Friday, April 10, 2009

14th Painting - No, for real this time!

If you read my last post, you understand why this painting had to be done.

I spent Christmas, 2008 with my friend Tim and his family. It is his niece that was the subject of my 9th & 10th paintings. Both of her parents were there (along with Elizabeth of course). I had sent -via email - pictures of the completed paintings. They of course showed the ribbons. They told me how they had bragged about the paintings to friends. I was already feeling guilty about not giving the portraits to them. As usual, we took, everyone took, tons of photos.

A week or so went by and I kept feeling guilty. So I started looking at the Christmas photos. I found one that just spoke to me. I had to paint it. I had to try and capture the look on her face. I don't know what to call this look, it just was special to me. I'll show the reference photo so you see what I mean.

See? She has something definite on her mind!

So although during this time I was also working on what became the 13th painting (and my first commission), I started this one. I work in oils, so although I spent a lot of time on the 13th painting, I had to keep letting the paint dry, so I had time here and there to work on it. I also still took care of the elderly couple from my church, this took quite a bit of time as well. I mention these things because this one seamed to be pretty easy for me. In other words, not as much work. In some ways it is easier to paint something you care about then if you don't. I care about Izzy. I care about her parents. It sounds bad, but I really didn't care about the kids in the commission painting. So this painting was easier than that one for me. It went fairly quickly. Not as quickly as the 9th and 10th (3 weeks) but by the time I next saw the family (St Patrick's Day get together - they are Irish), I had the painting completed and I was much happier with it than the first two of them.

I have found that an old pizza box is just about the most perfect way of transporting paintings safely. So the morning of St Patricks Day, I arrived at the party with a pizza box in hand. It was a pot-luck type get-together, so I was immediately teased about bringing a pizza to St Paddy's day! I laughed and told them the real food was coming on my next trip into the house, put the box out of the way and went back out to the car. When I had finished unloading the car and had done my rounds of saying hello to everyone, I found Mary (Izzy's mom). I carried the pizza box over to her and she gave me a very strange look. I told her "I have something for you." She still had that puzzled look on her face, but followed me to a nearby table where I could put down the box and open it. I opened the box and looked at her face. It was priceless! She started shaking and then started crying! She yelled for her husband "Bob! Bob! Come in here! You have to see this!" Mary then through her arms around me and gave me a big hug! When Bob (her husband) came in he looked at it, looked at me, then looked again at the painting. Mary said " It's for us". He then gave me a big hug. They both said "thank you".

All day at the party, Mary kept calling people over to look at the painting. In fact, I believe she spent most of the day looking at it. I decided that day I had to keep painting. I loved the feeling that their reaction (and the reaction the owners of the 13th painting) gave me. It really is amazing to me that I can produce something that gives that strong of an impact to someone. So without any further delays, this is the 14th painting...

Just a quick note in regards to the addition of the chair in the finished photo. After I had been painting it for a while, I noticed I had the portrait too low on the canvas. For this reason I added the chair.

14th Painting - the reason behind it ... or 9th and 10th paintings.

To understand the why of the 14th painting you have to look back. Back to my 9th and 10th paintings.

Every October in the next town over there is a festival. This sleepy little town (Greenfield Indiana) really only has one claim to fame, J.W. Rieley, poet. The festival celebrates his life and achievements. He wrote around the turn of the last century and became very famous. In fact, he even wrote the poem Little Orphan Annie that inspired so many stories, plays and even movies.

Well, I'd been attending this festival for several years (really good food). But in September of 2008, I found out that during this festival they also have an art competition. I hadn't been painting long, but I really am extremely competitive, and just had to enter. So I found out the theme. It was based on one of many poems by Riley named "Our working girl". I'm not originally from here so I had no clue what the poem was about. I remember my first thoughts were "a hooker!?!" But the poem is about a girl who worked for Riley named Elizabeth, who made, according to him, the best custard pies.

As it turned out, I have a friend whose niece is a young girl named Elizabeth. I thought "perfect!!!" I emailed her mother (she lives a couple of hours away but I've met her many times) and described what was going on and asked if she would be willing to help. About a week later I received via email several photos of Elizabeth pretending to make a custard pie to use as reference material.

Keep in mind three things, #1 - I had never painted a portrait, #2 - I only had three weeks to paint one, and #3 - I generally hide in the background and don't participate in things that put me in center stage. So entering this contest was not my usual thing to do.

All of the reference photos had tricky angles, and because a flash was used the color was not good either. I ended up deciding that 2 pictures were the most usable so these became my reference for the paintings. So I painted, and I painted, and then I painted some more.

I take care of an elderly couple from my church who a year early had been nearly killed in a car accident so they do not drive anymore. During this three weeks, I was still taking care of them. Any chance I had though, I painted. The night before the paintings were due, I put the last stroke on each painting. I would have kept adjusting things but I ran out of time.

The morning they were due, it took a bit of work to find out where the competition was being held. Most of the festival was "downtown" but it turned out the competition was at a nearby park. When I got to the park, it was NOT clearly marked where you were suppose to go. I remember thinking "I've worked so hard, and now I can't find where I am suppose to go! This is just not right!" But eventually I saw someone else with some paintings go into a small building. I got my paintings out of the car and took them in. I was so nervous. I think I stuttered when I asked if this was the place. I handed in my paintings, my fee and the entry form, and left.

I don't know how other artists feel, but I become very attached to my paintings. I am even a little sad when I complete them. Kind of like when a child grows up and moves out. So I felt like I was leaving a small child with strangers. This of course made my case of nerves even worse. At this point, I wasn't even thinking about he competition any more, I was thinking about, in detail, every bad thing that could possibly happen to my paintings while they were in someone else's hands!

A few days later the festival started. We of course started with the "downtown" area where the food was. (Did I mention there is great food there?) After we had looked around and eaten our fill, I got up my nerve to go check out the art area. I hadn't wanted to look like the competition was too important to me, so I didn't even mention going to check it out until we had seen everything else.

We looked around at everyone's art. I tried to look interested in what others had accomplished, but I really just wanted to see my paintings. Then I found the first of the 2 paintings. It hung on the wall with a ribbon attached too it! I couldn't believe it! It said 3rd place! I was so excited I almost screeched! Then I saw my other painting. It too had a ribbon! Honorable mention! Wow! (I think I was jumping up and down about this time but I'm not sure.)

During the painting of these portraits, I assumed I would give them to the mother as a way of saying "thank you" after the competition. I did not consider how attached I would become to them. My first 2 portraits, and both had won ribbons! So as you are probably deducing, I did not give the paintings to Elizabeth's mother. They, along with the ribbons, are hanging in my house. I felt guilty about not giving the paintings to Elizabeth's mother. So the 14th painting is of Elizabeth, that yes, I did give to the mother. My next posting will be on the actual 14th painting.

These are the paintings:

BTW - I was later told it is not possible to do one portrait in 3 weeks, not to mention 2, so I feel that although they are not what I will ever feel as my best work, they will always be special to me!