Saturday, January 31, 2009

House Portrait - Preliminary Work

This week I finished a house portrait commission. I thought I would share some information on my process in case it would be useful to anyone working on a similar project.

For previous house portrait commissions, I traveled to the property and photographed it myself making sure to take many pictures from different angles. Obviously I would take pictures from a distance so I could capture the entire structure, but I also snapped some close-ups so I would have information on details that might be fuzzier in the wide shots.

However, the commission which I just finished presented a unique challenge. My client no longer lives in the home they wanted painted, and the home is located in another state, many hours from either of us. So I had to make due with the pictures the client had on hand.

Unfortunately, the client didn't have any pictures from the angle we wanted for the painting. And in fact didn't have any pictures at all of the right hand side of the house! Also, the photo with the best lighting was a close up of a small portion of the front of the house. What's an artist to do?
I decided that despite (or maybe because of) the challenges I wanted to give this project a try. The first thing I did was explain the challenges and schedule reviews with the client. At these review points we would both have to agree we wanted to proceed.

Next I asked for as many photos as the client had. More information is always better than less. When we realized that we didn't have a single picture of the right hand side of the house, the client offered a unique solution... Live Search Maps. These maps show satellite pictures combined with maps.

From the Live Search Maps home page, you can enter the address of interest into the search bar at the top of the page and click the green search button. This brings up a map of your requested location. To see the photos, zoom in as far as possible using the magnifier button with the + sign. Next click the Bird's eye button at the top of the map. Now click on each directional letter (the letter, not the arrow) on the compass in the top left hand corner of the map to see a view of the property from that direction.

Obviously the satellite views are not as good as taking your own pictures, but they are pretty amazing considering they are shot from outer space. And they are a heck of a lot better than nothing! Without this online tool I don't think I could have painted the house from the angle the client and I chose.

Since I was working from several different references, I decided that I needed to do some preliminary work before jumping into the final piece. In addition to an accurate line drawing (which took every bit of perspective knowledge that I had!), I decided to also create a shadow guide. I felt this was important because my lighting reference photo did not show the entire house. This is the quick shadow reference that I drew.

8" x 4" graphite drawing

I also painted a small color guide, since I was pulling my colors from several different references. I felt a smaller preliminary painting was a good way to test if the colors would look consistent. Below is my color reference.

7.5" x 4.5" watercolor

Creating these two preliminary pieces helped me avoid some problems in the finished painting and really got me familiar with the property before moving on to the larger painting. In my next post I'll talk about some of the changes I made from these study pieces, and I'll show you the finished painting so you can judge the success of this approach for yourself.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Branching Out

Like so many others, I have decided to branch out and add Facebook to my marketing avenues. This is a new adventure and I am still learning my way around. You can view the beginnings of my business page here. I will be adding to it as time goes on and I become more familiar with available features. The business page is viewable whether you have a Facebook account or not. Please stop by, I am looking forward to seeing a lot of friendly faces as I travel through the jungles of social networking.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Watercolor Clementine - Jan VSD

Caught in a State of Undress
9.5" x 7" watercolor on paper
Stacy L. Rowan

Here is my entry for the January Virtual Sketch Date. Thank you Jeanette for the beautiful and challenging reference.

I thought the reference this month was a little daunting, and I was concerned because I knew I wouldn't really have time to work on it until later in the week. But I have to say that once I settled in with my paints, I really enjoyed it and I am pleased with the outcome. I especially like the cast shadows where I let the paint "do it's thing" then resisted the urge to go back into that area. Another favorite part is the front piece of peel and the feeling of form I managed there.

Be sure the check the blog tomorrow for all the result links. Also this month we added a Flickr group. Participation is voluntary, but it gives people a place to see many of the images together.

I know I haven't been posting much lately, but I am busy working. Some of the things I did this week include...
- Worked on a commissioned painting - All that remains is the finishing touches and approval from my customer, then I can share it here.

- Attended a local portrait drawing group - It was my first time joining the group and I really enjoyed it. The location is great (In a church no less! Well... in the fellowship hall of a church.), the other members of the group are nice and the atmosphere is supportive. Unfortunately, my portrait turned out pretty bad so I won't be sharing it here, but I will be returning to this group for more practice.

- Started collecting references for a new project - I took over 50 photographs and over 4 minutes of video to use as references. To prepare for the photo shoot, I also learned how to use some of my camera features that would allow me to get the effects I wanted.

All of this was in addition to my VSD entry. So I had a pretty productive week, despite my strong desire to hibernate until the cold temperatures have passed.

The background on this painting is showing up a little more saturated than it is in real life. Adjusting the background properly caused the clementine to be under-saturated, so I balanced the two the best I was able. This painting is available for purchase and will be posted on At The Moment in the next week or two. Prior to that, feel free to email me for purchase information.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Sketching Etiquette

approx. 5" x 6" graphite in sketchbook
Another sketch done while watching the New Year's Day football game

Since I have been telling myself for some time that I am going to start sketching more, I have decided that I better become a bit schooled in sketching etiquette. It seems to me that dedicated, experienced sketchers sketch anywhere and everywhere, but being a more amateur sketcher, I sometimes worry that I might offend.

Case in point, this past weekend I decided to try sketching in church. It seemed like a good idea. I knew I'd be there for nearly an hour, and there was plenty of subject matter if you don't mind sketching the backs of peoples heads, so why not?

Apparently the answer to that questions is because your child will be appalled and act as if your bad behavior is going to result in you being struck by lightening any second. Since I didn't want to set a bad example, I put the pencil away. I think she might have been overreacting a bit though since I obviously lived to tell about it.

So my first questions about sketching etiquette is...

1. Is it inappropriate to sketch in church?
I asked hubby and his opinion is that it is okay when we are sitting but not when we are kneeling. I'm guessing he'd so no during the standing parts too, but he didn't specify at the time. Child #2's actions clearly stated that she thought sketching in church was sacrilege pure and simple. What do you think?

A follow up to question #1...

2. Are there other places where breaking out a sketchbook would be a bad idea?
Okay, so there are some obvious places like in a public bathroom. (I say public because I have seen sketches which were drawn during a bath. Not that I'd ever be that brave. I'd give myself a matter of minutes before that book was wet.) And I'm not at all comfortable sketching in a doctor's waiting room. But I would sketch in other waiting rooms, like a dentist or hairdresser.

I know that a lot of people sketch while they are in pubs or coffee shops. My manners question for this location...

3. Is it impolite to sketch in a pub if you are dining with other people?
Here my concern is my ability to take part in conversations while I am sketching. I can listen while I draw (which is why I didn't think drawing during church was disrespectful), but being an active participant is another story.

If the answer is only sketch when you dine alone, the next question becomes...

4. How do these people manage to dine alone so frequently? Are they eating more than 3 squares a day? (Okay so that was two questions, I guess I'm not a purist.)

Taking this line of thinking in a slightly different direction...

5. If sketching in pubs and coffee shops is allowed, at what kind of eatery does this activity begin to be frowned upon? For example, if you went out to a very fine restaurant in your best fancy dress and were served a seven course meal by waiters wearing white gloves, I'm guessing you wouldn't whip out your sketchbook and ask the waiters to pose. So where is the break point? I've never seen a No Sketching sign posted in a restaurant.

You can see that I so need a Miss Manners of Sketching to guide me. Just until I learn the ropes and outgrow the possibility of embarrassing my children. Of course... that might take a lot of fun out of life... so maybe I'll just wing it instead!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

My Art in the Garden Cafe in Nazareth

The Garden Cafe on Main Street in Nazareth, PA is a sweet and cozy cafe. Kate has owned and operated the cafe for 12 years. In addition to providing a great place to eat, Kate also offers her support to local artists by providing them with a place to display and sell their work. This month I a honored to have my artwork hanging on the cafe walls.

I hung nine original watercolors including the cabbage and the Detwiller House. I also hung 2 charcoal pieces (Ten Minutes Peace and Sunquats) and two graphite pieces.

Below you will find my first attempt at a video clip. It is a short video tour of the cafe with some shots of my artwork on the walls. The two charcoals and one graphite piece are hung behind the tree. They make a great little grouping there, but I didn't get a good shot of them in the video.

Hopefully my future attempts at video will be better. For some reason I couldn't edit the video to shorten it. At the point where my computer froze and I thought I had lost the whole thing, I gave up and saved it as is. It was either that or toss the computer out the window. And it was much too cold to have a window open.

If you are in the area and want to stop by the cafe, the address is...
52 S. Main Street
Nazareth, PA 18064

Both breakfast and lunch are served at the cafe. Hours are 8am to 3pm, Monday through Saturday. I recommend going for lunch and ordering the chicken salad. It's delicious! Tell Kate I sent you.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Objectives for 2009

pencil sketch male profile
5" x 6" graphite sketch
Hubby watching the Rose Bowl

I really enjoy setting goals for the year. I am a dreamer at heart and the beginning of the year is a great time to dream about all I could accomplish in the next 365 days.

Since it is easy to get carried away, I normally start with a list of possible goals where I allow myself to brainstorm and think big. Later I come back and take a more realistic look at the list. This is the time I par it down to goals I think are achievable plus a few stretch goals. I don't want to start the year setting myself up to fail with unrealistic expectations. I do keep my copy of "possible goals" though which I can always pull from later in the year or use for next year.

This year I plan to really focus on building a body of work. This will include adding new work to a few series I already have started, as well as creating work for a new project I am really excited about. I don't have all the details figured out for this new project yet, but I can't wait to get going on it.

pencil sketch child head and shoulders
3.5" x 4" graphite sketch
Child #2 watching Rose Bowl

Another primary objective for 2009 is to put some serious effort toward a business and marketing plan. I don't feel capable of creating this plan on my own, so I asked my sister-in-law (who has some excellent marketing experience) for her help. Luckily she agreed!

Lastly, I want to keep up the theme of visibility and frequency that I started last year. With a minimal effort last year I managed to find 8 local opportunities for showing my work. I also worked on my web visibility. I want to keep the momentum going in both these areas in 2009, however, I'm not sure this will be possible. I have a lot of groundwork to lay for the new project which will be my focus for the first part of the year. But I will do my best to manage both.