Definition from Wikipedia:
“Geisha (芸者) or geigi (芸妓) are traditional female Japanese entertainers. They are skilled at different Japanese arts, like playing classical Japanese music, dancing and poetry. Some people believe that geisha are prostitutes, this however is false. The term “geisha” is made of two Japanese words, 芸 (gei) meaning “art” and 者 (sha) meaning “person who does” or “to be employed in”. The most literal translation of geisha to English is “artist”. Geisha are very respected and it is hard to become one.”
There are many more in depth definitions of the geisha but my inspiration is based on their extensive training and specialized skills pertaining to various art forms.
Years ago I did a series of paintings in watercolor and I decided to revisit the same subject using a miniature format with encaustic and oil pastel. I love the translucent depth created with wax medium.
Geisha in this series is my way of portraying simplicity, serenity, the vibrant color of life, with a strong sense of female independence and knowledge.
I recently visited the Chicago Botanic Gardens knowing I would find visual inspiration. The colors of gorgeous velvety red roses in the Rose Garden, to the perfectly manicured bonsai and pine trees in the Japanese Garden, were a gift. In the English Walled Garden, I watched as wedding vows were exchanged, the scene felt like a chapter out of a fairy tale. I knew this would become the subject for a new painting.
Seeing the vibrant colors of lotus and lilies, wildflowers and roses, were a wake-up call. My eyes had been resting for too long this summer, and the newest series of miniature paintings (above) remind me of what we often take for granted… the purity of nature’s beauty and gifts.
Next weekend I’ll be exhibiting at the Evanston Art and Big Fork festival. If you are local and interested in seeing great art from 130 exhibitors, live music combined with loads of food and beverages, definitely make the time to visit. I’ll be in booth #133.
I continue to be inspired by my visit to the Burren in County Clare, Ireland last September. A new body of work is slowly starting to emerge in my studio, and I am in the midst of it all.
One of the challenges for this series has been my desire to incorporate a variety of mediums. To date: encaustic, oils, mixed media, even encaustic collagraphs, all depicting the Irish landscape, have started to take form.
The newest additions to the series are posted above. Working with oil paints has been an education in itself! I used photos I had taken and after establishing the general composition reached a point where I stopped looking at the photos and focused on re-creating a feeling rather than being exact to the actual photo. Color mixing has been a challenge as the oils beg to be combined; using a limited palette has forced me to learn color theory at it’s core. Most important to these landscape paintings has been to create wide open space, big sky, along with a purple tinge in the rolling limestone hills and mountains reflected by sun (or lack of it).
My next painting will feature the incredible stone walls seen during a visit to the Aran Islands. How can I have a series inspired by the Irish landscape without incorporating a stone wall or two?
It’s the holiday season and last month I received a commission gift request, to paint Mt Etna erupting! The couple met while studying abroad at the University of Catania in Sicily. I have never been to Sicily, but have been to Italy several times, and had to relate to the landscape of this Italian island without a first hand visual experience.
I sketched a composition capturing the shoreline, the rough terrain, along with the active volcano. I had to combine several of their photographs to create this custom landscape.
By sketching different versions of the landscape I could get familiar with the lay of the land, and I was able to flow right into the larger final version.
It will take several weeks for the oil sticks to dry completely before the painting can be shipped. I may end up making a few minor adjustments, adding touches of color using pan pastels or oil pastels, time will tell.
I rarely accept commission requests, it causes me great amounts of anxiety! I always tell myself worst case scenario, the client hates the painting and doesn’t have to take it. Sharing the development of the painting via emails and text images has alleviated much of the anxiety but still, it is always my top priority to make sure clients fall in love with their painting. When that happens, it is a perfect match.
The other two sketches are shown below, all are 10″ x 8″ –
Finally, after at least a decade (or two) of apprehension, I decided to take a workshop to learn how to paint portraits. Lora Murphy is an Irish artist I met a few years ago, and in September I attended the “Art and Soul Journey”, a 10 day trip to Ireland to learn about the people, places, and culture. The trip included art workshops offered by her and Kathryn Bevier at the Burren College of Art. I put what I learned from Lora on the back burner of my brain until most recently when I had to force myself to finally practice what she taught! It’s intimidating, trying to capture the essence of a personality, combined with accurate physical features. After several failed attempts I overcame insecurities and felt pretty good about this most recent self portrait attempt.
I used Lora’s color palette (her paints combine microcrystalline with encaustic) along with a strong contrast between lights, darks, shadows, and mid tones. Using her paints reminded me of watercolor – maintaining a focus on translucent layers and washes of color, always striving toward keeping the colors crisp and clean.
The portrait of Haley was challenging because there were very few shadows in the photo I used for reference. I tried to keep the skin tones pure and focused on facial planes more than the contrasting shadows.
Hopefully I will continue to practice painting portraits, I have my adult children I can use as models. It makes a difference to me that I am familiar (intimately) with the subject matter.
My self-portrait is currently included in “It Figures, 2017” at ARC Gallery