Did you know angels walk among us? The model for my recent portrait miniature is proof. Leo’s mother assured me he not only looks angelic but acts that way too.
My approach to collaboration sets me apart
Trying new ideas and embracing the collaborative element of creating a custom painting are fundamental to my creative process. Alexix and I live around 2,500 miles apart and unlike many portrait artists, I often use images provided by my client. Many portrait artists will not work with clients images. Retaining that element of control is a part of their process. While I do sometimes take reference photos of both people and animals for my pet portraits, I’m always open to the idea of using my clients images. There’s something exciting about starting off the painting from the eyes of someone who truly knows and loves the subject.
Once I have images, the back and forth starts. I ask for as many images as possible then I see what inspires me. It’s useful to get a sense of the personality of the subject and to get coloring right. I then make several mock-ups for my client to look at. Even if there’s one particular image that stands out to me, I can make several variations by changing the background, contrast on the face and colors of the clothing. These details can completely alter the overall feel of the image. Then the client looks at the mock-ups and offers feedback or approval.
The Perfect Frame
In my first 19th century inspired mock-up of Leo, he wore a dark sweater and I used a simple frame. Alexix had two brilliant ideas: lighten the sweater to add to the angelic look, and go with a bold ornate frame.
We both started searching for the perfect frame online and she found this gorgeous gold sunburst one on Etsy. I made another mock-up of the paitning in this frame. It was perfect! She had the frame shipped straight to me. Once the portrait miniature was complete, he arrived in New York City, framed, wired and ready to install.
I truly believe that keeping myself open to new ideas makes for better paintings and ultimately, that’s what I want to do. I want to make great paintings, not good paintings. Contact me to start working on a custom portrait of your very own.
Thank you Alexix for the opportunity to paint your lovely little boy and for such an exciting collaboration.
Received and it’s wonderful! I’m so excited to hang our little sun king in the house. Your work is exceptional!
The idea for the painting “Self Portrait – Expecting” came back when I was six months pregnant with my son and most of my reference images were gathered at that time. Rabbits were a big part of my childhood and I had two rabbits that lived in my painting studio. My rabbit Eleanor, was a natural addition to the painting. Not only did she sit at my feet while I painted, her species has been seen as a symbol of fertility for more than seven-hundred years.
I didn’t start painting “Self Portrait – Expecting” until my son was two and a half and after a series of miscarriages, I had recently learned that I was pregnant again. Eleanor had passed away since the photos were taken and right in the middle of working the painting, I lost yet another pregnancy, the fourth since my son was born. The act of making this painting was such a bitter sweet experience. The painting is about fertility, yet while making it, I was experiencing so much loss. I think that some of my resolve, the strength that I had to keep up for the sake of my two-year old made its way into my expression which changed throughout the painting process. In the end, the painting has become a reminder for me to be grateful and never give up hope.
This painting is on view at Arcadia Contemporary in the group show “ARC Visions 2019“ through March 2nd 2019.
Finishing up my latest Monthly Miniature of Olwyn Marsden, I thought it would be fun to see a portrait I painted of her when she was little, along with portrait paintings of her parents and don’t forget the dog! Nippy has sadly passed, but his joy of car-rides lives on. All of these paintings are in the Marsden collection. Go to Tim Marsden’s website to see his artwork.
Transfiguration 20, Mother & Daughter oil on rotating copper panels (double sided painting) 7.5″ x 5″ x 3.5″ (framed)
Transfiguration 21 oil on rotating copper panels (double sided painting) 7.5″ x 5″ x 3.5″ (framed)
Nippy, Oil on aluminum, 5 1/4″ x 9 1/2″
The portrait paintings of Tim, Sandy and Olwyn are from a series of interactive paintings. The viewer can spin a small knob at the underside of the shadowbox frame and spin the image to view another painting on the other side. You can see more of these paintings in my interactive painting gallery.
The portrait of Nippy was a finalist in the 2016 ARC Salon Competition.
It was a lovely Seattle day when Robbie sat (in a tree) for his portrait painting. Robbie was patient and sweet and easy to work with, and the reference photos came out beautifully. I was thankful that it started off so well, as it was among the most challenging portrait commissions I’ve painted.
Traditional oil portrait painting technique sees me through again
It took flexibility and patience to finish this commission the way I imagined it, and without years of experience, I could have been tempted to call it done early. With the wide variety of textures in this portrait, the challenge was to paint each texture at the right level of detail to keep the eye moving through the painting without distracting from Robbie. I also experimented a lot with composition, moving major elements of the background during planning stages and early on in painting.
With so many different areas to work on, the confidence in the process of painting by layer kept me from getting ahead of myself. It’s not an accident that the same process helps keep color consistent. For instance, the second coat of paint for the sweater took four different painting sessions (having a one year old son has reduced my painting sessions to around two hours). The next two coats were thin glazing layers and each layer was finished during one painting session. That meant I was able to add highlights, shadows and more texture to the entire sweater with the same mixture of paint and not have to keep remixing days later. Similarly, finishing one entire layer before moving to the next layer, allows the whole painting to have a consistent look. As a bonus, painting in layers is a necessary part of fat-over-lean painting, which helps prevent cracking over time.
Thanks to Amy and Robbie for the wonderful experience
With all this talk of challenges, I want to say that I am so thankful for the opportunity to make this portrait painting. The color palette, composition and facial expression all came together in a tapestry of textures to find Robbie, with his budding confidence and thoughtful gaze. Amy was a pleasure work with, and Robbie made a wonderful subject both to photograph and to paint. Thank you both for the honor and opportunity.
It was lovely to see your studio and where all of your creative energy flows yesterday. I have hung the portrait… and it is wonderful. Thank you again, and know that I am plotting the next commission.
If you are new to my site, please visit my Gallery to see more examples of my work. Visit the Portrait Commissions page to learn how to have a portrait painted just for you.
Family Portrait of Heather, Courtney and Olivia, oil on aluminum, 6″ x 4.75″
Inspired by a 17th century artwork through 21st century social media
I’m always on the lookout for new ideas not only for what I’m painting, but also for framing. When Richard Christie, picture framer of the Cotswolds in the UK, posted an image of a painting on Instagram, I gasped aloud. I had been debating how to frame the miniature family portrait painting above and I instantly knew this was “The One!”. My delight was due to a beautiful frame worthy of a truly spectacular little painting (pictured below) of “A Winter Scene with Skaters near a Castle”. Painted by Hendrick Avercamp over four hundred years ago, it’s the inspiration for the frame I made for the commission, “Family Portrait of Heather, Courtney and Olivia”.
Posted by: antique_frames, A Winter Scene with Skaters near a Castle. By Hendrick Avercamp about 1608. Seen in the National Gallery.
Bringing out the details with subtle framing
Dutch style frames are a particular favorite of mine because I find that they lend a formality without adding distraction. The dark, wide and simple profile brings my eye into the details of the image and helps keep it there. I’m also happy to find that the geometric shape of the frame draws my eye around the arms and hands of the loving family encircling one another.
Detail of hands, oil on aluminum
Instagram for inspiration
I have a wide array of interests and they are all covered on Instagram. Among the folks I follow, there are visual artists, picture framers, musicians, weavers, farmers, and family members. You never know how or when inspiration will hit and it’s always fun to take a break and see what people are up to. If you’re on Instagram I hope you’ll check out my account!
Portrait of Maddie at the Beach, oil on copper, 4″ x 4″
My commission schedule is booked out almost a year in advance, but if there’s a special occasion you’d like a portrait for and it’s coming up soon, it doesn’t hurt to ask!
I like to leave a little wiggle room in my schedule to accommodate one or two unexpected commissions each year that need to happen right away. The timing for this painting worked perfectly, and I’m really happy I was able to make it as a special gift for a very special person.
This painting was presented to Michele as a tribute to ten years as a hardworking, knowledgeable and efficient registrar at the Seattle Art Museum. But for her colleges to commission such a gift to commemorate her time at SAM, it’s also a tribute to the genuine warmth and love that she has always been so quick to share. We coordinated with her daughter who she sent me several images, and this one immediately stood out to me as “the one,” both a portrait of her very loved granddaughter, and an image of a young girl, going confidently to the ocean on a glorious sunny day. I hope Michele’s new adventures are just as sunny, and I know she will go into them with confidence and brighten the lives of all she meets.
My thanks to everyone at SAM and to her daughter for the commission, and for your trust that I could make a gift worthy of Michele. And thank you, Michele, for all your help and support, both professional and personal over the past ten years. Enjoy and visit your old friends often!
From Michele’s daughter
“Wow, Rebecca. I don’t even know what to say… this is so beautiful. My mom is going to love it. We are so blessed that you’ve used your incredible talent to commit such a wonderful memory into an ever-lasting work of art. Thank you.”
“Amazingly talented, kind, sweet, wonderful. …I will always admire you when I look at the portrait…”
A first-person perspective captures the intimacy of a unique moment.
This image is so rich in textures to explore, from the surface of the water over the rippled sand, to the skin and all the various textiles. But what really makes this painting special is the story that inspired it and brought nine people together for a day to remember.
When I was first approached to make this painting, I admit I was a little skeptical. My client mentioned that he had taken the image the previous weekend and wanted a portrait made from it, with some slight modifications. It seemed like such a casual request to warrant countless hours making a painting that will last hundreds of years. I was compelled enough by the image to do a mock-up and give an estimate, yet I was curious, what made this image so special?
When my client accepted the estimate, he gave me the backstory:
This image is from this past Saturday when we scattered my Mother-in-law’s ashes at the beach and I shot this photo when we were all standing in a circle before the ashes were scattered. My idea of this painting is to give my wife a gift and a memorial from a really beautiful day. Part of what I like are how different all of our feet are, dress shoes and suit from the service bare feet, etc. The idea of the seagull is a representation of Jean in the middle of us.
The story was so moving that it completely transformed my perspective on the commission, from being slightly skeptical to feeling deeply honored. What a stunning reminder of the power of a story to give meaning, that a few words of insight into a shared experience can make an image so deeply moving.
What a beautiful memorial, and what a loving husband to bring the idea to life.
Sasha, as Adult and Child oil on rotating aluminum panels 6.75″ x 5.5″ x 3.5″ (framed)
A wedding and 75th birthday (the two events happened just a day apart!) were marked by the gift of these two paintings.
Bill delivered them into the hands of his new husband whose daughters are featured in these double-sided portraits: two beautiful sisters, painted in turn as cute little girls and then as lovely, happy adults. I was very impressed at how Bill was able to keep the commission secret from the whole family as he scoured every nook and cranny to find the perfect images. He found the ones from when they were kids hiding in a box in the garage.
A gallery is in the works of more interactive double-sided paintings for the website. I love the endless possibilities and have made many variations on this theme. Keep an eye out for it in the next few weeks. Until then, you’re welcome to take a look at my gallery of portrait commissions, which includes both traditional one-sided and multi-sided works.
My heartfelt congratulations to the newly-wedded couple and their family! It was a pleasure and an honor to paint your daughters.
Colby, as Adult and Child oil on rotating aluminum panels 6.75″ x 5.5″ x 3.5″ (framed)
Mismatched Portrait (Bride of Frankenstien) Oil on aluminum, 4″ x 6″
An unusual portrait commission, but I would expect nothing less from the best college roommate a gal could have.
A portrait commission of Elsa Lanchester in her brief but iconic role in the 1935 version of The Bride of Frankenstein is finished! The painting started out as almost entirely monochromatic in the style of my Mismatched Portraits, with a predominate indigo pallet but I added just a touch of dark maroon. When almost finished, I began adding bright cadmium red in the darkest blacks. I love adding straight cadmium red in very small brushstrokes. It’s a thrill to me that a color that intense can become rather subtle. It’s like a secret.
Thank you for the commission, Jennifer! I hope you like it! It was so nice to make it just for you.