Wednesday, November 11, 2015

sweet spot

I have been thoroughly enjoying myself with these recent portraits, and it's not just because they all happen to be dumpling-cheeked babies and I am fully under the spell of besotting pregnancy hormones -- although that probably helps. 

I think it's that I have stumbled upon an ideal combination of size, materials, and time invested. 

Paper takes paint in a totally different way than canvas or board, and I've found that I do a lot less mixing on the surface. Instead, I'm making a stronger commitment to each brushstroke, and using fewer brushstrokes over all. In other words, I AM NOT FIDDLING SO MUCH. 

And since I only work in the deceptively short hours that my kids are in school, it is incredibly satisfying to finish a whole portrait in one sitting. 

This has also freed me up to stay unattached -- if it doesn't turn out, I can scrap it and start over, instead of feeling compelled to return and fix the places where I went wrong (ie: FIDDLE). But so far, amazingly, I haven't scrapped any of them. 

Dare I say it? I found the sweet spot. 


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

7 months

Because it's important to expose children to great art as early as possible:

(And also to wear a doily dress, just because you can.)


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

sisters three

I recently finished a portrait of the third daughter of a friend of mine, and it's turned into yet another opportunity to observe my changing styles...

Here was the first one I did, in 2012:

A year later, I did then-baby-sister:

And here's number 3, at about the same age:

I did try to match the color schemes and brushwork to a certain extent, but paintings are like rivers and you can never step in the same one twice. 

As I worked on this last one, I loved seeing the obvious resemblence in the youngest sister to her older siblings, even though each of them have their own sweet and distinct spirit. Catching a particular subject, at a moment in their development, at a moment in my development -- the painting is bound to reflect that, too.

That's the magic trick of portaiture for me: I never set out to capture a personality, I am only concerned with light and shape and color. The expression, the individual, the life force is already there.


Thursday, October 15, 2015

beginning and becoming

Three years ago I started painting portraits as a job.

(Is it too soon to look back ponderously?)

I had spent the previous winter sewing slippers for peanuts and arbitrarily slapping paint on canvases rescued from RISD's garbage, while being full of angst about having two kids in daycare and not a lot of creative progress to justify it. Jason suggested I return to figurative painting (the quiet sub-text of which was, these recent abstracts are not going anywherrrrrre), which I had studied with some success in college.

So I did a very small and very quick sketch of Auden, and decided that was enough to build a business on. Here:

I mean, it's not horrible, as sketches go, but it's also not exactly something to write home about, let alone launch an entirely new career idea from. But! You cannot interpret an artist's vision using logic.

After that, I did this portrait (that looks uncannily like a very young VanGogh) for some friends of ours:

And even though I was using old splayed brushes and had no plan whatsoever, I thought, I'm on my way! 

You can picture the following year as a montage of flurried brushstrokes, agonized head-clutching, and weepy self-doubt, on maddening repeat. (Did you ever see that awful movie about Modigliani, 
starring Andy Garcia? I was like Soutine with the "Madness" painting. Or was it a cow carcass?) I struggled so much with each piece, but could never admit it for fear of insulting my clients or revealing myself as a total charlatan.

But, as I read somewhere in something, you learn how to work by working. 

Three years later, I'm here:

And even though I can see that I've gotten better, I also feel like I have SO MUCH more to learn, and so many other things I want to try. I look around at other artists' work and think, damn, I want to do it like that. I want to get there.

It just recently occurred to me that the reaching feeling is never going to go away. I've been blundering toward a vague notion of success -- that shifting destination -- thinking that once I get there I won't have to try so hard anymore, or be so vulnerable or unsure anymore. Basically, I won't have to be stuck with myself anymore. 

But I keep coming along! 

Auden was maybe four years old in that first sketchy attempt. Now he's 7, and is shedding and gaining teeth like a shark. His mouth is a jumble of haphazard angles and gaps, and the other day I caught myself wanting to hurry up and see his finished smile (and also fretting about the inevitable orthodonture)... But THIS is it, you know? This imperfect moment on the way.

I can't get out of it, and neither can my painting. I want to hurry up and arrive, and be done with the awkward fits and starts of becoming, but really, each piece is only the final version of that one step in the process. And it's all process.


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

loosen up

A couple of months ago, I offered a sale on Instagram (@robindanely, if you're so inclined) for the kind of quick study I usually do as practice before the finished piece. I figured out that I like to do these the most, since they are usually devoid of the hair-pulling that can accompany the Real Thing. Somehow I can let them be more impressionistic and less precise, and I can stop before I overwork them and kill everything that makes them interesting.

So, basically, this is what I have to do to psych myself out of my perfectionism so I can enjoy what I'm doing. 

Here's the first one:

I'm so please with the way it turned out... the colors are soft, the brushstrokes expressive and uncomplicated. Honestly I think sometimes I just luck out and everything comes together. 

(And also, to be fair, this was an absolutely dreamy image to work with -- the light! That coy half-smile!)

I'm excited to do more, so don't be shy if you want one of your very own. 


Monday, September 7, 2015


There have been some other interesting developments around here... 

That's five months of baby right there! We are all very excited, especially Auden & Isla, who, it's safe to say, have no idea what they're in for. Those of us who do know are tempering our excitment with denial and anxiety. 

I have been wanting a third baby since Isla was a toddler, even though I couldn't admit it at the time -- I would repeatedly talk myself out of an urge that seemed rooted in utter craziness. Since then, after three more moves -- two of which were international -- I'm starting to feel like craziness might actually be an asset, not a deterrent. 

So here we are! Looking forward to meeting the newest Danely in January.