Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Wait and the Reward - My [Wide-Eyed] Response to the Response

It's been a week since I put this painting in the public eye, and wow... what a response! I never expected it to go viral, but it has, and hundreds of thousands of people, from all over the world, have seen this painting and responded to it with great emotion. I am so humbled and grateful for all the comments, likes, and shares around the social media universe. :-) While this piece was incredibly personal to me (and I originally considered NOT posting it publicly), I'm glad that it has touched so many. Perhaps there is a young mother out there who was considering an abortion, but saw this painting and decided to choose life for her baby instead... if that is the case, I would love to hear from her! :-)

"The Wait and the Reward" by Anna Rose Bain - 30x30" - oil on linen

I wanted to share just a few of my favorite comments...

Comments from mothers and mothers-to-be:

"I remember feeling like this when I was pregnant both times. I wanted to hold them. I couldn't wait to hold them. I still love their hugs. I tell both my boys that they have my favorite hugs!"

"We may rub our belly's looking like we are uncomfortable (OK we are) but we are imagining our baby in our arms."

"It's absolutely beautiful. What a simple yet profound articulation of the miracle of life, the safe haven the womb is meant to be, and the most gorgeous revelation of femininity -- motherhood!"

Comments that just cracked me up:

"There's nothing more beautiful in the world than a pregnant white woman."

"Now this is a pregnancy portrait that doesn't disgust me."

"That Teddy Bear's like, "Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo..."
Comments from pro-life threads:

"Hang that on the wall at Planned Parenthood. They'll go outa business."
"For women who are afraid they cannot handle motherhood I wish we could create this picture for each of them."

"A baby is a baby whether in or out of the womb. Human and sacred from the moment of conception."

From those who read more into my painting than I did...

(I was very amused by this conversation):
Comment 1: "A painting of a seemingly modern mother, under the age of thirty, who wears a wedding ring. Why is the teddy-bear covering its eyes? Why are the bear's feet coloured differently?"
Comment 2: "I suppose the differently-coloured feet show the unknown future: is it a boy (blue) or a (girl)? As for covering its eyes, it may indicate that we do not know what will be, though the outcome here is fairly obvious. Or perhaps the little bear is simply being modest (though it does look as though he is peeking a little)."
Comment 3: "Or he knows that he will soon be in second place?"

Comments from thoughtful observers:

"Wow... art is supposed to affect you... this piece does just that!"

"My eye was drawn to the way her body is holding her baby in both images without her arms changing positions-the natural capacity for nurturing written into her body."

"The hand on her chest when pregnant like she's holding a baby's head.....Beautiful."

"The first thing to come to mind is how this parallels many images of females with eating disorders, or any other self-conscious issues. Instead of seeing herself as a woman with "big hips" or something negative, the woman is seeing purpose--a purpose which is crucial for many girls and women to realize as they struggle with body issues. Our bodies have been made beautifully with purpose, and to embrace this is to discover deep fibers that make up our being."


Saturday, June 14, 2014

New Self Portrait - "The Wait and the Reward"

"The Miracle of Love"

Before you were conceived I wanted you
Before you were born I loved you
Before you were an hour old I would die for you
This is the miracle of love.

Author: Maureen Hawkins

When I first came up with this idea for a maternity self portrait, I didn't realize how difficult it would be to pull off. In many ways, the patience it took to conceive and execute the painting was a direct reflection of the patience it took to get through pregnancy. Not only did I have to wait to start the portrait until I was "big" enough to look REALLY pregnant, but I had to wait until after my daughter's arrival to complete it. The entire project was a test in skill and patience, two things that every artist spends their lifetime trying to perfect.

How does one capture the anticipation? A mother feels her baby's movement, hears her baby's heartbeat, and counts down the weeks and days till she finally gets to meet this little person face to face. Meanwhile, there is a whole myriad of thoughts and emotions a pregnant woman addresses on a daily basis. What will my baby look like? Will he or she be smart, healthy, happy? Will I be fully able to love and care for this child? What if I'm not a very good mom? What if...? And on it goes.

"The Wait and the Reward" - 30x30" - oil on linen

Well, baby Cecelia arrived in early May, and she has been the sunshine of my life ever since. I could finish the portrait knowing that I had truly received my reward for 9 months of waiting and making my body a temple for growing this sweet little girl. The concept seemed to work really well, and I enjoy the fact that it takes a moment of looking before you realize what's going on in the painting.

Detail shots:

From a technical standpoint, this piece is not alla prima, since it took several months to complete. Aside from the small oil sketches of my daughter (see this post), alla prima painting simply hasn't been practical when there's only an hour or two each day to paint now that I'm a mommy. However, it has been nice to get back to my classical roots with some more detailed, layered works in which I can explore greater textural experiments and more subtle value shifts. These types of paintings are easier to work on for shorter periods at a time. I still want to maintain a feeling of freshness in my paintings, so that they don't end up looking overworked. But occasionally I'll go back and do more than one pass on different areas of the piece, which makes for a more refined look than the spontaneous brushwork associated with alla prima painting. Of course, some areas needed to be finished in one pass to pull off the look I want, such as the dark wood dresser. I wanted it to look transparent, so I used a single thin coat of transparent oxide brown, mixing it with ultramarine blue for the darkest areas. Other places, such as the lavender gown over the skin, had to be painted in thin layers to pull off that particular type of transparency.

Some interesting details about this piece: the little peek-a-boo bear was my husband's when he was a baby. The painting in the background reflection is a still life I did while my husband and I were on our honeymoon. As far as the books in the left hand corner, I didn't include any titles in the painting, but most of them are art books, still sitting on my dresser and night stand, with an occasional parenting book mixed in. :-)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Recent Portrait Commissions

Before you scold me for being a workaholic, let me begin this post with a disclaimer. First of all, I am enjoying every moment with my daughter, but she does sleep quite a bit, so that's when I paint (and I wear her in a sling while doing so). I'm like the artist version of Sacagewea. Second, these commissions were both begun earlier this spring while I was still pregnant, so I had a pretty good head start on them.  In the couple of spare hours I have each day, I've managed to complete these commissions, and even take the time to write about them!

Many of you ask about my process with commissions. I wish I could say that I'm a total purist and only work from life, but that just isn't practical when it comes to working around everyone's busy schedules. While I try to maintain my skills by practicing life drawing and painting on a regular basis, I put those skills to the ultimate test when I do a commissioned portrait, because it requires working, at least in part, from photo references.

Pricing, sizing, and color choices aside (all of that info is readily available on my website)... it's important that I explain the process carefully to each of my portrait clients, so that they understand not only my standards as an artist, but so they also see what a special experience it is to sit for a portrait. 

From a practical standpoint, I usually have to turn down working from someone else's photos, preferring instead to work from life so that I can set up the pose, lighting, and environment in a way that is most flattering to the the sitter. From there I can take my own photos, and use Photoshop to match the color and contrast in the photos to my quick sketches done from life (more on that in a moment). Note, it's NOT the other way around (i.e. matching the painting to the photos).

From an experiential standpoint: most people never get the chance to see themselves as a painted image. It can be a fascinating unveiling of the sitter's inner and outer beauty in a way they've never seen before. My goal is always to capture more than just a moment or a snapshot, which is why I usually insist on meeting the sitter and at least getting the chance to paint a quick color study while talking to them and getting to know them a little better. This step is crucial to the painting. Not only am I taking important notes on the model's hair and skin tones under the current lighting situation, but I'm taking mental notes of their unique facial expressions, gestures, inflections, and body language. I'm also genuinely interested in who they are as people. It's a huge privilege for me to invite them into my studio and get to know these unique individuals who come from all walks of life and boast a wealth of knowledge and experience in all sorts of things. I know a lot about a little (art and music!) and little about a lot ( :-)), so I love learning from other people, and hearing about the things they are passionate about. Of the many portraits I've done, I've had the pleasure of getting to know an Air Force colonel, a classical singer, a lawyer, a former U.S. ambassador, a Burlesque dancer... and many more. Then there are the sweet children who pose for me, who haven't chosen careers yet, but are simply passionate and full of life. What an honor it is to be a portrait artist!

Below is the color study I did for recently finished "Meri in Red." Meri is an Armenian beauty with high cheekbones and exotic features. She was a lot of fun to paint! As you can see from the final painting, the color study was less about likeness and more about capturing my impression of her, with the most accurate color and value I could muster in those 20 minutes or so. My feeling was that she is regal, strong, mysterious, and sexy. I think both the color study and the final painting captured those qualities.

"Meri in Red" - 40x30" - oil on portrait linen - Private Collection

"Meri in Red" (detail)

Below is another portrait commission color study, one which I had more time on (about an hour and a half). I was impressed by Erin's beautiful face, luscious red hair, and sweet spirit, and I hoped to capture that in her image. This one was painted very directly (alla prima) to maintain the feeling of freshness and youth.

"Erin" - 24x20" - oil on linen - Private Collection

Above and below: "Erin" (detail)


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Babies and Blooms - "Diary" of a New Mom

After four wonderful weeks with my newest little family member, it's safe to say that things will never be the same. I am breastfeeding full time, which means there is actually very little time for me to spend doing other things. Thankfully, friends and family have provided us with meals and help during this crazy first month with Cecelia, but many other things have fallen to the wayside as I grasp at spare moments throughout the day to sit at my easel. I've worked on my commissions a little more, but there were a couple of times when I sat down, intending to work... and as soon as I looked down at my sleeping daughter, I knew my plans had to change. I had to paint her instead. The following paintings are an artist mother's diary, I suppose. I can't put these in her baby book, but I wanted to capture this fleeting stage of her life as best as I could, before it's gone. 

"Cece at 2 Weeks Old" - 9x7" (5/20/14)- oil on linen panel - Collection of the Artist

"Cece at 3 Weeks Old" - 6x8"  (5/27/14)- oil on linen panel - Collection of the Artist

One benefit to having a baby: the flowers have come flooding in. :-)  Babies and blooms are two things I have little experience painting alla prima, so I have definitely been challenged!

The pale yellow blooms in the painting below were a gift from an artist friend, and proved to be challenging for me. They are a direct reflection of my state of mind as I painted them: chaotic, but trying desperately to find beauty in my current situation (sleep deprivation, lack of time for self, some recent family turmoil). As a result, they have a feeling of "searching" and movement. They honestly reflect my inability to spend a large chunk of focused time on painting them. They remain a little flat, a little unfinished. But they are still celebration roses. They are one more piece of my artistic diary.

"Celebration Roses" - 10x8" - oil on linen panel

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