Hope Cunningham Fine Art

To view more of my work, please visit www.hopecunningham.com

Monday, September 23, 2013

Big Sister

Childhood's last gasp. This sweet girl is the older sister of the little boy in my last post. I love her unselfconsciously cheerful expression. When I look at her, I am reminded of my own daughter just before she started middle school and everything about her changed so fast it took my breath away. These years when a mother can keep her child close are so special. Soon hanging out with her schoolmates will replace emulating Mom. We all have to let go and allow them to explore the world and discover themselves but the years when they stay close are magic.

This puts me in mind of a poem by Lebanese American poet and artist Kahlil Gibran that I kept on my refrigerator door for years while my children were young. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, 'Speak to us of Children.'
And he said:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His
arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Wet Paint

Wet Paint 14X11

She's baack...
After quite a hiatus, know. Unfortunately, I got miserably sick just before I left South Carolina. It was a nasty bug that held on for weeks. Mix in a family crisis and preparations for a trip down under and my work had to go on the back burner for a while.

Luckily for me, my coughing abated just in time for me to depart with my husband for (an uninsured) three week stay in Australia.

Sounds relaxing, no?

Absolutely not! We went careening from one place and activity to the next. I relapsed and had to go to a doctor but I managed to keep up. Climbed the Sydney Harbour bridge, toured the city, met with friends, flew to Ayers Rock, lots of hikes and tours, on to Port Douglass, went spear fishing, stuck my fingers in a sting ray's eye sockets, toured rainforest with locals, developed an appreciation for aboriginal culture, sunset sailing and off to far North Queensland and Lizard Island. Fantastic! Went snorkeling (first time) on the Great Barrier Reef. Back to Port Douglass and on to Melbourne followed by drive to Lorne. Hiking and lots of it, waterfalls, glow worms, tree ferns, koalas, kangaroos, platypus, cockatoos and very charming kukaberra that like to be hand fed "mince". Back to Melbourne, mad dash through Museum to see "Monet's Gardens" exhibit, pick up rental car, fight with husband over sticking to itinerary, prevailed and went to see "Australian Impressionists in France". Fabulous exhibit. Drive Great Ocean Road all the way to Port Fairy, stopping for every well marked photo op. Back to Sydney to finish with "La Traviata" at Opera House.....oh, and I had my nails done.

My husband and I enjoyed three weeks of uninterrupted togetherness in nine different beds, took eight total flights and one really long drive....on the left side of the road. Based on my husband's success at staying in the proper lane I began to wonder if he hadn't recently taken out a very large life insurance policy in the event of my untimely demise. Good stuff.

Seriously, it was the trip of a lifetime, just not restful. Oh, by the way, the food and wine were so wonderful that I grew at least one pants size and blew out my Spanx.

So I'm back in Tucson. Let's just say it took me a while to recuperate. Good news is I am painting again and have the photos to prove it!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

So, Tell Me What's Going On

So, Tell Me What's Going On  14X11 Original Oil on Panel

This is Tom Pettus. He is married to Cecily, from my previous post. When Tom walked in to my studio, something about his quiet relaxed manner immediately put me at ease. Generally when I meet a new person I find myself doing a lot more listening than talking. Not so with Tom. He was so thoughtful and interested that he drew me out effortlessly. Tom is a doctor of internal medicine who actually makes house calls to geriatric patients who have difficulty getting out. No doubt every one of them looks forward to his visits. He is a very innovative and caring physician who understands the art of listening. It was my pleasure to make his acquaintance.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Cecily 14X11 Original Oil on Panel

Cecily in the studio

Today I am posting a painting that I do not consider successful at capturing a likeness of the sitter. I am inviting feedback, so don't feel the need to hold back. There are a lot of things I do like about the  painting; the color composition and brushwork are fresh. What doesn't work in the painting results from my attempts to flatter the model according to my personal aesthetic, losing my grasp of the gesture and not trusting my eyes.

With regard to my personal aesthetic, I am learning that my love for the face in repose is not shared by many consumers of art. All those years spent in life studies in the studio created an appreciation for quiet, reflective gestures in my models. However, as I have mentioned before, the most frequent criticism I get from folks in the studio is, I love it but she looks sad. Personally I cherish my contemplative nature and find myself often turned inward, enjoying my relationship with my Self. Many people, I am learning, do not want to be represented to the world in this way. They want to be viewed as happy and engaged with their surroundings.

My inner jury is out on this point but the issue did underscore my reluctance to paint the ever elusive movements of the mouth. I knew I had to confront this challenge before I could decide if I truly wanted to focus on more prosaic portraits. Dewees Island is certainly providing ample opportunity for learning about painting the gestures of the mouth.

In terms of losing my gestural intention, comparison of the painting and photo makes evident my tendency to turn the face toward a full forward perspective rather than adhering to a 3/4 perspective. The differences are small, but it doesn't take much to lose a likeness or result in a skewed perspective. It's easy to see where cubists got the inspiration to paint the portrait from several different perspectives at once.

Which all culminates in the error of not trusting what I saw. When I was painting the mouth, it just seemed impossibly wide and off center, so I adjusted it to make it appear more symmetrical and less toothy. Big mistake! The asymmetry that I saw was my brain hitting me over the head saying "Perspective Dummy! Its a 3/4 view!" But did I listen? No. We all have very strong cognitive schema that have the potential to sabotoge our drawing skills. Those schema demand a full frontal view. Had I trusted my eyes and not let my personal aesthetic interfere, I would have ended up with a much more honest and accurate (and succesful!) portrait.

Perhaps I will paint it again.......

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Princess

The Princess Original 14X11 Oil Painting

This is my dear friend Marion Cotton. We met nearly twenty years ago in Charleston. She and her husband, Peter, have had a big influence on our lives ever since. Peter and Marion were witnesses at our, oh so illegal, wedding in Santorini, Greece which was probably the most magical and romantic night of my life. (John and I were made legal by the receptionist in my office when we returned to Charleston. She was a notary public). I know that my marriage to John often feels like a fairy tale come true. Must be the same for Peter and Marion because he has made sure that everyone knows her as "Princess".

She inhabits the role with aplomb. I wanted to paint her with a tiara and Peter actually bought her one. No offense, Peter, but it was much too modest. I envisioned one of blinding brilliance that would inhabit half of the panel. Maybe another time. As it was, the most beautiful thing about Marion's pose was the graceful gesture of her head and neck. Marion always wears lots of jewelry; taking off the rope of pearls she was wearing made her feel naked but she was game. Just one more example of how folks actually drop their personae when sitting for a portrait. I think removing the jewelry only made her shine brighter.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Arrie B. Too

Arrie B. Too 14X11 Original Oil on Panel

If you have been following my blog for a while, you may remember the paintings I posted on March 13th of Arrie B and Holly Mack, two of the Cotton's grandchildren. Both of those paintings were painted alla prima from the posing model. Arrie B. had a hard time posing and the sitting was frustrating for both of us. I decided that I could do a better job, so I did another alla prima painting using the photograph and original painting for reference. This one is a much better likeness. I may have relied on photographs but the end result says a lot more about this charming little lady.

As I progress through this project, I feel that my paintings are getting better and I am learning from every attempt. The challenge now is that I find myself wanting to repaint several of the portraits. I know this will add a considerable amount of work to the project but I think I will happier with the results. My work is no longer about each individual painting, but about the entire body of work that will be in the "Portrait of Dewees" book. I am also planning on adding a few landscape and wildlife paintings.

It's a big project but I am thoroughly enjoying it. Just like an individual painting, one of the hardest things is knowing when to stop!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Instant Glamour

Instant Glamour 14X11 Original Oil on Panel

Caroline Smith radiates a poised and elegant aura. From the first time I saw her I was charmed and curious about who was behind those shades. When she agreed to sit for me, she scheduled an early morning appointment and came in feeling a bit unenthusiastic about having her portrait painted. We tried her in lots of different poses and lighting, with her eyeglasses on and without them. It wasn't until she said that no one would recognize her without her shades that we decided to try posing with her sunglasses on.

She lit up like a hundred watt bulb.

Since she felt so much more comfortable this way, we ran with it. In truth, I am sure its a better likeness because she felt so much more relaxed.

Don't think for a minute that she was hiding out behind those shades. We spent the morning getting to know each other and found that we shared and early and abiding interest in art, psychology and social work. Both of us trained as artists and then as Social Workers. We both engaged in social work early in our careers and eventually returned to creative endeavors. Caroline is an talented and sought after Interior Designer.

What we, and many other women on Dewees, also share is being middle aged.  We tend to maintain a self image based on our youthful looks. Being photographed or painted confronts us with a different reality. What most of us don't seem to realize is that beauty still radiates. Other people see it every day, but we are so hard on our selves. I knew this about myself; it was a surprise to find it others whom I admire so much.

This feeling is not unique to women. Jack Nicholson once said "With my sunglasses on, I'm Jack Nicholson, without them I'm fat and 60."

I get it.

I wear great big glamorous sunglasses when I go out, too.  When I look in the mirror, I don't wear any glasses at all, because without vision "correction" I think I look thirty and beautiful. Makes me just as happy as the shades. Seems like I'm in very good company on this one.

The most wonderful thing about this project has been the opportunity get a glimpse into others' internal lives. I often feel different, apart, from other people. When I attend to a model in the studio I find that the more I listen, the more I learn how similar we all are. I find myself strengthened, encouraged, and affirmed by these shared experiences.

This is what happens when you take time to really see another person.

Friday, July 19, 2013


Engaged 14x11 Original Oil on Panel

This lovely young lady is Whitney Nagle. She is engaged to be married to Alex Pasquini from my previous post. Whitney liked the idea of wistfully gazing out the window for her portrait. What makes her choice even more interesting is that when her portrait was hung next to Alex's it looks like she is gazing at him. Kind of fun considering their young love.

Most of the portraits I have done for this project have been very direct, frontal poses. I found this one to be especially challenging because of the three quarter view. It changes everything. One cannot rely on symmetry as a check for accuracy and the shapes change quite a bit with the smallest deviation from the pose, I also found painting the eyes looking away difficult. Add to that the very direct lighting and creating volume becomes a challenge. I feel like I learned a lot from this one and hope to do more like it.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Naturalist

The Naturalist 14x11 Original Oil on Canvas

This is Alex Pasquini, you will be meeting a lot more members of his family soon. The Pasquini's are an interesting clan. They have a tremendous appreciation for art, perhaps because of their fin de seicle relative Aldo Pasquini who was an master sculptor and painter. I have only been able to find one image of Aldo's work so far, but look forward to seeing more, I think his work merits a page on the online museum ArtRenewal.org. I have encouraged the family to provide me with photos of their collection toward that end.

Alex works in marine conservation. I am encouraged by the number of young adults that I have encountered on Dewees who are passionate about conservation and sustainability, Especially when you consider the professional and financial success of the families that raised them. I have to compliment his parents, both he and his brother were some of the most thoughtful, polite, intelligent, grounded and humble young men it has been my pleasure to encounter. They definitely did something right! In an era of rampant shallow, selfish materialism young people like Alex truly inspire hope for the future.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Bright Spot

Bright Spot 14X11 Original Oil on Panel

Meet Elizabeth. I was working in my studio at the Huyler House on Dewees when she flitted by my window like a brilliant bird.  I couldn't let her get away so I chased her down the stairs and asked how she would like to have her portrait painted. She was game and immediately came in to sit for photographs.

I have experienced, perhaps, a bit of mission drift. When I started this project my intention was to paint all of the portraits from life. Over time so many folks commented on the stoic expressions and requested more cheerful ones that I started finishing from photos so I could add a smile. Eventually, my pool of willing victims dwindled for extended sittings. I decided that is was more important to paint as many of the people on the island as possible and offered the opportunity to sit for photos only. There was an enthusiastic response and I now have enough photos to keep me busy for quite a while. I am still painting them alla prima, in one sitting to keep them fresh and continue working with wet paint.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Mr. Mischief

Mr. Mischief 14x11 Original Oil on Panel

So. You met Susan Mashman in my last post; the lady of "Joie de Vivre". After meeting her husband, Jan, I had an inkling why she was so happy. I think the two of them teamed up with a pact to live life as playfully as humanly possible. Jan was an excellent model, hamming it up with diverse poses as he regaled me with stories of New York life. Considering all the artist's he knows, I was tickled that he took the time to sit for me.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Joie de Vivre

Joie de Vivre 14X11 Original Oil on Panel

Did you ever see such a happy, engaging face? With Susan Mashman, I just wanted to lean in and listen very closely to what she had to say. What an energetic and interesting woman; her mind and her face were never at rest. I hope that this image captures some of her charm!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Little Charmer

Little Charmer 14X11 Original Oil on Panel

Wow! How did that happen!? It's been nearly four months since my last post. After finishing up on Dewees Island, I packed up my gear and trucked 2000 miles across the continent to my home in Tucson. There I found a mile high stack of mail and paperwork. I closed my studio at Campbell and Skyline since I have been traveling so much and met with my architect to review plans for the new studio I am building. Heady stuff!

In short order, I was packing my gear back in the truck for round two on Dewees. On my trek across Texas, I stopped in Fredericksburg for the Oil Painters of America show and conference and visited my sister Ann. After that it was off to Austin to see my youngest sister, Robin and Temple to visit with my father. When I finally made it to Charleston I took a few days with my daughter's family before going back to work.

Being on Dewees is even more fun in the summer. There are a lot more folks on the island and the social life here is very rich. I let my blog go because I was just too busy painting and trying to keep up with the action. More on that soon.

This little angel is Marion Cotton's grand-niece, Mary Leonard Moss. The children in this clan have the most interesting and melodic names. Even the nicknames are complicated. Marion keeps it simple though, she just calls everyone she loves "Shug" as in the first syllable of sugar. Gotta love the South!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Ambassador

The Ambassador 14X11 Original Oil Painting

This is Dave McIntyre, President of the Dewees Home Owners Association. That hat requires a gift for diplomacy but that's not why I called him the ambassador. You may remember my last post, which featured Dave's wife, Barbara. I mentioned that Barbara and Dave had just returned from a trip to Africa. What I discovered as I got to know Dave is that he is the Nature Conservancy's World Ambassador to South Carolina. A lot of us talk about how much we care about conservation and sustainability. Dave is walking the talk.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Squash Blossom

Squash Blossom 14X11 Original Oil Painting

This is Barbara McIntyre. She and her husband returned from an African tour just before I wrapped things up for my first stint on Dewees. I was surprised that she and her husband were willing to sit for me so soon after their sojourn. Barbara is an accomplished artist in her own right. She also changed careers midlife by returning to school to study counseling and become a Marriage and Family Therapist. Since I also went back to school in my thirties to earn a BS in psychology and a Master of Social Work we had plenty to talk about. Barbara and I both have adult children with very similar life experiences so it was fun to compare notes.

Barbara wanted to be painted wearing the beautiful squash blossom necklace that her husband gave her which was a bit of a challenge given the 14X11 inch panel size. We shortened it in the back and tied it with a rubber band to fit it in. I like the result.

enough to keepenough

Saturday, March 16, 2013


Kate 14x11 Original Oil on Panel

This young lady is Kate Fairchild, daughter of Judy and Reggie. You may remember seeing her sister, Emily, a couple of weeks ago.  I was impressed with Emily's independence. She showed up on a stormy Sunday afternoon to sit for me. May not sound like a big deal but it is. It rained heavily almost every day for weeks. The island has dirt roads and everyone travels by golf cart. Since the main road was closed to install the new rice gates everyone had to take the long way home on a road that was mostly underwater. Pretty incredible effort for a teenager to go out in that weather alone to hang out with a grown up. Maybe it has something to do with the freedom of driving unsupervised?

Kate was probably the best model of all the people who sat for me. She never seemed to tire and held her pose beautifully. Delightful company on a stormy afternoon.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Play Right

Play Right 14X11 Original Oil Painting

Yesterday you met Jane Savage, this is her husband and co-conspirator Carroll. Together they are the driving force behind the summer solstice theatrical production. Carroll is an intelligent and thoughtful person who speaks his mind and likes to stay busy. Carroll and Jane founded a nonprofit in honor of their son, Jake, that brings music to under-served children. I hope you will follow the link to learn more about their mission and accomplishments.

Jake's Music - The Jake McGuire Savage Foundation

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Savage Beauty

Savage Beauty 14X11 Original Oil Painting

Jane Savage wasn't too sure about sitting for a portrait but eventually warmed to the idea. I'm so glad she did! We had so much fun exploring "wardrobe options" and listening to music that we had to shift gears to settle down to work. Annie Lennox was just too high energy for painting; we felt more like dancing.  Esther, another painter who lives on the island, spent the afternoon with us so there was no shortage of conversational mischief.

Jane and her husband, Carroll, keep things fun on the island by producing a play every year for Summer Solstice. She and Carroll choose a play and tweak the dialogue to make it relevant to the island setting. She had me in stitches recounting past plays where apparently everyone on the island was participating and there was no one left to sit in the audience. This year's play will be Camelot. You can bet I will be there to see it, what a hoot.

I love that folks on the island are participants in the arts. My wish is that this project gives them the same feeling of participation. Hopefully being a part of "Portrait of Dewees" will create some of the same great memories and community fun as their production of "South Pacific"!

Arrie B. and Holly Mack

Arrie B. 14 X 11 Original Oil on Panel

By now I bet you are thinking that there are only adults on Dewees. Not so! While there are only three children living there year round right now, lots of young people come for visits. This young lady is Marion Cotton's grand daughter, Arrie B.  While she looks rather placid here; don't believe it for a second! Arrie was a real pistol, taking a new pose or assuming a new character every time I looked up from the canvas. Resorting to the camera didn't help, she was a real ball of fire. Eventually she was able to sit quietly for a little while because she really wanted to have her portrait done.

Holly Mack 14 X 11 Original Oil on Panel

Holly Mack is Arrie B.'s little brother. He woke up early, dressed himself in the searsucker suit that his grandmother bought him and ran upstairs to breakfast waving a miniature American flag while informing the household that he was ready for his portrait! His Dad sat for me the day before. As far as Molly Mack is concerned anything that Daddy does is something he wants to do too. He was absolutely adorable and sat very still despite his excitement. Of course there was no way to keep him there for four hours so I just worked as quickly as possible and took some pictures. When his enthusiasm flagged we ended the sitting and I finished from a photo. In retrospect, I wish I had just kept the sketch and started over. In the future I hope to do just that.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Kindrid Spirit

Kindred Spirit 14 X 11 Original Oil on Panel

It didn't take me very long to realize that it was going to be asking a lot for some people for sit for four hours. Now, of course that doesn't mean that I literally asked folks to sit still for that time; we take as many breaks as needed to keep the experience comfortable and pleasant. Still for some people it was clearly more pleasant than others.

Wanting the experience to be collaborative and fun for the sitter, I decided to tweak my approach. I began taking lots of references photos early on and working like a demon during the first hour and a half to block in the big shapes and make color notes. When eyes began to glaze over and people looked like they would rather be somewhere else, I let them go and finished from the photo as quickly as possible.

Not so with Kathy. We enjoyed getting to know one another so much that five hours flew by before we knew it. These are the creative moments I live for, when I am so immersed in my project that I lose all sense of time. Adding another person to the mix makes the experience so much richer. I am continually surprised by how much I find in common with a person who starts the sitting as a stranger and finishes as a friend.

Kathy is a remarkably creative woman; she paints in acrylics, arranges flowers, takes stunning photographs and is a gifted and resourceful interior designer. Better still, she loves to share her gifts and often arranges flowers for events on Dewees Island.  Her ideas for the flowers for my show at the owners meeting blew my mind. This is a woman who doesn't do anything half way! I had the pleasure of being invited to her home for dinner. As you might expect, she is a fabulous cook as well!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Green Peace

Green Peace 14 X 11 Original Oil Painting

Spending time with Ginnie Moser was an adventure. She is a generous and energetic spirit in a small package that barely contains her love for life. Being a redhead she loves to wear green but she lives green as well. Ginnie can tell you the carbon footprint of your dinner plate and raises awareness of the impact of human choices on the environment. She and her husband, Artus, live very rich and creative lives that bring enjoyment to everyone around them.

I am taking a brief break in Tucson after a month of painting on Dewees. In that time I completed nineteen portraits. By the time I varnished and framed them I had just enough energy to clear out my gear to make room for the show on the 22nd of March at the annual owners meeting. This group is just the "first installment". Hopefully, I will be returning to the island in the late Spring for round two.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Pieces of Eight

Pieces of Eight 14X11 Original Oil Painting

This lovely lady is Anne Anderson. She is extraordinarily active on Dewees and very generous with her time and talents. Anne is on the Cultural Arts Committee and is responsible for pitching my idea for a portrait project to the rest of the committee and the locals on the island. Because of her efforts I am enjoying island life and getting to know the folks that live here.

One of the reasons that I love doing alla prima portraits is the collaborative relationship with the sitter. Folks often come in with wardrobe and jewelry options and then there is always discussion about whether to wear glasses or not. Anne's glasses are part of her personality and symbolic of her playfullness. She said she used to wear delicate wire rimmed glasses and her decision to try a more colorful and eccentric frame evoked some controversy. Nothing like stirring things up once in a while!

When I first painted her, I didn't include the necklace she was wearing. Sometimes I don't notice jewelry because I am so focused on big shapes and relationships. She asked me to add it and then told me the story about its origins. She told me it was a "pieces of eight coin" and explained that it was an ancient Spanish coin that was commonly cut into eight pieces to make change. It's a beautiful and historical piece and makes for an interesting title.

When I embarked on this project, my plan was to blog about my work on a daily basis. In case you haven't noticed, that hasn't happened. Since I started on the 5th, I have completed seventeen portraits. On some days I do two. Add to that the fifteen I did in Tucson before I left, and you have a significant body of work for six weeks. The end of the day finds me so tired that its all I can do to clean my brushes. I take comfort from quote I read that stated "Some people don't recognize opportunity because it looks a lot like hard work"!

Photographing the wet paintings has been a bit of a challenge. I find natural light works best at eliminating the glare and it has been raining pretty much nonstop for the last two weeks. I probably won't get everything photographed until I stop painting on the 28th. During the first week of March, I will varnish and frame everything and put it into storage for the first show on the 22nd of March. Then it's a quick trip home to Tucson to spend some time with my much neglected and eternally supportive husband. Travel always strengthens my love and appreciation of family and home!

Monday, February 18, 2013


Betsy 14X11 Original Oil on Panel

Betsy is Jim Anderson's daughter-in-law. She visited the island with her teenage daughter and some friends last weekend. It was fun getting to know her and we found we had more in common that we expected. We spent a lot of time talking about the important relationships in our lives and the adventures of parenting teenagers. It was a collaborative painting; Betsy gave my plenty of great feedback during her sitting and stayed for the entire four hours.

By the time we finished I felt that I had made a new friend. During her sitting, Betsy educated me about the tides and the best times to walk on the beach. Since it was a low tide when we finished,  I gathered up my daughter and grand daughter and headed for Osprey Walk. We had the beach to ourselves, but I noticed a long line of recent foot prints leading toward Capers Inlet. As we neared the East end of the island of course we ran in to Betsy! Big beach, small world.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


Emily Fairchild 14X11 Original Oil Painting

Today I had the pleasure of working with the delightful 16 year old daughter of Judy and Reggie Fairchild. I think the sitting was a bit of a surprise for her. Her brother was scheduled but had a conflict, so Mom said "Yer up"! She was very generous about sharing her Saturday morning with me. We discovered that we had similar tastes in literature and enjoyed talking about her passion for writing. Emily is fortunate to be attending the magnet school for the arts.

After she had been posing for about and hour, a friend of hers arrived on the ferry to spend the day with her. This delightful young lady is focusing on music at the magnet school for the arts. I had the pleasure of listening to her play piano while both girls sang.

As impressive as their academic achievements are, guess what? Once they sat down in the same room together there was no containing their energy. Forget holding a pose! I took lots of pictures and made color notes; there was no way I was going to have a serenely posing model for four hours. Still, both girls were very interested in the process and delightful to spend time with. I am happy with the result ...lets hope Emily and her Mom are too!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Will the real Bobby Kennedy please stand up?

Bobby Kennedy 14X11 Original Oil Painting

It's impossible not to associate Bobby with the Kennedy Dynasty I grew up hearing about. I don't know if there is any blood connection; but I can say that this Bobby Kennedy is a legendary character in his own right (at least on Dewees Island)! Bobby lived on the island before it became a a conservation easement dedicated to sustainable development. Bobby loves the outdoor life and sailing so Dewees is the perfect place for him. He is most definitely a blues fan. We spent the evening sipping bourbon, talking about how we met the loves of our lives and listening to Madeline Peyroux.  Good times.

I thought folks might like to see where I am working.

View of approaching ferry from the West side of the Island
South Side of Huyler House

Studio in Library at Huyler House

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Dewees Portrait Project

Peter Cotton 14X11 Original Oil on Panel

It's been a very busy two weeks here on Dewees Island as the "Portrait of Dewees" project gets up and running. My very gracious hosts, Marion and Peter Cotton, have given me the use of of their beautiful home for the duration on my first painting stint on the island. Marion and Anne Anderson introduced me to folks on the island and helped me to set up a studio space in the Huyler House library. It's a great space with good light and is working out beautifully.

Anne and Jim Anderson hosted a welcome reception for me where I met some of the island residents. The folks here are wonderful and excited about participating in this community project. The plan for now is to paint as many folks on the island as possible before the annual owners meeting in March. The portraits will be presented at that time along with the concept: to capture the spirit of this unique island community in a series of portraits completed over the coming year. The portraits will be photographed (by someone who knows what they are doing, which is not me) and compiled in a book about the island. The book will be launched at the portrait exhibition.

So far, I have painted six portraits. If you are on the island, you can drop by the library at the Huyler House to see them. Meanwhile, I will be blogging about the project most days. Sign up to follow the blog and see who is being painted!

Sunday, February 3, 2013


Kathi 14X11 Original Oil Painting

This is another artist friend who volunteered to sit for me. She very graciously gave up her Saturday afternoon to support my effort. After she left, I took the painting outside to get a photo. The shutter clicked just before the wind picked up and blew it over. Argh! Never pays to be in a hurry. Luckily, I have been down this road before. Usually if a painting is allowed to dry, little bits of debris can be brushed off. Not so lucky this time. The surface of the paint was scratched so I had to do some repainting. The good news is it looked better  after the touch up. Bad news is there was no way I was going to take it back out in the wind for another photo!

I am happy to tell you that I have safely navigated the 2000 mile trip from Tucson, Arizona to Charleston, South Carolina. I am so happy to be out of the car! It may be a few days before I stop walking funny. Tomorrow morning I am meeting with one of the owners at Dewees to set up my studio. Painting starts on Wednesday!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Sole Sister

Sole Sister 14x11 Original Oil Painting

For those of you who have been following my blog, you may remember the portrait of a young lady named Natalie. This beautiful woman is Natalie's mother, Veronica.

For two years Veronica and two other friends met with me at 6am three times a week to work with our personal trainer, Laurie, at the Tucson Raquet Club. This group became a second family for me. We called each other sole sisters because we sometimes ran together and ran a marathon relay together. When my life got too busy with travel and work to continue, I dropped out of the group but my friends did not drop me. They are patiently waiting for me to come back to work out. I sure hope they don't have to wait too much longer because they look awesome and I gained twenty pounds!

I loved painting Veronica. She naturally assumed such a lovely feminine gesture and never stopped smiling the entire time she posed. She was so obviously interested in the process and brought a wonderful energy to the task. We had a great day together. Life is good!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Architect

The Architect 14X11 Original Oil Painting

On Saturday my new friend, Bob Vint sat for me. Bob is a wonderful architect who is working with John and I on plans for a new studio and guest house on our property. I haven't had too many men sit for me so this was a delightful change of pace.

Bob and I got to know each other so much better during our time together. As he recounted his adventures with  oil painting during college, it became obvious to me that this is a man who needs to get back in the studio. When a person speaks with nostalgia about the seductive aroma of turpentine, you know they are hooked and there is no turning back! I look forward to painting with Bob in my new studio once it's built.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Rose In Pink

Rose In Pink 14 X 11 Original Oil Painting

This is my friend and fellow artist, Roseann Munger. Roseann also paints in oils and she loves to paint people doing interesting things, especially dancing. When I first mentioned my portrait painting project to Roseann, she thought it was interesting, but didn't want to sit. After she saw my first few portraits, she got excited about the project and wanted to support my efforts.

Roseann was an incredible and patient model. Toward the end of the sitting I could tell that she was ready to go. We looked at the painting together and realized that her mouth was in the wrong place. She was such a good sport about climbing back into her chair so I could make it right. Honestly, I wiped it out, repainted it a fraction of an inch higher and we were done in ten minutes. I couldn't have done these paintings without the support of my artist friends in Tucson. Friends are always amazing, but friends who help you learn and advance your career are priceless! Thank you Roseann.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Red Beads

Red Beads 14" X 11" Original Oil Painting

This painting gets delivered to the client tomorrow morning. I hate to give it up! Maybe I should buy it from her? This lovely woman walked into my Tucson studio after I had started the alla prima portrait project and was fascinated by the opportunity. She scheduled an appointment and came back to sit for me a week later. During out time together, we found out that we had more than a little in common.  Invariably it seems that as I study a person's face, much more than surface topography is revealed.  I loved this woman's directness and self-assurance. Painting the glasses was a bit of a challenge; I had to edit the shadows from the specs to keep from obscuring her beautiful eyes. Stay tuned folks, I am painting her daughter on Monday.

Monday, January 21, 2013


Natalie 14 x 11 Original Oil Painting

This past week I have been painting up a storm. It's really hard to restrain myself from posting more than one image at a time. With each portrait, I am getting more excited by the project.

On Friday, I painted two alla prima portraits. This is the second one of the day. It was a new challenge because my model was a fifth grader.  Natalie was very interested in the process, but more interested in helping me paint. She wanted to know all about how I mixed colors, drew, applied paint and cleaned up. Predictably, she was much less interested in sitting still. She liked posing, just wanted to take a more dramatic one every time! Honestly, she did do a wonderful job and was a joy to work with. After about an hour and a half, I knew there would be able no restraining her natural exuberance much longer. I gave her a long break and we called it quits after two hours.

I know, she looks older than a fifth grader. (Naturally, she was delighted by this turn of events.) Obviously much more practice painting children is called for. The experience offered some valuable lessons that will (hopefully!) inform my next attempt at working with a young model.  I also learned how important it is to leave the paint alone once I stop for the day. After going back into the painting the next day to tweak it, I found I hurt rather than helped the painting. Perhaps in the effort to retain a spontaneous freshness it's necessary to just accept minor flaws. Better still, next time I will use a mirror to check my drawing!

What I do love about this painting is the arrangement of color and value. This is the first time I used such a high key background, I really like the result.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Gravitas Original 14 X 11 Oil Painting

Tonight, my good friend and fellow artist, Barbara Conaway, sat for me. What a good sport. She let me wrap her head in a scarf and pose her like a department store mannequin.  I like the bohemian look of the headscarf and found a great way to bring color into the painting.

The set up reminded me of a Self Portrait demo David Leffel did a couple of years ago at a Portrait Society convention in Atlanta. As I sat in the dark and watched him begin his portrait on stage, I pondered the flambouyant scarf about his brow.  At first I thought it was an affectation, that he was putting on old hippie airs. Boy howdie! Did I get my come-uppance! As I watched him paint, I realized that the scarf was a brilliant compositional device that created an elegant entry into his painting, continuing around his brow to lead the eye through the composition and create form. I love being proven wrong when I am being a judgmental ass!

Brilliant too, is my model. I called this one gravitas because what I have seen Barbara take on over the past few years. There is a certain peaceful calm and sense of humor that a person who has endured trial by fire exudes. This is one strong woman!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Red Headed Angel

Red Headed Angel Original 14" x 11" Oil Painting

The delightful woman who posed for me today is Jane Hamilton, founder, owner and operator of a wonderful gallery here in Tucson. We are neighbors and she has always treated me as one. From the first opening in my new space, Jane has been a tireless cheerleader and source of inspiration and advice. She has nurtured and promoted the talents of an eclectic group of regional artists. I am fortunate indeed to count her as a friend. Jane's generousity and enthusiasm don't end with the art world, she contributes significantly to the community in a variety of ways; we are lucky to have her.
Jane also happens to be Sarah's mother, so I am doubly blessed that both of them sat for me.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Sculptor Original 14X11 Oil Painting on panel

Today my friend Robert Deurloo posed for me. Robert is a wonderful sculptor who winters here in Tucson. We met a few years ago at the Empire Ranch Show, where we both were exhibiting. Painting Robert was a real treat; fellow artists are always so encouraging and supportive. One of the things I am hoping to get better at while doing these sketches is multi-tasking. I want to be able to carry on a conversation to keep things relaxed and interesting for the sitter. Robert made it so easy, he was so curious and full of surprises that he kept me quite entertained!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Sarah's Feathered Cap Original 14X11 Oil Painting

OK, OK, I know I haven't posted in ages. Life has been really busy but really great. Lots of travel and two new grandchildren keeping me busy.  The wonderful news is that I have a new project that I am very excited about. I have been wanting to get back to alla prima portrait painting for some time. Inspired by Rose Frantzen's "Portrait of Maquoketa" I decided to approach a very unique community in near Charleston, South Carolina with the idea of doing a community portrait. They are intrigued by the idea so I will be spending February on Dewee's Island painting alla prima portraits of the first brave souls to volunteer to sit for me. Meanwhile, I need to get my painting groove on after months of focusing on family and barely lifting a brush. Today, I tested the waters with my first guinea pig, Sarah Hamilton. I am encouraged.