Friday, March 20, 2009

13th painting

The 13th painting in the count down is my first commission painting. It is a good thing I'm not superstitious!

Right about Thanksgiving 2008, an elderly lady from my church approached me and requested I paint her daughters favorite photo. The children are now 18 & 20, but it still remains her favorite. In fact, she has made it clear that if the house were to ever catch fire, save the photo first!

I was extremely flattered that the woman asked me to paint the portrait. It is only the 3rd portrait I have painted so I was also extremely nervous. What responsibility! What if she/ they don't like it? Could I do it???

I was so excited I agreed before I even saw the photo. I don't think I will agree to a price without seeing the photo again. - you live and learn-

When I received the reference photo I was reminded the value of the photo to the Mama. In the past, every reference photo I used ended up covered in paint! Nothing like adding a bit more pressure! I handled this worry by going to Kinko's and making a scan of the photo to use as my general reference photo, and not using the real one until I needed to get the colors just right. I kept the original under glass and fully protected.

Besides just being my 3rd portrait this was a very challenging one. Tons of shades of white, not to mention the face tones or the difficult angels. And I wont even go into painting the wicker!

I worked on this painting for months. Several times during the painting process I became discouraged. More than once I even thought "Man! You suck!" But I continued. After all, I agreed to do this. I checked around and found out most people who paint portraits take several months to finish. I believe the average is around 4 months so I decided I OK with the time it was taking.

On February 28th I posted it on Wetcanvas and several people gave some input which improved it. After looking at something for so long, sometimes you cant see it anymore. You know that old saying "you can't see the forest through the trees"? Well, its true!

Besides the critique, I also received much encouragement and praise for the portrait. To say I needed it is probably the understatement of the year. Among the praise, a few people even compared me to Norman Rockwell!!! I know he is much better than I am, but still wonderful to hear! I was even told that to "not to exploit my gift would be a waste..."!!! Also that I really should enter some major competitions!!! This flattered me immensely, also scared me. How could I enter competitions when I had such trouble with this painting, and it took so long?

When I corrected the things pointed out, I emailed a photo of the painting to both the mother and grandmother. Their response was incredible! Very very happy with it!!! I'll even quote her (the Mama) "WOW!!!!!!! Awesome........... God gave you a great gift. I've never seen a painting this good outside a museum, and I'm not exaggerating.Praise God that He gives us gifts though out our lives that we never see coming and they are more than we ever hoped or imagined. TRUE JOY from GOD knowing He gave you the gift and in using the gift you know you are right in His will were you should be. I cant thank you enough for painting my children, the painting i will cherish all my life.God Bless You and Thank You Again"

Now, I don't believe the painting is museum quality for even a second, but I am very encouraged and happy she likes it!

A painting needs to dry for about a month before the first coat of varnish can be applied, so it needed drying time before delivery was an option. I informed the Mama about this. I also told her that after a year the painting needed to receive it's final coat. The first week in March I returned the original reference photo to the grandmother. This was such a relief! -The grandmother later told me that she accidentally wrinkled the photo before returning it to the mother. This may sound bad, but I was happy it didn't happen while in my possession!-

So here is the reference photo:

And the finished painting:

The grandmother lives in the same small town I do. The Mama lives about an hour away. Last week the mother came to her mother's house for a visit. I took the painting over there for her to see. She started crying and gave me a big hug! Maybe it was worth the stress after all!

12th painting

I painted "Winter Cardinals" (12th painting) from a reference photo supplied by the generous people at Wetcanvas. The site provides a generous reference photo area. My first draft really was pretty flat (no depth). But with help and incite from its members I think I improved it. This is the final painting. I think I captured the depth of the leaves, I realize the bird still needed some work, but I called it done.

I later came back to it. I truely bothered me that the bird just didnt look right. Yes, I am obsessive. I'm now much happier with it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Count Down From 100

In the beginning God created light...then a long time later convinced me to paint. I'll explain.

Last May my pastor gave a wonderful sermon (he usually does, but this one was special to me). The sermon was on God's gifts. I had no clue what my gifts were, so that night I said a prayer asking that he let me know what mine were. I also asked him to be clear because I am not that bright, so something subtle would not work.

Well, it wasn't long when I kept having this urge to paint. Not just paint, but paint with oils. I never considered being an artist. My entire list of art classes includes 1 art class back in high school. That might not sound bad to you, but let me tell you, high school was a long, long time ago. Even with my prayer this did not make sense to me. So I continued to fight this urge. I tried to ignore it - remember there is a reason I asked God not to be subtle. At the time I was not connecting the prayer and the painting. After about a month of this growing obsession, I went to the library and started checking out books and reading about it. This only made things worse. I started dreaming about painting. So I gave in and I looked into purchasing some oil paints and all the stuff you need. At this time, I knew I just didn't have it in my finances to get them. Oil paints are not cheap, not to mention an easel can be very expensive.

Up until this point, I had been making jewelry and selling it. One morning I woke up and had the Epiphany that I needed to sell all my jewelry making equipment and parts and that would allow me to paint. Please understand, I had not been making a living doing this, but I enjoyed it, so making the leap of faith was really a big deal.

So then I gathered everything up, took a bunch of photos, and listed everything in one big lot on Ebay. It did well. Much better than I anticipated. So I had enough for a basic painting setup (including an easel).

Next, I purchase all the paints, brushes, canvas and an easel and a how-to book on painting. This was about mid-July in 2008. I started at the front of the book painting the projects working my way back. The first one was a large bowl full of eggs. I had a very hard time with perspective. And I didn't understand why I couldn't make it look the way the artist in the book did. But after about a week of struggling, I produced a painting. Not a wonderful one, but a painting none the less. I was very excited and because I finished it on a Saturday, the next morning I took a picture of it and showed it to everyone at church. They were all very happy for me and encouraging. Looking back at the painting now I think they were all just being kind - but then their encouragement was all I needed to continue.

The next project was a slice of watermelon, then a coffee pot and cup, then a pepper mill, etc. etc. Each painting took me about a week, so after each one was completed, I would take a picture and show it to everyone at church the next week. After showing it around I would receive more and more encouragement. I did 8 paintings from this book. Each one better than the last. Each receiving more encouragement than the last.

This brings me to September of 2008. I live in a very small town. The next town over is the county seat. I new that every October Greenfield (the county seat) has a festival, but in September I found out they have a fine art show as part of this. (shows how into art I had been.) So with all of the encouragement I had received, I decide to enter. The theme was "our working girl". The theme was based on a poem by Jame Whitcome Rily. A poet from Greenfield at the turn of the century. He is the one responsible for writting "Annie" among others. The poem is about a girl name Elizabeth, who makes what he describes as the best custard pies. I have a friend who has a young niece named Elizabeth. She and her mother live a bit away from me but agreed to send some pictures I could use as reference pictures. In the 3 weeks I had before the paintings were due I painted 2 paintings of Elizabeth making pies. I received a 3rd place for one, and a Honorable mention for the 2nd.

Then one night my dog Bonnie was laying in the living room snuggling her bear. Yes she really does that. And we got a picture of her. This became my 11th painting. It turned out pretty good. Good enough several people declared I was an artist. I didn't know what to think of that, but it did encourage me.

Because of all the encouragement I received I decided to find out more about becoming an artist. I found a really great magazine called "The Artist Magazine". And then I found out it had a website called "Wetcanvas". I started visiting the web site and began learning more and more. The artists that visit this site are very friendly, encouraging, and have helped me improve in so many ways I can't begin to tell you. This is were I learned the theory of 100.

The theory of 100 is very simple. Paint 100 paintings, then decide if you are good or not. So that is were we are. I've now finished 14 paintings. This blog will follow the journey of the next 86. You are welcome to follow along.