Category Archives: Paintings

How Final is Final?

It might surprise non-artists to know that one of the hardest questions for an artist to answer is “When is it Done?” I’m pretty sure all my artist friends are nodding their head at that. The mistake I make most often is to call it done too late. It is something many of us are guilty of…over working a piece. This was the place where I decided the portrait was done. It’s not overworked, but I can see some things I’d change. We do that, us artists. As hard as we try to not overwork a piece, we also are our own worst critics.

Checking it twice, thrice, four times, etc

As the painting came closer to completion, I would take a photo of it and the composite together so that I could more easily compare the two. Taking a photo for some reason helps us artists see more clearly what may be wrong. I’m not sure why, but most of my artists friends agree. I also began using my proportioner to measure individual bits on the composite and see if I had it right in the painting. I can’t tell you how many times I went back and forth, back and forth, on the nose and on the lips. With each adjustment I felt like I was getting closer to a likeness.

Now We’re Painting

So let’s start with the “easy part”. I’ve learned over time there is no such thing. However, I chose the drapery. I’ve always been fairly good at drapery – since my first art lessons even. Then I bounced around a bit. It’s often disastrous if you finish one element at a time. They feed off one another and won’t look right.

“Cheating” Isn’t Wrong

Artists have developed short cuts since the beginning of time, I suspect. Sadly, I knew my drawing skills weren’t up to getting this drawn without taking up too much time. I had 9 days from the time I came up with my composite to paint the dang thing! So I printed the piece the exact size of my paper (16×16). I then used the photo to transfer the image using transfer paper. Lucky for me, I have a printer I could print that large on. I traced the spaces for shadows and highlights on the babe and the cloth. I won’t do that again. It just ended up being too much information. Despited, supposedly being the exact image recreated, I found things wrong as I went along.

Photoshop is a great tool

Like any other tool you can use it well or poorly. For my most recent piece, it was key in being able to create a whole from separate parts. Below are several composites I worked with in an attempt to make a portrait of two of my favorite people – only one of whom was in the original photo:

What Started It !?

This is the photo that made me decide I wanted to paint a portrait for my daughter-in-law. She took it shortly after bringing my latest grandchild home (he’s now 7).

I loved this photo instantly and knew I wanted to paint it eventually. It was the lighting and the color palette that attracted me the most. As we were coming up to Thanksgiving and Christmas would follow, I decided it was time. I should have decided I few months earlier. The problem was that even though I loved the photo, I also wanted my daughter-in-law in it. After all she had given us a most wonderful gift 7 years ago. I’ve also always been intrigued by “Madonna and Child” works of art. Maybe because I was never a mother myself.

Anyway, there was a lot of work to be done long before I put paint brush to paper. I scoured my photos for one of L (my daughter-in-law) that would fit within the picture. I started off with some other ones, but couldn’t make them work. I found one from my grandsons first Christmas with a pose that would make sense along side the original. Next up I’ll show you the composite work I did in Photoshop Elements.

So Portraits…my, my

The thing about portraits is, that the things that make us look “like us” are often tiny incremental differences. My lips are just a wee bit thinner than others (less than an eighth of an inch in some cases). My mouths static state is turned down, others are turned up. Get even one of those things wrong and all of a sudden that portrait doesn’t look like you! I’ve done very few portraits of other people. Mostly I’ve tried capturing my mother and I’ve failed in all those attempts (in oil, in clay, and in acrylic). It hasn’t stopped me from trying again, though!

Get Out of Your Wheelhouse!

I definitely believe in stretching yourself once in a while. After all how can you know your limits if you don’t test them? How do you know if you’re good or bad at something if you don’t try it? How do you know you’re not just resting on your laurels?

I’ve been working on a piece for several weeks now and have had a challenge every step of the way. This is far outside my wheelhouse. The thing is, I’m also learning things that could be applied inside my wheelhouse. I can’t show you all my steps along the way until after Christmas, since this will hopefully be a gift for someone. That all depends on how it turns out, of course.

In the mean time here are some pictures of my favorite brushes and the ones I used for most of last months 30 day challenge


I finished my last piece for my November challenge “A Painting a Day”……which turned into “Painting Everyday”……Which didn’t actually happen. I missed some days, but on some days, I painted 3 paintings. Also, once I decided to add some more complicated paintings, there was no way I was going to be able to properly finish them in one day. I’m pretty damned happy with it!

Next month I hope to draw every day. I’ve neglected this skill and when you think about it, it is the absolute basis of all art. Though I may have to work harder to say that includes Abstract Art…… A Topic for Another post.

Plus if you don’t draw everyday, your eye hand coordination virtual disappears.