Category Archives: Portraiture

October Update


Here’s an update on the art I’ve been creating for the past month.  It’s been a month for drawing practice.  A painting doesn’t get very far if the artist’s drawing skills aren’t up to the job, and really painting is just drawing in color anyway.  Above are a few of the ink drawings I completed this month for the Inktober 2018 challenge.  I did them all in my miniature sketchbook that I carry around with me in my purse, so most of them are only about 3″ x 3 1/2 inches.

I’ve done other challenges — National Novel Writing Month (50,000 words of fiction in 30 days) for November and the National Poetry Month poem-a-day challenge for April — and those were interesting and fun, but also frustrating.  I think that’s because I write well, but I LOVE drawing and painting.  It’s my gift.  Also, because I’d never heard of it until November 1st and I jumped in on a whim, I didn’t feel guilty when, about two-thirds of the way through the month and I stopped and only did two more for the rest of October.  I just didn’t want to do any more.  It was a liberating thing, actually, to abandon it, because it was good practice for a time but was no longer of benefit to me.  Never keep doing something just because it’s what you’ve been doing.

Still Life With Gourds SMALL

Old man sketch SMALL

I did these two drawings in an art group that I meet with at our church.  The group leader stopped at a roadside produce stand to get the props to set up the still life.  The drawing of the old man was from a photo she clipped from a magazine, and the rest of the page was cut away, so I don’t have the information to properly cite the photographer.  I am particularly pleased with the hands, which are much harder to draw accurately than faces.

I finished two paintings in October too.  The first was the acrylic version of that still life.  I’ll share a picture when I finish the oil version, so I can unveil them together.  The other was the abstract below titled “Vineyard” which started out as just a loosening-up exercise, but it went well enough that I refined and finished it so it’s ready for framing.  I plan to paint three companion pieces in the near future titled “Orchard,” “Field,” and “Garden.”  If you are interested in purchasing “Vineyard,” see my gallery page for more information.

Vinyard SMALL



Finished at Last!

Lessons in Portraiture

This is the latest canvas that I’ve finished — my first attempt at portraiture in thirty years:


The only other portrait I recall painting was part of a montage and only a moderate success with a rather cartoon-ish big head and shadows that looked like mud on his face.  (Sorry about that, Dad.)  This one took me a year and a half to complete.  No, I wasn’t painting that whole time.  For most of that 18 months, she sat on the easel.  Every time I walked down the hall, there she was in the studio at the end of the hall, sitting there, judging me, mocking me.  This summer, I finally determined I would finish her… and I did.

The details:  titled Bridesmaid in Pink; acrylic on stretched canvas; 22″ x 28″; completed July 18, 2018.

Here’s the backstory.  About three years ago, I was recruited to photograph my nephew’s wedding in Ohio.  After the preparations, and the ceremony, and the reception, and the clean-up, I spotted a very tired bridesmaid resting languidly in the corner of a sofa, and caught a candid snapshot.  As I was sorting through the photos afterward, that one caught my eye.  The graininess and soft back-lighting made a lousy photo but gave it the look of one of Degas’ ballerinas, and I knew it needed to become a painting.   So, I tracked down the young lady in the photo and asked her permission, which she kindly granted.

Here’s why I should have started with something else.  I couldn’t have picked a more challenging subject matter for a first portrait.  First of all, there’s a lot of skin tones in that picture.  Not just a face — hands, arms, shoulders, and a significant portion of one leg.  The face I repainted three times.  The left arm that disappears into shadow got repainted so many times that I couldn’t paint over all the previous brushstrokes without making it look like a hairy monkey arm.  I had to resort to sandpaper to remove a few layers before I finally got it right.

I learned SO much.  Between painting sessions I read a lot of library books about art technique.  I watched a lot of YouTube videos by professional artists.  (I recommend Stefan Baumann’s and Robin Sealark’s.  They contradict each other, but they’re both right.)  I also visited a few galleries and art shows, and I got to hop a train to Chicago and spend a day at the Art Institute museum six times because my wonderful husband bought be a membership for my last birthday.   All of that study means I have lots more ideas in me ready to burst out onto paper, panel, or canvas.  It’s like being pregnant with octuplets, but without the morning sickness.

[Shameless Marketing Alert]  Some day when I’m wildly famous (and/or dead) this painting will be extra valuable.  Remember, I said it was my first real portrait.  If you’re the buyer, you could have a very valuable item someday.  Outliving me would probably help that investment.