On this shortest day of the year here are some cheery flowers to brighten the darkness.
While I was away visiting my mom last weekend, my cat-sitter Rachel (of McGraw’s Paws) cat-sat for the first time since Busby my tabby cat died. She was sad not seeing him too and left me this stunning bouquet of flowers in his honor and a lovely card with these wise and beautiful words about sorrow that are worth remembering for any loss:
‘When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”
My friend Gina emailed me a photo with a note saying, “I like the light in this photo– for some reason I always think of you when I look at it.” Although I rarely paint from photos, especially those taken by other people, I just had to paint this one. My computer monitor is set up so that I can paint directly from the image on the screen which is a lot better than working from the limited colors in a printed image.
I’m not sure if I’m done yet, but I couldn’t see what else was needed so I stopped. If you have any suggestions for improving the picture, I’d love to hear.
Below are some stages of the painting. I used a bit of artistic license: I gave Hannah a bit of a haircut and deleted Gina’s wonderful dog Bella because:
The dog was competing with Hannah as the focal point and was about the same size.
I couldn’t get Bella to “read” as a dog; no matter how hard I tried to draw her correctly, she just kept turning into a jackrabbit.
Top row: 1) the finished painting; 2) my painting start; and 3) a black and white version of the start to see if my values were on track.
Middle row: 1) & 2) the next two steps in the painting. 3) a view of a “color spot” layer that I made in Photoshop. I created a new layer, and used Photoshop’s Paintbrush tool to select (Alt-click) and paint spots of those colors because it can be easier to see the colors when they’re isolated. Even more helpful than the color spots is a color-mixing tip I learned from Dianne Mize on Empty Easel: you apply the color to the edge of a small card and compare it to the subject until you get it right.
Bottom row: three views of the original photo. 1) “Posterized” in Photoshop down to two values; 3) posterized with three values; 3) Gina’s original photo.
P.S. This park, which Hannah affectionately calls the “swamp adventure,” is part of the East Bay Regional Parks. It is a river front park next to McAvoy harbor in Bay Point. It’s a little delta oasis in the sprawl of East Contra Costa County.
Updated: I worked on the painting and tried to make the little girl sunnier (ABOVE). When I compared the finished painting to the original photo I discovered that the girl and the ducks were way too big compared to the actual scene. Oh well.
The original is BELOW:
When I woke up this morning I was feeling grumpy because it was my last day of vacation and I’d hoped to accomplish more in the studio than I had. I tried to think of an antidote to grumpiness so I didn’t ruin my day. I decided to write down everything that makes me happy and was surprised that it took three pages in my journal. When I finished writing I was feeling much more cheery.
I’d be interested to hear what makes you happy.
About the painting: I took the photo when I was painting at Lake Temescal in Oakland last month and cropped it to experiment with a square format. I pretended like the image on my monitor was a plein air scene and tried to paint as if I was outdoors. I must admit I didn’t really fool myself, and knew the light wouldn’t change and the little girl wouldn’t move.
What makes me happy: (in the order it occurred to me this morning):
A nice walk, fun in the studio, a good meal, a beautiful rainy day being cozy indoors, an enjoyable movie, a snuggly cat or dog, comfortable clothes, good art supplies, loving friends and family, a good book, a day to myself, learning something new, a new art magazine in the mail, days off work, a hot bath or shower, unscheduled time, bursts of creativity, being pain free, comfortable shoes.
A warm beach, windows into other peoples’ lives, my guardian angel (don’t ask), great art, beautiful art books, libraries, book stores, art supply stores, wearing colorful bandanas, finding the right shade of lipstick, looking and feeling cute, tall men with strong arms, drawing people, drawing anything, the flow of watercolor on paper, a successful painting.
A clean house, a toasty warm bed on a cold night, doing dishes, scooping the litter box (I know, I’m nuts), a speedy computer, learning to see colors accurately, my framed art hanging on the wall, a good workout, a small garden, smooth stones, shells from the ocean, the scent of the sea, eating fresh oysters.
Remembering my Grandma, seeing my sons happy and healthy, a hug from my sister, a good laugh, a hike and catch up chat with a friend, organizing things, an air conditioner on a hot night, a refreshing drink when I’m thirsty, a latte made with love (and Peets coffee), a smooth road without potholes, competence, a good teacher.
Good news for a change, financial security (someday), walking instead of driving, people who work for common good, generosity, kindness, puppies, kittens, rain, having someone say “God bless you.” My GPS (not getting lost anymore), my spunky little Toyota RAV4, my Soltek easel and plein air cart, my fuzzy slippers and ratty sweatshirt, my closet for storing canvas, my washer and dryer, owning my own little house.
My neighbors, the internet, my iPhone, good healthcare, a nice cup of tea, writing and/or sketching daily in my journal, a fridge full of fresh healthy food, silly kitties, a massage and sauna, my special black-handled cereal spoon (was my mothers from her 1950s kitchen).