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

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Palette Knife Portrait of Julie

My last teaching class of the year, and I decided to end it with a palette knife portrait demo of the lovely Julie. I am slowly bringing my palette knife work into the teaching room after years of using a brush. It is harder and slower. I am pushing myself both as a teacher and artist.

Thanks to all my students who have blessed me with their art journey this year.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Palette Knife Portrait - Blue Orchids

I have long been fascinated by Lisi's hair. She is a great artist and many people admire her work. But her hair is also a work of art in its' own right. She colors it from cobalt blue to fuchsia depending on her mood. The cut is also quite a statement piece.

I had been wanting to paint Lisi for quite a while with a palette knife. I had already done a portrait of her with a brush but that sketch didn't feel quite edgy enough to capture her.

Lisi and I went on a day trip to The Huntington Gardens in Los Angeles to see the annual Orchid Show.  I found myself staring at her hair in the sunlight rather than at the orchids. I decided she was really as beautiful as any orchid on display, although they were amazing too. And if I had to choose between painting an orchid or Lisi and her hair, I knew what the favorite choice would be.

I may still have a little tweaking to do on this yet but I really think I captured that lovely blue hair and its' incredible shape. I like that I was able to keep the area in the light to the bare canvas. Michael Harding's Ultramarine Blue helped me get there. Quiet a delicious paint.

"Blue Orchid - Lisi"
12 x 12"
Oil on linen via palette knife

Saturday, November 29, 2014

My Palette Knife Portrait Picked for CAC 104th Gold Medal Show

I love GOOD news and it always seems to come when you least expect it.

I just heard today this palette knife portrait of my globe-trotting daughter entitled "The Homecoming" is selected for The California Art Club's 104th Annual Gold Medal Juried Exhibition at the USC Fisher Museum of Art in 2015.

On this Thanksgiving weekend, I am very thankful for that - and for both my daughters.

This portrait was started late at night when my daughter and I were sitting enjoying each other's company after she returned home from a long absence abroad. She is about to depart again.

This CAC Gold show has a judging panel of about 10 highly esteemed art specialist judges. I feel very honored they liked my piece enough to include it. Thank you.

To find out more about this show and The California Art Club, visit here:

"The Homecoming"
9" x 12"
Oil on linen via palette knife
By Johanna Spinks

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Portraits From India

I bought this lovely Punjabi Suit in India just last week. You can see the lovely man making it, in the collage, as I watched.

It felt so right that  it make its' speedy debut in my studio today on the lovely sitter Leah.

I felt terribly jet-lagged to paint, but the colors and memories somehow moved me. I didn't paint for too long but just long enough to capture some color and a likeness. Then it was time for double expresso knowing that I will revisit this suit - and India- again soon.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Painting in India

I went to India and all I got was...the trip of a lifetime. Here are some quick sketches I did.

Watch this space for a workshop I will be teaching there hopefully next year.

"Romancing The Himalays: Majestic Mountains, Monuments and Magical Things"

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

My Portrait Sitting Today

Close-up of my life portrait  sitting today with the lovely Amina.

Lovely Amina came to sit for me today in my studio. Lucky me. Painting time around two hairs/hours?. Not a bad way to while away a couple of hours, right? I have painted Amina many times over the last three years and I never tire of her beauty and spirit.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Painting A General

He seems to be flying off my portrait brush. Liet.-General Sir Harold Ben Fawcus, 1876-1947, former director of the British Red Cross and surgeon to the King. 
 Come back to see the portrait of Sir Fawcus finished. There are a lot of medals for me to paint!

And yes, there is certainly a touch of my Victorian portrait painting idol Philip De Laszlo in this. 

Sir Harold Ben Fawcus
By Johanna Spinks

Monday, October 20, 2014

Alice Neel - I Paint People

The Great Portraitist Alice Neel
Portrait By Johanna Spinks

Love feeling the "portrait love" when it comes unexpectedly. Inbox today. Thanks Mrs. J.B.!

"I absolutely love it, the way your painting captured my little girl in her innocence, she looks peaceful and content."

Years ago, when I started out as a mere tadpole in the huge portrait painting pond,  I was told testimonials were everything and one must get 'one' from the portrait commissioning client to succeed by hell, fire, or murky pond water.

Well, yes, that's true -but only partly so.

Now I am an older portrait frog, mid-pond, with well-rounded grateful algae covered lumps and bumps,  I have learned painting portraits ACROSS the board/pond is the real focus.  Portrait commissions are of course wonderful. I am always hugely honored to do them, knowing some are in collections that will still be there when I am dust. Mud at the bottom of the pond?

I give my commissions my ALL, often spending months to produce something I am personally proud of. No matter what the hourly rate.

But painting portraits, from life, very regularly of everyday people that I see around me, just because I feel the need to, is also the testimonial to my portrait life - and ultimately to the client that wants to commission me. 

Deceased master portrait painter Alice Neel said in her older frog years at the outer rim of the pond: " I paint my time using people as evidence."
Alice Neel Comes to Fame, In Her Mid-70's

 I think of this quote every day. Alice Neel became a portrait legend in her mid-70's after YEARS of no-one caring about her decades-long, out of style, intense study of painting the people in her poor Harlem neighborhood, from life, no camera used, with very few portrait commissions to feed Alice's kids or her art spirit. Money was tight for the basics yet alone canvas and oils. But paint she did. Relentlessly.  She had a passion. She had a fever. There was no stopping her, rather like a frenchman eating garlic braised frogs on sea of caviar, forget the pond, to the expense of all around him.

Sure there was heart burn. Certainly, there were no benefactors until way later.  Alice Neel  painted portraits because she just had to, setting aside hunger, financial and, let's be honest here, emotional security. The unsold canvases lined the walls in her tiny apartment for years, and history records her kids didn't have an easy run. Alice was no Betty CROAK-er, or whatever frogs do.

I would hate to say lucky for Alice she became a legend because she deserved it.  But I also think of all the Alice's or Alec's out there, who painted just like she did through thick or thin, no feast and certainly famine, who didn't get that Whitney Museum Show in their mid-70's or that lush coffee table book when they were six feet under.

I also think of the more casual painters, the so called "Sunday Painters" who get a ton of respect from me. The busy working father  supporting his family for years who painted every spare moment of his weekend. The mother who grabbed her canvas when she could when the kids were asleep.

All just stuck at it quietly because their art voice was within them, heard or not.

Alice Neel's story makes me understand that my intense portrait direction, whether silent or heard by others during my short time on the planet while I paint  my time "using people as evidence",  means I am living the true experience as an artist who happens to like painting portraits.

I am so grateful for that and I could not think of a better way to live.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

25 Of My Palette Knife Portraits

The title says it all.

Almost two years ago, November 14th 2012, at 2 a.m., I picked up a palette knife for the first time to paint a portrait, after many years of doing it with the brush.  I am not quite sure why. But it has been a rewarding journey outside of  my commissioned brush portrait work. And also a daring challenge to myself.

Feeling reflective,  I did this little collage today of some of my palette knife portraits so far, a collection I am slowly working on for a show. Most are painted from life. It may be many more year until that show. But I am so o.k. with that.

I think they are looking ok. What do you think?

A Sample of My Palette Knife Portrait Work
Copyright Johanna Spinks

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Quick Sketch -TV Host

I must be barking mad to agree to do a 20 minute demo in front of rolling film cameras for model finalists on the show "Model Turned Superstar". But that's what I did. Here you see beautiful host Ms. April  Scott take a peak at brief demos end. The most important thing is the models were inspired and then went off to do some really wonderful painted 'selfies', filmed as one of the many challenges the girls have to do for this show. Winner gets $1 million!
Catch the show when it airs  

My Demo, 20 Minutes, cameras rolling, of TV host April Scott.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Model Turned Superstar Self-Portraits

Lights, camera, 'self-portrait' action. I get to teach 12 model finalists today how to do self-portraits live on camera for this show being filmed in Los Angeles today

Come back to hear more.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Like a Snail...Palette Knife Portraits

Well, I know how to paint with a brush real fast around a demo or life portrait sitting . I think followers of this blog know that by now. Certainly my portrait sitters do. They are usually happy with my life painting efforts, a likeness finished within about two hours, chatting as we go. Team effort.

But I am taking the most daring step during my teaching life painting class of slowing myself down via a palette knife. I also was honored by a recent palette knife portrait commission from life, the sitter knowing it would be a slower process.

Think of it like adding 30 lb huge weights to your art boots. Wading in molasses, but delightfully so.

I move like a snail and students/sitters don't get to see quickie results like the regular brush finish. I am trusting in my art journey.

It is really a leap of faith. Are you with me?

The Finish
"Wedding Attire"
9 x 12"
Oil on Linen, palette knife
By Johanna Spinks

My life sitting today...more work to do.

I allow myself a drawing brush block-in

Monday, October 6, 2014

Inspiration...A Special Story

I was so inspired today by my journalist daughter Rosie Spinks who spent five months in South Africa, working on a story, seeing it  published via GOOD on a very delicate subject.

I decided to feel inspired myself and knew I wanted to paint with a palette knife this afternoon and do a portrait of Rosie Spinks so that is exactly what I did.

Not a bad day's efforts. I like what I got even though it took me way less time than my daughter's well researched article, five months in the making, living in South Africa to find her story.

When inspiration comes, you fly with it, right?

Palette knife portrait, "The Embroidered Top", 9 x 12",  by Johanna Spinks

Palette knife portrait,  in progress, close-up
Palette knife strokes, close up

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Perfect Art Studio Furniture

Beautiful Stephanie came into my studio to be painted this week from life wearing a gorgeous red satin slip from Paris that I wanted to paint as much as her pretty face - so I did.

I have painted this lovely young lady quite a few times now after being introduced to her by Jeremy Lipking.  I always enjoy her sweet soul and the energy she brings to the table.

I have also collected a vast number of slips, kimonos, flimsy vintage type clothing and yummy paintable things from around the world. Students always ask me: "Where do you find all these things?"

It is also the first time I got to paint my new studio bench which I waited for months to buy after spotting it at Charme D'Antin in Los Angeles. It is over 100 years old and completely impractical. I suspect it was made from an old french bed headboard. But I love it and wonder at all the people who sat on it or slept under it that elaborate headboard. Maybe I am the first to paint it?

Gratitudes to Stephanie, that red satin slip, and my new old bench.

Life sitting at the studio this week

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Ten Great Things I Learned From Jeremy Lipking

Readers of this blog will know for almost three years now I have been lucky enough to be around master painter Jeremy Lipking, offering a helping hand when he needs it in return for inspiration from this incredibly talented man.

Lipking's work moves me. Plain and simple. We paint in different styles for sure, but I love to watch him paint and hear his thoughts on all things to do with his art. I am a big believer in surrounding myself with greatness to learn more about what I do in my own professional working life - and that he is.

It has been quite a journey so far. There was a Lipking workshop visit to Sweden to Anders Zorn's hometown Mora, a workshop to the High Sierras, a huge sold-out solo show in NY that Lipking prepared for over two years, and a ton of weekly Tuesday night classes and weekend workshops. There was also a delightful addition to the young Lipking family during this time period which made everyone's heart sing.

I have seen many enthralled students come through Lipking's eclectic studio, which is  full of his paintings and personal art finds and treasures. I've seen many Lipking demos and many of his large scale, prize-winning paintings in progress.  Just this year Lipking won The Prix de West and also The Art Renewal Centre Grand Prize. He knows a thing or two and he is not even 40 yet.

I was prompted to come up with the TOP TEN THINGS I have learned from this young master so far after watching him demo yesterday knowing I was in the presence yet again of greatness. And not to mention grateful for it.

1. Take your time: Lipking thinks things through from beginning to end. His first brushstroke is as important as his last.

2. Simplify: Lipking will take a complicated mountain range or ocean view and simply it like no other. Saying less is more.

3. Warm shadows: paint them darker than you think and use cool muted greys for the light with some cadimum 'bright' mixes for the sizzle on top, a.ka. Lipking 'glow'.

4. Design: Lipking is a master here. Using his excellent drawing skills he designs beautiful shapes around a chosen value pattern.

5. Subtle: super subtle half tones in the light, often connecting to each other and kept lighter in value than you would think.

6. Purple: a  blue-ish purple mound of color is always on Lipking's palette, think of a Provence Blue shade. He dips into it often to cool his colors.

7. Washes: thin washes are used to optimum effect and an important part of his approach with parts of the wash appearing in the final painting, under clothing or hair, or just about anything.

8. Observe: Lipking's mind is always working on the lookout for his next great painting. Once on a car ride we swerved off the road to catch a herd of sheep at sunset that he had seen in the distance.

9. Go for exquisite: give everything you paint your full attention from a humble single flower to a vast canyon range at sunset.

10. Paint what you love: this is obvious in all of his paintings. He doesn't paint to the crowd. It seems he  paints to please himself and the rest follows.

To sign up for Lipking's next studio workshop day Saturday October 18th, go here:

Jeremy Lipking's inspiring demo this weekend at his studio workshop.
My 'take' on the lovely model, Julie.
Lipking on location 2013
Lipking Malibu beach workshop 2012
Lipking Studio workshop 2012
A quick-sketch of me by Lipking
Sweden, 2012. Myself pictured here with Lipking at Anders Zorn's summer house.
Amazing times.
A palette knife portrait I did of Lipking
"Sierra Shades - Jeremy Lipking"
Lipking workshop, The Sierras Fall 2013
Lipking Gets Another Cover
Lipking Sold-Out Solo Show December 2013

Friday, September 26, 2014

Painting Greatness

Well, I start a new portrait today, among a few others I am working on. This is a special one for me and I dare to show my start. Don't call me crazy.

This is a posthumous portrait of Lieut. General Sir Harold Fawcus, 1876-1947, British Red Cross Director and Surgeon General to the King.

He had/has such a fine face, elegance of carriage,  and, goodness, all those medals reflecting his accomplishments. This is going to be quite something to paint. And I wish to do Sir Fawcus proud.

Interestingly enough, Sir Fawcus visited Los Angeles in 1934, my hometown. I can only imagine what he thought of it.

Please come back to see him finished.

What are you challenged and stimulated  by today?

Go take on the day.


The Start....Liet. Gen. Sir Harold Fawcus
By Johanna Spinks

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Painting Hands.

Gotta hand it to me. I love painting hands.
Close up
By Johanna Spinks
This was a fun portrait commission to work on,  a more casual sketchy kind of portrait, which is what the client wanted for  a surprise birthday gift. When the client said his girlfriend loved sparkle and bling, I knew it was time to get the gold leaf out. I was working to a tight deadline for the client, total painting time two days. No room for errors.

The hand was important to the client and it is my favorite part. I loved her glittery nails.  See close-up above. Hands tell as much about the portrait sitter as the face and need close attention. People seem to have trouble painting hands. I love painting them. Structure, structure. Philip Delaszlo was my favorite hand painter. I study his work a lot.

Portrait Commission
By Johanna Spinks
Oil and Gold Leaf
22 x 28

The start