Happy spring! Fiddlehead season is about to sprout in the Maine woods...
I just opened a big old box of new art supplies that arrived in the mail today from my good friends Utrecht and Blick. And am now excitedly chomping at the bit to dive into my upcoming art project!--linocut prints with my kids! Which means...out with the old stock, and in with the new...
So, to clear out space in my studio, the remaining pieces of Life Stages of the Fern, are now buy two, get the third free!
Frames crafted from reclaimed barn wood with actual drops of my husband's and my own blood, sweat, and tears built right into their pocket-hole construction. Lucky you. Or...not so lucky. Ha ha...But these original watercolors were painted from Maine ferns observed through the seasons and framed in wood from several barns that once housed cows, horses, poultry, and possibly pigs? As well as all sorts of fun agricultural New England history.
Enjoy the blooming spring season, friends! And I'll be in the thick of homeschooling, second-drafting my novel manuscript in the early mornings, and looking forward to experimenting for an upcoming new series of linocut prints for the summer of 2021.
And more exciting news...
You'll find a Mini Q. & A. with Kevin Hawkes below! (*Happy jig...*)
But first, I must share the delight at having a very special butterfly friend alight at our home a week or so ago--via bicycle delivery from Kevin Hawkes himself--an original painting, Madame Butterfly, (as Karen Hawkes affectionately calls her)...
Any local Mainers recognize this parking lot? ;)
There is a backstory...several years ago my writing group (Hey, J and M!) and a bunch of creative friends (Hi, K and C!) visited Kevin's studio for a tour and discussion of his illustration work. I was bowled-over by his luminous paintings, and this one in particular, was so striking, so radiant, and just kicking about the studio so nonchalantly (amidst myriad other pieces), that I had to ask the Hawkes duo about it.
I couldn't help myself...I told Kevin if he ever considered selling this glowing gem, to please let me know! And I hoped my husband Matt and I could consider snatching it up if they ever did. I crossed my fingers but didn't hold my breath...
Lo, and behold(!), years later, and a month or so ago, Karen e-mailed and said they were ready to send Ms. Butterfly off on her own into the big, wide world. EEK! So my husband and I decided we'd snag Ms. B. as an early birthday present for 2020.
Well, I think this year definitely needs a little brightening, don't you? And though it feels very much like an indulgence to buy a piece of artwork when there are so many needs all over the world (and in my own home where things are getting broken at a faster pace than we can fix them), if we don't ever collect art when it's available, we'll never do it. Period.
And I'm an artist--fueled and inspired by artwork. Art simply brings joy in remembering what makes life wondrous, even deeply meaningful--especially in dark or uncertain times. Madame Butterfly reminds me of the year we moved to Maine in 2015--to give our kids room to roam the woods and play as siblings. An area in which to SLOOOW down.
We woke up a few days after settling in to our new place, to find that one of us had accidentally left the garage light on all night, which attracted moths all over the garage door (see below).
The kids gasped and called out to the others to, "Come, see!" We were witnesses to a moth convention--a "Mothcon" of sorts. There was literally a rainbow variety of shape and color. Gauzy-winged friends arrayed the garage entry. I felt chills at the wonder of the Lord's creations. And was so grateful to experience such a surreal moment with my children. I hope they remember it too.
Madame Butterfly reminds me of that day. When some days are full of discouraging drudgery (broken lamps, refrigerators that stop working, loads of laundry that someone forgot to change over, kids who don't want to do their allotted chores, etc., we can glance at the entrancing Madame Butterfly, and remember that there are also days of the extraordinary--marriages, births, birthdays, milestones, slow accomplishments and the fulfilling of dreams, that come and go when we least expect them. Life is remarkable at times. We just have to endure the regular days to get to exhilarating ones.
So we'll hang Madame Butterfly on our wall to bring a smile to everyone who passes by her for the remainder of this strange year of 2020. And I'll gladly have another birthday this fall if it means welcoming an original Kevin Hawkes creation into our home.
The Aphrodite Fritillary we've been spotting this summer around the milkweed.
So you know what I'll be doing before September...building a frame for that little portrait to live in--on the wall just inside our front entry way. Isn't she lovely? Isn't she wonderful? (Queue the Stevie Wonder music...)
Now a treat for you gentle readers--a Mini Q. & A. with the prolific and incredible Kevin Hawkes!
(E.R.)Q: Kevin, what was the impetus for creating such a unique, whimsical portrait?
(K.H.)A: The inspiration for this piece came years ago when I was working as a portrait painter in Boston. I came to understand that there was a lot of the unseen going on behind every portrait, especially the women who seemed to wear multiple hats daily. I began to think of them as wearing masks of sorts.
(E.R.) Q: How did you achieve such vibrancy with Madame Butterfly?
(K.H.) A: The vibrant color is from applied layers of pure transparent acrylic color over white background.
(E.R.) Q: Who is this Madame X of illustration?
(K.H.) A: The woman is of my own imagination but could be any of us who hides a serious interior behind a colorful facade!
(E.R.) Q:What projects are you most excited about working on currently?
(K.H.) A: I am currently finishing a book by Wade Bradford entitled There's a Dodo on the Wedding Cake which I am excited about. Also, my newest title out this fall, The Hannukah Magic of Nate Gadol, by Arthur Levine is a fun read. I'm also launching a series of surreal Maine landscapes this month and hoping to find an interested gallery to join me in that. So...plenty of stuff on my plate!
Illustration from Kevin Hawkes'
Velma Gratch and the Way Cool Butterfly.
Thank you, immensely, Karen and Kevin, for making the world a more magical, enchanting place! Look for Kevin's more-than-forty books for children and children's hearts (in adult bodies) in a library near you--including (the New York Times bestseller, and my personal favorite) The Library Lion, Weslandia, Wicked Big Toddlah, Remy and Lulu, Imagine That! How Dr. Seuss Wrote the Cat in the Hat, and Velma Gratch & the Way Cool Butterfly.
Matt set up this time lapse video while we were watching a day of general conference for our church last spring. This makes it look like the easiest twenty-nine seconds of a cake walk ever. Ha ha. I wish! My entire body was tense by the end of the twelve-hour stint. Those shoulder muscles twanged for days.
But regardless of my inexperience and lack of confidence, every painting process is an extraordinary adventure! The fire weed blossoms didn't turn out as nicely as the original blooms looked (on a cousins/sisters' trip to Prince Edward Island six years ago), they never do, right? But if you want to see the larger version of the piece, click here to jump to the Oil Painting Gallery.
The Four-hour Challenge? Maybe Sixteen...
The prospect of painting makes me giddy. I love it! But it's also tedious, and takes time to set up the model, mix and match the colors to skin tones, and fabrics, and still find enough day light hours leftover to have the sun illuminate the subject after all the fuss. I'll admit, all of these elements (on top of stopping to feed oneself, and one's family) make for some burning in the shoulders. But seeing a rough sketch change and morph into a developed painting is so thrilling. More than anything, painting is just absolutely satisfying--watching a favorite subject appear that wasn't on the canvas hours before.
Recently, I signed up for a free month of Bluprint. No, Bluprint has no idea I'm doing this (being the teensy ant in the termite mound of the art world that I am), so they did not endorse my free advertising on their behalf. Bluprint is just the only way possible to watch the series "Portrait Artist of the Year." Have you seen this cool sensation?
Sky Arts invites thousands of artist throughout the UK to submit their own self portraits (created in any medium) for the acceptance of a panel of three judges. Only a handful of artists are selected to paint a model in four hours. My husband and one of my daughters challenged me to paint a portrait in the same narrow window of time. I accepted the test, a little nervous to prove myself to them, as four hours is no time at all in which to wrap-up a painting in oils. (Especially after just getting back into the rhythm after a sixteen year hiatus...)
So I set up my model--that very daughter who was timing me--along with her inquisitive pet bunny, Jack. And having watched a few episodes of the show with me, my daughter clicked the timer on her watch and said, "Artist you may now begin!" Off I went--in a mad flurry of pigments and stubby, cheap brushes. At the half way point, when I was feeling I'd hardly just begun, my daughter's timer went off again, and she said, "Artist, you are now half way there!"
"No! I can't be!" The searing pain in my shoulders was settling--I could've fried eggs on my trapezius muscles! And then after what felt like only thirty more minutes, Micah announced (in a slightly British impersonation of Joan Bakewell): "Artist, your four hours is up. Put your brushes down!" WHEW!!! So after four hours of painting nonstop, this is only as far as I progressed (ha ha!):
No face! But no worries. My husband and daughter were understanding. But I felt so determined to finish the portrait in one day. So I foolishly threw a few precious hours of sleep out the window (all while needing to get up at 5 with teens the next morning--UGH!), and felt at least a little better to complete the painting in one day--sixteen hours total. Oh well! Four times longer than the Portrait Artist of the Year painters. Doh! I've got a ways to go with practicing speed and proficiency!
So my goal is to complete at least two portraits a week until I can achieve a finished piece in four hours. Two friends have agreed to let me paint them in the coming weeks, and I'll be hounding more of you good people to pose, over the months and years. So maybe soon, I'll have more delightful portraits to post.
Here's a progression of shots of making the painting. The first one is staining the canvas with a nice middle-tone brown liquid made of two parts mineral spirits to one part Holbein Titanium white and burnt umber (so as to judge the color spectrum more clearly on the canvas).
Next it's time to arrange the model while my canvas is warming/drying in the oven (I try to avoid baking canvases except for when I forget to stain them the day before! EEK! Don't try this at home, folks. *Head shake...*). Then we arrange the pose by using a computer monitor with an enlarged photo, a printed copy of the photographed model taped to the easel, and the patient model in front of me for quick reference for an hour or so while I mix colors. Also below, you'll see a progression of shots as the piece was being painted, and as more color fills the pallet to block in areas of detail:
At the end of the four hours, I hadn't even reached the face yet. But that, my dear friends, is thepièce de résistance--getting to the dessert after the meal--saving the focus of the painting for last. Anyway, here's the finished piece after sixteen hours. Painting my daughter was a blast! And she actually liked the end result. Next time I'll go with less garish colors for the back drop, and just do a head study. Anyway, that's the process of living and learning. Now back to work for all of us!