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