Friday, August 19, 2016

Filming a NEW Instructional DVD: "Creating Vibrant Skin Tones"

During the last weekend of July, I made the trek to Salt Lake City, UT to film a new instructional DVD with Bella Muse Productions. This production company is incredibly professional and they did a wonderful job! I'm looking forward to seeing the final result. You can sign up for their emails on their website to get updates on the DVD's release date.

Meanwhile, here are a few fun pics from filming.


A huge thanks to my beautiful model, Caitlin! She was absolutely wonderful to paint!



I so enjoyed working with Elizabeth Robbins, producer and artist extraordinaire. Here we are in front of her gallery in Ogden, UT.



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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Beauty in the Midst of Chaos

Lately my heart has been heavy. Everywhere I look, families, marriages, and nations -- are becoming divided and falling apart. I feel burdened with a weight I can't possibly bear, because it feels like there is nothing I can do to ease the pain or mend what is torn.

Through the pain I just keep painting. I paint because there is nothing else I can do, at this moment, besides pray. I remember why I am a painter, and most especially a portrait painter: because PEOPLE are what matter. Human beings, with all their flaws, selfish urges, and imperfections... and human beings, with all their strength, passion, beauty, and divine spirit. If only we could show each other unconditional love and respect... the true reflection of the Good and the Beautiful.

But we are flawed. I see it in myself every single day and I just paint on through, as if by painting I'll see the world (and myself) more objectively and somehow rise above the chaos. What is there to lose? It's just paint, and canvas, and time. Not time spent solving the world's problems, but solving little problems, one by one, in order to bring something of beauty to the table.

Enough rambling, though. Here are a few of my latest offerings.



"Study in Yellow," 6x6" - oil on linen panel


"Aspen Grove" (plein air, completed on the Deer Mountain Trail, Rocky Mountain National Park) - 12x9" - oil on linen panel 


"North Light Peonies," 9x12" - oil on linen panel

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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Oh Whatever... Just Paint What You Love

I had grand plans of hiking in the mountains over Fourth of July weekend, but instead my daughter came down with a cold and consequently, so did I. Thankfully, I still got some time to paint. So here were my holiday "fireworks," a sketch of some day lilies from our back yard.


"Day Lilies" - 10"x10" oil on gallery wrap linen


I painted these freely and without worrying whether or not they would turn out. I've been slowly learning that the best paintings are done with a positive assumption that they will turn out, no matter what bumps or hiccups they meet along the way.

I've also been re-learning to paint with my canvas and reference photo upside down when I'm doing studio work. Over the weekend I also finished this 12x16 studio piece of my sister in law sitting at her cherry grand piano. Lindsay has such a perfect face that sometimes it's hard to capture her likeness. By flipping the painting sideways and/or upside down, I was able to see her proportions more objectively and therefore get it right.


"Composing Thoughts" - 12x16" - oil on linen

These two paintings are both direct manifestations of subject matter/people/colors/etc. that I love. As hard as I try to objectively separate design from subject matter (see my last post), I simply can't. Perhaps that will still happen eventually, but I have an emotional connection to my paintings, and that's why I create them.

I'm just throwing this out there... but could this emotional connection be because I'm a woman? Take for instance the works of Richard Schmid and his wife Nancy Guzik. Both are world-class painters, whose styles are similar... but different. Richard is one of the people I credit with my choice to become a professional artist. But upon seeing Nancy's work, I happened to relate more to her paintings than Richard's. Why is that? Someone once told me, "Richard loves to paint, Nancy loves what she paints." There is a very important difference there, one which I relate to as a deeply emotional and relational being. Richard's paintings sing with panache and bravado - they test the very limits of what paint is capable of. Nancy's take you to a quieter place and render you breathless with their mastery of color and their sensitivity towards the subject. I relate more to Nancy. Neither are right or wrong... just different.

So as I've been trying to come to terms with what I'm learning from Quang Ho and the many powerful contemporary painters I've been fortunate enough to meet... I realize that I've forgotten what I have to bring to the table.

I don't want to paint like anyone else. I didn't choose this job for the money, fame, or to be in grand museums and written about in art books. I chose art because it's what I was meant to do, and I have a voice of my own... one that is unlike any other's and one that is only mine to share.

Yes, perhaps my work has a feminine touch to it that at its worst might be called indulgent and overly sentimental. But at its best it is sensitive, honest, and relatable... and don't human beings--especially during these trying times--need to relate to one another?

So, I continue the quest to make my artworks powerful and meaningful... while being true to the voice God gave me.  Fellow artists, consider this my encouragement to do the same. :-)
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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

On Plateaus, Abstraction, and Light Bulb Moments

Last month I participated in the Oil Painters of America national exhibition and convention. The fact that the OPA is celebrating their 25th anniversary made it even more of an honor to be on faculty. I felt like a bit of a hotshot, having taught a workshop that week and then painting in a group demo for the OPA... until I sat in on a landscape demo by master artist Kevin McPherson, and I realized anew that I know nothing! His demo was so abstract, my brain couldn't wrap itself around the idea of what he was doing. He started with an informal grid (based on the ideas of Andrew Loomis), then started dropping pieces/shapes of color into the grid. He had a photo reference, but was composing his painting based on the grid, rather than by copying the photo. It took a long time before it started looking like anything, which would drive me absolutely insane if I were to try such a method. Still, he insisted the grid could be used for anything, even portraits! (Okay, Kevin...)


Kevin McPherson starting his demo at the OPA

When I got home, I tried starting a painting this way, and quickly realized I was not up to the task. There is something about my way of thinking that is just not able to grasp abstraction just yet. But I'm fiercely determined to learn!

Andrew Loomis' "Informal Subdivision"

Thus started my month-long (and still going) artist's block. Yes, I admit it. I'm in the middle of a plateau.  And it's because I've been challenged to take my art to the next level by thinking in the abstract.

Back in college, freshman year, I was assigned to do an "abstract painting" inspired by a representational subject. I balked at the project and told my professor outright that I disliked abstract art. "It just isn't my style!" I said.

"How old are you?" he asked.

I hung my head. "18."

"You HAVE no style!"

Begrudgingly I completed the assignment and it was quite clear that I hated every second of it. In fact, it ended up in the dumpster at the end of the semester. To be fair, we weren't given very clear directions as to what "abstract" meant within the confines of this assignment. I had no idea what "abstract" meant besides the fact that most abstract art, by my limited knowledge, was stuff I disliked... i.e., it "didn't look like anything."

Later, my graphic design professor (though he still gave me an A in the class) told me my weakness was design... I was too simple and straightforward most of the time and had trouble thinking outside the box. I brushed him off, thinking my intuition would become stronger and carry me through. Fallacies of youth, my friends. That attitude has been my downfall ever since. I am finally seeing it now... 13 years after beginning my career as a serious artist.

What I didn't understand was that even the most representational works of art start with an abstract foundation, that is, the abstract value pattern. I've talked about this before, but I'm still learning to wrap my head around it completely and own it in my work.

And now that I'm a Denverite (Denvertonian? Denverer? oh, forget it), I have the amazing privilege of painting alongside a new friend and mentor, Quang Ho. He is leagues ahead of me in knowledge, experience, and skill. Quang has challenged me to break things down to their most basic visual elements: light and dark. Let go of subject matter, let go of sentiment, let go of ideas for new paintings. Just be OPEN to whatever I find interesting, and run with it. Don't care what anyone else thinks. Just play with paint and capture a good design first and foremost. Some of the things he's told me I'll be chewing on for a while: "There is no incomplete shape. You can play with expressive edges and lost and found, but nothing should be incomplete." Another thing that seems so simple, yet is something I have neglected in my work: "Find the pattern of light and dark. Stay true to the pattern." The pattern should be interesting and strong - in the hierarchy of painting, that comes first - that is what draws the viewer in. Not the subject matter, not even the colors or the edges. The light/shadow pattern. I don't know why it's been taking me this long to see it.

I haven't had this feeling in over five years, when I took a workshop with Clayton J. Beck, III that changed my perspective on painting forever. It's that feeling like my whole world is being overturned and every notion I ever had about painting is false and needs to get thrown out the window. It is terrifying and exhilarating, and it needs to happen every once in a while in order to grow. I know I can be a better painter, and it's driving me bonkers!

I haven't been creating as much in 2016. I could blame it on my two year old and the fact that she is more demanding now (this is VERY true!), or on my husband's time-consuming job and the fact that I don't get much time to paint even on weekends. But when I look within, and am really honest with myself, I can see that it's because I've hit a plateau. I know when my art is "on" , and when I'm making progress because of things I've learned. I can tell when the light bulb turns on and I hit my stride. I haven't had that for months. I've been so busy trying to "finish" paintings that I haven't allowed room for growth. Growth is painful and no fun, and because my painting time has been so limited, I've been mentally restrained by a preconceived notion that I have to finish a painting and make it pretty, every time. I've also not allowed myself the freedom of thinking completely abstract when it comes to design, without regard to subject matter.

So when will my light bulb come on? When will I have my breakthrough? I feel like I'm such a slow learner, even though I know I have what it takes. Well, maybe it's not going to happen in an instant. Maybe it's already started with the loss of my sketchbook and all the old idealogies that are in there. I want to be an open book, an empty sponge, and doggedly persistent even when I fail. I want to absorb everything the great artists are saying and manifest it in my work. In short, I need to heed good advice, and stay hungry. :-)

It sure would be nice to become successful really quickly, to be winning awards left and right, and to be making more money. But what my art needs right now is a reset button. I was getting over-confident, sloppy, haphazard with trying to finish paintings in time for competitions or to sell. I lost a pure objective. Now it's about the art again - making work that is truly excellent. Thank you, Quang, for being kind enough to tell me what I needed to hear!



Above: Crazed notans I did based on the setting below, one day after a deep discussion with Quang on the meat and bones of painting. Just trying to see the light/shadow pattern regardless of the cute kiddo in the bottom left hand corner! (Also, note the dirty dishes. These days, it's art or housework. Not both!)


Below: I highly recommend these two videos by Quang Ho. He is a great artist and teacher!




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Monday, June 20, 2016

Intro to Finishing a Studio Painting (part 1 of 3) with Anna Rose Bain

So... ever since painting that demo of Jessie at my workshop last month, I've been chipping away at a large studio painting (42x24") of that same pose and setting. Here's an informal clip on the inspiration behind this piece. I'll have a couple more videos after this highlighting the finishing touches!



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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A Week in Dallas, May 9-16

This past month has been a bit crazy, but I thought I'd share about my trip to Dallas last week for a two-day portrait workshop and the Oil Painters of America 25th anniversary convention and exhibition. Since Dallas is my former home, I jumped at the chance to go back. It was a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with old friends and painting students; I was pleasantly surprised to make lots of new friends, too.

Steve, Cece and I all piled in the car and drove the 12 hours from Denver to Dallas. We broke it up over two days, of course, and were relieved to discover that Elmo apps on the iPad were the perfect distraction for our car seat-imprisoned toddler. She is such a good kid - she really did great on the road trip and did even better all week as Steve whisked her off to the zoo and other fun adventures. 

My workshop was from May 10-11 and focused on alla prima portraits. The second day was especially fun, as my longtime friend and art muse, Jessica Dahl, posed in a purple wig adorned with flowers. I found that Gamblin's Radiant Violet straight out of the tube worked perfectly for those bright purple highlights in the hair! Great fun was had by all, although probably moreso by me... my students looked a little shell shocked by the end of the workshop, but they always do, because I can't stop myself from overloading them with information. Painting is such a difficult but rewarding thing - I hope I managed to empower my students rather than overwhelm them! :-) 

With the lovely Jessica Dahl and my finished demo of her. I hope to do a larger painting of her soon, featuring this delightful costume.


For those of you who have wanted to study with me but couldn't make it to a workshop, I should give you the heads up: I have two instructional DVDs coming out soon. One will be released later this month ("Portrait of Kia"), and the second will be professionally filmed in Ogden, UT, at the end of July with Bella Muse Productions. I'm thrilled to be working with them and am excited to say that this particular DVD will focus entirely on creating beautiful skin tones. That's what all my students want, so that's what I'm going to teach. Stay tuned!

My awesome workshop group! Thanks for the warm welcome back to Dallas, everyone! Hopefully we'll do this again next year. :-)

After the workshop ended, OPA events commenced! Here is where my week got interesting. On Thursday, OPA attendees had the opportunity to paint together at White Rock Lake for a plein air competition. I didn't compete, but I decided to paint there along with everyone else and enjoy some comradery and fresh air.

However, once I'd had some time to visit with friends and finally get down to the lake to choose a painting spot, I happened to be a bit isolated from everyone else. I set up in front of the local gang of ducks and geese, who are moving models but do tend to stay in one general area (so a fun challenge!). They were quite entertaining as they honked and bellowed at each other and sometimes wrung each other's necks. I was so immersed in my painting that I did not realize I was becoming a victim. One of my artist friends came over to me and expressed concern that my car may have just been broken into; she had heard glass shattering and witnessed a bright red SUV take off fast from the scene. I hurried over to my car, which was only about 100 yards from where I had been sitting. Yes indeed, some local thug smashed in the back window of my car and stole my purse. I had hidden it on the floor under a bunch of stuff, but the thief must have (a) been drawn to my out of state plates and (b) been peering in for a while to see what he could take. It took me a moment to realize what had happened, but there it was - shattered glass everywhere, my purse gone. I had spent seven years in Dallas without an incident, parked at and walked around White Rock Lake with my best friend dozens of times, and now... this. ID, credit cards, lots of miscellaneous items -- gone, but what made me tear up as I came to the realization that it was probably gone forever, was my sketch diary. That little book contains sketches, notes, and painting ideas that go back at least five years.

I spent the better part of that day dealing with glass repair, cancelling credit cards, and filing a police report, but I have been able to see this entire thing in a positive light from the beginning, and I'll tell you why.
- Cecelia was safe with her grandparents. Her car seat wasn't even in the car, so no shattered glass to clean up there.
- My husband was in town and was able to come to my aid immediately (he had a rental car, another blessing that we didn't expect).
- I was surrounded by friends. I am so thankful to my friend Andrea for telling me about the incident and sharing what she saw to the police, who will hopefully catch this guy.
- I didn't have anywhere else I had to be that day.
- The glass company estimated it would take 24 hours to fix the window; they got it done within one hour, during which time Steve and I went and got a beer. :-)
- My expensive DSLR camera was sitting right next to my purse on the floor. The thief did not take it. Also, the thief did not attempt to open the trunk, which contained expensive lighting equipment and many of my paintings.

Since the thief has my ID and my business cards, by now they ought to know who I am. If you (yes you, the person who broke into my car) happen to read this, please know this: I forgive you. What you did was wrong and inexcusable, but I forgive you. Your life is a series of events, defined by choices that you make. I don't know anything about you except that your choices have led to crime. I hope that you choose a different path. I don't care about the purse (as pretty as it was! :-( ) or the money, or the stuff. But if you have any kindness in your heart at all, I hope you'll return my sketchbook to me.

And if I never see that sketchbook again, well... this is a great opportunity to start fresh. Out with the old ideas, opinions, and "rules" that have worked their way into my psyche. My heart and mind are open to whatever inspiration comes my way.

That being said, the rest of the weekend was wonderful.

The OPA National Exhibition opened on Friday night at Southwest Gallery with a packed house. I enjoyed visiting with artists and collectors, and viewing all the wonderful paintings in person.

 My painting "Among the Hydrangeas" in the OPA National Show at Southwest Gallery, hanging below a gorgeous piece by TJ Cunningham (Photo courtesy of Pamela Nichols)


Visiting with my good friend Michael Mentler, who shows his work at Southwest Gallery, and conveniently lives in Addison (where all the events were taking place this weekend)
Erica, one of my best friends in the whole world, parted with her sweet newborn baby for a couple of hours to come see the show! :-)

On Saturday, I had the honor of participating in "Art in Motion," a two-hour portrait demo, alongside Aimee Erickson and Suzie Baker. I greatly admire and look up to both of these artists, and we had a great time painting together. Our model, Dave Malin, was also an absolute joy to paint.

Photo courtesy of the Oil Painters of America FB page

Photo courtesy of the Oil Painters of America FB page

Photo courtesy of the Oil Painters of America FB page

Photo courtesy of Marc R. Hanson

I'll have a better picture of the finished demo on my website soon; meanwhile, here is a close-up show of the painting with a fun color I tried for the first time: Cobalt Teal by Michael Harding. It was very highly pigmented but mixed beautifully with all the other colors, including alizarin crimson for some gorgeous purples in the skin tones. Give it a try! 



So... after a long road trip home, I am back in the studio and excited to get some real time at the easel. I'd better get to work.

But before I go, here are a couple pictures from Cece's birthday. She turned 2 on May 5, and is obsessed with all things Elmo. :-)






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Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Art of the Portrait: Recap Day 2

Day 2 of the "Art of the Portrait" (April 15) was jam-packed with wonderful things, including the opening ceremony (which includes a slideshow presentation of all the faculty, finalists and Certificate of Excellence winners), and an incredibly educational and entertaining lecture by James Gurney about the science of facial recognition and seeing. He also shared a clip from his new video, "Painting Portraits in the Wild."

James Gurney was followed by a two hour demo by Quang Ho and Rose Frantzen. These two are the painting dream team. Rose was like a hurricane on stage... her energy could not be contained! Her start consisted of throwing paint on the canvas with a rubber spatula! Quang looked over and said, "What the hell are you doing?" The whole demo was hilarious and entertaining, but we shouldn't overlook that the finished paintings were skillfully done, with masterful observation and aesthetic decision making. And as always, I learned a great deal from both Rose and Quang's honesty, and shared love for artistic experimentation. Rose, who never holds back, even left the audience laughing and nodding emphatically when she said, "We're all gonna die! So we might as well paint without fear." I wish I could remember everything that was said, but I was too riveted to take notes!

On the big screen: Quang's painting on left, Rose's on right

Immediately after the demo, I was assigned to the lobby for book signing. I had only brought six copies of my book, "The Wait and the Reward," but every copy sold, and I found myself signing them (a surreal experience, to be sure!). I have to give a huge shout out to the people who bought my book - THANK YOU! I hope that it proves to be inspirational and encouraging to you all!

Photo by Maria Bennett Hock

After book signing, I got in line for a different book signing: Daniel Gerhartz. He was a guest of honor this year, since this was his first time on faculty for the Portrait Society. He was very kind and gracious as always. I am going to enjoy perusing the pages of Dan's book, "Not Far From Home", as I can relate to his work on so many levels. He paints about life, family, the beauty of God's creation... his level of mastery is what I hope to achieve someday.

I am proud to now own a signed copy of Dan Gerhartz's book, "Not Far From Home"

Emily and I visited the vendors/materials room for the first time. My favorite frame maker, Michael Graham for Masterworks Frames, was there, and of course the famous Rosemary brushes, represented by Rosemary's lovely daughter Symi. I stocked up on brushes (see my materials link to see which ones I use :-)), and some paints from the Gamblin booth (which had sold out of Radiant Green and Radiant Turquoise thanks to my use of those colors in the Face Off!), then it was time to rush off to afternoon break-out sessions.

Breakout sessions, which happen simultaneously, are always hard to choose from - there are usually drawing workshops, lectures on marketing and selling art, and various slideshow presentations that are extremely beneficial to artists who are hungry to learn. This year though, there was one breakout session I wouldn't miss for the world: Sam Knecht's unveiling of "Ernesta" by Cecilia Beaux. Through Sam's guidance, the painting was recently bequeathed to Hillsdale College, Emily's and my alma mater. Sam, and one of his senior art majors, had carefully driven the priceless work of art all the way from Michigan to D.C. for this special event.

I've known Sam for thirteen years, having been his student and mentee from the time I arrived at Hillsdale as a pimple-faced freshman. Sam is an excellent teacher and artist. Over the years, we've kept in touch, and I had the privilege of getting a "sneak preview" of Sam's research on the Beaux painting when I saw him at the conference last year. That being said, this lecture and unveiling were the culmination of three years of laborious research. If you do a Google search for the painting by its original title, "On the Terrace," you probably won't find it. That's because the painting hasn't been seen by the public in 80 years! 

Sam's lecture was absolutely fascinating and covered C.B's life and studio, as well as her relationship with her niece Ernesta (the subject of the painting, and also the one person Cecilia painted the most). Then Sam delved into the research he did, as there was a great deal of mystery surrounding this particular painting. Beaux submitted it to various shows after it was completed, but she completely reworked the background several times. The most curious thing of all was that some time after Beaux's death, the painting had been cut down to two pieces so that all that was left were the head and hands, and the shoes.

There ought to be a documentary or a book written about this amazing story. In the meantime, you can read the Hillsdale Collegian's version of it here.



The three versions of "Portrait Study," or "On the Terrace"

The remaining pieces. The rest of the painting is lost.

Beaux's niece and model, Ernesta

Sam unveiling the portrait!





Emily and I reunited with our college art professor :-)

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