This is Baby Monkey. My little girl’s best buddy. Her constant companion for the better part of her life. So loved is Baby Monkey that I worried about her safety, constantly checking to see that she hadn’t been left behind at stores, hotels, airports. The perfect size to clutch in a chubby little 3-year-old fist, she went everywhere with us.
But my little girl isn’t 3 anymore. She’s 6. Tall, headstrong, funny, bold. Baby Monkey stays home most of the time nowadays, no longer making trips to the grocery store and school. Recently, though, after a long day out my daughter said, “I want to go home. I want to go home and see Baby Monkey.”
I just finished this commission and I love it. It’s unlike anything else I’ve ever done. However, it began the way many of my paintings began.
It began with love.
A couple. A wedding in an exotic locale surrounded by the people that love them best. And flowers. Beautiful flowers.
Five years later, that wedding is a marriage- no longer just a celebratory statement of love, but a daily, quiet, steady, continual recommitment to a relationship with kids, a mortgage, and all the trappings. And through that weekday love, the memory of that wedding, and those flowers, glows bright.
Five years. The flower anniversary. As a gift to each other they chose this: a daily reminder to hang in the heart of their home of that beautiful day, that embrace of family and friends, and those flowers.
Hello there stranger! How the heck are ya? Do you even remember me? I’m sure that’s questionable. Remember in my last post I promised you that I would tell you soon what was keeping me so busy. Apparently I lied. I apologize.
See here’s the deal. I had a baby! I say that like it just happened. Oh no. It wasn’t recent. It was so long ago now I’m embarrassed to say. Embarrassed because while a new baby might be a reason to neglect a blog, a 20-month-old, despite the fact that he’s into everything, seems like less of an excuse. The thing is that while I expected that to mean extra work, no one told me that the craziness increases exponentially with each child so that 2 children is somehow through some mathematical mystery 4 times the work. I would imagine that people with 6 children never ever stop moving and never take in any sustenance but the last drops in the bottom of a juice box and the 1/2 a chicken nugget child #4 dropped on the floor that the dog failed to notice. So hats off to those of you that make multiple children look easy. But I digress. Where was I? Ah yes. Kid x 2= Work². However, it’s also Fun², so while there’s extra cleaning messes, laundry, correcting, containing, and refereeing, etc; there’s also extra snuggling, kissing, teaching, learning, and laughing. It’s good. It’s great! But it is busy.
I am very happy to say, though, that work as been busy as well. I’ve done several commissions which I have really really enjoyed. I love the collaboration involved in helping someone flesh out what they want in a painting and bringing it to life. My commissions have ranged from an oil painting done from an old photograph of the client and her mother, to a traditional portrait, to a portrait of a beloved stuffed bunny, to tiny boots and baby knees (plus a couple of pet portraits not shown here). The work has been varied, but so so good with each piece presenting its own challenges, learning opportunities, and rewards. I’ll probably go into detail about some of these in future posts, but for now here’s a brief glimpse of what I’ve been up to since the new kid came along:
Christmas 2014 when my daughter was 3, my father-in-law and his wife gave all the grandkids boots. What a hit! My little girl wore hers constantly- I even had to talk her out of wearing them on the beach- and they quickly became her trademark. But, like kids tend to do, she’s growing. Quickly. And by this past Christmas it was time for a new pair. They were replaced by a pair of brown boots with colorful stitching on the sides. She took to them immediately. It took a little longer for me. They were so grown-up and I wasn’t ready.
She’s getting so big, so fast. The 4-year-old in brown boots is so different from the 3-year-old in pink boots. So different and yet the same. I love watching her grow up. I love watching her change. But it also breaks my heart a little. So when I requested she pick out some things to give away and she brought me her pink boots, I almost cried. The sentimental packrat in me wanted to hold on to them… just because. She’s right, though. It’s time to move on. But not without commemoration and one last look.
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Bit by bit I’m moving along on this painting. I’m loving it, but my little one has decided naps are for chumps so I’m not getting to work on it much. That’s ok. Next week she starts pre-school so I’m trying to soak up every sweet, frustrating, fun, non-work productive, bonding, silly, frivolous, educational, and mundane moment with her. I have the rest of my life to work. Here and there, though, I have made some progress on it.
Last post I showed you my rub-out underpainting:
Now for the fun part- color! Here’s what I’ve done so far, plus a couple of detail shots.
Don’t you love skin tones? Look at all the colors in there- greens, pinks, violets- and I can promise you there’s not a bit of pre-mixed “Caucasian Flesh Tone” on my palette. Where would be the fun in that?
A while ago I showed you this in-progress picture:
with the promise that you would see it transform along the way into a finished painting. I lied. I didn’t mean to! Sometimes I just can’t finish a painting. There’s certainly something to be said for committing to a project; working until your idea comes to fruition; pressing on until the bitter end. But there’s also something to be said for stopping when you realize that what you’re working on just isn’t “you” anymore. That is not to say the same attitude should apply to every situation that bores you, or even to every painting, but of all the commitments you could flake on in life this is one case where the earth will not shatter, hearts will not break, and jobs will not be lost (unless, of course, it’s a commission- which this was not so I’m free to do what I want. So there!).
Now, let’s try this again with a painting I know I’ll finish- in part because I’m much more more in love with the subject matter. A portrait of my daily life.
To start I did a value study:
Value study on Ampersand Oil Paper, 6″x8″
A quick laying down of the lights and darks of my composition. This is done on a small scale (in proportion to the size and shape of the finished painting) quickly and loosely, with no gridding, no drawing, and no blending. The purpose of this step is just to help you check the balance of lights and darks in your painting. For example, this composition stands alone because it is primarily dark with a bright white center of interest. When paintings edge too much toward mid-range in value, they get dull no matter what your colors or subject. Value studies are helpful, though because you don’t get distracted by the pretty colors or elaborate patterns and you can really see the bones of the picture. So far, so good. And I’m not a bit bored.