Tuesday, May 7, 2013


This is part two on recent paintings created from memory.  I decided to write about these two paintings in particular because to me they actually go together as companion pieces.  Though quite different in color and lighting, they have similar compositions and themes.

Last week we took a day trip down to North Carolina to visit family, and to do that we had to pass through Hillsville (appropriately named).  We were dealing with a cool, damp, cloudy, rainy day--not great for traveling.  There were pockets of thick fog where you couldn't see much beyond the bend, and then there were places where the clouds opened up and let just a shaft of light peak through and shine on the newly dressed green hillside.  Alison and I both deeply regretted forgetting the camera (something we often do, and often regret). 

On the ride home we drove back through Hillsville, and again the sky was moving with these monstrous clouds, rain was falling in the far distance, and yet shafts of light were streaming through here and there, piercing this cloud and then that cloud.  And those words of Tolkien again came to my mind as I watched this unfolding transient scene roll before me.

"...In the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach."

Monday, May 6, 2013

"Throw a little Tolkien and Lewis in there and I think you have something."

I don't usually paint from memory, but Alison is encouraging me to do so more and more.  I usually take photos and work from those, and in the old days I would go out and paint on location.  This is the first of two blogs on two paintings worked from memory.

Recently I finished reading The Lord of the Rings...again, and I always find new little nuggets each time I read it through.  Towards the end of the book when Frodo and Sam are in Morder struggling to get to the end of their journey, Sam begins to lose hope, but then he sees something:

"...There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach."

Driving home one night a couple of weeks ago, we were experiencing some dynamic skies with swirling clouds and storms.  As we traveled along a dark country road I looked up, and in a breaking of the clouds there shone a beautiful star.  I kept looking and looking, and that quote from Tolkien came to my mind and I tried to remember the colors, the mood, the lighting--everything in the hopes of trying to recapture that at some point on canvas.

Last week we attended a local wine, food, and art festival, and I set up an easel and decided to work on a painting while we were there.  That scene came to my mind again, and so I jumped right in and worked up a composition and started laying in color.  Was the image exactly what I saw that night?  No, but it definitely portrayed the mood and feel of that evening for me.  

By the end of the day, I had a finished painting, but I didn't know what to call it.  Though originally in my mind it was an evening scene, Alison said it looked more like morning light, and I agreed, so I thought about naming it "Morning Star," but that didn't seem to fit.  "Call it Perelandra," my brother said.  And there it was...and so I did.  If you're not familiar with the name, it is what C. S. Lewis called Venus in the second book of his space trilogy (also the title of said book). 


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Finished at Last!

Well, here is the "bearded wonder" in all his glory.  Though somewhat difficult to tell in the photo, I darkened the background to get rid of the competing "aura" around the back of the head.  The portrait took 10 sessions to complete, with sessions 1-8 taking approximately 15-30 minutes each.  The ninth session lasted a little over an hour, and that is where most of the fine-tuning took place.  The last session took maybe 15 minutes to add last minute details like moles (sorry Phil), extra hairs, etc. This is an acrylic painting on a 12" x 12" stretched canvas, worked from a photo, and I must say I'm pleased with the results. Below is a detail of the face.

Who is the subject?  Philip Hatter is my older brother, creator of Thistledown Puppets (www.thistledownpuppets.com).  He designs and creates all kinds of beautiful hand-made puppets for people all over the world.  And he has a pretty awesome beard.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Almost Done...

After adding the hair and beard details, the painting is almost finished.  I reworked the background, lightening the area to the left of the head and on the lower right.  The more I looked at it today, as I kept coming back to the painting from time to time, I realized that I made the background a tad too light.  While I want the background to give a definite edge to the back of the head, I don't really want the strong "aural" effect that the painting has in this photo, so tonight I reworked the background (again!) and added a few more details to the shirt and beard.  I will take a photo of it tomorrow if I still like it and basically will call it finished.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Baby Steps

So you can see I'm making slow progress (but progress nonetheless!), working and re-working the skin and background, nudging little highlights and shadows here and there.  Next stop--hair and beard detail...

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Blue is the Winner

So after tinkering with the image on the computer, changing background colors back and forth (I played with blue, teal, and brown), I finally decided on the darker blue so that the colors of the face would pop a little more against the background.  I decided to push the color darker than I had originally planned, because I want the eye to go immediately to the face, then meander around the head.  If the color was brighter, there would be somewhat of a competition between the face and the hue behind it--it can be done, but that's not my goal for this piece. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Portrait of Philip

Ahh, let's step back in front of the ol' art campfire and warm ourselves a bit on this cold winter's night... I've been working on this acrylic portrait of my brother, Philip, slowly working it up here and there and trying to remember to document my progress (I'm really bad at that), which hopefully I will continue to do in future posts through the completion.  Since I'm a little behind, I thought I'd go ahead and share these first five sessions so far.  This first image shows the under painting with the initial sketch of his head.  Next I add some of the highlights to get a better sense of lighting.

With the basic highlights roughed in, I then lay in the darker areas to block in the values before adding any color. 

 Now it's time to start refining the values and working in the reddish orange shadows around the ears, eye, nose, neck, etc. 

 This is the part that I really enjoy--when I get to start adding a little color and refining points, including the eyes, shirt and hair. 

I've been going back and forth on what color to make the background.  The photo that I took has him in front of a grayish wall that lacks any enthusiasm, so I don't think I want to keep that.  I like the look of a dark background to show off the face, but since his shirt is dark, I don't want to make it too heavy looking of a piece.  Plus, I just finished a portrait with a dark background and I would like to work on something with a different look.  Well, something to keep thinking about...