This is by far the biggest monetary award I have earned. In addition, my painting was hung in a primo spot, next to the works of well established and much more successful artists! Considering a few years ago, one of my best animal portraits ever, was hung as an after thought over a thermostat, where no-one could find it, I have now experienced the best and the worst. It was a huge honor to be recognized. And it came at a time when I most needed the boost. It isn’t always about the money, but in this case, I can now afford a new point and shoot camera with both wide angle and telephoto lens. Many thanks OVAL, http://www.ohiovalleyart.org/exhibits-events/ky-national-wildlife-exhibit/ for including me in your exhibition!
Alan Woollett workshop: Speke’s WeaverRead More
Here is Preston the Welsh Corgi, 12x14" colored pencil on linen, my reference photos. This was a custom portrait created for the best of clients who expressly encouraged me to paint whatever made me happy; thus the unusual angle and wet fur. The client, myself and her two dogs, spent hours walking and photographing at two different locations, until I had many beautiful reference shots from which to choose. My art needs a story and Preston provided one when he unexpectedly followed his housemate, a Labrador Retriever, straight into the river. Corgis are all chest and no legs. Preston had never been beyond wading. He sank like a stone, then bobbed to the surface. The swimming technique, newly minted, added to the hilarity of Preston's alarmed expression, but he arrived safely to the water's edge soaking wet and disgruntled.
You know, this is the most fun I've had in months! And the most interesting part is it is a custom portrait, not something I'm doing for myself or a competition. This is a WIP of Preston, a very wet Welsh Corgi that just discovered that water can swallow you whole. During the photo shoot we took a stroll along the bank of The Little Miami, East Fork Branch. Preston followed his Labrador Retriever housemate straight into the river without a thought. He'd never been in water over his head. He sank like a stone, then bobbed up with an expression of pure shock! Pres isn't entirely sure water is to be trusted ever again! This piece will eventually be 12x14" Painted on lovely blue linen mat with CARAN d"ACHE Luminance, PRISMACOLOR and DERWENT COLOURsoft pencils.
The question of all questions: What makes good composition? How does one crop, punch color, add or delete elements in order to create a piece of art that will resonate? There are rules to composition, which I rarely think about at first. If a ref photo grabs my attention, there is probably something there worth trying. Later, as I start the project, I will think about rules, where to crop and so forth, but I have to be careful to not sterilize the inspiration right out. That initial reaction, the one that made me stop and look, what was that and how will it translate? Over the years, I've paid attention to how my art is received and learned from that. What draws the most attention? Rarely do I hear "I love this because it is so well executed." More often it's "I love that red," or "wow, it looks like a photo (which drives me crazy by the way. Why would anyone spend 6o hours of her life to simply copy a perfectly good photo?)
To break it down: color,value and a relatable story, are the three main elements to a successful image. Detail is used to support the theme not drive it. For instance, if you have ever watched the reality t.v. show THE VOICE, how often is the vocal run used to show off vocal ability? But if it is delivered without conviction and you can't hear the lyrics, it's just noise. In two dimensional art, if one does not manage to draw the viewer in with substance, what use are the details? On the other hand, taking the time and effort to render those details well, honors the idea. Don't skimp.
This is a very long blog entry. I imagine you are wondering what it has to do with this landscape photo. Simply put, the photo reaches into my soul. It is beautiful. The colors are rich, the shapes interesting and there is nice contrast. The message is simple. It calms me. I want to live in this image, where the only human touch is the evenly mowed field.
OK, you heard all my whining and complaining over my first covered bridge painting: how I shouldn't of done this- should've of done that, yadda-yadda! You will be shocked to know, that not only did it sell, but a photo of the finished piece on my cell phone, managed to procure a custom ordered rerun. This time, fall or winter and more than twice the size. Am I nuts? There is much to be said about the value of iconic scenery. Lets see if this time I will remember to do what I should do and leave off doing what I shouldn't.
When I was a small child visiting my grandparents at their seaside cottage, I spent many happy hours exploring the rocks that reached like fingers into the ocean. Those rocks held cupped in their crevices, the coming and goings of magical things. See the Hermit Crab dragging its stolen home, bumping and scraping across the rock floor, while glinting black mussels, periwinkles and barnacles occupy their own rock real-estate. A flash of movement as a baby crab with antenna eyes darts sideways to hide in a clump of seaweed. Shadows play and water sparkles as waterbugs and dragon flies skitter across the surface. I have never lost my my fascination for these places. Have you ever walked along a Maine shore line to see millions of periwinkles piled up along the tide mark? Periwinkle Pileup is a "child's" closeup view, its diminutive size only 4.5"X 9.25" It is painted with Prismacolor, Luminance, Derwent and Soho colored pencils with the occasional brush of spirits on linen mat.
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.
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.....