Sacred Space

I have been quiet.  This is a sure sign that I have been working on something very large.  I am happy to unveil my latest piece: “Sacred Space” measuring 30″ x 48″ and what makes it such a large project is the level of detail.  Murals are larger, but they also get painted with large brushes.

Sacred Space by Wendy Roberts

Sacred Space complete with a frame from Brilhante Framing of Kailua

The idea for this piece hit me like a bolt of lightning 4 years ago when I had just watched “Secret of Kells” for the third time. “The Secret of Kells” is a cartoon so beautiful it should be thought of as a moving piece of art rather than what you would typically think of with animation.  It is about Celtic illuminated manuscripts and if you haven’t seen it, you should set aside a movie night to take a look.  It is a beautiful story with amazing animation. After viewing the amazing animated manuscripts once again, I wondered what tropical illuminated manuscripts would look like, and then after a few odd sketches of extremely stylized Hawaii scenery with a Celtic knotwork spin, the thought pushed into its final form: “What if I used metal leaf like paint to add movement to the water and the leaves – the sunlight dappling, changing, shifting like the light on the leafing?” I knew this had a potential to add another element to the painting, allowing me to more fully express the sense of awe felt while secluded next to a stunning waterfall. I had to learn how to use metal leaf and get good enough to apply it smoothly. That took about 2 years. Then it took a lot of time and care to work my way through the details on the canvas. I set it aside a few times to work on other things and allow my brain time to solve some quandries by passively working on them in the background.  I always returned with a fresh point of view. This will certainly not be the last “tropical leaf” painting! I am really interested in using the dynamic shimmer of metals in my work. I had to adjust for the variability of the silver leaf’s changing values, but the final effect adds motion and life that is impossible to show in a photo but I’ll try anyway by posting a detail from different angles.

Here is the ie ie vine in the painting, a woody endemic Hawaiian flower in the pandanus family, shown from two angles so you can see how the silver picks up and reflects light dynamically. You can also see a small portion of the waterfall’s silver leaf.

Giclees (durable canvas prints) of this piece will be available soon. It won’t have the leafing unfortunately since it has to be painted and blended into the rest of the piece, but when I get the final scan, I will be posting it on my “Giclees Available” page.

This piece will debut at the Punahou Carnival Art Show along with two of my little birds:

Akepa With Orange Ohia

Akepa with Orange Ohia

Saffron Finch In A Cannonball Tree by Wendy Roberts

Saffron Finch In A Cannonball Tree

A carnival?  You might find that odd.  Let me explain.  Hawaii has a handful of schools that function more like colleges.  They are rigorous, demand excellent grades, and inspire the kids who attend to really strive for their best potential.  Punahou is one of the largest of these.  They have a great scholarship program so that the school can admit kids who can benefit from the challenging education at a rate of payment their family can afford.  Every year, Punahou holds a carnival to bridge the gap between what the kids are able to pay and what the school demands to keep the facilities top notch.  Oddly enough, they have developed one of the largest, most prestigious art shows in the islands.  I am pleased to be participating. If these pieces are sold at the carnival, half the proceeds will go to the Punahou scholarship fund.  

Quality Time at ZAFA Workshops

This October an November I have been honing my skills, I took an amazing workshop at Zwick Academy of Fine Art (ZAFA) entitled “Master Copy Workshop”. We worked on a master painting copy of a work by John Singer Sargent – I chose “Lady Agnew” I am mostly done copying the detail, and ready to show the results.  First we worked on the value study.  This turned out to be quite enlightening for understanding the overall tones of the piece.  It was years since I had worked with charcoal, and I found out I really love it for a drawing medium.

Then we worked on color studies (not pictured), before launching into the real deal. We used a nice color print out in lieu of being able to spend a month in front of the actual paintings. Every time I mixed a skin tone, I found myself saying “Needs more purple!” Sargent is a surprisingly saturated colorist.  I look forward to the changes this will bring to future pieces as I incorporate the lessons learned by studying Sargent’s careful yet expressive painting style which I would classify as “effort-filled effortlessness”.  I can highly recommend William Zwick’s classes.  He’s an excellent teacher! I learned more in less time by doing this master copy under his mentorship than I would have if I had picked up a brush and done it without guidance. Maybe I will end up doing more copies in the future, and I would even dare to do them solo now, but I think the process of being guided through this copy helps me know how I would go about it in the future if left to my own devices. It takes a lot of research if you plan to replicate the painting down to the technique and palette.  I was grateful to have that footwork in place already for this piece.

There is a little glare on the photo, but I think it is not hampering the viewing of my copy too much.  Also, the piece is not varnished yet.  I will post again when I have the necklace done and the varnish done (which will deepen the colors), but you can see that the detail is almost complete.  I am planning to frame this and hang it in my studio to remind me how to soften my edges.  What a great way to spend October of 2017!

I returned to ZAFA in November to work on my master copy-earned skills with some life painting sessions, and painted a portrait of the absolutely gorgeous model posing at ZAFA for the week.

Here she is with her painting. Posing for hours like that is not easy.  She did a great job of standing still for the 9 hours (!) it took us all to paint her likeness.

I worked hard to soften the edges and was pleased with the results, as was the model who bought the piece – I always love it when a painting finds its home.  ZAFA is one of the few places you can go on Oahu for a multi-session life painting experience, which I highly recommend if you are looking to hone skills and learn to paint beyond the confines of a a photo.  As of 2017, it is on Fridays and you can sign up with ZAFA to get notice of the status of the sessions.  We are lucky to have high quality art resources like this close at hand. Maybe I will see you there, fellow Oahu artists! 

 

Miniature Shows for November/December 2017

This November and December, I am getting a chance to show my works from September’s miniature work frenzy.  I had 4 pieces accepted into the AHA Miniature Show which ran throughout November, and 3 were juried in are still on display at the Koa Gallery.  Details are here for the Koa Gallery Show which is still on display:  http://www.wendyrobertsfineart.com/event/mixed-media-miniature-show/

At the AHA Miniature show:

Akepa With Orange Ohia

Akepa with Orange Ohia

Hawaiian Moorhen

Mynah Bird in a Coral Tree by Wendy Roberts

Mynah Bird in a Coral Tree

Violet Vanda Orchids

Violet Vanda Orchids

Mixed Media Miniature Show 20th Anniversary:

Java Sparrows in an Avocado Tree by Wendy Roberts

Java Sparrows in an Avocado Tree

Iiwi on Blue Lobeliads by Wendy Roberts

Iiwi on Blue Lobeliads

Saffron Finch in a Cannonball Tree by Wendy Roberts

Saffron Finch in a Cannonball Tree

Inktober

Inktober: "Teeming"

Inktober: “Teeming”

I wanted to at least do one day of Inktober, the seemingly ubiquitous challenge that has a list of prompts and is an great reason to hone skills with ink drawing.  Today I had time to create something, so I looked at the official prompt.  “Teeming” – what a fitting prompt for me lately.  My mind has been swimming with thoughts that flit like fish, unpredictable emotions, and a feeling of drifting like a school of fish.  It’s been a tough couple of weeks.  I decided to use this as a therapeutic exercise as well as a technical one to express that dreamy, lost quality.  Utilizing memories and a photo from my latest scuba dive, I delved into a inner self-portrait of sorts.  There is an odd photo after scuba where my hair was tangled and wavy, and I started with that as inspiration, knowing I was going to weave fish between the locks like tessellations.  From there, I let myself wander. 

If you want to draw for part or all of Inktober, here is the site and the prompts and “rules” (follow them if you want, or just be joyful and don’t worry about it) are below. 

Enjoy!

 

30 in 30: Highlights to Date

As the official 30 in 30 wraps up on Leslie Saeta’s site, I have gathered a set of 16 paintings to make a collage of my highlights to show for her conclusion posting.  Having most of the challenge complete, my daily painting habit is strong. An artist can only improve with time spent at the easel, so it’s good to hone habits and make an effort to paint as often as I can.  I will end up with a little less than 30 paintings because some are taking more than one day, but it won’t be far off. I am feeling very productive and definitely took the challenge seriously.  I spent significant time at the easel every day.  I opted not to show some pieces that need more work, but I have them behind the scenes waiting to emerge after finishing touches. 

With so many shows coming up, these little paintings are coming into existence at the perfect time.  I have already sold 6 paintings from this series, so the rewards for my work with the brush have started to flow.  I am very grateful!  My teenage daughter called dibs on the scuba dive painting from memory (“Black Coral Cave” – which I was not planning to sell). Since she was with me when we went into the beautiful caves, it seems fitting to give that piece to her. Seeing her fist pump the air when I told her she could have it was the best sort of payment!

This wraps up the official Saeta Blog timeline of the 30 in 30, but of course I will continue for a few more days to account for starting 5 days later than everyone else. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog – it’s more fun to write if someone actually reads it!

30 in 30: Iiwi on a Blue Lobeliad

Iiwi on Blue Lobeliad Flowers by Wendy Roberts

Today’s bird is one of my favorites that I paint more than any other bird, the iiwi.  I love the bright red-orange color of its feathers.  I keep finding new color schemes I want to try with this vibrant red color.  This time the tiny honeycreeper is nestled on a vivid blue-purple lobeliad plant in bloom, using its curved beak to feed on nectar within the flowers.  Thanks to Kim and Forest Starr for a wonderful series of photos that served as inspiration.  

30 in 30: Day 1 of Shama Thrush in a Mountain Apple Tree

Day 1 of “Shama Thrush in a Mountain Apple Tree” Yesterday’s work was rushed and didn’t turn out well, but you will see it later on once it’s had time to be sorted out. In the meantime, I started a new painting that I will show the daily progress on. I don’t always do an underpainting, but this is a complex scene and I felt a brown undertone would be great for this one.

This painting is part of the 30 in 30 challenge.  You can see the completed paintings to date here: 30 in 30 gallery

30 in 30: Mynah Bird in a Coral Tree

Mynah Bird in a Coral Tree
Acrylic on Gessobord
5″ X 7″

Mynah birds can be trained to talk, and they do not sound like parrots.  If you want to see one that was rescued and taught to talk, I highly recommend this link:  

I love listening to this bird’s voice.  Their usual chatter includes an amazing range of sounds: the soft peep of surprise that sounds like the mew of a cat, loud squawks, shrill dual-tone screams meant to defend territory, and even clicks. I have placed it in the boughs of a lovely coral tree.  They are both introduced species from India that thrive in the mild climate of the islands, mynah birds particularly are one of the most common birds in the low elevations.

30 in 30 Black Coral Cave

Black Coral Cave by Wendy Roberts

Black Coral Cave
Oil on Wood Panel
9″ X 12″

This painting was a joy to paint, though I don’t think it is 100% done.  It is another alla prima oil painting experiment.  I felt slightly more at ease painting the entire painting in one sitting this time, though I still have many hours to log before I will claim expertise in this direct wet-in-wet painting technique.

This summer, my family went scuba diving.  It was the first set of dives for my daughters who are finally certified in scuba.  I used to have an underwater camera a long time ago, but the photos are only as good as your equipment allow them to be.  My cheap camera never did a good job with underwater photos, so I ditched the camera and got in the habit of taking detailed notes of my dives, including as many fish names as I could figure out, but I missed the visual aspect a camera can offer, even if it is subpar.  This time, rather than taking a camera, I took inspiration from a friend and talented artist, Cynthia Schubert-Richmond, who has spent a lot more time underwater than I have in a lot more locations.  She solved the issue of sharing what she saw underwater by making paintings from memory, and what a wonderful memory she has!  It’s quite a brilliant idea really, because it had never occurred to me to paint from life after the fact without a reference, let alone trying to record the underwater world with all its unfamiliar sights, which always feels so surreal to me.  Her paintings of her dive trips were gorgeous!  They are not online, but you can at least see her other amazing works.  

Her underwater scenes inspired me to sketch when I got back to the hotel in the hopes that I might be able to reconstruct the feeling of diving – painting is more accurate for me emotionally than a photo ever could be because even with the best equipment, it is challenging to take a good panoramic photo in the water, and you can’t always catch your favorite fish sightings within your favorite ocean landscape scenery.  You have to choose macro or micro when using photography underwater generally speaking.  Thus, how nice it is to be able to paint it!  This painting is like a shadow of how it felt to me when we went on our last scuba dive.  It’s not accurate physically.  I couldn’t draw a map of the location.  I was too dazzled to pay attention to how the cave was shaped.  I remember the rays of the sun shining through the multiple openings, the feeling of mystery within the system, wondering what would be around the next pillar, seeing a few spectacular and unique fish, and swimming up over the coral beds.  Most of all, I was struck by the beauty of the amazing black coral  dangling down overhead from the top of the cave like a chandelier, complete with three little cowry shells in its boughs like monkeys in a jungle tree.  Because it is a painting, I get to capture many of the aspects of this dive all in one image, albeit, you could never really do it full justice compared to seeing it in person, but this is much better than my photos ever were.  When I look at my painting, it does evoke the memory of gliding through this mysterious underwater cave for me.