Friday, January 23, 2015

General Tips on Painting A General

Lieut. General Sir Harold Fawcus
Director of The British Red Cross
1876- 1947
By Johanna Spinks

Close-up...All those medals! Keep them simple.
Go for the structure. Thanks to Philip De Laszlo for always showing me the way.  John Singer Sargent too. I researched both men for their military portraits.

Keep the paint fresh. This head was painted in two sittings.

Get the main details going before you ice the cake, i.e. paint all those details. Good photo reference. Do your homework. Look to the masters for inspiration. Study. Study.

A strong drawing start as the foundation and a nice warm ground to paint some good cools on top.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Painting Dog Portraits

People a few years ago, seeing I did people portraits, started asking me if I would dog portraits in a hushed tone, as if painting dogs was very different from painting people.

Well, actually it's not. Yes you have to deal with lovely lush fluffy fur, moist wet eyes, and chilly shiny noses (on dogs not people), but I approach a dog's head portrait exactly like a person's.

Getting the structure of a dog's head is very important to catch the nature of the dog's breed. Getting the structure of a human head is the same. You can spot a likeness of a person from across the street in dim light oftentimes by the outline shape of their head.

Then I search for my 'point of view'of that pooch, just like with a human face. What are they feeling, what are they thinking. Who IS this dog? Who IS this person? What makes them different from another of their species.

Lastly, I just let myself have fun with paint with the tools I have learned over the years once the block-in is set. How 'wet' can I get that nose to look with my paint, how 'fluffed out' can I make those furry edges.  And don't forget those eyes. Your guess who I am talking about here!

Eyes are the windows to the soul in all species but especially in a dog. How many times have I melted into my own dogs' eyes.

Here I post a few recent dog commissions including the block-in start of a new one shipping to the U.K.  I am going to have a hard time parting with it. I feel I made a new friend. Woof woof.

Fresh off the easel
The block-in

Saturday, January 3, 2015

2015 Art Scholarhship - A Student In Need?

I am looking to give one scholarship this year to an art student in need. Do you know of a young person in the Greater Los Angeles area who would benefit from my teaching class and painting the model all year long, my gift to them? 

If so, have that student email me at

My teaching class resuming  Wednesday January 14th, at my studio is now FULL.

RESERVE your spot for the next six week session beginning March 11th.

Four  hours with the life model, 10 am 2 pm.

Six week semester $300.00

Single session by appointment only $68.00

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Silent Hero Award Presentation

Meet Michael Chapman. He is top of my list of people I want to be just like.

He is also the recipient of the new Face of Ventura Award, a new 'unsung hero' series running in The Ventura Breeze and graciously sponsored by the ever so lovely Sandra and Jordan Laby. Thank you to both of them for making this happen along with Breeze publisher Sheldon Brown.

Michael is the second citizen to be painted in the series after saving the lives of two people in a blazing car wreck. Please nominate to The Breeze if you know of an unsung hero.

Read Michael's brave story here:

Discovery Ventura also hosted a great presentation lunch for all of us, attended by the two people Michael rescued from the car crash. Thanks!

It was a wonderful warm moment and a pleasure and honor to be part of this new series.

L to R, Jordan Laby, Michael Chapman, Sandra Laby and Johanna Spinks
The portrait of Michael that he was presented with. Single sitting from life.

The Ventura Breeze. Nominate!
Thanks to Discovery Ventura for the lunch.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Face of Malibu Portrait Project Hits Two Years

My Face of Malibu portrait project hits two years with twice mayor Sharon Barovsky. She has some interesting things to say about this town currently in The Malibu Times.

The Face of Malibu appears monthly in The Malibu Times. Each sitter is painted directly from life in a single sitter. Sharon is sitter number 26.

Read more about her life here:
Sharon Barovsky
Face of Malibu By Johanna Spinks

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Special Bishop Gets Unveiled

The Rev. Canon Michael Wright, Rector of Grace Church, gives the dedication of  Bishop William Alexander Guerry into The Guerry Chapel
Portrait by Johanna Spinks

The dedication morning starts with a talk in front of the three portraits I have been delighted to paint for Grace Church

A wonderful welcome by Grace Church

Bishop William Alexander Guerry
Reformed Martyr
Grace Episcopal Church
Charleston, South Carolina.
It is always special when you attend unveilings as a portrait artist. We often work quietly in our studios shipping out portraits, hoping they get there safely, but not getting to see the final "reception" at the destination.

This weekend I had the pleasure to see my portrait of reformed martyr Bishop William Alexander Guerry unveiled and dedicated into Grace Episcopal Church in Charleston by the Rev. Michael Wright , rector of Grace Church, in front of hundreds of people in the beautiful 'cathedral-like' stained glass window setting.

I was also hosted by a lovely Charleston couple, Katherine and Dan, staying in their beautiful historic picture-perfect Victorian yellow and white home that was full of Southern charm and Christmas festive, like something out of a magazine. Thank you!

Bishop Guerry was an incredible, passionate and brave man in his beliefs. He was shot dead in 1928 for his mission for inclusion in the church of all folk, including African Americans. Read more here:

I was quite moved to be honest and felt his presence coming through when I painted him. It is my third portrait for Grace Church and I was thrilled to revisit two of the older portraits and see them situated in their rightful place, plus give a talk to the visitors about my portrait work for the church.

It will always be a special weekend memory for me, including of course the day before starting my new portrait The Bishop  of South Carolina Charles vonRosenberg. I am excited to paint this great man.

While all this weekend's greatness was going on, there was a personal moment for me to reflect on the very sad loss of dear friend, Dick, Friday night.  I said a prayer for him in Grace Church during the lovely service and it felt just perfect.

Life is short.

Live it large.

Dick did.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Honored to Paint a New Bishop

A wonderful morning in Charleston starting a portrait of Bishop Charles vonRosenberg, pictured here with his gracious wife Annie, while the choir sang, for The Episcopal Church of South Carolina. Thanks to lovely Katherine Falls Mengedoht for all her help, graciously hosting me in her beautiful home.

Getting a close-up of hands

The portrait sketch from life to aid with the final portrait