Paint the Town Marble Falls TX

Painting a Charming Texas Hill Country Town at the Peak of Bluebonnet Season

I had a wonderful time participating in Paint the Town this year.  This was my first plein air event ever. I'm not ready to enlist in the plein air army yet, but this could be fun once in a while.

First day's work. I love all the roses downtown. I'm a little jealous they don't grow like this in Florida.

First day's work. I love all the roses downtown. I'm a little jealous they don't grow like this in Florida.

A hazy sunrise with bluebonnets first thing on day two.  I was packing up my gear to leave the ranch at Sandy and it was so scenic that I ran and threw together my easel in the nearest patch of flowers and quickly dashed this out. I had to do a lot of it from memory because the sun moves so quickly at the beginning of it's rising.

A hazy sunrise with bluebonnets first thing on day two.  I was packing up my gear to leave the ranch at Sandy and it was so scenic that I ran and threw together my easel in the nearest patch of flowers and quickly dashed this out. I had to do a lot of it from memory because the sun moves so quickly at the beginning of it's rising.

Painting two on day two. There are really cool cliffs facing part of Lake Marble Falls. I got there early and secured a patch of shade to paint in. Rocks are completely foreign to a flatlander like me so it was an interesting exercise.

Painting two on day two. There are really cool cliffs facing part of Lake Marble Falls. I got there early and secured a patch of shade to paint in. Rocks are completely foreign to a flatlander like me so it was an interesting exercise.

Working on my award winning painting in Downtown Marble Falls.

Thanks to Maria Pronske for sending me these great photos.

With award winners Robert Wilkins and Patrick Saunders. Patrick and his wife live in an airstream and travel the country following the Plein Air painting circuit. You can follow them on Instagram @pleinairstreaming.  Photo credit: Debbie Slangal

With award winners Robert Wilkins and Patrick Saunders. Patrick and his wife live in an airstream and travel the country following the Plein Air painting circuit. You can follow them on Instagram @pleinairstreaming.  Photo credit: Debbie Slangal

Painting a still life with the lovely Annie Nelson Sweat of Austin while the newspaperman gets shots. Photo credit: Debbie Slangal

Painting a still life with the lovely Annie Nelson Sweat of Austin while the newspaperman gets shots. Photo credit: Debbie Slangal

Day three was a bit dreary and I'd already completed my entry for the competition so we passed the time with a little still life demonstration.

Day three was a bit dreary and I'd already completed my entry for the competition so we passed the time with a little still life demonstration.

With my ballerina during the face-off alla prima portrait painting event. Photo credit: Debbie Slangal

With my ballerina during the face-off alla prima portrait painting event. Photo credit: Debbie Slangal

No this isn't some secret trick that helps me paint better. Things get a little blurry past 3 feet and I couldn't find my other prescription glasses. Photo credit: Debbie Slangal

No this isn't some secret trick that helps me paint better. Things get a little blurry past 3 feet and I couldn't find my other prescription glasses. Photo credit: Debbie Slangal

Boss lady and wonderful hostess Janey Rives standing in for me since I had to return to Florida. Thanks to judge John Potoschnik for awarding this work 1st place! Photo credit: Debbie Slangal

Boss lady and wonderful hostess Janey Rives standing in for me since I had to return to Florida. Thanks to judge John Potoschnik for awarding this work 1st place! Photo credit: Debbie Slangal

Camera Versus Eye

Camera Scorn

Does it make a difference if you paint from photographs? Normal people aren't aware of this, but there's a big push within the traditional art world to only paint from life. Relying solely on the camera is really looked down upon because less experienced artists tend to just paint what's in the photo, and well, the camera lies.

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What's Wrong with Photos

I had to find out if painting from life was really going to produce such different results, so I decided to record the difference in a series of photographs and plein air paintings during my vacation. What I discovered was that I would have ended up with drastically different paintings had I worked from photo references. 

Here's what I learned about the shortcomings of photographs:

  • The camera can't see as many colors as I can
  • The camera tends to overdo it with contrast, especially in dark areas (like horizons)
I've noticed that the camera tends to go way over the top with the glowing yellow sometimes. When I painted this scene I didn't even notice the tree was in the way.

I've noticed that the camera tends to go way over the top with the glowing yellow sometimes. When I painted this scene I didn't even notice the tree was in the way.

In reality the yellow had much closer boundaries and the bay had a lot of beautiful purple and blue midtones. The horizon was actually green along the top.

In reality the yellow had much closer boundaries and the bay had a lot of beautiful purple and blue midtones. The horizon was actually green along the top.

  • In photos of faces taken outdoors I sometimes can't even identify which direction the light is coming from.
  • You lose edge variety, so all the edges in an area are either sharp or hard
  • Photos appear static and lack the nuance that you get when out in nature like when the light changes (hopefully for the better) or when you can see thoughts skim across the face of your sitter
There was a major difference in these two in the tone of the water.  The camera captured it as very dark and it missed the greens and yellows.

There was a major difference in these two in the tone of the water.  The camera captured it as very dark and it missed the greens and yellows.

Look at all the cadmiums that the camera missed where the sun was glowing through the clouds. I reshaped the clouds to give the composition more of a swirling movement.

Look at all the cadmiums that the camera missed where the sun was glowing through the clouds. I reshaped the clouds to give the composition more of a swirling movement.

  • It's easier to make adjustments that improve the composition when you're working from life. When you look at a photo there's a lot of temptation to just copy what's there and get locked in.
  • The camera adds 10 lbs!!! It's true. Because of the way it flattens you forward you look bigger.
These two images don't even look like the same day. The camera turned the clouds sort of a brown-grey color and really darkened the horizon.

These two images don't even look like the same day. The camera turned the clouds sort of a brown-grey color and really darkened the horizon.

In life the scene was much cooler and a little lighter. The horizon was a few shades lighter.

In life the scene was much cooler and a little lighter. The horizon was a few shades lighter.

Bridging the Gap between Photography and Painting

The simple prescription for improving your paintings is to paint from life, we know that's not always possible. So here are some hints for humans who have to rely on photos once in a while. 

  • Leave some mystery. If you were painting from life you wouldn't notice every minute detail. Just because you can see it doesn't mean that you should paint it. 
One of the great advantages of painting is that it can be very abstract, where the camera is very literal.

One of the great advantages of painting is that it can be very abstract, where the camera is very literal.

  • Paint faster. When you paint quickly you don't get so nit-picky about minutiae and it makes your painting look more alive. 
  • Simplify and mass. Big patches of light and shadow (unbroken by extra details) make for a stronger painting.
  • Feel free to move things around. Just because the tree is smack in the middle of the photo doesn't mean that you have to keep it there, and clouds are crazy anyway, so feel free to move them around as you please.
In the scene that the camera captured the horizon merged with the dark part of the bay.

In the scene that the camera captured the horizon merged with the dark part of the bay.

Since I was painting, I could choose where the lights would look the best as well as showing off the greens at the top of the sky.

Since I was painting, I could choose where the lights would look the best as well as showing off the greens at the top of the sky.

  • Emphasize atmospheric perspective above and beyond what you see in the photo.
  • When possible, do a small color study from life that you can reference during the painting process. I've even just mixed colors while I had the person hang out so I got skin tones right.
  • Make sure you can clearly identify where the light source is. If you don't know you won't be able to make up anything believable. 
  • When you take photos check the viewfinder and make notes of any differences you observe. Like if the horizon is showing up too dark, or what color the shadows are.
The camera did not do justice to Lilly (sorry Lil!). She looks stressed. I could not have made a painting from this photo, but I managed to make a painting from life of her from the exact same standpoint.

The camera did not do justice to Lilly (sorry Lil!). She looks stressed. I could not have made a painting from this photo, but I managed to make a painting from life of her from the exact same standpoint.

Lilly is beautiful and I think my alla prima sketch came closer to showing off her soft features and rich curls than the camera did. 

Lilly is beautiful and I think my alla prima sketch came closer to showing off her soft features and rich curls than the camera did. 

Bottom Line is Do What's Best for the Painting.

Whether painting from life or from a photo you can't just rely on what's there. It's necessary to make adjustments and compose the painting so that you're not just getting a record of what you see, you're getting something better.

Painting Osceola

My Introduction to the Seminole Tribe, Past and Present

The Chalet Suzanne

I became acquainted with Mike Osceola and his partner Brian during the final days of the Chalet Suzanne, a Restaurant and Inn founded in 1931 by Bertha Hinshaw. Mike and Brian were patrons of the Chalet for over 27 years and I’m related to the Hinshaw clan on my father’s side, so we were all there to close the old girl down. Her wake included a string of nights in the Little Swedish Bar with family and close friends. You can only squeeze about 15 people into the small sunken room, so it was pretty hard for the tall blonde and the guy with the Mohawk to miss each other. 

I told my cousins how handsome I thought Osceola was and that he would make a fantastic portrait subject, so while he was away one of them broached the question to Brian, who thought flattery would be the most likely way to convince him. Osceola returned and we spoke briefly about the possibility of me painting his portrait, but he was keeping quiet and noncommittal until we discovered that we had a mutual acquaintance in Pedro Zepeda, a master of traditional Seminole arts. I took ceramics with Pedro in college, and he is well known amongst the Seminoles because he is such a force in preserving traditional crafts like canoe making. I mentioned that I’d been trying to catch up with Pedro at reenactments with the thought of doing his portrait. At that point Osceola grew about 4 inches taller and declared that I must do HIS portrait. Thank Goodness!

The Great Osceola

Mike Osceola’s 5th or 6th Great Grandfather was the famous leader of the Second Seminole War Asi-Yahola or Osceola. His name Asi means Black Drink, a purgative used by the Seminoles during the green corn ceremony in the summer and Yahola is a call to the spirits (referring to the cry that followed the black drink). George Catlin painted a portrait of Osceola in 1838 while he was imprisoned in Fort Moultrie, SC. Osceola had been captured under a white flag and was transported to Ft. Moultrie where he died just days after his portrait was completed.

Mike really loved this portrait, and his features clearly resemble his ancestor’s so I wanted to make reference to this original portrait by using a similar background and pose. In preparation for painting Mike’s portrait I did this little study of Osceola, which I gave to Mike and Brian for their home. 

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A Preliminary Study

I did a second study of Mike in preparation for the painting, just to familiarize myself with his features and coloring. It also gave me a chance to think about how I was going to handle the patchwork.

Mike has beautiful features, but I wanted to make sure and show a hint of Seminole pout coming through the soft smile. I don’t know if this expression is cultural or muscular, but it’s one of Mike’s trademark looks so I really wanted to capture it in his portrait.

After completing the study I decided that Mike needed a little more space around him, which helps make the figure look more distinguished, and that I wanted his chin higher. I also felt he wasn't quite pouting yet, so that would need to be remedied in the next version.

The Start

I began the official portrait by making a grisaille underpainting so that I had a guide for the position and size of the main components of the painting.

Next I worked on the face, shirt, and gorget. 

The Seminole Gorget

Mike had this gorget made in the same style as Osceola wore in his portrait. Gorgets hearken back to the days of armor, but later on became a decorative component of soldiers’ dress. It is likely that the first Seminole gorgets were given to them by the English, but later they made them out of coin silver for themselves.

The top shows a chickee flanked by otters, the middle is Osceola in profile, and the bottom is a decorative turquoise piece. Mike chose the top symbols because his clan is "Big Town" symbolized by the chickee, and he is uncle to the otter clan. Below the gorget he wore a sheer black scarf, but the portrait ended up so dark in that area that you can’t really see it. 

I learned that Seminole dress was designed with the idea of keeping mosquitoes out, so it’s high around the neck and long in all directions.

A Coat of Many Colors - Cherished Seminole Patchwork

Mike is a patchwork collector and a vendor of modern patchwork, so it was important to show off the workmanship (or rather workwomanship) that went into his jacket. This jacket is vintage, a gift from his friend Deborah Wessel. The patterns have different names and significance. The two more obvious patterns on Mikes jacket are fire and water. 

I must say the squiggly ric rac was not my favorite thing to paint, and I painted 19 rows of ric rac on this particular jacket in 5 different colors, so it was intense. 

More About the Man

Larry Mike Osceola II is a cultural liason for the tribe and custodian of Seminole and Miccosukee items, with a particular interest in patchwork. He is on the Fort Lauderdale Historic Society Board of Trustees, an active member of the Bonnet and Stranahan Houses and most recently a participant in the Seminole Girl statue project. Mike is also an Army veteran. 

Mike's father Larry Mike Osceola (aka Big Mike) was very important during the official formation of the tribe. Big Mike went to Miami High School and went on to work outside village attractions including Eastern Airlines. Big Mike was a founder and attended meetings in Washington DC during the 50's where he helped bring about formation of the tribe. In 1957 he sat on the Constitutional Committee that constructed and ratified the Corporate Charter. He was also on the council serving as Vice Chairman until 1963. So in addition to being able to wrestle alligators, and run businesses he could hold his own in a meeting.

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More about the first Osceola and the Seminole Tribe

Sometime in the 1770's all indian's in Florida came to be known as Seminoles, which means "wild people" or "runaway." The Seminoles weren't really all of one tribe, but the government sort of bulked them all together because they were all in South Florida. Miami Seminoles speak Miccosukee, whereas Brighton Seminoles speak Creek.

by the end of the 3rd war there were only 200-300 Seminoles left hiding in the Florida swamplands

There were three Seminole Wars, the first was sparked by Andrew Jackson when he invaded what was then Spanish territory, the second because of the Indian Removal Act (this is the one during which the US Government took Osceola as a prisoner under a white flag), and by the official end of the third war in 1858 there were only 200-300 Seminoles left hiding in the Florida swamplands (Certainly there were twice as many Florida Panthers in the state as there were Seminoles). There they remained, rarely seen, until decades later with the advent of trading posts in south Florida.

 

Interesting Facts About the Seminoles

  • Osceola was a “War Boss” not a chief. A chief isn't what you think it is. Chiefdom is not typically hereditary, and a chief is more like an ambassador. In order to earn this position they must be important, but "chief" mostly designates that they are someone who deals with outsiders for the tribe or clan. The tribe has it's own internal power structure.
  • Although we closely associate the Seminoles with the Everglades, Osceola’s town was in Ocala.
  • There are eight “clans” within the Seminole tribe: Otter, Bird, Bear, Snake, Deer, Wind, Big Town, and Panther. Your clan is determined by your mother.
  • During the formation of the tribe in the 1950’s the Seminoles raised money through rodeo shows to finance their own travel to Washington DC during the negotiations.
  • Seminoles were not Christians until the 1920's.
  • Osceola's close friend was a white man names Lt. John Graham.

The Role of Modern Seminoles

I asked Mike to tell me a little about the role of the approximately 4,000 modern Seminoles living in Florida, because its not all about the FSU mascot or the Hard Rock Casino. His answer was that they are "striving to maintain cultural identity in spite of socio-economic conditions." That sounds like a line, but I learned during my trip to Big Cypress near Clewiston that it's the truth. It was a town of modest homes, the majority had a few modern toys, maybe an RTV and a  shiny truck, and then there was always a Chickee.

All of these people had chosen to erect a traditional palm roofed shelter in their back yards, and there were huge ones in the common areas. So it's real. They are here to stay, and I feel like they have a lot to offer, so I look forward to a continued Seminole presence in Florida.

Portrait Society of America 2015

A Few Highlights from this year's conference.

Some of my photos didn't save properly, so I have very few. Below are 3 demonstrations that I loved. 

A beautiful head by Jeffery Hein. His best head was during the other session, but I lost the picture. Jeff gave a great presentation during inspirational hour on sunday morning. He's one of my favorite artists to watch every year because I feel the same anxiety watching him start a painting that I experience during my own painting process...and then he always pulls it off, so it gives me hope that my strange starts are ok. Jeff took almost 2 years off from his already successful painting career to study intensely so that his skill level would match his desire to create religious paintings. 

A beautiful head by Jeffery Hein. His best head was during the other session, but I lost the picture. Jeff gave a great presentation during inspirational hour on sunday morning. He's one of my favorite artists to watch every year because I feel the same anxiety watching him start a painting that I experience during my own painting process...and then he always pulls it off, so it gives me hope that my strange starts are ok. Jeff took almost 2 years off from his already successful painting career to study intensely so that his skill level would match his desire to create religious paintings. 

Michelle Dunaway, who was new to me this year, painted the same model as Jeff. For this painting she used Richard Schmid's selective start method. The idea is that you start at one point and work out, being sure that each addition is correct, and voila, you have a painting. I would not recommend this for someone who was not already very advanced at drawing. This isn't like the mushing around and adjusting that I like to do but you can get very delicate and fresh looking results. 

Michelle Dunaway, who was new to me this year, painted the same model as Jeff. For this painting she used Richard Schmid's selective start method. The idea is that you start at one point and work out, being sure that each addition is correct, and voila, you have a painting. I would not recommend this for someone who was not already very advanced at drawing. This isn't like the mushing around and adjusting that I like to do but you can get very delicate and fresh looking results. 

This is one of the studies produced by Quang Ho during the conference. Quang Ho is always my most favorite to watch because it seems like the painting just manifests from nowhere.  Look at those beautiful "Rembrandt Hands." Quang actually said "Hm maybe I'll do like Rembrandt hands on him" and made about 12 strokes and there they were. Something that I loved that Quang repeated from David Leffel was that "my brush never touches the canvas." Meaning that only the paint on the tip of the bristles should touch the canvas, and making it all about making strokes with juicy paint, not just scrubbing around with the brush.

This is one of the studies produced by Quang Ho during the conference. Quang Ho is always my most favorite to watch because it seems like the painting just manifests from nowhere.  Look at those beautiful "Rembrandt Hands." Quang actually said "Hm maybe I'll do like Rembrandt hands on him" and made about 12 strokes and there they were. Something that I loved that Quang repeated from David Leffel was that "my brush never touches the canvas." Meaning that only the paint on the tip of the bristles should touch the canvas, and making it all about making strokes with juicy paint, not just scrubbing around with the brush.

Summer & Winter

A portrait of sweet sisters.

(I apologise for my mediocre photography. I haven't had time to take the painting to my photographer yet.)

36x48 Oil on Canvas

36x48 Oil on Canvas

Detail

Detail

My grandmother gave me this teapot and creamer when I was a child.

My grandmother gave me this teapot and creamer when I was a child.

She doesn't go anywhere without this "el-we-phant," plus it's a good idea to put a dark object in the foreground to give the painting depth. I love her grubby pink fingertips. Maybe she'd been digging for pet worms or just digging up all my grass for the fun of it.

She doesn't go anywhere without this "el-we-phant," plus it's a good idea to put a dark object in the foreground to give the painting depth. I love her grubby pink fingertips. Maybe she'd been digging for pet worms or just digging up all my grass for the fun of it.

A family friend gave the girls these demitasse cups. I had originally planned to have 3, implying that there was another guest, but it didn't work for the composition.

A family friend gave the girls these demitasse cups. I had originally planned to have 3, implying that there was another guest, but it didn't work for the composition.

Who wouldn't want their portrait painted in a dress made out of their neighbor's 1960's curtains and gold lame with giant pink bows.

Who wouldn't want their portrait painted in a dress made out of their neighbor's 1960's curtains and gold lame with giant pink bows.

Not to mention this peach satin "Glenda the Good Witch of the North" dress with silver sequin applique. 

Not to mention this peach satin "Glenda the Good Witch of the North" dress with silver sequin applique. 

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Thayer's Unorthodox Angels

Ooops! I never posted the photos I took last year from the National Portrait Gallery of Thayer's works. They were some of my favorites in the collection, not so much because of the subject, but because of his ingenuitive approach to paint application and his strong compositions.

I don't have a whole lot of commentary to offer on these, just that you should note that the paintings get their strength from the abstract way he placed the paint. This guy was not drawing with a tiny brush, and in fact there is a story about him once using a broom to paint a large stone. Enjoy!

Detail of boy on right's leg.

Detail of boy on right's leg.

For more info on Thayer and his involvement in the design of camouflage here's an article from Smithsonian Magazine

10 Tips for Hobby Painters from a Professional Artist

About every two weeks someone asks if I give lessons, but unfortunately I barely have enough time to paint much less teach other people how to paint, so everyone gets turned away. After having a hobby painter over for a studio visit today I got to thinking that there are probably some basic tips that I could share for someone who doesn't have the advantage of networking with professional painters.

I'll address some equipment/supply issues as well as the frequent question of "how to paint looser."

1.  Gamsol. Forget the minerals spirits and turpentine. Even the odorless versions are pretty fumy. Gamsol is the safest odorless solvent out there and the favorite of most professional painters.

2.  Papertowels. They're your friends. If you want to keep from getting muddy colors you need to frequently wipe your brushes on papertowels. Another good tip for keeping your colors cleaner is to keep a dark brush and a light brush and try not to mix them up (which is trickier that it sounds). The other advantage is keeping your space clean. You don't want oil paint on your clothes, but more importantly you don't want lead (make you crazy like Nero) or cadmiums (cause damage to your nervous system) getting on your skin. If you just can't get it under control I'd recommend looking into Gamblin paints since I feel like they really focus on safety.

3.  Stand back & Step Back. If you want to have looser brush strokes you're not going to get them if you're sitting down 6 inches from the canvas. You should be standing far enough away that you can completely extend your arm with brush in hand (holding onto the end of the long handle). This way you make strokes with your whole arm, not just your wrist. Step back frequently to check if things are working from a distance. I have a cushy velvet couch at the studio that I like to lounge on while I ponder.

4.  Longs. Did you know that they made long bristle brushes? They make it so much easier to lay the paint down since they're flexible. The extra length also buys you more useful life on the brushes. My favorite sizes are long filberts (slightly rounded on the edge as opposed to brights which are square) in #2-#10 range. I probably use my #6 the most. The goal is to keep the paint at the tip of your brush, not down in the ferrules, so the longs also make this easier.

5.  French Easels. I hate my french easel more than I hate this awful picture of me wearing Brian's shorts. DON'T buy one of these. They are heavy, clunky and tricky to set up if you're not technically inclined. If you're thinking about doing plein air work ask a plein air artist who you trust what they like. I still am undecided as to the best travel/outdoor easel brand, but the clunky french easel would not be in the running.

6.  Attitude. My high school art teacher used to say "when you're frustrated you're learning." This was a huge comfort to me when I was first learning to paint. Another sure attitude adjuster is remembering that you are not Leonardo DaVinci. Your work is not worth $1,000,000 or even $1,000 so who cares if you mess up once in a while. You're learning. And, don't over-invest yourself in a painting that's just never going to work. Figure out where you went wrong, throw it in the garbage and do better next time.  I slashed 5 canvases last year without a second thought (if I don't slash them I run the risk of someone fishing them out of the garbage so they can reappear and haunt me later).

7.  Be a destroyer, or if you want to put it in Ghostbusters terms "Choose the form of the Destructor!" You can destroy it now so that it can be fixed tomorrow or you can destroy it forever by trying to work around a problem instead of correcting it. This is part 2 of the attitude spiel in case you haven't figured that out yet. Don't noodle around the problem, show some initiative and fix it! Be brave and get out your pallet knife and scrape it off while the paint's wet, or let it dry and start over on top. Don't get attached because you worked on it forever. If it's not working it's not working, so play the destroyer and start over fresh tomorrow.

8.  Contagious colors. Titanium white should not be used in mixing darks unless you know what you're doing. I'd be more likely lighten a dark using another color than to use titanium white, because it will make your darks chalky or cloudy looking. Thalos are even more contagious and hard to eliminate, and they make your brushes hell to clean, so use them sparingly.

9.  Premix with a pallette knife. The pallette knife set me free to paint fast and show off some brush strokes. You can premix large pools of color and have big quantities of paint available without slowing down, or trying to be sparing with your paint. I especially like doing this for impressionist style landscapes or for painting clothing, whereas the colors in a portrait are more nuanced and require more customized mixing. 

10.  Fat over thin & light over dark. Ideally, you want your darks to be translucent and thin, and your lights to be opaque and have more impasto (be thicker). Also, you want to start with thinner coats of paint, and finish with thicker. You can address both of these issues by painting dark to light. I paint my darkest and thinnest areas first and slowly work forward to my lightest and thickest. So, if I were to paint a landscape with trees I would put in the dark trunks first, then work in the mid-tones, and lastly, cut in the sky around the trunks and make "sky holes" in the canopy. Crazy. I know. Oh, and you must somehow coordinate this with painting from back to front if you're doing a landscape.

Below is an example of back to front, dark to light, and thin to fat (all at once) in a portrait format.

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BONUS TIP: Eat more chocolate.

It may make you fat if you paint too often, but you will paint better.

Just the Details

Pieces of my favorite paintings in the Ringling Museum, Sarasota.

Detail from a Rubens Tapestry design.

Detail from a Rubens Tapestry design.

Detail from a R  ubens Tapestry design.

Detail from a Rubens Tapestry design.

Detail from a R  ubens Tapestry design.

Detail from a Rubens Tapestry design.

Detail from a R  ubens Tapestry design showing manna falling from Heaven.

Detail from a Rubens Tapestry design showing manna falling from Heaven.

Detail from Domenico Puligo's 'The Virgin and Child in Majesty with Saints Quentin and Placidus,' 1521-22.

Detail from Domenico Puligo's 'The Virgin and Child in Majesty with Saints Quentin and Placidus,' 1521-22.

Painting attributed to Nicolas Bollery title 'The Actors' from around 1600. This guy meant business. 6 faces and 6 hands in one painting with a linear composition.

Painting attributed to Nicolas Bollery title 'The Actors' from around 1600. This guy meant business. 6 faces and 6 hands in one painting with a linear composition.

Detail from 'Portrait of a Woman' attributed to one of Rembrandt's apprentices.

Detail from 'Portrait of a Woman' attributed to one of Rembrandt's apprentices.

Detail of seaweed strewn on shore from Carl Marr's 'Mystery of Life,' 1879.

Detail of seaweed strewn on shore from Carl Marr's 'Mystery of Life,' 1879.

Detail of dead woman's legs from Carl Marr's '  Mystery of Life,' 1879.

Detail of dead woman's legs from Carl Marr's 'Mystery of Life,' 1879.

Detail from Ash Can Painter Robert Henri's 'Salome,' 1909.

Detail from Ash Can Painter Robert Henri's 'Salome,' 1909.

Portrait Artists in the National Portrait Gallery

While in DC this year for the Portrait Society of America's annual conference I was able to visit the National Portrait Gallery. Not just me, they bussed around two-hundred portrait artists to the gallery. It was surreal to walk the gallery and hear well known contemporary artists such as Quang Ho, David Kassan, Burt Silverman, and Ann Manry Kenyon comment on the works of Thayer, Sargeant, and Cassatt. 

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This sizeable painting of H.H. Richardson by Hubert von Herkomer was completed in 1886.  It was a favorite with the artists because the girthy fellow has big presence.  

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Trained in Paris at the Ecole des Beaus-Arts, Henry Hobson Richardson became America's leading architect in the late 1880's. He designed a wide range of structures, including churches, railroad stations, department stores, courthouses, libraries, and private homes. Best known today for Trinity Church in Boston, Richardson fused the Romanesque style of medieval France with the picturesque style popular in England and the US. 

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Detail of the hand.

In this portrait, British artist Hubert von Herkomer found his sitter's girth, accentuated by the rounded pitcher in the background, and ideal metaphor for his character. During the sittings, Herkomer noted that Richardson was "as solid in his friendship as in his figure. Big-bodied, big-hearted, large-minded, full-brained, loving as he is pugnacious."

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This is Richardson's neighbor at the Gallery, inventor Isaac Singer of sewing machine fame, 1869. Singer's machine could sew 900 stitches per minute, more than twenty times as many as a skilled seamstress. 

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The details and variety of brushstrokes in this work are astounding.

Singer commissioned this portrait while living in Paris, after scandals about his private life forced him to relocate to Europe. American artist Edward Harrison May painted him in clothing that reflects his wealth and trademark extravagance.

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Detail from Cafe at Biskra, Algeria by Frederick Arthur Bridgman. This painting is like two paintings. There's the main scene shown above, but then corridor in the background, shown left, serves as a secondary focal point. Both are beautifully painted, but I almost prefer the background.

And now for two of my favorites from the hall of musicians. "Bravo!" showcases the composers and performers who brought the performing arts to life from the beginning of the 20th century to the present.

Love this one of Benny Goodman. To me it looks like he sounds.  The fellow to the right played in his band for quite a while so they sort of go together.  1960,  Rene Bouche .

Love this one of Benny Goodman. To me it looks like he sounds.

The fellow to the right played in his band for quite a while so they sort of go together.

1960, Rene Bouche.

This enormous portrait of Lionel Hampton by Frederick J. Brown is 96 & 1/8" tall. That's over 8 feet!   Lionel Hampton began his musical career as a drummer until Louis Armstrong encouraged him to take up the vibraphone in the early 1930s. Hampton introduced that instrument to the jazz idiom. Hampton's high-energy spontaneity was legendary: "We got no routine," he once said. "We just act the way the spirit moves us."   

This enormous portrait of Lionel Hampton by Frederick J. Brown is 96 & 1/8" tall. That's over 8 feet! 

Lionel Hampton began his musical career as a drummer until Louis Armstrong encouraged him to take up the vibraphone in the early 1930s. Hampton introduced that instrument to the jazz idiom. Hampton's high-energy spontaneity was legendary: "We got no routine," he once said. "We just act the way the spirit moves us."

 

I'll have to save the Thayer's for another post.