A Great Question from another artist... Any Answers?

Angela Fehr said...
Susan, I would have to think that the hardest part of portraiture would be dealing with poor quality reference photos. Do you ever get some that are so poor that you just have to turn them down? And are you more confident of a good likeness if you have actually met the person you are painting? You have to have a real assurance of your skill in order to do portraits, I think. I have had luck with a few portraits, but I am not skilled enough that I am consistent with getting a good likeness.
My answer...
Angela- Yes, sometimes I have to say no to working from very poor photos. Doing a portrait from photographs has enough difficulties without using bad references. Not that I don't give in sometimes... flash photography hurts my feelings but if it's the only photograph they have of someone who's gone... what's a soft-hearted artist to do? Likeness is about good measuring and good drawing skills and the ability to represent values well. And meeting someone doesn't give me any advantage unless they stay right in front of me the whole time. I can't rely on my memory for ANYTHING these days. Doing hundreds and hundreds, even thousands of portraits- that's what gives you confidence for the ones you do after that. If it's fun to figure out the puzzle of a portrait, then someone will stick with it long enough to get good at it. That's what I think. What do you think?

Beginning of new commission

I started this 16x20 oil on stretched canvas on Thursday and will be working more on it today. My father was with me at the gallery on Thursday and had the idea that a flower on his lapel might be nice. I called the commissioner and was told the subject, her father, liked red roses and boutonierre would be fine. So I'll be looking for photos of roses with similar lighting. I'm working mainly from a black and white photograph- a really good one- that was emailed to me. I also have two color snapshots to help with color. Often I'll tone the canvas first, then do the sketch with a small brush, but this time used a brown pastel pencil on the white canvas and began the painting on white. This is as far as I got with the rough-in before closing for the night.
I'm loving having my parents in town for a visit. They'll stay through April and attend some of the Fiesta events. My dad, especially, is an avid people watcher and adventurer.

Rancher with less red

Not the best photo, but I did take the red splotch out of the Rancher's face yesterday, as well as doing the sketch I posted already. I got to spend the day with a new student, Sharon Woody, and my friend Jo Castillo. Sharon worked on a portrait of her husband and herself and Jo painted a pastel plein air painting out on the patio of the fountain in Maverick Plaza. What a pleasure to have them both there! I wish I'd thought of taking a photo of Jo painting. Here's Sharon and her painting...

My parents are flying in today to visit for a few weeks! I'm usually at the gallery on Tuesdays, but Mary Shepard will be there today so I can pick up my folks at the airport. I haven't seen them since early September so I'm looking forward to a few hundred games of dominos with my Mom!

Pastel pencil sketch- small commission

This is the second commission from a terrific fellow who wanted to thank a friend by having a sketch done of him. What a twinkly fellow!


This is an 11 x 14 oil on stretched canvas that I painted today at the gallery while chatting with the happy tourists and helping as I could with a student's pastel portrait project. I love that he has a toothpick in his mouth. (Click on the photo and you can see it larger.) You might recognize this fellow at the tourist who came in a couple of weeks ago and agreed to let me photograph him.

Of course, now that I see it small on my monitor, I'm seeing the big orange area on the side of his face... what the heck? Didn't look like that at the gallery, I swear. So I'll look at it again on Monday when I go back in and will likely cool that down. Ok, I'll cool that down for SURE.
I'm pretty tuckered, I have to tell you. The two workshops last week and my schedule this week hasn't allowed for any down time and I really could use a day to rest about now. My parents are coming in for a long-awaited visit on Tuesday, so I need to do some cleaning and organizing tomorrow. But for some part of tomorrow I plan to to be horizontal and watch some of the TIVOed programs I've saved. My daughter has agreed that she's finally too old for an Easter basket and hunting for eggs. I feel released. We'll have a nice dinner and speak of the things we're grateful for and welcome Spring with a smile. Life is good.

Three more little paintings and 2nd in Show at APS

I raced from the most wonderful workshop with Carol Marine and Karin Jurick this afternoon to the reception for the Austin Pastel Society show in time to receive a very nice award- Second in Show for "Afternoon Flight." Judith Carducci was our juror. Thanks, Judy, wherever you are!
This painting was an exercise in the workshop today. We were to paint a small, fast self portrait by looking in a mirror. It's an 8 x 10 oil on canvas panel, and the apple paintings below are 6 x 8.

I painted the apples on the first day of the workshop.
Oh! The Workshop! What an amazing experience to get to learn from both Carol and Karin. They have such different approaches and share such appreciation for each other's work, it was completely freeing and supportive. I hope to stay in touch with them and with some of the others in the workshop. Even more special was Carol and her family allowing me to be their houseguest this weekend. I have such respect for her efforts to do what she loves (and does so well) simultaneously with being an excellent mother, and partner with her husband. Thank you, Carol, for your generosity.
It's back to the gallery to be painter and instructor tomorrow. So many new doors are open in my mind, I wonder which one will beckon me through first.

Artist's Heaven

I'm two days into a three day sojourn into heaven. Omigosh. Imagine: learning from two of your heroes for three whole days. I'm learning so much. Carol Marine and Karin Jurick are amazing and so positive and organized with great exercises to illustrate the points they want to get across. I can't believe I haven't taken photos of the first two paintings from yesterday, so I'll have to wait to post them. Today I did four (!!!) and will add three here- two 6"x8" monochromatic value studies and a 6"x6" painting of one of the other artists (Jeannette) on a black-toned gessobord. Tomorrow we have another demo and another painting and then will learn some of the business information helpful in selling paintings on eBay and in keeping a better blog. So, you may be seeing some changes in this one soon.
Happy Susan

Judith Carducci workshop and new paintings

Well, Monday and Tuesday was spent with the most wonderful Judy Carducci. I learned so much and came away with new direction. I'm back at the studio yesterday and today. Yesterday I finished up the 11 x 14 oil of the little boy and his cat and then did a little 5 x 7 of a fluffy cat with green eyes. I need titles, my friends. Help?
Tomorrow morning early I head to Round Rock to study for three days with Carole Marine and Karin Jurick. I have a serious case of hero worship for both of these artists. Please, Universe, help me not look like a complete idiot in front of them.

Pastel portrait demo finished

Yesterday I was able to finish the painting of Phoebe. It will frame up as a 12 x 16. I'd hoped to also work on an oil I started a week or so ago, but got so involved in my conversations with people wandering into the gallery instead. I love talking with other artists and folks just fluttering their fledgling artist wings. Encouragement is so necessary among us.
As I look at this photo of the gallery, I can see that the front of the counter would look better in a warm oak color, don't you think?
I get to go to TWO painting workshops this week! I drive up tonight to north of Georgetown to attend a two day workshop with Judith Carducci, our judge for the Austin Pastel Society exhibition this year. It's being held at the Windberg Art Center, a great place out in the middle of nowhere that has a terrific layout and all the best AV equipment. I went to her demo Friday evening and decided not to try to drive up there early Monday morning, so will go tonight and stay at a nearby hotel with two artist friends. Then I'm back to the gallery Wed-Thursday, then back up to Round Rock for a three day workshop with my favorte artists who sell their work on eBay as well as more traditional galleries. I can't tell you how excited I am about getting to know them a little. Carol Marine from Austin, and Karin Jurick from Decatur, Georgia.
Mary Shepard will be at the gallery Monday and Tuesday this week, Pamela Clarkson on her usual Friday, and the great Donna Good will be there on Saturday. Why doesn't Donna have a blog? We'll have to fix that right away! Thank you, Donna, for agreeing to keep the gallery open and humming next Saturday!

Small, commmissioned pastel portrait

This lovely woman, a neurochemist researcher, came in the gallery on Saturday and said she'd like to have a portrait made, but thought she was not photogenic. I offered to take photos to see if perhaps it was not true. We both looked at the resulting images on the computer and agreed on one of the poses, with the "fringe" or bangs of another. She would be leaving San Antonio Tuesday night and could come by at the end of the day to pick up the portrait. It was such a pleasure to please her. I loved painting it for her and she loved the results. She said I'd made her famous- that she'd visited another shop in La Villita and someone there recognized her from the portrait I'd painted. That was nice. I framed it in a simple frame so she could get home and replace it with something grander. She has an idea for another painting- of her grandmother's house which only exists in a photograph now. I'm looking forward to that project.
Life is good. Painting and talking with sweet, happy people is filling my days. Sometimes it has required pushing the eject button on toxic situations and people, but oh, it's worth it.