Friday, October 31, 2008

Golden Retriever Dog Portrait - Buster - Getting Closer

dog portrait by Lori Levin"Buster"
progress of graphite drawing

Slowly but surely I'm moving along on Buster's pet portrait. During the Business Expo last Saturday I worked on this piece so the public could watch my progress. Frankly, I'm certain people thought it was as much fun as watching paint dry. Many folks stopped to tell me how beautiful it was and how I captured the soulfulness in his eyes. One woman was kind enough to say that my drawing was more alive than the photo. That is probably the best compliment I've ever received.

Now that I'm looking at the photo of my drawing I see I need to go into the right side of it and calm down the hair on that side. That area is starting to look like he has hair extensions. I thought I would share that so you can understand how the process requires constant reassessment and revision. This is relatively easy to fix and it will give me something simple to start with on Monday morning.

So here goes another Halloween. I'm so excited with all the changes in my little world. Tonight and tomorrow I will be celebrating my special anniversary. I've made it and now it is time to enjoy everything. Movies, dinners and a little wine await me for the weekend. Monday I look forward to stealing peanut butter cups from the kids. It's all sweet.

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Pet Portrait Break

blue heron by Lori Levin
woodlen creature by Lori Levin

I thought I would take a break from showing you my pet portrait work and share with you how I plan out a landscape piece. Last week I went out to Oxford, PA to photograph cows in landscape for two large commissioned oil paintings that I will be doing in the next year. Late afternoon light was what I was after. My client is very specific about what he is looking for, so I will ride out that way a few more times. Though I enjoy being paid to sit outside looking at God's glory through a lens, it is hard work and I look forward to getting back to the studio once I find my inspiration. There is always a surprise on these adventures and this time was no exception.

During my hours of taking bovine pictures two interesting happened. The top photo shows a blue heron that flew by my precious cows. Sure, if I were a great photographer like Joe Pulcinella I would have gotten a few good shots of the bird. No, I'm just a painter and a camera in my hands is merely a rough tool. When the heron flew by, I was busy looking elsewhere not realizing I had my camera set to a mode that was unfriendly to action photography. That's right people, I can't use the manual settings. I let the camera think for me. My brain power is saved for the painting. Unfortunately this was one of the best photos I took. That's ok, it is a good memory for me and my client has no interest in flying things in his cow painting. How did I know the bird was there? Of course the cows told me. Seriously, they did.

The second photo shows a crafty critter running across the street with his treasure of the day. Corn and the husks seem to be very popular with the woodland creatures. Every morning the squirrels rip apart the farmer's corn in the field behind us and litter our lawn with it. Gracie rather enjoys looking for the cause of the mess though she is never successful. Hope springs eternal.

So on this glorious Friday I look forward to a martini with my name on it and quiet time with Joel. I have to admit I enjoyed just that very thing on Monday after my oncology appointment. Though I have not had my CT just yet, the blood tests are good. Nobody expected anything bad but we had reason to celebrate all the same. Thank you everyone that emailed me well wishes for good news.

Next week I will share with you the progress on "The Veil" and "Buster", the Golden Retriever dog portrait. Also, don't forget that on the 25th you can visit me at my booth at the Woodstown-Pilesgrove Business Expo. I will be demonstrating graphite pet portraits. If you need more information please check out my scheduling page. Finally, I've updated the "Inside the Studio" page so you may want to view that as well. Have a great weekend everyone and enjoy the splendor of fall.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Golden Retriever Dog Portrait - Buster - Update

dog portrait by Lori Levin
As you can see my latest pet portrait of a Golden Retriever named Buster is coming along. I'm working out the major darks and leaving the whites alone so as to build the structure of the dog. Basically I break the image down into three major tones to build a strong foundation and lay the detail on top later. At times this is a difficult task as the photos provided don't lend themselves to strong values or a three dimensional quality. They do provide a lot of information about the windblown locks of this pup but I must be careful not to depend on detail to hold this drawing together. So far I'm pleased but I take care not to become too impressed with myself until it is done.

Tonight I'll be at First Impressions Gallery in Salem, NJ for another show opening. Tonight's guest speaker is Bobbie Berg. She is an excellent speaker. I know she will provide great insight into her beautiful landscapes. My turn to speak will be in February so stay tuned.

I'd like to take a brief moment to mention another life marker. At the end of this month I will celebrate the 2nd anniversary of my lymphoma diagnosis. Yes, I will celebrate it. As long as next week's tests and the scan to follow come back clean I will have officially reached what the doctors call complete remission. It is a very rare occurrence to see this form of cancer come back if one makes it without relapse to the 2 year mark. Though I had a few scares that the beast had returned, it luckily never did. As I sat in synagogue during the High Holy Days I reflected on where my life has taken me and how quickly it can change. Two years ago I was on borrowed time if the chemo did not shrink the tumor suffocating me. Today I am planning a wedding and go home every night to a family that loves me and waits anxiously for me at the door. Two years ago I became friends with 2 other cancer patients and also helped one family member along with his own diagnosis of the disease. Of the 4 of us, only I remain in remission. Though I never asked "why me" when I was told I had cancer, I ask that question now. I ask why am I the one that gets to walk away? Though my body will never be the same and after the assault on it something had to give (thanks Liz), I am still healthy and strong. My life is busy with work, family and friends, not doctors and needles. In some ways it is scarier now as I feel pressure to make proper use of this second chance. In other ways I know it has nothing to do with me and that I was just lucky, so I relax and go for the ride.

Monday I'm off for that oncology appointment. This time it is just about a well visit and most importantly a romantic lunch with my dearest Joel who wouldn't think of letting me go through this alone. Actually, I never went to these appointments alone as my mother was always there if I allowed it. I wonder what she will do with all her free time now. Knowing her as I do, filling that time slot won't be difficult.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Sketching Subtleties - A Pencil Sketch

pumpkin drawing by Lori Levin "Subtleties"
graphite sketch in moleskine

Sitting at our lovely kitchen table on Sunday morning I was fixed to my chair having the urge to once again capture the light filtering through the window. One lonely miniature pumpkin was my subject. My goal was to give it the importance I saw there. The light changed quickly. Every minute my subject seemed to transform. The shadow would shorten and reflected light would appear in new places. I had to focus on the big picture of mood, composition, value and structure. The subtleties that made this image beautiful had to be saved for the last strokes of my pencil.

So often I want everything done and perfect just as I see it in the moment that I see it. I crave instant gratification. Nothing in life works that way. As a matter of fact, the more I try to rush through things the more obstacles are put in my way to stop me in my tracks. The universe keeps telling me to see things as a whole and to save the details for last and savor them when I get there. Art and life cannot be separated. Will I ever learn?

What is happening in the studio you ask? Well, I'm about to learn how to update my site myself with the help of Christine from Websketching. That should be exciting. The pet portrait of Buster is going well and I will share updates soon. I am trying not to finish it too quickly as I will use it as my demo piece at the Business Expo at the end of the month. I photographed 3 dogs last week for a large commission and am off now to photograph cows in landscape for yet another commission. Right now I am playing with those pictures to develop my layout. Friday, I will be at First Impressions Gallery for another show opening. "The Freshmen" will be shown there for the first time. There are so many new things going on in my life and Soulful Studios. I certainly don't suffer from boredom.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Golden Retriever Dog Portrait - Buster

Golden Retriever portrait by Lori Levin

Another Soulful Studios' pet portrait is off to a good start. It has a long way to go but I love where this is going. Buster is quite a character and is happiest when he is covered in mud or sand. He's not a cheery looking chap by any means and that was a sticking point with the photo reference choice. His owner Nancy presented me with different pictures showing him at the beach. I had difficulty choosing one as all lacked that certain pose that I find to be most successful in dog portraits. A three quarter view with the dog looking at the viewer always seems to be a good way to go. Also, I prefer the dog to be cleaned up and looking spiffy. Well, when I created a mock up of just such a pose, Nancy curled up her nose and said that wouldn't do. She proceeded to show me the photos with her beautiful Golden Retriever looking like he needed a good bath and a hug. What I didn't know was that she prefers him to look this way as she knows this represents his true being. That is something as an artist I cannot fight and I must create from a place of ultimate truth. Now as I work, I laugh and enjoy the graphite drawing very much. This is Buster as he is meant to be, not how I wish he would look. Frankly, she was right, this is a much more moving image and something that is striking a chord with me at the moment.

So often we project what we want on people and places before us. We create a reality as we see it and not as it is. As an artist I use my talent to do just that and create a world that suits me. This doesn't work in real life as we can miss the beauty of what is really in front of us because we cannot get out of our own heads. I've always known this to be true but this portrait is a good reminder. I have to admit it always tickles me when my work opens my eyes and speaks to me like a wise old sage. Maybe that's one of the benefits of being a self employed artist. Combine that with being able to work with my favorite music turned up high and wearing my comfy slippers and I'm golden!