Friday, January 31, 2014

Over the snow drifts and through the ice, to the 2nd floor studio we go....

Record-setting artic temps here in Ohio, along with gusting winds,  are making it impossible to heat the unattached garage sufficiently to use the caulk and paint! That meant finding room to fit 4 x 8' sheets of plywood in a horizontal position with enough space around them to allow a person to apply the necessary layers of caulk, primer, and undercoat.

I managed to make room for one in the studio upstairs and then decided the dining room was the only other option. The winds were so high we had to delay trying to haul one up to the 2nd floor stairway, with a landing and turn. My arms were already sore from helping to load the sheets in the van and then unload them into the garage. My over-stretched tendons were yelping from abuse!

After getting another snowstorm last night and drifts going a few foot deep, it was necessary to dig a path and shovel the stairwell, just to reveal a pretty thick coat of ice. I prayed the temps were high enough that the salt would provide for traction, as it was treacherous enough trying to wrangle that panel in the still blowing wind.

Most of our house is now consumed with work areas for the mural. I find myself constantly moving things so we can prepare a meal! Progress is being made and that is a wonderful feeling. I have the majority of the photos to work with or at least have promises of them coming soon.

My apprentice, Elliot, has been learning to prep the panels and we have been making mistakes together but we are managing to correct them quickly.

I need to buy stock in a paper towel company for sure!
Before I can move on, I needed to design the narrow canopy for the top edge, to finish it off, so I decided a paper template was in order. After perusing the web for samples and ideas, I settled on something simple so as not to distract from the people.
It was a pretty straight forward task to tape it up, after planning the placement of scallops to end at a peak where panels come together, so in a reasonable amount of time, it was completely painted in. Deciding it needed a cast shadow, I painted one in , using a mid tone grey and the pattern for the shadow edge. Long story short, I painted the shadow at least 4 different ways, each time consulting with my husband for an unbiased opinion. Each time I was unhappy with the results and had to keep repainting. Then my husband declared it looked better without a cast shadow so there you go; NO cast shadow.....move on!
Next order of business was to paint the honorees name in the dark area at the bottom. I already knew exactly what font I wanted to use, so sizing was the only issue here. Each name is being sized to fit the space, depending on number of letters.

CELEBRATION!  1st panel is compete and can move out....slide in another one...only about 14 or 15 more panels to go!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Barry Ruben...Need a hand? How to improvise..

Working on portrait number 3, Barry Ruben. Great challenges here, as the full body shot was in a suit and the face shot was in a reds to marry the two. Plus, I was missing the entire right arm in the full body shot and most of the left hand in the close up.

I determined it would work better if he were facing slightly to the left to keep the vision flowing across the mural, so I elected to 'flip' the body. This solved a couple of problems, as I was able to them use the left hand in the body shot to sketch from and just change the angle. I drew a rectangle over the right hand as a guide; my sketch still ended up being a little large so I used my printer to reduce my drawing 10% and it fit just right.

Changing the position of the hand presented another problem; the extended fingers now looked awkward , so I made them appear to be curled up more.

Barry Ruben, co-owner of Lima Bargain Center and owner of the semi-pro baseball team, the Lima Locos. ( The sponsors are in sw Florida and would have loved to have been here to add a stroke or two!       Well, guess that is a small price to pay for being where it is warm and sunny in January.)

Monday, January 20, 2014

Invite! They will come!

Getting the first portrait under my belt was a huge relief, for now I feel I have a handle on how I am going to approach this. Having a game plan is of the utmost importance! Leaving room for some flexibility adds to the difficulty but must be done.

To make this a truly 'community' mural, I decided to extend an invite for each sponsor to come apply a few brushstrokes to their chosen honoree, allowing for more ownership and pride in the mural. Truth is, I get the biggest kick out of sharing! Today, Kathy Seitz seized the moment to become a part of the history of this mural and painted in her father, Joe O'Brien's trousers. ( My husband Claude posed for me, as we had no photo reference for his pants). It worked!

Dick and Kathy have been a delight to work with through this entire process and leave me eagerly anticipating getting on to the next one. Knowing they were very pleased with my interpretation sure made my day!
As an added perk, I asked Kathy to sign her initials by her father's trousers, to show everyone where she painted on the mural! Look at that smile......

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Switching paints and changing positions!

Progress! Yeah, it is so wonderful to have some of the prep out of the way and be able to tackle this thing. I was having difficulty with the drawing of the first person I wanted to put on the mural. I was just spinning my wheels trying to make it work, as I had a good upper shot  but the couple I had to complete it were all wrong; the pose, the clothing, the position!

So, I changed the game plan.........and selected a new person to start with that had great photo reference all in one shot! Nothing to invent..........whew! OK, so now I was ready to start.

Having changed paints also had slowed things down but I knew it was the right thing to do. I am now using Golden Acrylics along with their GAC 200 Medium.

  It is still a learning curve working with these acrylics, but they are much closer to ones I have used in the past in their workability.

Having the large glass palette to mix on and a razor to scrape with is a definite help!

Not being able to 'float' my shadows and highlights in, is making it a bit of a challenge, for now I am doing a lot of dry brushing. The murals I studied in person recently, used an almost black for the outermost lines and a dark brown narrower line for interior lines, so I am working somewhat with that in mind.

Here is number 1 model complete.........Margie the 'storyteller' 

( a great image to start off with!)

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The the beginning!

So much PREP! So little time...........

This is a monumental task in just the preparation ..........although I have a fairly large studio, it is not large enough to prep several 4 x 8" sheets of plywood at the same time, unless I was able to empty it of all contents!

Therefore, I needed a place to do needed space for several large tables, good lighting, be accessible , on the ground floor AND have heat!!! We have a large garage but the heat was an issue. We shopped for a heater all over town before we finally located one at our local tractor supply place. Several hundred dollars and days later, there was heat.

By this time we are full swing into the Christmas season and I am on the phone daily, calling sponsors regarding photographs for the honorees of the mural. Message after message I left; everyone was so busy! And rightly so.....therefore, I knew I had to just chill and let Christmas happen and then have at it right after Jan.1. In the mean time, I got busy with educating myself about the task of painting a mural as opposed to a studio portrait in oils. I knew I would have to switch to acrylic paints but there were so many! Night after night, I was on the computer searching for answers, talking to fellow artists, etc. I finally settled on some paints and got 1 panel prepped for a trial run. Since I was the most available model, I posed, took my own photos, then drew it up and on the panel to test the paints and process, size and scale of the project. ( Did I mention I still had commissions to complete for Christmas?)

The paints were very different, even though I had worked with lots of acrylic paints. They just didn't move or cover the way I wanted them to. So back to the research!

Just as I thought I was on target, we were hit with a major artic blast with LOTS of snow and record-setting cold.........pipes frozen three times in a matter of just over a week! Too cold to even try to heat the garage warm enough; we were lucky to just stay warm enough in the house!

The pictures were starting to come in..........imagine someone thinking that you could paint a portrait of someone from a photo...........of a photo...........that was still under glass..........they used a flash...and the camera was their phone! (This happened not once but twice!)

The weather took a turn for the better and panels could be prepped. (That requires calking all the edges, twice. Two coats of primer coating the edges each time for a total of four coats on them.)
 I decided to skip the photos that were poor and lacking info and re-arrange the mural with the ones that I had good photo references for. Getting a few done right away is now my goal. I am getting the drawings done.
That is another issue...I thought I could save time  on the drawing stage and project the images I borrowed a projector from a friend, then the bulb went out. I located a bulb online for about $100.Of course, then I had to wait for it to ship. I had no idea how much distortion happens until I was trying to do someone I knew and saw how off the proportions were. So back to the old fashioned way, drawing freehand! TIME TIME TIME!!!
So here I am still trying to get number one done and I ordered another $150 worth of paints from another supplier, now waiting for them to arrive. In the mean time, I also had to buy a step stool and a platform to be able to work on the higher elements, ie, taller folks!
I do revert to some of my portrait tips though, like making a drawing on transparency to use as a 'master proof' for when the painting 'grows' beyond the edge or features get distorted, I can lay it over and find where I lost my way!
Once I get on a roll, you will see them progress quickly!   stay tuned....

Sunday, January 5, 2014


What a wonderful new year it is going to be!  Positive thinking begets positive results...
                                                       that's my motto for this year!

                                     Dreaming big and imagining the real possibilities!

The year is off with a BIG bang! I have been chosen as the artist to create and paint an outside mural for our downtown comprising of 30 life sized portraits! A HUGE undertaking and one I would never have dreamt to come my way; a little nervous, but I am going to give it my best shot.

Speaking of shots...........I just completed a painting of my friend, Robert 'Cowboy' Culbertson, who I was so fortunate to spend a week with at the American Frontier Productions in Kansas last summer. That was quite a treat and I sure hope to get the opportunity to return there!

The next great thing is that a portrait of mine has been selected to be included for the show at Scottsdale Artists School, in Scottsdale, AZ. If you have never been there, you should add it to your list. I am so humbled to be a part of this show. I have seen the incredible  art chosen in previous years and am super excited to be part of it this year!

The show opens January 10 and since I will be traveling to AZ in Feb., I will be sure to go see it grace the halls of SAS and have my photo taken along side it.
Dream BIG! Who knows where it will take you...