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:
Yowzah it’s been a long time since I posted! So long that I forgot my password to log on to my site! I have been very very busy with things that I will share with you at a future point. However, for the moment, I’m STILL busy. I do want to show you a piece that I finished a few months ago, though, that I’ve yet to share. It’s a diptych (which is a fancy way of saying that it’s on two panels). I had so much fun with the colors in the skin tones-greens, violets, reds… To anyone reading this who is not a (totally obsessed with tiny details, value shifts, and color changes) realist artist, that statement probably sounded weird. I mean, caucasian hands should be painted in caucasian flesh tone, right? Yeah right, and grass is green and apples are red. Ok, well, those last two are true even though much more goes into those than meets the eye as well. But skin… how can I begin!? Skin is an organ, right? The largest organ of your whole entire body. It is a living thing with blood flow, covering muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones. And because it’s translucent, those elements underneath affect the color of the skin on top. So, take that complexity and add to it some other factors like form, light, shadow, the hills and valleys that make it look like a hand instead of just a lump of peach or brown clay and it gets pretty colorful. Your amazing brain is so amazing that it takes in all those details and processes them without you even noticing, then says simply to you, “That? That’s a hand.” So, take a minute. Look at the back of your hand. Wiggle your fingers and notice how the shape of the shadows changes as you do so. Pretty cool, huh? Now tell me, what color is your skin?
My painting, “Love Letter to the Here and Now” has been accepted into the Meridian Museum of Art’s Bi-State Annual Art Competition. Last week I hand delivered the painting to the museum in downtown Meridian, MS. With a bit of nervousness and one last loving look I left my brainchild in the capable hands of the museum staff. Good luck, Little One!
Hey y’all, remember me? Ages ago I posted (here!) the beginnings of a portrait I was doing of my little girl. However, I just realized I never shared the completed painting. So, I present to you “Love Letter to the Here and Now.”
“Love Letter to the Here and Now” by Erin Hardin- Oil on Linen
The title speaks to both the fact that the prototypical “dad with the video camera” is using a smartphone to record his child’s accomplishments.
Detail from “Love Letter to the Here and Now”
However it also truly is a love letter to my here. My now. Which I have to say, is pretty great.
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.
Those of you who have been following me for a long time may remember a post that I wrote on my former, blogspot blog. The post was entitled “Pockets of Joy” (click to read it). It was a sad post, and a happy post – A post in mourning of my dear dog Shag (aka The Shagster) who had recently died.
Now, around a year after the anniversary of his death, I painted his portrait. It was therapeutic and a celebration of the best dog ever. I present to you, The Shagster: