It is an awesome responsibility and honor to create a portrait of remembrance. I was touched by my collector's love for her two dogs, Odie, who had recently passed away, and Orca. The pair shared a special bond and this piece is a terrific example of how individual identities meet and meld into a unique relationship, a sort of evolved oneness. Ultimately this piece is neither about Orca or Odie, It's about how they related to one another as individuals and the choices and life they shared together.
CONCEPT & THUMBNAILS & COLOR PALETTE
In the case of a commissioned portrait, I begin with research and interviews. I explore the subjects behavior, diet, and home. I think of breeds the same way we think of our own human ancestry, and I consider stories about the subject, as well as how they relate to the members of their family. With this information I imagine who this creature might be and sketch out ideas of how they would appear in a portrait of themselves. For example, Orca and Odie kept checks and balances on one another - Odie's loving and free spirit complimented and challenged Orca, whose herding background informed her practical nature and desire to keep tabs on her family, especially Odie!
My approach to color in a commissioned work is both a consideration for my collectors taste, while also taking into consideration the different emotional or symbolic interpretation a color can represent. For example, we decided on a cool jewel tone palette. In Orca & Odie the outdoors, and in particular water, in it's many forms were important to the pair. Within the range of jewel tone colors, I created an abstract geode looking background representative of the cool and fresh alpine feeling of dancing water and twinkling snow. It's important to know my color palette before I begin painting with gouache — unlike acrylic and oil, gouache doesn’t allow one to simply paint over something unliked. The colors I select are part of the story the painting tells and emphasize the animal’s identity.
Before I begin painting, I draw a realistic rendering of my subject(s) in graphite. In Orca & Odie I had to consider the relation of their size and builds for accuracy and correct proportions. Orca has more pointed features, but a thick and ample coat of fur, whereas Odie had a boxy, muscular build with very short fur. Once the drawing is finalized, I erase my pencil work until it is just barely visible. The faint pencil marks are essential because I use my line work as a map to block in color, but it is important that I erase enough so that the pencil marks do not show through the paint.
I typically begin by blocking out the background color or the outfit, and then I apply a number of translucent washes to the face to develop the structure and depth through gradual shading. As my work progresses, the opacity of my paint increases, my brushes get smaller, and the painted details more exact. I spend hours painting individual hairs and blending until I am satisfied with the detail in my work.
How do I know when I’m finished? There is a certain level of precision detail that appears finished to me. I no longer see areas wanting for more — more hairs, speckles, sheen, shading etc… it’s a combination of experience and a gut feeling.
My portraits go beyond a likeness of the subject, they celebrate individuality, capture the spirit, and encapsulate stories, all of which bring the piece to life.
I am so taken by all the beautiful flowers blooming around my studio in Dry Creek Valley. I found myself drawn to these beautiful orange poppies and purple wisteria which lead to creative play in my studio and the resulting piece, Blooming (shown below).
If you visited my studio in Autumn 2018, you may recall my larger-than-life-sized self portrait, I Believe in Ghosts. It's a recent addition to my new body of work, Portraits of Self and Society, in which I juxtapose vulnerability with challenging social constructs. This self-portrait examines how the conflicted messages women receive about ourselves, our bodies, and our roles impacts our lives and shapes our experiences, expectations, and choices.
I'm eager to share that I recently received word from the National Portrait Gallery in London that I Believe in Ghosts, was selected for the final round of the 2019 BP Portrait Award!
Those who know say this is the most prestigious portrait painting competition in the world, representing the very best in contemporary portrait painting. Roughly 200 portraits are selected from thousands of submissions from all around the world for the final round of judging. These 200 portraits are then whittled down to about 50 portraits that will go on to exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery in June.
Elation from the good news delivered via email in the middle of the night morphed into adrenaline as I realized I had a little over two weeks to coordinate having a frame made, having a shipping crate made compliant with UK customs regulations, correctly filling out paperwork that will make or break my journey through UK customs, and actually shipping my portrait from Healdsburg to London, clearing customs and arriving at the venue before March 1. Easy peasy, right?
Frankly a lot of hard work and support by many local treasures went into readying I Believe in Ghosts for departure to London. My piece is currently in transit with FedEx Air Freight and I’ll be holding my breath until it lands in the UK and clears customs! Regardless of the final decision, It's a huge honor to have my work considered for the second year in a row, and very I'm grateful to be included.
To be continued...
Thank you to Glenn and Charly at Hammerfriar for an absolutely perfect frame made under absurd conditions! Thank you to Chris at John Annesley for a beautifully constructed, lightweight shipping crate. Thank you Skylark Images for the exceptional documentation of my work. Thank you Sally for your endless enthusiasm and support, and help wrapping “IBIG.” and lastly, thank you Byron for around the clock all inclusive love and support.
I Believe in Ghosts didn't continue on to exhibit in the 2019 BP Portrait Award show. However, I am really very happy to have had my work selected and considered two consecutive years for the final round of judging by the National Portrait Gallery in London ... not too shabby! Well done to all and a big congratulations to this years exhibitors.
Rattlesnake and Turkey Vulture are exhibiting as part of Animalia at the Healdsburg Center for the Arts. Join me at the opening reception Saturday, March 2, 5:00-7:00pm. The exhibition continues through April 14.
A portion of the proceeds from all of the art sales in Animalia will be donated to the buyers choice of the Humane Society of Sonoma County and/or Safari West Foundation.
Healdsburg Center for the Arts
130 Plaza St., Healdsburg, CA 95448
Open | Sun, Mon, & Thur 11am-5pm
Fri & Sat 11am-6pm | Closed Tue, Wed
Each January I paint a self portrait for my birthday. Meet your 2019 mer-goat.
Friend and fellow artist, Michelle Hoting and I kicked off the holiday season with a festive holiday celebration and art show at my studio in Dry Creek Valley, Healdsburg, California. Join me for the next one by signing up for my monthly newsletter which features new art, good news, and public and private events.
Sonoma County Art Trails open studio tour continues this weekend, October 20-21 2018 from 10am to 5pm. For those who came last weekend, thank you for a wonderful time -- it looks like this weekend will be just as fun! We're looking at gorgeous weather, stimulating art, and scintillating conversation. Here's what else you can expect:
Learn about my creative process while meeting my 40 animal portraits. Enjoy pleasant refreshments while perusing my growing collection of thought-provoking portraits of self and society. If you feel inspired, create your own animal portrait at my coloring station, and definitely sign up for a chance to win one of my giclee prints in a drawing.
As a reminder, after this weekend I will return to hosting studio visits year-round by appointment. I hope you'll come by and enjoy!
Freddie is part of a high altitude gallery composed of 90 artist's works from around the globe that have been replicated on seven foot banners and hung on lampposts throughout the world-famous Garment District in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, creating a fantastic aerial art gallery that will remain on view from September 12 to October 30, 2018.
*Freddie is located on West 39th Street between 5th and 6th Avenue.
Created in response to the 2016 presidential election, America: She Was Asking For It, was born from a nightmare and depicts a revealing portrait of not only America’s elected Head of State but also his wife and Vice President and Mrs. Pence.
A variety of symbols evoke both an immediate visceral reaction, such as the confederate flag, as well as an ongoing discovery of depravity represented as small painted details, such as the pins, that reveal contractions and hypocrisy.
I utilized the bright coloring effects of gouache to capture the flashy tone of media imagery and intentionally made the work small to emphasize the insufficient attention and transitory coverage given to these issues by the media.
The piece is floated atop an abyss-like, black velvet, to create an effect like that of a digital screen, and finally encased in a tarnished frame, as if it is a dangerous artifact, warning of possible future outcomes.
I'm eager to present my newly painted animal portraits. Although this series has always focused on individuality, in previous years the works have thematically centered around locations, such as Sonoma County or the Arctic. This year is a little different because I focused on female identity as I developed three portraits of North American animals - Bald Eagle, Mountain Lion, and Black Bear.
When human women are depicted as strong it is almost always along with sex appeal - the "strong and sexy” cliche - as if female strength and capability are synonymous with sex appeal. The bald eagle, mountain lion, and black bear are all seen as strong animals, at the top of the food chain. When we encounter one we don’t automatically make assumptions about the animal based on its gender. We appreciate their strength, beauty, power and ferocity.
We marvel at the amazingness of both female and male animals, never questioning their abilities, motives, or intelligence based on gender. So why do we tolerate and accept the gender limitations we impose upon ourselves as humans? By anthropomorphizing these female animals, and giving each a unique identity, I seek to question why our society often struggles to present strength, intelligence and beauty without sexual undertones.
I created this space to showcase my past work, chronicle my current projects, and share my inspiration.