the tricks learned. At one point I was terrified that I would have to start all over again. But, the Fabiano Artistico 150 wt Hot Pressed paper, which was recommended by an amazing artist friend of mine Alan Woollett, turned out to be quite forgiving. So here is the really, not kidding, for sure, finished 7.5x 8.5 graphite commission of a small girl.
This little portrait (7 x 8.5") was created from a 3.5 x 5" vintage photo. I don't normally consent to doing such a small human portrait, especially from a client provided reference. I prefer to photograph the subject myself. It allows me to see the subject clearer. What is her attitude about things? Does she have a sense of humor? From the many photos I take, I will be able to make compositional choices that allow me to say something specific about the subject. With one client reference I have nothing but a 2 dimensional image. There is no way to know the subject. Hence I meticulously copy, as best I can, the photo. This kind of interpretation leaves very little, if any room for creativity. I depend on the medium and the character of my technique to make the difference. Though, I carefully warn the client that to work this small makes it difficult to nail likeness, that all it takes is one tick of the pencil to completely change an expression, does she hear me? Once the piece is finished and a photo sent off for approval, I sweat it out. Did I communicate well; did I capture whatever it is the client sees as likeness or will I have to start over again? Weighing challenge against risk, did I quote the proper price? One could say, that each time I do a commissioned piece I learn something new. That is invaluable right? I've been doing portraits for 15 years. It should be effortless by now, (smiley face with tongue in cheek and wink.) Good thing I have another commission to get to!
Looking through reference material, I came across a series of photos taken in Cape May New Jersey and immediately thought "scale of justice." The scale is associated with Anubis. The idea of a guardian protector of the dead, who by weighing the heart, determined a soul worthy of Heaven or Hell, originated with the Egyptians and was later adopted by the Greeks, who named the God Anubis. In this image, two helmet-shaped, Horseshoe Crabs, deemed to be living fossils and estimated to be 450 million years old are held at arm's length by the beautiful yet indifferent young woman, who hides her slight amusement behind dark glasses. The white dress reminds us that our fate is yet to be determined.
Anubis is painted /drawn with Prismacolor pencil French Grays 10%-90%, black Verithin and some solvents. It measures roughly 39.5x 36". The photograph shows up blue at the bottom. This is some kind of reflection that I haven't figured out how to omit. Stay tuned.....
Something I'm working on... Anubis. So far 32"x24" on Crescent Rag mat board with Prismacolor french grays. My ref photos taken in Cape May NJ. I have always been fascinated by Horse Shoe Crabs. They used to litter East Coast beaches, where I spent many happy summers as a kid. Creepy and a little like Darth Vader's helmet, they are ancient. We are a mere aggravation on their long, long, time line. The idea of this figure as Anubis, (you might want to look this up- the god Anubis, often depicted as the scale of justice, decides who gets into heaven or hell,) has been percolating in my head for three years. A disadvantage of a back-burner, (forgive the cooking metaphors- I didn't eat breakfast,) a slow cooked idea, can go many different directions. It can be simple and to the point like a good crusty bread, multilayered like marinara, or tricky like pie crust. Then I get it started on a new piece of board and see possibilities start poking holes and burning the edges of my plans.
Please allow me to toot my horn! "Departing" is accepted into the Manifest Gallery DRAWN exhibit. 36 pieces form 27 artists chosen out of 1188 entries by 394 artists. Opening reception April 17th. This is a big deal for me. Manifest Gallery is an amazing non profit organization that shows and promotes very current work through its publications as well as exhibitions. Acceptance into DRAWN makes me feel relevant. And believe me when I tell you, it has been a long windy road to arrive at this point!!