Buster, a long haired dachshund
Sometimes it’s hard to know whether the effort I put into portraits is helping…or a sign that I should simply start over.
I just finished a portrait commission. It was a very cute, long-haired dachshund named Buster, the grand-dog of friends with an intimidating array of art credentials: both have doctorates in art history; she taught on a graduate level, wrote important books on art and sold paintings of her own; he managed a major New York City gallery.
Perhaps that was why I kept tweaking and re-painting Buster…until the original, winsome dog in the painting had been covered by another…and another, and I knew that I was overthinking this poor pup.
Feeling very stuck, I started over with a different reference photo…and I could tell right away that this time, Buster was talking and I was listening, and the painting virtually painted itself.
I decided to give this dog’s “grandparents” the opportunity to decide which one they wanted, and – no big surprise – they preferred the second one.
Buster, a long haired dachshund
The lesson I learned: the quality of a portrait may actually be in inverse proportion to the effort expended. Perhaps, like a winning tennis stroke, a good painting has to feel informed, connected, and ultimately effortless.
But I have to admit, the process is still a mystery…
The woman in the middle of this image is Leah Lopez, one of my very favorite living artists and dear friend.
Leah is also my mentor. I’ve been studying with Leah for several years, both at the New York Academy of Art and at her own New York City studio. She is a very gifted teacher, and always inspiring; hence, the subject of this blog post – My Mentor, My Friend, My Art.
I created this little painting after a magical painting adventure in Provence, France. Along on this wonderful trip were several others, including my husband, Stan, and our granddaughter, Amanda.
To be precise, my husband and I visited an adorable Norwich Terrier named Toby, as well as our dear friends, Carey and John, Toby’s owners.
The portrait I painted of Toby, a Norwich Terrier, as a surprise for Carey last year is displayed in their home. It was commissioned by Carey’s husband, John, as a Christmas gift – and Carey indeed wondered why John was suddenly so busy photographing Toby. We were the fortunate and happy weekend guests of this crowd…great fun!
Toby and Carey…and Toby!
I met Carey in 7th grade. She and John are wonderful people and dear friends. Toby is a very endearing two year old who likes to lick people’s legs.
Jane and Her “Artist” Knox
My friend is an executive at Bobbi Brown, my very favorite cosmetics company, and she set up the appointment for me. An adorable makeup artist named Knox taught me patiently and with humor, as he applied about 20 products, with results that delighted me. He was also fun to chat with, and as it turned out, his brother went to the prep school where my son teaches in New England! It’s a small world after all.
I’ll try to keep Knox’s delicacy and assurance in mind from now on as I paint.
Please visit my web site, Pets By hArt, for examples of my work.
Thank you for your continued support,
There’s a lot of interest in what goes into preparing for a gallery show. As I get closer to my show’s opening, I’m happy to share the experience with other fellow artists. I’m continuing to develop the content and presentation of the artwork for my upcoming show, The Casual Portrait.
Whether you have an agent or are representing yourself, it is helpful to know that show requirements can vary from gallery to gallery. The average show consists of 8 to 10 of your very best works. I usually paint between 12 and 15 works, that cover several different subjects. For this show, my subjects are People, Animals, and Etc.
Since still life paintings of flowers or fruit don’t generally fit into the category of “portrait”, I opted to use the broad term “Etc.” in my promotional materials for this gallery show – a bit of trivia for those who asked
I’ve learned not to overwhelm the collectors and visitors to a show with too many selections. Artistic overload, if you will, can cause analysis paralysis; if overwhelmed by too many styles and categories, a purchase decision may become a challenge.