One of my great joys is the time I have at Christmas with my nieces.
Years ago we started the tradition of them painting an original oil piece at the table in my studio while I worked at my big easel. Watching them grow in confidence, choosing their subject, size, hand drawing their images, and mixing paints with little aid from me has been great fun.
This post will tell the 2019 Great Painting Adventure at Christmas.
Katie and Amanda arrived first with their parents, my sister and brother-in-law.
The first day they were here, they chose their subjects.
Amanda wanted to paint a piece to give to her horse-loving sister for her birthday. We looked through my digital reference and realized that to find what she really wanted, it was time to dig around in my printed photos. Fortunately all approximately 25,000 are cross-referenced so it was pretty easy to find the ones from my 2001 Iceland trip. Amanda chose an Icelandic mare with her foal.
Katie, after looking at my digital horse photos, was drawn to the Horse Guards for Her Majesty the Queen of England. She chose a particularly alert horse and knew she had a challenging subject on her hands.
After deciding how big they wanted their paintings, they went off to the studio to start their grids and draw their subjects.
Audrey and Olivia arrived 2 days later with their parents (my brother and sister-in-law) and their older brother, my nephew Jared.
Audrey knew she wanted more of a landscape feel with the animal part of the scenery rather than an animal portrait. A lot of paint shop pro moving of things and cropping and she had her African landscape with an elephant.
Olivia wasn't quite sure what she wanted to paint but it was obvious when we came across some wild bear cub photos I had. When we both said, "Awwwww," that was it.
Katie Amanda Audrey Olivia
Audrey starting with her sky and in the left foreground, Olivia working on her drawing.
All hard at work.
Sometimes it is hard to get them to stop and come over to the house for lunch or dinner!
Amanda working on the nuanced rust colors of her horses
You can see Katie's Horse Guard subject is quite involved. She wonderfully mixed a lavender for some of the sheen on the horse.
Katie's detail work requiring a steady hand
Audrey working on her landscape
I wish I had taken more in progress photos but while the girls were painting, so was I. We talked, listened to music together (yes, most of the time we enjoyed the same music), and painted.
Their paintings are now dry and I have scanned them. Once I varnish them, the colors will be intensified but you can get a feeling of them below.
Olivia's bear cub painting
7.75" X 9"
Olivia did a wonderful job on her second Christmas oil painting. The format, slightly off square, gives room for the seed parachutes from the spent dandelion somewhere to fly. Her fur detail feels "furry" and the way she painted the nose gives a depth to the bear cub. Olivia captured a sense of innocence in the painting which can be difficult for even seasoned painters.
Audrey's elephant landscape
Sophomore in college
6" X 13"
What a dynamic painting from Audrey. She added subtle details like a slight purple hue above the peach hills which enhances the hills' colors. Then, Audrey continued that color in to the rest of the landscape. (This was with no prompting from me.) Not only does her painting have a sense of movement, but it also feels expansive. Both are very difficult to pull off in such a small format.
Well done Audrey!
Amanda's Icelandic horse painting
Freshman in college
8" X 8"
First, how generous of Amanda to want to paint a piece for her sister Katie. It certainly was endearing when Katie would glance over at Amanda's progress and say "they are so cute and fuzzy!" These horses were photographed in Iceland in May and still had their winter coats.
Amanda's choice of a square format was wise. It emphasizes the bond between mother and child. Her strategically placed loose brushstrokes were just right to give the feeling of the soft winter coats and the horses' thick manes. This painting took a subtle hand and Amanda carried it off beautifully.
Katie's Horse Guard painting
Junior in college
10" X 8"
Katie did not finish her painting on this trip and I am so glad she didn't. This is going to be a particularly special painting and deserves to have all the care she put in to what she has completed so far to continue. Details in the tack like the metal chain, gold buckles, and silver chest piece all required not only a steady hand, but difficult techniques. Of course she could have rushed to finish or skipped some details, but next Christmas, she can take her time and complete a painting with which she will be extremely proud.
A very "well done" to you Katie!!!
What a privilege to spend time with such talented, engaging, generous, funny, and approachable nieces. I am quite fortunate to have them in my life. Thank you girls!
The next step was to complete the left zebra.
Before playing with the foreground, I wanted to darken both main zebra. The shadowed "whites" were too light.
The foreground did not need much. Some rocks with shadows helps the illusion of the sun from the left side.
20" high X 36" long
Note: more accurate color and lighting by using my Canon EOS rather than my phone for the photo.
This was an interesting experiment with the shape. I have no idea how well it will be received by potential collectors, but I am glad I painted it. The framer now knows that a double frame will be on the piece and I think her fainting spell was temporary.
The painting started out simply enough. A light morning sky with soft peach clouds. By the time I was done with the sky and the trees, I knew it was all wrong. The sky was sickly sweet and the trees were too vibrantly green.
Time to start over.
I scraped off the sky and added a soft dull yellow to the area. The trees were also too detailed so I mixed a dull green and painted over them.
After painting in a background color for the grass I began on the stripes for the two distant zebra. Using darker colors I finished the stripes on the two featured zebra.
At this stage, the three right hand zebra have their "whites" painted and it is on to the rearing zebra.
It was time. I have been thinking about this painting for quite a few years. While the subject matter would be important, it was the shape which drew me.
I wanted to paint a piece on a trapezoid-shaped gessoed board. To be more specific, I wanted the board to be an isosceles trapezoid.
The first was a practical consideration. Could my framer frame it? Could my husband cut the board the shape I wanted? When both said yes, it was time for designing. Whole number angles would be easier for both. Having the obtuse angle at 103.258 with the acute angle at 76.742 degrees would unnecessarily complicate the entire process.
For some reason, I always pictured the painting with zebra. Running through my thousands of recent zebra reference, I came up with quite a number of photos from which to build the painting. This was a fun idea, but the composition needed to be enhanced by the shape of painting. There had to be a reason why the piece was this shape.
Using a rearing zebra with its back line a different angle than the board seemed to make the whole concept more dynamic. I played with the composition and was able to work out the obtuse angle at 105 degrees with the acute angle at 75.
The painting is finished but if you'd like to see it in progress, the next few posts will show you how I painted it. Sorry, no photo of my framer pulling out her hair. She doesn't know yet that I think I want a double frame!
Richeson75 Animals, Birds, & Wildlife 2019 International Competition has just announced their winners.
My painting Ice Bear won 2nd place! Even more heartwarming was the comment from the Awards Juror, Terry Stanley.
"This piece is a master class in
'how to depict white'. The textures and subtle color variations are
wonderful. Not to mention being a conversation statement piece
memorializing that which may not be around much longer."
Stanley was the Founding Director of Richeson School of Art and
Gallery. She is a professional artist who has studied with Masters like
Everett Raymond Kinstler, Michael Shane Neal, Stephen Quiller, Mort
Solberg, Robert Bateman, David Cheifetz and David Kassan, among others.
specializes in commissioned animal portraiture. Terry has curated and
acted as juror for exhibits and competitions across the country and
teaches workshops frequently. She is currently the Executive Director of
Wisconsin Visual Artists and the Museum Tour Director for the Susan
Kathleen Black Foundation.
My paintings One Step Away and West Wind were awarded Meritorious Status.
It has been a while since I posted the elephant in progress. I've completed it and the painting was dry enough to scan this afternoon (gives a much better representation of the painting than quickie photos with my phone.)