January 30, 2013 § 2 Comments

Craving more space like crazy I bought this 6 foot table that folds up into a 3 x 3 foot square -with handle- for easy tote and storage, thinking it would do the trick; thinking it would keep those wild horses so far away from my little corral that there’d be no possible way I could ever even feel the thundering of their hooves in the ground beneath me.


Jake the Golden & His Master dubious of this table called “Lifetime.”

Of course I was wrong.

Thursday Jan 31 - 1:30pm

Thursday Jan 31 – 1:30pm


Successful Failure

January 23, 2013 § 8 Comments

I’m 23 days without sugar. A steady hand for doing jaw surgery, which is where I left off with last week’s portrait painting session.

Today’s post title has special meaning. Now and again I go through these ‘I’m a fraud, a failure’ stages, where I doubt myself and what I’m doing or not doing and wanting to, or think I should, etc etc…maybe you know these voices.

After calling a heart friend (thank you C!!) and receiving nourishing wisdom, I did some reading again in SWITCH: How To Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, dynamic duo sociologists extraordinaire. Serendipitously, a blogger new to me –TravelingMarla – with a brilliant sense of humor and writerly talent that circles the globe (on fire!), was not only doing a sugar detox but writing about fear of failure and fear of success.

So this morning’s painting session took on a newly charged energy as I tackled my fears of messing with this. These first stokes to widen and lengthen the jaw cheered me.

lowering of right jaw line

lowering of right jaw line

Much better…on the right side at least. But it didn’t solve my face-shape dilemma as I’d hoped. Something was still amiss. I couldn’t leave it alone. Nooo…


…I had to noodle – left eye, hair line again, shadowing, the mouth – for 2 hours (which felt like 2 minutes). I can’t bear to tell you the things I did and didn’t take photos of…until I was sure I’d ruined TR forever. Why didn’t I leave him alone? I wanted to quit. I sat for a while looking at him from a distance with photo in hand, trying to figure out what had prompted me to mess with his mouth! Which all this time I’d thought was so great.

By simply sitting and pondering my ‘failure,’ in about a minute I realized I was in the “Valley of Insight” (as the Heath Brothers call it), and I saw it. The way out – and up the other side of the mountain: The left ear. Not long enough.

If you take your cursor and put it on the real photo in the first image of this post, at the bottom of the left ear, and draw an imaginary horizontal line across the face to the right ear, you’ll notice, that line goes right across the bottom edge of the lower lip. The painted ear (above) divides the lips. A good 1/4 inch off. That’s a lot. Whoo-hoo!

Failure suddenly became a success. By lowering that ear I’d be able to raise the mouth and make it the correct, shape to give it proper placement; less distance from the nose, and more of a chin. But I had to deconstruct the mouth to ever see it. There was no way around my ‘failure.’

In the photo below, I fixed the ear – see what I’d done to the lips? I mean, those are great lips, but they’re not his (no offense TR). Take your fingertip and cover these full lips, while squinting one eye and looking back and forth to the photo reference at the same time. The likeness is very close now, wouldn’t you say? It won’t be long.

failed mouth surgery

full-lipped TR, alias Jake’s Master

Next week: the Lip Lift.

paper towel painting - turpenoid lip removal

paper towel painting – turpenoid lip removal

I’m excited. It’s going to be okay. Even when I fall into another valley. Especially when I fall into another valley, because I own that valley. be continued.

…to be continued.

An Eye, A Brow, A Breath

January 17, 2013 § 4 Comments

Day 17 sugar-free! Some noodling with the right eye, brow lines and nostrils this morning. I had to keep asking Lynnette what I’d promised myself to focus on, since each time I came in close with the brush I’d notice a spot somewhere else that wasn’t quite right.

Today's noodling = right eye, brow lines, nostrils

Today’s noodling = right eye, brow lines, nostrils

Seeing this photo I understand what has been puzzling me about the shape of the face; that right jaw line needs to continue down from the ear more, needs to be fuller. That would also make the neck appear in correct proportion – right now it seems long and narrow to me. At first I thought I hadn’t drawn his shirt collar correctly, but it’s fine. There’s actually a shadow below the jaw where it looks like I adjusted that curve at one time and then either changed my mind or forgot what I had set out to do (which happens often). So, for next time – jaw noodling is it…and darker face shadows – oh – and his jacket…


Portrait Continues

January 11, 2013 § 5 Comments

I have taken myself off sugar. This is day 11, sugar-free. Strange things have been happening and not just mood swings. As if my brain considers peanut butter m&m’s my only source of the stuff. It’s like a circling wheel of challenges where it’s all I can think about one day, to feeling incredibly confident and strong the next. But I am not strong. Not yet. Painting helps.

hair and darker shadow side

hair and darker shadow side

Yesterday I didn’t have much time to work on Jake’s Master. I blocked in his hair and gave the shadow side of the face richer color. Then proportions started looking off again, so I noodled for a while. I can’t remember what needed noodling from these photos. I only remember I didn’t think about sugar for one second while I was in “The Zone.”


This morning the shape of the head didn’t look quite right and the left ear needed fixing again.  Generally speaking, when you’re looking straight ahead, the top of your ears are in line with the middle of your pupils, and your earlobes the middle of the mouth. If you lift your chin a bit, the ear line falls along the lower eyelids. In the photograph, the head is slightly tilted up.

I went back and forth adjusting the tone of the shadowing along the left side of the face and the hairline (both things I should have blocked in to begin with). I kept making the face either too wide, or square or not wide enough, which made the right ear appear too large. You’ll see in the photograph how the forehead line actually angles up to the left slightly. So lots of noodling. About two hours. But in The Zone? It felt like two minutes.

worked on left ear and hairline

worked on left ear and hairline

Jake’s Master has a Mona Lisa-ish smile. Like he knows something we don’t. The painted mouth wasn’t getting it and then I saw why – I had drawn the line between upper and lower lips in a dip, curving down in the middle. In the photograph, that dark red line actually separates the lips in a slight arc up in the middle. Like this.

mouth and pupil of right eye

mouth and pupil of right eye

I was hesitant to go for that right eye again, having missed its placement before, so I only painted the pupil, which is good, because now I’ve got it straight across from the left eye and it needs to go higher still.

I’m always surprised by the difference between painting what I “know” about a subject and what I actually “see” with my own eyes. Seeing takes more time.

Thanks for spending it with me. Hope you have a great weekend…2 B continued.

Jake’s Master

January 5, 2013 § 8 Comments

Jake the dog will love this painting no matter how I work it. The thing about portraits – or any figurative artwork you intend to be representational as opposed to abstract – we humans know when something’s not quite right, even if we don’t know how to correct it.

Palette for Jake's Master: Titanium White; Lemon Yellow; Cadmium Red Scarlet; Alizarin Crimson; French Ultramarine; Cobalt Blue; Viridian; Yellow Ochre Pale; Burnt Sienna - Turpenoid in left cup

Palette for Jake’s Master: Titanium White; Lemon Yellow; Cadmium Red Scarlet; Alizarin Crimson; French Ultramarine; Cobalt Blue; Viridian; Yellow Ochre Pale; Burnt Sienna – Turpenoid in left cup – bristle brushes ranging from 2 – 6, “Bright” & “Filbert”

This post is for Amy – who asked what I see and how I do this – and I thank you! it’s pretty great to be able to view photos of a piece in progress. Proportions that are off are so obvious to me here.  I look for them first. The blue outline I painted a few sessions ago is my guide, like the lines in a coloring book. I don’t like to get too far into painted details before I am pretty sure the proportions are on.

I see now how the right eye is too low, but I didn’t notice it at the time till an hour later – actually my painting pal, Lynnette, pointed it out when I’d finally stepped back to look…you’ll see what I mean.

What I did notice as I blocked in light skin surfaces, was the left ear – too much of it showing – so I colored it with a deep red shadow and some additional ochre/yellow background to place it back against the side of the head more (see 2 photos down). Actually, if I were doing this over I would block in the hair and much darker shadow colors on the face to start.


I like to keep the oil colors I mix specified for certain brushes so I’m not muddying up the works as I go, using my fingers as a handy brush holder. I’m usually holding a paper towel too, for wiping a brush of too much color or one that I’ve dipped in the Turpenoid to clear its bristles.


If you take a good look at your eyes in the mirror you’ll notice they are not symmetrically placed nor shaped. First I block in the bone of the skull – the eye socket – then work my way over the planes of the eye – the many surfaces that catch light and shadow, like the brow, the eyelids…it can be overwhelming, but if you take them one surface at a time, analyzing their value (lightness or darkness on a gray scale from white to black), you can trick your critic into seeing color and value and not “this is an eye! this is an eye! that’s not right!…”

Now I see the right eye is too low. In the photo reference it's actually a tad higher than the left.

Now I see the right eye is too low. In the photo reference it’s slightly higher than the left.

As the face begins to have form it’s easier for me to see the shape of the head and placement of the ears and facial features in relation to the photo reference. Every so often it’s a good idea to step back about ten feet from the painting to really see things that are askew. The list in my mind ran with several things here, but I chose to raise that right eye, then reassess. One correction can automatically correct – or change – others. I’ll use a clean brush dipped in Turpenoid for this, or a paper towel.

easy eyelift with paper towel corner dipped in turp

easy eyelift with paper towel corner dipped in turp

At some point I need an eye looking at me. This is just personal. It feels as if the subject guides me after that. I save eyes for last because they take the longest and are the most important, the connection for the whole painting.

right eye erased

right eye erased

Thought you’d like to see what the palette looked like at this point…

flesh color was mixed with Titanium white, a spot of Cadmium Red Scarlet and Yellow Ochre Pale

flesh color was mixed with Titanium white, a spot of Cadmium Red Scarlet and Yellow Ochre Pale

For years I tried to teach myself ‘how to do that’ – how to see, how to draw and paint and render, mix color and on and on. Like learning the written alphabet, once you’ve got the basics of the Alphabet of Art firmly in mind and muscle memory, you’ve got all these tools to play with and it’s incredibly exciting. A whole new world. Art Center College of Design took me there and beyond.

eye for an eye


stay tuned

stay tuned

Jake Has Eyes

January 3, 2013 § 9 Comments


Jake's Oil Palette - from left: Titanium White; Cobalt Blue; French Ultramarine; Alizarin Crimson; Cadmium Red Scarlet; Cadmium Yellow Pale; Yellow Ochre; Burnt Sienna

Jake’s Oil Palette – from left: Titanium White; Cobalt Blue; French Ultramarine; Alizarin Crimson; Cadmium Red Scarlet; Cadmium Yellow Pale; Yellow Ochre; Burnt Sienna


January 2, 2013 § 2 Comments

Jake - session 4

Jake – session 4

Jake does look more dignified in his own coat, I’ll admit. I just had to style him in that sport jacket to know for sure – Men In Black. You can still see the dark shape of it under his ochre toned hair on our right. A couple more painting sessions and you won’t be able to tell. Fun for me to know it’s there, though. It actually looked more like the beginnings of a vintage smoking jacket…maybe I would have continued in a deep burgundy wine color…with “JR” monogrammed on the breast pocket…

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