Tuesday, November 13, 2018

"Howard's Pals" (watercolor, 22" x 30") sold


Recently I received a request for an unusual commission from a client who wanted to present her husband, a hobby DJ, with a portrait painting in watercolor for their 24th wedding anniversary. Nothing unusual about that, but she wanted me to include squirrels, his favorite animal. And a robot from the TV show "Lost in Space", chocolate chip cookies, a Boston University mug, an IPhone, his favorite stuffed animals, David Letterman, Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, and Frank Sinatra in a radio station recording booth. Let's not forget about a few portraits of the couple and his parents somewhere in the room!

It took about a month for me from conceptualization to the finish.  I can't say it's a great piece of art, but it is a whimsical fantasy and there isn't likely to be another piece like this anywhere in the world!

Design drawing

Color study in Copic markers

I started painting section by section from the top left.

Getting there!

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

"Coral Roses" (oil on stretched linen; 20" x 16") sold


"Rose Posy" (oil, 8" x 10")

Recently I've received a rather odd commission request to repaint "Rose Posy" much larger in a vertical format with a glass vase against soft yellow/green background. The client also wanted the roses to be coral instead of pink. I said it would be very difficult, but she insisted that it should be done. The result several weeks later is "Coral Roses".

Many things have happened since I accepted the commission: the tragic death in the family, the trip to California to attend the memorial service, the recovery from my cataracts surgeries, and the Hurricane Florence with daily rains. I struggled with the commission in the middle of all the above.

I found the image of the "Fairy" rose, which I believe is what I had originally painted during Danni Dawson's workshop at her house a few years ago. They are tiny roses and I had to blow them up, shift colors to coral, and somehow rearrange individual flowers to make a pleasing composition. It was probably the hardest commission ever!

What did I learn from this project? Don't accept an unreasonable commission? Not sure. Because I am about to accept another totally-out-of-the-comfort-zone commission. I decided to turn it into a learning experience. I usually paint what's in front of me, or from a reference photo. But what if I don't have a good reference? I will have to make up, be creative. I am constantly evolving as an artist, embracing challenges, instead of doing same stuff all over again. So, bring it on!


"Hobbes" (oil on linen; 10" x 8") sold


"Hobbes" is for Robin. Hobbes, an American shorthair, had globe-like eyes with such an interesting mix of color. And he had age freckles in his nose. Robin has had many cats in her life. It's been four years since he passed, but none of them will ever be as cherished as Hobbes.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

"Binx" (oil on linen; 10" x 8") sold


"Binx" was commissioned by David. Binx is a 8-year-old Siamese and she loves outside (David and his wife have 7 cats and she is the only one that goes outdoors). She is a typical loving, cuddly Siamese. She loves to sleep under the covers when they go to bed and stays there the entire night.

In the reference photo, Binx was lolling under the Christmas tree with a scarlet tree skirt amidst gifts, as if she was inspecting them. I love the luxurious feel of the portrait!

Friday, August 17, 2018

"Summertime" (oil on stretched canvas; 20" x 16") nfs


This is my daughter when she was a kindergartner. I decided to paint the image in the style of Alice Neel (1900-84), the famous American portrait painter. The blue outlines and simple shapes seem to accentuate the happy feeling, which I needed desperately.

There has been a death in the family. My husband's first nephew, Erik Stenberg, died suddenly last week. He was only 38 years old, leaving behind his beautiful wife and three unbelievably blond children (aged 9, 6, and 1). No illness, no accident, just the fluke toxic shock syndrome. He was healthy and happy one day; the next day, he was gone. How do you deal with that kind of tragedy? We are all in disbelief, grief, rage, and regrets.

I forced myself to finish "Summertime", which I had started in a jubilant mood the day before the sad news. In work I sought solace, which didn't come easily. But a couple of pressing commissions are upon me and seem to help.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

"Strawberry Delight" (oil on linen; 4" x 5") sold


Somedays I feel like painting these little pastry things. I guess they cheer me up without increasing my waistline! This pastry stuffed with clotted cream and a strawberry is French. Oh la la!

Sunday, August 5, 2018

"Watercolor from Start to Finish": I Am Teaching Watercolor at The Art League School!

Week 1: Introduction and Painting Donuts!
"Donut Bliss" (watercolor, 7" x 10")
Click here to buy

My dear friend Alice Kale, who teaches watercolor, has been pestering me to do the same for some time, and I finally surrendered to her persuasion. I took over another teacher's slot at The Art League School in Alexandria, VA. It is a six-week-long intensive introduction to watercolor, called "Watercolor from Start to Finish". An enthusiastic class of 18 has been meeting every Saturday from 9:30 to 12:30 for watercolor fun. At this point, we have just one more class to go. And what fun has it been!. This is indeed the beginning of a new chapter in my art career, as I will continue to teach as a regular staff at The Art League School from now on!

The first week I brought donuts to the class, since I thought their simple shapes and fun associations would encourage the beginners (minus two who are experienced watercolorists) to dive into watercolor without fear. And I was right. Some students ate donuts first and painted them from photos!

Week 2: Fruits and Vegetables
"Carrot Bunch" (watercolor, 9" x 12")
Click here to buy

Drawing and painting from life is an invaluable training whether the subject is humble everyday things, or a figure. So carrying on the theme of still life of donuts of the first week, the students were asked to bring some fruits and vegetables of their choice for the second class. Several brought a bagful of produce; I love this class! Shapes got a little more complicated, but we are not so worried about drawing for now. (To those who want to improve their drawing skills, I recommend Bert Dodson's Keys to Drawing.) Instead we are focusing on the importance of values, edges and color temperatures in a painting.

Week 3: Landscapes
"Bixby Creek Bridge, Big Sur" (9" x 12")
Click here to buy

Week 4: More Landscapes
"Yaquina Head Lighthouse Sunset" (watercolor and gouache, 9" x 12")
Click here to buy

For the next two weeks, we painted landscapes. I did a demo of gradated/varigated washes and the students were let loose to work with the photos they brought, while getting accustomed to the watercolor terms such as washes, glazes, wet on wet/wet on dry, dry brush, etc. Landscape painting can get overwhelming with so many elements to deal with, so I emphasized that the class should look out for big shapes first. If one breaks down a picture into big shapes, there are usually only three to five. That's not so hard, is it? But landscapes often involve leaf/grass textures; boy, many went astray with them. It's been 23 years since I started painting watercolors and the memories of the excitement and frustrations are all coming back!

Week 5: Animals
"Emperor Penguin Love" (watercolor, 8" x 6")
Click here to buy

Changing gears, we painted animals this week. What fun it was! Several painted their dogs; many others painted colorful birds. It all comes down to this: paint what you know well and hold dear. And it showed. I am definitely keeping the subject of animals as part of my curriculum.

Week 6: Flowers
"Red, White and Blue" (watercolor, 7.5" x 10.5")
Click here to buy

One more week to go. Next week we will be painting flowers. We actually took a vote on this; between flowers, portraits, buildings, flowers won. But I let the class know they can paint whatever they choose for the final week. It's going to be fun and challenging no matter which!

Week 6: My awesome class intently painting flowers