Monday, November 25, 2013

Palette Knife Portraits

Palette Knife Portrait
By Johanna Spinks
Seems to me you have to work with even more precision when working with just a palette knife than a brush. Funny thing that. People imagine that it is so much more freedom to get out the knives and go swish swash.  Palette knife portraits take me far longer to paint than ones done with the brush. And to do them painting directly from life, the sitter really does have to sit still.

This is a close up of a posthumous portrait I am working on. It is giving me quite a challenge but I am getting there and sure enjoying the process.

Saturday, November 23, 2013


This has to be the bravest lady I have ever met. I was honored to paint her as she faced a very difficult health challenge in her life.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Perfect Holiday Gift - My 2014 Calendar

Johanna Spinks' Fine Art 2014 Limited Edition Calendar
Gift Wrapped and Personalize To You
Free shipping within the U.S.

View inside images and purchase by clicking below!product/prd1/1382122341/2014-limited-edition-calendar

My 2014 Limited Edition Calendar is here with hopefully some crowd pleasers. I have carefully chosen images from the last few years that seemed the most popular from either what collectors and students told me or what competitions validated with awards and nods. And others I just plain liked just because... phew. 

Included in the 9"x11"(approx.) high gloss interior are:

"Heather's Braids" Winner of The Oil Painters' of America Daler Rowney Award of Painting Excellence
"Sienna" First Place Atlanta Portrait Society

"Bella Marie" Finalist Oil Painters of America Western

Click the image above to purchase $29.95 including free shipping within the U.S.
Supplies limited so hurry.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Face of Malibu, One Year Old!

This month's Face of Malibu appearing in The Malibu Times
 Scott Tallal
Executive director, Malibu Film Society
Life sitting, two hours

The Face of Malibu, featured in The Malibu Times, is now officially one year old! My 13th sitter Scott Tallal, executive director of The Malibu Film Society, appears in this week's addition and it is a moment for me to reflect.

As readers of this blog will know, it is not my first time taking a town on with my portrait brush. The first outing was in Ventura, C.A, where I painted 58 people in a single life sitting, no photos used, over a two year period.

The sitter was picked to deliberately reflect  a slice of the town and what was going on in it during that time period. More importantly the sitter's life story appeared in each edition of  The Ventura Breeze newspaper and a voice aired weekly on the Lyn Fairly and Friends  radio show.

It was quite a journey with all 58 portrait sketches, and life stories in print, eventually going into the permanent collection of the Museum of Ventura County with a fabulous' end of project' art show sponsored by FOOD Share to a packed house.

I also won the Mayor's 2012 Artist in Community Award, I am sure, as a direct result of this community project funded by myself.

It is hard to repeat a successful project and I certainly wondered if I should even try. I was lucky that Arnold York, publisher of The Malibu Times, was receptive to the concept when I first approached him as the Ventura project was finishing.

Mr. York and I took a few meetings and launched the project to see where it went.

The project in Malibu so far has certainly been different. For one thing, the pace is much slower with just one sitter a month, rather than two, appearing in the paper. Also,  there is no determined number of sitters unlike last time.

I decided early on to not try and repeat. Let the project have a life of it's own in a new town without controlling the outcome.

The one thing that remains the same is the life sitting and the concept that we get what we get.

One aspect I really like about the new project is that each sitter actually gets interviewed by a reporter. Before the sitter had a form list of questions that was then edited for the paper. I think the actual interview tailored to the sitter makes for a stronger representation of the sitter's life story. That is important to me. This is not just about the sketches afterall.

After a year doing the new project, I look back with gratitude. 

 I am not always happy with the sketches. Sometimes I feel anxious putting them out there. I talk to the sitter while I paint. The point being the interaction between us. Getting to know them. This often compromises the sketch result. But I just can't seem to stop myself.

I think of all the portrait greats that went before me like Franz Hals, Phillip De Laszlo, and John Singer Sargent. I just KNOW they talked to their sitters too. The face moves when people talk, well, derr. But if you can catch that quickly with your brush, there's a  real 'feel' of the person rather than a static pose producing a static face.

I look back reflecting on the record now of 13 people in Malibu this year that I have been honored to meet and paint.

It is a vulnerable act for both of us each time. I never take it for granted.

Sometimes the sitters are nervous. Anxious even. Sometimes I am, wondering if my brush will perform the way I want it to. And certainly any project is a commitment in time and money for both artist and newspaper publisher. Few know the behind the scene stories. One sketch was painted the day before I went in for hip replacement surgery to meet the deadline. My mind was elsewhere.  Thankfully my sitter was kind and gracious around the situation. 

All sketches were fitted in around a busy schedule on everyone's part. 

So a big "thank you" to each and every one who have made this 'Face of Malibu' year happen: MT's publisher Arnold York, and especially MT's associate editor Knowles Adkisson for working so closely with me on this series. 

I also thank the journalists Homaira Shifa and Catalina Wyre for their insightful interviews with each sitter. The sketches would be nothing without the life stories, in words,  behind them.

Mostly, I thank the sitters for placing their trust in me.

I look forward to seeing what the next year brings.

None of these portrait sketches are for sale. 

Marie Stapel
Diana Perry
Bill Swartout
Laura Rosenthal
Lilly Castro
Oscar Mandragon

John Paola
Richard Chesterfield
Douglas Rucker
Millie Decker
 Lesley-Anne Down
Sherman Baylin

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Drawing Portraits From Life

Life Drawing
Johanna Spinks

Headed over to the Jeremy Lipking studio for my regular Tuesday night jaunt there which is always stimulating.

Decided to put down the brush for a change and draw instead. Three hours later this was what I had, although I could have stopped at two and it would have looked pretty much the same.

This was done with a pastel pencil on Rives paper and it is probably my favorite way to draw. I like slowly working up the face on thick paper.

The model's face position had completely changed from where we started. The joys of working from life. So I decided to hang on to my initial drawing start, for better or worse. Never chase a head position.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Palette Knife Portrait - Stages

The New Parisian
Palette Knife Portrait By Johanna Spinks

The Start. Brush only used in drawing stage

Building up the eye and frames with the knife. Not so easy

Mid-way...taking my time.

I am still working away on a collection of palette knife portraits that I am thoroughly enjoying. It feels so natural to me to paint this way. Don't ask me why. I have no idea. I just know it has taken me a long time in my art journey to get to the point where I feel so much at home.

I just finished this one of my daughter, newly situated in Paris. Green and red harmony. Let me know what you think!