Friday, December 28, 2018

Reach for the Stars

Merry Christmas and happy New Year! This Christmas we stayed home (normally we make the 1000-mile trek to our home state of Wisconsin), and it was wonderfully relaxing.  My husband gave me the most precious gift of time in the studio. Over the course of the past week, I was able to gather reference and complete a large studio piece from start to finish. Let me repeat that... I finished a BIG painting in one week's time! For my current stage of life, that's monumental, folks!  I painted it so quickly that the balloons I purchased for it are still afloat (and being enjoyed by my four year old). I love my children dearly, and they are the inspiration behind this newest work... but I'm also incredibly thankful that my husband was able to spend time with them during the many hours I needed to complete this piece.

"Reach" - 48x24 inches - oil and silver leaf on canvas

It started with a prayer. I know that sounds strange... but as I struggled this past month with my son having what seemed like a never-ending sleep regression, and my husband being incredibly busy with year-end reports for his job, and with last-minute painting commissions I had to finish up in time for Christmas... it felt like there was never any time for me to just PAINT. I mean, to just sit down at the easel and get lost in pure creation. All the things that inspired my lifelong love for painting, felt pushed to the wayside in favor of other, more important and practical demands. Dreaming about colors, textures, and shapes, is just too much of a luxury these days.

So when I shared with a dear counselor and friend about my yearning desire for a painting just for the sake of painting, we prayed about it together. And within a few days--the idea came, and I set to work.

My four-month-old son, Everett is the model. He has recently discovered his toes and enjoys reaching for them whenever he's on his back. I thought of the painting I did several years ago of my daughter Cecelia, entitled "Fledglings," where the theme is something like "learning to fly" (she was learning how to crawl at the time). I wanted to make a painting for Everett that was similar, but of course, different. It would still have an atmospheric feel to it, with some elements of whimsy, but the overarching theme should be one he might take with him for the rest of his life...  it's my charge to him. In this case, he is "reaching for the stars." No dream is too big or too impossible. I hope he will always be a go-getter (like me, haha!).

My daughter Cecelia provided the artwork on the wall behind his crib, and I tried my hand at silver leaf for the first time as the base for the silver balloon. I was thrilled with how it turned out. Even with oil paint over most of it, there are glimmers of silver that shine through in varying degrees as you look at the painting from different angles. (Keep reading to the end of this post for some technical notes my process).

As I worked for long hours on Christmas Day, I realized that the timing of this painting was very appropriate for a holiday where we celebrate the birth of a baby boy and the star that led shepherds and kings to find Him. The thought is humbling and I am so grateful for all of this... my faith, my family, and the paintings I get to make that tell my story while pointing to Him.

"Reach" (detail)

Artist, Model, and Painting together

For those of you who are interested, here are the materials I used for this painting.

- 48x24" canvas: It's actually cotton canvas, so not my usual support... but it was high quality and given to me by a friend. I gave it a coat of Holbein Foundation Gray before painting on it and it was a joy to work on. See this post for info on how I doctor canvases to make them better working surfaces.

- Palette: For the blues in the crib sheet: ultramarine blue, ivory black, titanium white, permanent mauve, and kings blue. For the skin tones: warm white, titanium white, radiant green, viridian, permanent mauve, transparent oxide brown, transparent oxide red, alizarin crimson permanent, brilliant pink, indian yellow, warm light yellow. For the background: a combination of ivory black, titanium white, permanent mauve, viridian, and transparent oxide brown. For Cecelia's artwork, I created the effect of markers by painting wet into wet with a regular brush... no tricks there. It was super fun and reminded me of this painting from a few years ago...

(A full list of my usual palette and materials can be found here)

- Silver leaf: My base coat of Foundation Gray was completely dry... this is important! I drew on the shape of the star balloon with vine charcoal, then applied a thin, even layer of Charbonnel 12-hr size. If I had been working over metal or an acrylic sized surface, I could get away with using a water-based adhesive, but because my plan was to mount the silver leaf to oil, I needed an oil-based size. I live in a very dry climate, so I didn't need to wait the full twelve hours for the size to reach tack; it was ready in about ten hours. I used imitation silver leaf and applied it carefully with cotton gloves (a must, in my opinion!). I used a very soft brush to smooth out the leaf and remove any excess. I was so happy with how this turned out, I can't wait to experiment with it some more.

I think 2019 is going to be a great year... :-)


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