Sunday, June 16, 2013

"Daddy, I want to be an Artist when I grow up!"

Given that today is Father's Day, I'd like to devote this post to the wonderful man who helped shaped my life and make me the woman I am today.

So about my dad...

What can I say? Bruce Holsclaw is a father of six, one of the most hard-working people I have ever known, a man of integrity and conviction, humor, and faithfulness. In each of his children he has identified and cultivated our unique gifts and talents. He pushes us to pursue excellence and never settle for mediocrity. He loves us enough to know when to let us make our own mistakes. He leads by example. He practices what he preaches.

In spite of some of the terrible things I did as a child who had not yet learned to control her "creative" impulses - like scratching Mickey and Minnie Mouse into the back window of his classic Jeep Willys (something he'll never let me live down!) - or drawing on whatever I could get my hands on (especially the walls and wooden stairs) - Dad let me pursue my goal of becoming a professional artist. I realize now how scary that is, for a parent to let their child pursue art for a living... but he believed in me. Instead of buying dolls, toys, and games, he and Mom got me art supplies for Christmas every year. I am indebted to them for their constant support.

My first paint set - good 'ole Bob Ross! I was 8. :-)

I make him sound like saint, but Dad can also be utterly ridiculous and never fails to make me giggle... Like when he poses for a photo like this one...

Taking a break from stacking hay bales. Or is he dead??

... or dresses the dog in a thrift store wig and sunglasses...
... or makes his version of a PB&J sandwich (i.e. a giant glob of unspread jelly in the middle)...
... or cracks a joke he's made a million times but expects us to respond like it's the first time we've heard it...

Then there are the times when he mixes truth and fiction, all with a completely straight face. For example, he came home after a two-week trip to Brazil donning a full beard. When I asked him why he let his beard grow out he said, "I was shaving and I accidentally dropped my razor into the Amazon. I couldn't reach in and get it back, or else I'd get attacked by piranhas." Ever the gullible child, I believed that story for years!

Or how about this one? He was an officer for the Wisconsin State Patrol for many years - but in spite of all the horror stories he came home with of car accidents and reckless drivers - somehow he thought it was a good idea to buy his young, blonde twin daughters a convertible. What was he thinking? Well, I know what I was thinking: I have the world's coolest dad. :-) In exchange, we let him get this photo of him yelling at us for making some unknown traffic violation... 

Officer Dad.

Daddy's girls. With his three daughters, me, Cara, and Emily, 2005

I don't take for granted that I had a father to walk me down the aisle on my wedding day.

Or that he's still there whenever I need some advice or just want to chat about life. We live a thousand miles apart, and I miss his hugs, but I know that he is proud of me and proud to be my dad. I'm proud of him, too, for continuing to set an amazing example for my siblings and me. I love you, Dad!


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Evolution of an Oil Painting

People are always asking me to post progress shots of my work. My method of working, though, is to not have a method. I approach each painting differently than the last, because usually EVERYTHING is different: the model, the lighting, the pose, the environment, and my frame of mind. The one thing that IS consistent from painting to painting is: I set a goal to learn something new.

Here are a few recent paintings (all unfinished except the last) that I managed to get progress pictures of. The first will be a series of two paintings exploring the figure from the back, one with a high-key background, the other with a black background. This one isn't quite done yet, but I'm happy with the progress so far.

High key back study - 16x10" (unfinished)

The second is a head study I started today using only five colors: titanium white, cadmium yellow pale, cadmium scarlet, viridian, and transparent oxide brown. I was amazed that countless luminous skin tones could still be possible with such a limited palette!

"Jessie in Profile" (unfinished) - 12x9"

Finally, here is a demo that I did for my students a few months ago. I ended up finishing the portrait from some photo references, but was able to maintain accurate color and values, thanks to the majority of the work being done from life. The photos were helpful in correcting some small issues with the likeness.

I hope these progress shots are of some help or inspiration to you. I enjoy the journey that each painting takes me on, and while I can't explain every thought that goes through my head as I work (you'll have to take my workshop this summer to get that! ;-)), hopefully these images at least give you an idea of the problem-solving that goes on throughout. Enjoy. :-)

"Michelle" - 12x9" - oil on linen panel - Private Collection


Monday, June 10, 2013

Painting SoCal

Steve and I recently spent a week in southern California, stopping in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Malibu, Laguna Beach, La Jolla and San Diego. I've always heard good things about the light in SoCal, but, armed with some fresh knowledge and a decent amount of time on my hands, this was my first real opportunity to try and paint it!

Note: I have to give a big shout-out to my sweet hubby for taking all these photos. He made me look way cooler than I am in real life! :-)

The first part of our trip was in the L.A. area. We visited the Getty first for some inspiration (I spent the most time admiring this gorgeous Sargent portrait, above).

Below: there wasn't a whole lot to paint in the Santa Monica/Venice area where we were staying, except for some cool street scenes, especially around Abbot Kinney Blvd (also some amazing restaurants and wine bars, which we hit after I was done with this painting). I've never done a street scene before, but hey... there's a first for everything, right? Why let intimidation take over when your time is limited? Life is too short. So here is my humble attempt.

"Abbot Kinney Sunset" - 9 x 12 - oil on panel

One day was spent in Santa Barbara. I wish we'd had more time there, but I still managed to get two small paintings in. I was enamoured with the light and atmosphere and felt privileged to be there on such a beautiful day! These paintings were done at Shoreline Park.

"Shoreline Atmosphere" - 8 x 8" - oil on linen panel

Above: Getting ready to start my second painting. The sun was setting pretty fast, so I had to whip this one out in about an hour. 8 x 6" (shown as far as I got, below).

After a few days in L.A. we headed down to San Diego, but stopped in Laguna Beach first. What a wonderful, art-centered town! I could live there... if I were a millionaire. :-)

Above: Trying to look California chic while I paint the Laguna Rockpile.
Below: Working on my second painting from Laguna Beach, of Keyhole Rock at the Montage.

"Keyhole Rock at the Montage - Laguna Beach" - 8x10" - oil on linen panel

Most of our time was spent in the San Diego area (we were there for a wedding), with five nights in La Jolla, right on the Cove. It was a wonderful place to stay, because I could simply walk across the street, head down to the cliffs, and set up to paint within minutes! We enjoyed some gorgeous weather, and - as I've come to expect in California - great atmosphere.

"Cliffside Surf" (La Jolla Caves) - 9 x 12" - oil on linen panel

My favorite painting of the trip was "La Jolla Light." I managed to find this spot away from the crowds, off the the beaten path (there is a walking trail that spans most of the Cove). In fact, someone had set up a rope system for lowering themselves down the cliffs to the rocky shoreline. Local kids come down to this spot to hang out. I actually stumbled across a couple of girls smoking pot - I said hello but they scurried off!. Painting gear in hand, I carefully lowered myself down and started picking my way over the boulders until I had this perfect vantage point of the setting sun.

As you can see from the picture I took on my phone, photo references were going to be impossible to capture. I had to finish this one on the spot. I was definitely a little blinded by the end of it, but felt really accomplished in my portrayal of the glare on the water and colorful glow of the sunlight. Happy.

"La Jolla Light - 8 x 10" - oil on linen panel

I actually did ten paintings total on this trip, including one of the Cove (top left, in the photo below).

My last painting of the trip (below) was the day of the wedding. I didn't have much time to work on it, but liked the mood (this was about an hour of work), so I'll probably finish it in my studio.

Already looking forward to my next trip to California! 

By the way, these paintings are all for sale! If any of them speaks to you, send me an email for pricing! :-)
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