Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Step 3, Frederick Douglass

I'm using two entirely different "wet" techniques with the colored pencil for this painting. The background is done using the Derwent Inktense pencils, applied in a wash and allowed to run. The figure is done using a Tuscan Red Prismacolor Artstix, which contains wax, so even though the watercolor wash was applied in the background and allowed to drip, the area done with the wax-based pencils resists the wash, so it doesn't stick to the face. I've reddened the background somewhat with this wash layer. Also, the tones on the face and hair have been blended a bit using odorless Turpenoid, which has served to fill them in and intensify their color.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Frederick Douglass, Step 2

I've started to add more tonal areas now. The figure has been laid in so far with a Tuscan Red Artstix. The background is Derwent Inktense pencils, "liquefied" and applied with a two-inch brush, then allowed to run. At 24" x 24", he's a fairly imposing figure in my studio!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sarah Emma Edmonds I: Departure, final (really!)

(A professional photograph makes a huge difference, in my opinion! Many thanks to my photographer, Emily Puls.) This colored pencil/mixed media (powdered graphite, Lasertran waterslide decal) painting on Gessobord measures 18" x 24". I will be displaying it for the first time in the "Palm Sunday through Resurrection" exhibition, March 26 - April 24 at Art & Soul Gallery, 900 Market St., Lemoyne, PA. How does this piece fit that theme? I have indicated in earlier posts that my goal is to have several layers of meaning in my work. When displayed in non-Civil War venues, this painting will simply carry the title, Departure. There are several biblical passages that come to mind for me with this piece, and the Resurrection would be one of them. Also, Sarah Emma's mother was a devout Christian and Emma embraced her faith wholeheartedly. Gallery owner/director Lyn O'Neal graciously invited me to participate, and I am excited to have this as my first opportunity to display this new painting.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Taking a break from Sarah

After many days of feeling that I was finished with my most recent piece, this morning I hit upon an addition I wanted to make -- and now it really does feel finished. So it's off to the photographer's, and once I get the professional digital image I'll post the actual, final version. (As a result, I renamed my last post "Stage Seven", rather than "Final".

For Sarah Emma Edmonds II, I will be working with the stage of her life where she creates and adopts her new, male identity. I have a visual image of a shady pine forest that I think will play a strong role as a setting for this piece, since Sarah Emma travelled by night and hid in the woods by day, until she had grown accustomed to her new identity. Beyond that, I have some research and brainstorming to do. So in the meantime, I've begun a large -- 24" x 24" -- close-up portrait of Frederick Douglass. I've already completed portraits of Harriet Beecher Stowe and John Brown, two key players in the anti-slavery movement; they may be viewed on my website at But as passionate as they were for the abolitionist cause, their experiences would have been very different from those of a man who had been born into slavery and managed to escape its bonds to become a dynamic and eloquent abolitionist speaker.

There are many photographic images of Frederick Douglass, and I am nearly finished with a small piece depicting him in his later years. But for my large portrait I wanted to focus on a much earlier image, taken in the 1850's, at about the same time he would have met with John Brown in Chambersburg, PA, to discuss Brown's plan of an attack on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry. This image shows a much more intense, almost fiery expression in Douglass' eyes, and it is the eyes that I believe will be key to the success of this portrait.

I am working on Gessobord again, and began by doing an underpainting of watercolor pencil sprayed with water and allowed to drip. The basic drawing has been laid over top using a Tuscan Red Prismacolor Artstix.