Peonies

Pink Peony Oil Painting 12×12

It’s almost time for these incredibly beautiful flowers to bloom. They are likely to be in bloom already in some regions. I have an Itoh Peony. It’s a cross between this classic style peony and a tree peony. It was a very expensive – a purchase I made a couple years ago. It was in a 5 gallon container at the nursery full of blooms and so very beautiful. I decided I wanted this plant in my life. Since that time it has not yet exhibited the beauty I saw. Even that first season, it went into transplant shock when I moved it to a much larger container. That ended is blooms. The following year, there was a hard rain each day through it’s blooming season and the blooms were pummelled. Last year, for unknown reasons, the blooms were few and only mediocre. At this time, the foliage of my Itoh appears dense and very healthy giving rise to great optimism. This could be the year of flourish I’ve been waiting for.

The flowers of the Itoh look different from those of the classics peonies. The Itoh just has a different look. You might want to look it up. I will show you mine when in bloom.

It’s a very complicated process to paint these densely petaled flowers, but once one suffers through the process, one feels so accomplished – it ALMOST feels worth it. Hope you’re having a wonderful beginning of spring. Winifred

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When More is Not Better

Kazakhstan Girl – Version Two 12×16 Oil Painting by Winifred Whitfield

This past week, I set out to improve upon the more loosely and unfinished painting I posted last week – the one below. I decided I could improve upon its loose and unfinished look – something I’m still trying to develop a greater appreciation for. I took it back to the easel. I spent hours and hours this week, making the painting “more correct” and more traditional. WHEN WILL I EVER LEARN! Finally today, I photographed the latest version of the painting and looked at the two versions side by side. Yes, the latest version is “more correct and more finished” but it’s energy and freshness is lost lost. I definitely prefer the version below. No one would care about a paintings correctness. They do care about color, energy and freshness. I’ll miss that painting. I’ve never painted a portrait in quite the style as the first version before – and now it’s gone. This was a good lesson for me. Previous painting is below for a quick comparison. What a difference. Happy Spring! Winifred

Kazakhstan Girl Oil Painting 12×16 by Winifred Whitfield

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Kazakhstan Girl

Kazakhstan Girl Oil Painting 12×16 by Winifred Whitfield

She was a high school senior when this reference photo was taken. It was more than 15 years ago. I had the opportunity to know the entire family and their many challenges as they attempted to integrate into this society and with no mom – who was dead. I found it interesting that this family came from the same country, Kazakhstan, as the actor/director/comedian Borat. Remember him? … a very funny guy. In creating this painting, I had some success in not over smoothing, not over blending and making some interesting brush marks from time to time.

Initially I attempted a floral painting. It’s so complicated that I put it down to paint this portrait. I think that’s funny. It was the chrysanthemums in the arrangement I couldn’t master, they have such a complex petal structure – but I’ll keep trying. Bye for now. Have a great week! Winifred

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Total Cuteness!

Baby Barn Swallows in my Barn 12×9 Oil Painting by Winifred Whitfield

It was 2010 or earlier, I think, I took this photo. I watched these baby swallows grow to bigger little swallows and then fly away. Other than very messy, it was wonderful to watch their mom flying back and forth to feed them. They were insatiable. This is yet another of those digital files I knew I had to paint – they are so adorable. I had to develop the confidence that I could paint soft feathers and a bird nest. It’s not too bad! I also loved the fact that there is a “stand out” little swallow which posed itself to create the perfect focal point. I couldn’t have planned it better. Have a great weekend. Winifred

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Stopping to Smell

Stopping to Smell… 11×14 Oil Painting by Winifred Whitfield

I took the photo seven or eight years ago. I was struck by it. I liked the naturalness of the pose the light, and of course loved the wildflower she held. In the reference image, she sat in a brightly sunlit grassy field of yellow and gold. Her jacket was turquoise. The content and composition was calming but overall the reference image was too bright and the jacket, though pretty, the turquoise was too distracting. I decided to see if I could make the reference image work as a painting. I sketched an outline of the face and jacket. instead of a sunlit yellow/gold field I painted the background a solid brown/black and the jacket a light gray green. I painted her face overall a golden brown. I now had a subdued block-in of shapes and colors I could work with. I then painted jacket details and a a few details in the background to reflect a grassy environment. Finally, I painted her face and the bright cool toned highlights, finally adding the little wildflower she held to her nose. Now, many years after the photo was taken this memory will remain alive in a form I can enjoy.

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Grapes

Luscious Grapes and Luscious Color 9×12 oil painting by Winifred Whitfield

I so enjoyed painting this still life. Painting grapes is so different from painting eyes and the luscious colors were invigorating. Once done and pleased, I decided to paint a similar image in a different painting style. With the second painting I wouldn’t have to be careful. It is suggested that one not be too “precious” when painting anyhow. It subdues aliveness from ones brush strokes. Below, you can see that I in no way considered the painting precious – just fun.

Grapes Loosely Painted 9×12 Oil Painting by Winifred Whitfield

The second painting was actually more difficult to paint than the first. I enjoy its lively brush strokes but it can be scary. For the first painting, I relied on the reference image for content. In the second painting I had to be more imaginative. I remember the moment I decided to circle the grapes with a vivid blue line and decided to add some random dots all over. I like the colors and the additional texture. I hesitated, but then thought I had nothing to lose – my “precious” painting was finished. I have to overcome fear with each irregular and expressive brushstroke.The underlying thought is constantly “I might mess up”. For sure, that is likely to be the case but it doesn’t matter. The inner dialogue can be exhausting. It slows me down but doesn’t stop me. I am sure you can imagine how difficult and stressful it must be to go through this when painting a portrait. Overall, it was a fun week of adventure in painting.

This coming week, I’ll be back to portraits. Have a great weekend. Winifred

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Mara’s Daughter

Mara’s Daughter 11×14 Oil Painting by Winifred Whitfield

I can usually come up with a title which I consider relevant or at least okay, sometimes even clever – but not today. This painting is not quite finished. When thoroughly dry, I will sand it in some areas and make more to my liking. The problem I struggle with – as you know, is that I spent so many years smoothing and blending skin digitally, that anything less than smooth is difficult for me accept as good work. It’s interesting that the whole Impressionist movement was a rebellion against the artist training in the European academies requirement for the mastery of smooth blended skin in paintings – in fact smooth blended everything. I was just born in the wrong century.

So, this is it for today. I am now going to paint grapes perhaps grapes and tangerines. I have no propensity to smooth fruit! Hope all is well. Winifred

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Ballerina

Ballerina – 12×16 Oil Painting by Winifred Whitfield

She’s a lovely ballerina – and I’m sure this painting will be appreciated. There were, however, many challenges in creating this painting. The reference image was photographed using a wide angle setting with a phone camera. That introduced substantial distortion and error in perspective. It was difficult to use as a painting reference. It’s pretty easy to correct perspective distortion in buildings but not so much in a posed ballerina with curves. I know because I tried.

In the reference photo, the ballerina wore black posed in front of very colorful and boldly graphic wall. It looked like a fun “Senior Photo”. The lighting was flat. I wanted something softer and wanted to introduce energy and movement. As always, as soon as I get a little distance from the painting, a few more changes will likely be made. This is my first attempt to paint a ballerina – I’m sure not the last. Have a wonderful weekend. Winifred

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Blue Violet

Woman in Blue Violet – 9×12 Oil Painting by Winifred Whitfield

Just scroll back 5 or 6 post back and you will see a different version this painting. This painting is from the same reference image as before – except previously, I painted faster and looser. You may recall she had red and yellow “butterflies” in her hair and a black background. I decided to make some changes. Initially the changes were intended to be minimal and I was only tidying up – which is not a good thing. (Someone once told me that finalizing a painting is not “house keeping” – you are not to “tidy up”, which usually results in overworking a painting and taking life from it). That sounds like something I would do. However, once I got started making things “more tidy” I became pretty obsessed and created a complete repainting and “over working” of the painting. My eternal struggle – I revert to a very realistic portrayal. At this point, I can’t determine if it’s better or worse – hopefully just different. Anyway, it’s gone.

In this version of the painting, the face and features are more realistic but I’ve also altered the entire color palette, which is not easy. In the reference photograph, she wore a black dress and had a red and black background. I used this for a workshop I hosted. When you have a red background, red will bounce all over – affecting her skin, her hair and attire. I didn’t want that super saturated red color throughout the image – not for this portrait. I wanted a color palette more neutral. I altered her skin tones, and then came the challenge of creating a background. Initially I painted the background a solid color – basically the same hue as her attire and the coolness of her skin tone. It was quite boring. What to do? Using some thickened paint. I painted the background more violet and then started to make some small dark”swirls” reminding me of brocade fabric. I thought that was okay, certainly better than the previous plain background – so I stayed with that. The repainting had come to an end. You may notice the two moles on her face. The rule is, that if a mark is going to be gone in 6 months, don’t put in in, If it’s going to be more permanent, include it. For sure, most moles are there to stay and they look just fine and don’t detract from her attractiveness. I’m happy to put this down – for good – hopefully.

I didn’t get to work on my floral painting which I abandoned last week but I’m really looking forward to doing so. I hope you’re having a good weekend. Winifred

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Man with Hat Redo

Man with Hat – A shop Keeper in New York. 9×12 Oil Painting by Winifred Whitfield

There are so many ways to create an oil painting – so many possibilities of expression. Although I redid this painting, I wouldn’t say it was bad before but I came not to enjoy viewing it. That creates the perfect opportunity alter the vision and to explore different techniques. If I still don’t enjoy it, I can always sand down the painting and paint over it. Backgrounds are always challenging. They can be very simple with a solid color or they can be as complex as the painter desires and can visualize it. After repainting his face, which I prefer, I started to play with some rather abstract marks in the background. I decided they resembled tree branches – not really but kind of. I added some lighter warm tones in the spaces between the “branches as though warm light was coming through and that was that. The background is likely to be painted again in the future. Time will tell. I have to look at things for a while. It could take weeks or months for me to decide. For sure, I would like the background better if I sanded it down a bit, making it fainter helping to move it further into the distance. In a month or so when it’s dryer, I will at least sand it. Below is the previous version of this painting. He’s shroud in darkness. That’s an acceptable style of painting but it was bothering me, so I changed it.

Initial painting

It was a worthwhile exercise. But I didn’t stop with portrait practice, I attempted a floral as well. After spending more than 15 hours on the painting below, I have already scraped the process and scrapped off the paint. My flowers are no more! I’m looking forward to my next floral attempt and this time I’ll use a reference. It was a freehand effort. I would have done much better if I had I been working from a photo or vase of flowers. What I do like is the brushwork and texture.

Orange Flowers Practice

I also enjoyed the behavior of the paint. It handled quite differently from paint straight from the tube. I made a safe mixture of calcium carbonate and oil to add to the paint which altered it’s handling properties. Overall, I played with colors, texture and paint handling. What fun! Mainly, I didn’t like the shape of the flowers.

It’s so cold here – unusually cold for us. It’s been in the low teens the last couple of days. I’m using more heat but otherwise fine. I hope you’re warm and comfortable wherever you are. Bye for now. Winifred

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