Saturday, July 26, 2014

A Possible Dream: Your portrait painted in Carly Simon's garden!

Win this 'Possible Dream' Live Auction item at the event on July 27, donated by me and Carly Simon! Or is that, Carly Simon and me?!

You’re So Vain: Island artist Elizabeth Whelan will create an 22” x 28” oil-on-linen portrait of the winning bidder. The winner will sit for initial sketches for the portrait in the garden of Grammy award-winning, recording artist Carly Simon.

Woo-hoo! I am so excited to be part of Martha's Vineyard Community Services 36th Annual Art Buchwald 'Possible Dreams' Auction being held on July 27th, 2014, at the Winnetu Ocean Resort in Edgartown. Gates open at 3:45 p.m., the Silent Auction starts at 4:00 p.m. and the Live Auction starts at 5:00 p.m.

Click on the link for a list of the Live Auction 'Possible Dreams', and look forward to many generously donated, fabulous items at the Silent Auction!

Tickets are only $25 so come out and enjoy a fun evening for a great cause!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Portrait of Nat Benjamin, wooden boat designer & builder

Nat Benjamin's portrait was the second painting unveiled at the June event at the Workshop on Martha's Vineyard. After Stina's painting was unveiled I am sure he didn't know what to expect!

Nat hadn't even seen the sketches I made for this painting, so everything about it was a surprise. From the crowd reaction, I'd say that there was no doubt people recognized who I had painted. Nat was even wearing one of the t-shirts shown in the painting, which gave the portrait even more realism!

The pose shows him standing in the Gannon & Benjamin boat shop on Beach Street in Vineyard Haven, which is actually right next to the gallery which held the unveilings. We owe so much to Nat -- he was the main reason we relocated to the Vineyard -- and he made a wonderful subject to paint.

Below you can see the completed painting, followed by the initial oil sketch.




(click on image for a larger view)

Portrait of Stina Sayre, clothing designer

Here's one of the paintings recently unveiled at the Workshop Gallery in Vineyard Haven, on the island of Martha's Vineyard. What a great night, and a chance for me to honor some excellent Islanders by painting their portraits.

This is Stina Sayre, a very talented clothing designer whose fashions make women of all ages and sizes look wonderful! What more could anyone ask?! Here she's shown in casual dress behind the scenes, working on a new creation. Often people see Stina at fashion events looking very glamorous, so it was nice to be able to show another side of her. She was marvelous to work with and is such a creative person.

The painting is large, 40" x 60", and after I built the canvas I had to check that I could get it down the stairs! Now I know what my maximum painting size can be if painted in that location. I used every size of brush and palette knife I had in order to achieve the effects I was after; I believe the variety of brush stroke is even more important on a large painting such as this.

She has a very cool, airy shop with high ceilings, so I wanted to get that feeling in her painting. Next week I am going to photograph the portrait properly, and will post some details.


Completed painting of Irish Step Dancer

Time to post some completed paintings! Here's the lovely Irish Step Dancer whose painting was shown in earlier stages. The last 25% of a painting is about bringing all the details together, and making sure the colors work as a whole.
This portrait and a few others were on display at a recent portrait unveiling in Vineyard Haven, at the Workshop gallery. More on that later! For now, here's the painting ...

Friday, April 4, 2014

Pre-mixing oil paints before painting session

For the last few years, I've been pre-mixing my paints when I am about to work on a portrait or other complex painting. I find it saves me time in the long run, and even though I may not use all the colors during the painting session, I was wasting a lot more paint mixing up large quantities of mystery colors before I started this practice.

And let me give credit to artist Daniel Greene for starting me on this path. He teaches this approach in his workshops, and it has made my whole process more efficient. The paint colors I use are based largely on his recommendations, with alterations depending on what I am painting.


(Click image for a larger view)

The palette consists of:

White (usually Flake White)
Ivory Black
Blue (Prussian, Ultramarine or Cobalt)
Raw Sienna
Yellow Ochre
Cadmium Yellow Medium
Cadmium Red Light
Venetian Red
Alizarin Crimson
Burnt Sienna
Raw Umber
Sap Green

And from this I mix:

Cadmium Red Light + Raw Sienna, + white to make a series of tints
Venetian Red + white
Yellow Ochre + white
Yellow Ochre + Burnt Sienna + white
Burnt Sienna + White

Then two greys, made from:

Raw Umber + white
Black + Raw Sienna + white

Two browns, made from:

Alizarin Crimson + Sap Green, + Cadmium Yellow
Sap Green + Alizarin Crimson, + cadmium Yellow

And some cool neutrals:

Raw Umber + Yellow Ochre, with varying amounts of Burnt Sienna added.

This takes me about 20 minutes to mix these, a good warm up while I drink my coffee and decide what to paint first!


(Click image for a larger view)

This is how I mix the paint, adding a bit of white to some of the previous tint for that color combination until I have 4-6 tints in a row.

I will put the whole palette in the freezer overnight and that way get a few days out of the paint before having to put out more. These shades cover a variety of skin tones, and get my portraits going quickly in the right direction.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Elizabeth's essential painting supplies

The studio where I usually paint is not insulated, so in the depths of winter -- and it was a cold one this year -- I moved into a very small but sunny room with one of my easels, and set up a card table with the essentials. 

The room is south-facing, which causes havoc with glare off the canvas and I am forever moving my easel to keep the light neutral, but it’s quite warm and inviting! I’ll take that any winters day.

I call these these items below 'essentials' although most are actually 'nice-to-have's. See my notes below for descriptions.


  • Pencil sharpener, eraser, pencils including white and black charcoal pencils in a jar behind the paper towels, tape, clamp (I often mount reference material on cardboard, then clamp it to the easel.)
  • Paper towels, the kind that tears off in small sheets.
  • A paint tube squeezer! This is a ‘must-have’ for the frugal artist.
  • My tube of white stays out on the table. If I am premixing skin tones, I'll need more white paint than is shown here.
  • The palette, ready to go! See my post about pre-mixing paint for more info about colors I use.
  • I sometimes use retouch varnish at the start of a painting session if my darks have ‘sunk in’.
  • An assortment of palette knives and scrapers, and a tool for getting the tops off the paint tubes!
  • Medium (2 part stand oil to 1 parts distilled turpentine), and odorless mineral spirits as a thinner, used sparingly. I also use OMS as a brush cleaner.
  • Brushes: this is a collection I’ve amassed over time, but I typically only use a few at each painting session. They are mostly cat’s tongue sable, natural bristle filberts, and natural bristle brights.

And just so you know, even when I am painting the table stays about like this, and as clean! I am just not one of those messy painters. If I do think I am going to splatter paint I put down newspapers and a drop cloth under the easel! One visitor told me that my studio was 'unnaturally tidy', which I take to be quite a compliment! But it's really not as pristine as that sounds, just uncluttered.

Monday, December 23, 2013

A small portrait can still convey a sense of place

I've been paintin' rather than postin', hence the sound of silence on the blog! Not at all what I recommend to my clients who are seeking social media advice, so I'd better step up my game!

However I've the best excuse, having been in the studio with 11 unfinished paintings ranging from page sized to wall sized. Here's one project recently completed, a 14" x 10" oil on canvas titled 'Lost in Thought'.


(click on painting for a larger view)

I experimented with some ways to differentiate between textures using a variety of brush types and sizes, as well as a palette knife, to apply the paint.

A small canvas can still provide a sense of locale, even with a central dominant figure, and I prefer some specifics in a figurative painting to give a scene additional interest.