Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Proud Moment

Pet Companions Magazine by Lori Levin "Partners"
Oil on Canvas

To say I'm not thrilled with the finish of this piece would be a lie. I always have difficulty with patting myself on the back because I always feel I could do better. Not this time. However, I know this piece was not totally in my hands. First, the good people at Canine Partners for Life provided me with an inspiring photo. Second, I constantly felt divinely driven while painting and never felt alone with this piece. Finally, this piece has an important purpose and I felt certain that the universe wouldn't allow this to go wrong. So, this is a very proud moment for me, I did my job well.

What excites me so much is that I feel the goal of this artwork has been met. Let me tell you that this is a rare event. My intention was to bring awareness to the human-animal partnership and to show its beauty. Many people have emailed me that they would hang this painting in their homes and they find it to be very beautiful not just touching. I find this particularly interesting because so many of us tend to avert our eyes when we see someone in a wheelchair. We don't mean to be rude but we often don't want someone to see in our eyes what we feel. The presence of a service dog does make us more comfortable but we still tend to shy away. This painting has the opposite effect. That is what makes this a success in my eyes.

So make sure you look for the September issue of Pet Companions Magazine. Also, I will be selling prints and cards of this piece and portions of the proceeds will go to CPL. Stay tuned for major happenings with Soulful Studios like the launch of my new website as well as dates for upcoming events where you could meet me in person.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Inching Closer

Pet Companions Magazine by Lori Levin"Partners"
oil on canvas
work in progress

Slowly but surely I am inching closer to having the cover to Pet Companions Magazine finished. I intended this piece to be rendered and more photographic than how I have been painting lately. I've not done this sort of thing in a long time. What I find interesting is that I enjoy it much more now and it flows easily. Before I learned to paint more loosely, I would labor over rendering. Now, because I am less timid, the tighter work seems to just fall off my brush. This one has been painting itself. I've enjoyed this experience very much. Don't ask me why but I believe this painting is sort of a watershed for other big things to come. I don't know that that means exactly but I have a fluttery feeling in the pit of my stomach about it.

Someone asked me why I chose this subject. We've all heard my rants about the goodness that comes from animals and humans partnering together and my connection with Canine Partners for Life. There is more to it. Many years ago I used to take notes for people taking college classes that for one reason or another couldn't take the notes themselves. At one point I worked for a guy my age who had an accident that resulted in him being a quadriplegic. Since he had difficulty with his hands I scribbled class notes for him. We became good friends.

One day he asked me to go with him to pick out a gift for his mother at the mall. He has a specially equipped van that made it possible for him to drive. One would think that would give him great access to activities we take for granted. It surprisingly did not. We entered the mall laughing only soon to be leaving in a foul mood. The isles were too small for him to maneuver and many items were out of his reach. He did not want my help but wanted his independence. This brought me to great awareness of what independence really means.

A service dog is certainly no replacement for one's own abilities but they provide great opportunities for an independent life. A dog can do many things for someone that uses a chair or that fatigues quickly or has seizures that another human cannot do. A human "helps", often leaving the recipient feeling like a burden. A dog is a partner that also depends on the human for its care. A dog knows when you are upset or frustrated and will comfort you, so not only does it help with physical needs but emotional needs as well. A dog is loyal to its human partner in a way that no two-legger could be. This is why I did this painting. This is a tribute.

Soulful Studios would like to take a brief moment to welcome Christine DeGraff of Websketching into the world of blogging. Supposedly my little writing habit got her started. Frankly, I think that flame just needed to be fanned a little. Christine is not only working on my new website but she is a huge supporter of my pet portrait work and helping me with my visibility here in Salem County. Thanks Christine!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Monday Again

Fort Mott by Lori Levin "Running Dry"
sketch in moleskine

Last Friday I spent time near Fort Mott sketching one of the marsh areas I frequent. Due to lack of rain the water level was low and the view seemed rather somber to me. As I sketched, I felt myself feeling more down and frustrated inside, instead the typical excitement of doing my graphite sketches. It occurred to me that much like the little stream, my energy levels were running dry. My summer of fun, though wonderful, is now starting to take its toll.

What I wonder now is did I pick that scene or did it choose me? I was not aware of my feelings until I put pencil to the paper. Nothing in life is happenstance. This I am certain. Something drew me there to help me see myself. It is that ability to look more deeply that makes Soulful Studios what it is. I meant what I said in the title of this blog, this is more than just pet portraits.

My next post will show the progress of the magazine cover. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Slowly But Surely

Pet Companions Magazine by Levin
Pet Companions Magazine by Levin
oil on canvas
work in progress

Above is the current work in progress for "Pet Companions Magazine". This oil painting will be featured on the cover of their September issue, dedicated to the fine work of service dogs. I could think of nothing better than to use an image provided by Canine Partners for Life. (On a side note check their affiliation page as you might recognize someone there!) Keeping in mind the heroic work done by canines during 9/11 and in other times of human need, I thought I would combine all tributes to our dog assistants with this image. What do you think?

I have a long way to go on this painting. As you can see I started working the canvas in umbers. Now I am layering in transparent color to give it depth. I will be softening the background edges and pushing it back even more. The dog will be finished by the end of this week or early next week. This process should create a feeling of the works created by Norman Rockwell. That is what I'm going for. Lately I've been wavering between my old detailed style and my looser more painterly vision. However, I knew for a magazine cover this was the approach that was needed.

As my regular readers know, the past two summers were not full of fun. Well, I seem to be making up for it this year. The painting above and a few pet portraits are still on the easel but I'm guilty of taking time to play as well. Actually, I think it is really important to finally be able to enjoy my good health, so I take this respite with pride. However, I've also been quite busy setting up plans for a new website complete with e-commerce capabilities.

Christine DeGraff, partner and designer for Websketching, is working diligently to create a new and more interactive website for Soulful Studios. I love my current site but see the market changing and requiring a different sort of approach. Christine is also the creator of that features my work as well. It was that website that prompted me to use her amazing services as I saw that she understood my needs and my interest in improving the awareness of the cultural opportunities in Salem County. I even joined the Woodstown-Pilesgrove Business Association to get more connected myself. My cup runneth over with exciting possibilities.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Return to the Marsh

Supawna Meadows "Return to the Marsh"
sketch in moleskine

I've been so busy enjoying my summer and working on the piece for the cover of Pet Companions Magazine that I started to lose my center. When that happens I force myself to take a break from the "to do" list of pet portraits and sit quietly and sketch. This activity really should be like my daily vitamin but like most things that seem like a luxury, I put it off for another time. That is always a big mistake.

So, to get my head together I returned to a spot I frequented last year. Early in July of 2007 I would spend time painting in the area of Supawna Meadows. Last year was a difficult time, this year is a different story. I wanted to see if things looked different to me with my fresh perspective on life.

Though this is only a sketch instead of a painting like last year's take on this scene, you can see that my vision is the same. What I found to be beautiful last year still struck me as worthy. However, it was the process that changed for me. I no longer feel pressure to get in a good piece of work. No. Now I just enjoy the activity of creation. Each time I do it I feel it is like a prayer being sung in thanks. I feel like I am doing what I was born to do. With that focus there is no expectation on the result. The funny thing is that the product usually shows my enthusiasm.

I take care of the quantity and God takes care of the quality.