Tuesday, February 24, 2015

India Via A Palette Knife

"Noma's Diya on The Ganges"
By Johanna Spinks
Oil on board via palette knife
24" x 18
Image copyrighted

Close up

I'm excited to finally have India process through my art brain and come to life via my palette knife on board. I met this little girl Noma on the ancient steps of Varanasi last November. She was selling diyas which are little earthenware pots filled with marigolds and candles.

Moni sitting with me early morning while I painted, my new BFF
These are lit and then put into the sacred Ganges River as part of a ceremonial prayer ritual. I put one there myself.

I could write a book on Noma. She was a Donald Trump in the making. This was the job she did both before and after school and she knew how to work the tourists those old steps of Varanasi like a pro.

She hustled me hard, even waiting for me outside my hotel one day demanding I come down. She was there at 6 a.m. on another day when I was trying to paint a temple. By this point I had got used to her stalking me. Noma sat with me thru the whole painting session getting me chai tea from the nearby vendor when I needed it. I had to pay her to do this of course but that was fine.

Finally her brother came over and told her she was going to get in trouble if she didn't leave me NOW. We discussed the importance of her getting an education, especially as a female in India, Finally, I paid her to leave me and get to school. That was the only way she was going to go.

I made her promise that she would work hard at her studies.

By the way she spoke exceptional english and was really very charming in her 'hustling the American tourist' kinda way.

I sure hope I get to see her one day again. She left a lasting impression on me hence this painting.

No after school play for Noma...a life of hard work for one so young.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Surf's Up, Face of Malibu, Sitter 29.

Surfboard collector John Mazza is my latest Face of Malibu sitter. He knows Malibu like the back of his hand starting a surfboard museum at Pepperdine University and sitting on many organizational boards.

The single life sitting was a good one and the conversation flowed. We covered a lot of Malibu topics as my brush painted his face. Plus he has a really interesting face to paint and I loved the shapes in his hair. The Face of Malibu is my ongoing portrait painting series kindly featured monthly in The Malibu Times. It is the second town I have painted, the first being The Face of Ventura, appearing for two years in The Ventura Breeze, and now in the permanent collection of the Museum of Ventura County.

John Mazza
Face of Malibu, sitter 29

Read more about John's life story here:

Friday, February 20, 2015

Child's Play - Kids Painting A Life Portrait

A fabulous unforgettable day at Malibu's Juan Cabrillo Elementary School with students helping me do a portrait demo from life!  Thanks to wonderful artist/teacher Nicole Fisher for inviting me into her "Featured Artist Series" at Cabrillo and Dave Teel  Photography for these warm photos.

There are some very talented young artists out there and wonderful dedicated teachers like Nicole expanding their art minds which the world so needs.

To be honest, I was a bit apprehensive how it would go doing a portrait demo with such young artist but it was a blast and the kids were amazing.  Later in the day the children painted their own self portraits which was rewarding to watch - and help out just a bit. 

A day to remember.

 Concentration- Kids get in on the action at Juan Cabrillo
All quiet in the room as the demo starts with all those young artists ready to help out with the demo

He's got the portrait painter's stance down already!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Birds of a Feather, Painting Birds.

Birds of a feather stick together at my studio this week. Beautiful sitter Jennifer Fabos brought her pet parrot Rocky along to be painted from life and it was very cute to watch how much Rocky loved her mistress during the sitting, cooing at her loudly, preferring to sit cozily right by her neck.

I didn't know birds had such attachment to humans. On the breaks from being painted Rocky took her water and food causing a few not so happy accidents on the beautiful satin drape I had just spent a fortune on!

Yes, Rocky is a female parrot but this was not known until she started laying eggs, said Jen,  hence the male name. I have painted Jen before with a previous pet bird, Peep. She has a way with birds for sure.

Some say painting from life is for the birds and I must confess, Rocky was a bit fidgety during the painting session but I sure hope she visits again soon with Jen.

To find out more about Jennifer Fabos and her work with Gallery Girls go here:  

I post the stages of the sitting  here and am indebted once again to my hero master portraitist  Philip de Laszlo.

"Birds of a Feather"
By Johanna Spinks
Oil on Board


Rocky gets her close-up. I moved her position off the shoulder  to aid the composition. I kept her coloring the same as the dress for color harmony, repeating some of those colors in the background too 

The block-in. I liked the tilt.

The light side of the face is massed in quickly going for a clean statement mixing just two colors at one time.

After about two hours of painting, I start to think about Rocky going in to the frame and just how on earth am I going to do that!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Painting A Queen

Queen Elizabeth, II
By William Dargie

Did you know the Queen of England, Elizabeth the Second, is the most reproduced face in history with over with over 100 portrait paintings of her? This portrait by William Dargie, 1912 -2003, nicknamed "The Wattle", after the flowers at her shoulder, is her favorite. It was painted after a 1954 official royal trip to Australia which included sitting for a formal portrait. She liked the portrait so much that she asked for a copy of it be made for her. It now hangs in her private residence with the Queen still telling folks it's her favorite. Few portraits painted of the Queen stay in her possession. 

I found this really interesting You Tube showing many of her portraits. Wonderful how the painted portrait has recorded her life from young girl to elder Royal Sovereign. I won't say which portraits I don't think did the Queen justice.

All I do know it The Wattle is fantastic. All that yellow, so beautifully handled. The Queen looks like I will forever think of her.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Romancing Europe Show

This afternoon is the opening reception of The California Art Club's Romancing Europe Show. I'll be there with my painting "The Cotswold Garden Party", hat and all. I had fun with this one although all those hats did make me a little dizzy at one point.

Not too many faces in the painting. I was giving myself a little break.

The Cotswold Garden Party
By Johanna Spinks, copyrighted.
Oil on linen 12' x 16'

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Painting Downton Abbey

Pass the sherry darling? I went Downton Abbey-esque in my teaching class yesterday at my studio, four hours, to a packed house.

Thanks to the always amazing muse/musician/singer artiste Mather Louth for a great sitting. I could paint Mather every day and never tire. She brings such a wonderful energy to the room and makes a big effort in her costumes.

There was some terrific work going on in the studio by other artists too. A lot to paint in just four hours. Pearls, satin, head piece, oh yes, and that ever so pretty face and porcelain skin.  I was taken back to just what it must have been like for the painting great Philip de Laszlo (my personal hero) and his predecessor John Singer Sargent.

De Laszlo and Sargent knocked off more pearls and satin in their portrait painting careers than I've had  hot cappuccinos.

I post the stages of my demo here.

The Finish
"Downton Abbey-Esque"
18 x 24"
By Johanna Spinks

The sketch almost done.
By Johanna Spinks

Close-up. What a lovely face to paint!
The early block-in. My favorite part of the painting. Good clean color, simple shapes
By Johanna Spinks

The Start...Off and Running.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Perfect Plein Air Painting Box

Here I am painting former Malibu mayor Laura Rosenthal for my Face of Malibu portrait series  featured now in the The Malibu Times for over two years.

I am honored to hear today my work is featured on the Judson Art Outfitters' Plein Air Journal, a blog to inspire plein air painters.

I have been using products, designed by artist Carl Judson,  from this fabulous family-run company for years. Check our  Guerilla Pochade painting boxes.  Highly recommended. Great products, great friendly service, plus the products really do last for years.

I have traveled all over the world with my Guerrilla pochade painting boxes, my very favorite being the 6" x 8" thumb nail box. It's the perfect size for international travel. I just returned from a very lightweight packing trip to India and that was the box I took. It worked out really well.

Thank you Carl and Sarah
My 6" x 8" Guerilla pochade thumbnail box that I took to India, plus France, plus the U.K., get the idea! I love it.