The Process: Day 2


Day 2. Started late around 1 PM and that is not good. The light is best from 10 - 4 and I should never be anywhere else during those hours. But my neck was extra tight so I walked up the mountain and over the other side for an extended 2.5 hour hike. It was good -but oh so humid. I was soaked through when I got back, took a freezing shower, had a salad with my heirloom Green Zebra tomatoes and hit the studio.

I started by adding another background layer of goldens and reds. I lightened the cone of grace that Flannery is standing under. I just needed to get the gist of how that will look so i can figure out the overall color balance. The cone of grace will need several layers to hold the detail of drops that will come later.

I could not live without Golden Fluid Quinacridone Nickel Azo Gold; it is the most indispensable color. QNAG adds a warmth to any color it overlays. It will take a lot of paint (a LOT of paint) to get the background where I want it but that can come later. Today I needed to deal with Flannery's face and that was what most of today was about.

I did the classic green shadow underpainting. Frankly, I havent done this since college. This is the kind of thing that can get me panicky and abandon the process, but I worked through it and all the weird awkward stages to follow. Note how the drawing is kind of skewed and asymmetrical. I tend to leave those lines and fix them as I paint; I try not to have the image be too perfect because its this very wrongness that gives a final painting its unique character. (I think)

I painted about 4 layers of different colors to create the flesh tone of her face. You cannot just squeeze out a tube of flesh colored paint and call it a day because it just doesnt have any life to it. I use a mix of flat and slightly shiny paint - it looks weird now but later when I varnish the painting all the layers will "come up" and it will look deep. Rich. Make sense? I mean that you can look down into the painting and see all the layers but it still reads as a fluid surface. See how crooked her eyes are? I'll fix that in a minute. Its hard to see the importance of that halo of lighter yellow until I get her dark hair painted. Right now the whole thing looks pasty and bland. Note how deep into the lines of the Flannery drawing I take the background color. That is critical for nice clean edges. Painting is a discipline where you are always thinking back to front and trying to plan for later by laying a foundation early.

Flannery's hairline is to die for; the illustrator in me loves the lack of ambiguity. You just do not see this kind of hair anymore. I really like how the left (our left) looks - Im going to have to fix that right side but its going to take some real skill to overcome that dark with the light. I used a ruler to measure the distance from hair to shoulder line and its still off. So thats something to be corrected as well.

The face is very rough here but I know that the super refined work is days away. I just need to have her look back at me for the rest of the painting because the connection with her eyes is what every other thing that follows has to sync up with. Literally, the peacock, the pond, the trees, the leg braces, the cloud - all of it must be in service to those eyes.

* describing this process is a challenge*

There is barely enough room for me and the board (40x40) and the paints to fit in here. But both Trout and Koby tend to lay in here all day. Its too hot and humid for them. They mostly lay around in the summer. I took them to the waterfall on the break around 4. Some times the chickens come in too but they have a tendency to fly up and land in paint. I just wave my dry rags around at them and out they go.

I added the eyebrows and that was very important to the look of Flannery. That mouth needs work - not alot though. I couldnt have her smiling a big wide smile so this is the face I am going with. I need her face to look a bit more relaxed and that is going to mean doing something with the smile line shadows. But not much! Too much is too much and letting go is as important a skill as any other aspect of painting. Im happy with the dress detail. I was working from a vague photo so I am sort of guessing here - the vibe is about right and that is good enough.

I thought about my mom while painting this. She was the one that taught me about how the upper lip is darker due to the shadow and that light hits the middle of the lighter lower lip. Its absolutely true. She was a good artist, and drew women's faces beautifully. Most of the day I was trying to figure out how I was going to work in the leg braces that Flannery no longer needs. In my original drawing I thought it might go something like this:

How's this for an impressive preliminary drawing? grherhahahaha! I saw her tossing the braces away and then I noted how damn big a peacock is. You are not going to stand in water holding a bird that heavy in one arm. Not even in my fantasyland. Now I am kind of seeing a Frida Kahloesque device where they might be bound in ribbon or something sort of floating away...we'll see.

This might give you an idea of how large the piece is. It is hard because typically, I spin my paintings around and work from every direction. I paint upside down a lot. Its a great way to work for some reason I can see certain things more correctly that way. But not being able to move the painting around is making it a bit more difficult. By Thursday, I will have to get it on the wall because standing back away from it will be essential to getting the final work right. Im not sure I can stand back far enough. Everything has to "read" from a distance and in case the work is hung higher. (This presumes I actually get IN the show)
I will probably have to move outside which is problematic as bugs fly into the paint all the time when I do.

Flannery is standing in water so I really dont have to paint her legs very well. Yay! I just have to have the suggestion of them beneath the water color. Same goes for how the part of her dress is submerged - it should just read as slightly darker than the water color. Koby's paw print is still very visible, but it will disappear by tomorrow. This is the end of the work day - its getting too dark and the lights make too much reflection which makes it hard to see what the paint is doing. Natural light is the only way to go. It really is.

You can get an idea of how that works here although this is just the first of may layers. This water will have a lot of life: it will have concentric circles radiating from Flannery as well as light waves and tonal variations. The water will take hours. Hours and hours. And I need that dress to look floaty, so that is an engineering problem for tomorrow.

I put up a little motivational poster for myself. Like I said, Ive won a prize in this show before, but I would like to win a MONEY prize. But even if I dont, Im kind of stoked that I am painting a real person -however stylized. I havent done that in a long time and its a fun challenge.

Tomorrow: making beautiful water, more back ground, and laying down the peacock's first layer. Thanks for joining me!


  1. Fabulous progression on day 2, I love looking at all of the stages of the painting and reading your words.
    Faces, the eyes, nose, mouth and expression are so difficult to capture, I think you have done really well here.
    xoxoxo ♡

  2. OMG. I love this so much. Her face is mesmerizing. I wish I could take a painting class from you! You are brilliant, and deserve to win. xox! Pam

  3. Truly the most impressive part of this journey is the explanation. How draining it must be for you. It is a great thing that God's gift of yours is fullness... loving this!

  4. Did you hear me drumming my fingers eagerly awaiting tonight’s installment?

    Wow! While “describing the process” may be a challenge for you, Chicky, the combination of your words and photos of your in-progress work are fascinating to this non-painter. Love seeing this painting develop before my bloggy eyes, as you work “back to front,” and shift your concentration from one point to the next, all the while cogitating about the next steps and the [truly] big picture. The more I read about how you work, the layers and the materials you use, the more I want to see a “Chickory original” live. As fine as your (or any) photos are, the real deal in person always has qualities of light and depth that just can’t be conveyed fully conveyed photographically.

    Can’t wait for tomorrow night’s installment. Hope you have another productive day, and I can’t wait to see more of the peacock (and what you decide to do with the braces).

    xoxo, eggy

  5. Love, love, love the new work! Thanks so much for once again sharing your processes. These type of posts are my favorite ones....getting to see how you work with all the sketches and pictures! Good luck with the contest! I also loved the "Rain Deer" in the previous post! Beautiful colors!

  6. I hope these posts aren't too hard for you because I'm really enjoying the art lesson at the same time watching your work progess. Fascinating.

    I love the way you mix in your day away from painting; the hike, the dogs, the heat, etc. No A/C in the studio? You are a true country woman. I put it on in the car when we get above 70.

    xoxo - can't wait for tomorrow!

  7. Oooopsy. That was indeed me posting above. Got so excited to see tonight's post up from you that I was happily distracted from my nightly chore of checking the ATC mailbox and for got who I "was." Too many ding-dang logins/passwords/online identities - bet you never have that problem, do ya, Chick9?

  8. Thank you ande for the lesson and great portrait of her weirdness

  9. "I could not live without Golden Fluid Quinacridone Nickel Azo Gold"

    As I recall, Bob Ross liked his Thalo Green! [dodges thrown ruler]

  10. dianne: tomorrow needs to be cram school because i need a few days just for the finesse stuff - thats the flourish that makes my paintings, well, my paintings. Im a little worried about time. And i have a few other things to accomplish tomorrow. but i look forward to every day - and going to work.

    yobo: look whos talking, brilliant. Soon you will have the yobo empire and i can say i know that magnate! Thanks pam!

    eggy: i know thats you! just like you know the rotty is me. and which one of us is the walrus? grrerhahahaha. You are right. a photo cant really get it...the surface is hard to capture. Ill give it a shot tomorrow. Thank you for your kind words. I am really glad you are enjoying this.

    bunz! sweet pea, thanks for commenting. Not a drain, but it was hard to get it done in time...i painted up until 8 because i had a late start. Im glad you like the copy because i think its a bit rushed but that is the nature of this project.

    Hillary! howve you been? thanks a million - im glad you are here. That deer painting was just a fun stream of consciousness painting - this one is more structured...I hope it turns out good. I hope you will check in to see.

    boxer: no AC. just a fan. its harsh. I have a wall unit AC but If i put it in i have to close the studio door and then i cant keep track of the animals. Koby left for the first time in weeks monday...i cant have that as you know. so she is still in training thus i cannot have AC. boo.

    eggy: no - i never have that problem. and then tonight i was in a big hurry and was presented with an all new blogga interface. eeeeeeeeeeeee!

    anon: thank you for saying so. Im glad you are here.

  11. xl: round here we call it "Q-NAG" and its waaaay better than pthalo green (which i kind of hate) I didnt throw a ruler. I threw a chicken!

  12. Thanks for sharing your journey. I feel like I had a fabulous art lesson from a really cool teacher!

  13. Thanks for all the effort and explanantion. It's so interesting to see how you are thinking...ex. how you decided that she couldn't hold the peacock in one hand, not even in a fantastical setting. How you walk that line is amazing.

  14. "cone of grace" Ha!! Terrific--thas' it.

    dress detail is spot' I'se happy to learn youse got lots of water plans...cain't wait to see that--the water is almost like a figure/ character of the piece.

    An' the eyes--wunnerful eyes--she looks right at ya', as she SHOULD--another commemter said mesmerizin' an' it's true.

    The peacock's eye will be key to--almost a mirror of Flannery's eyes- here's what Flannery wrote to describe a peacock in her story

    "The peacock stopped just behind her, his tail--glittering green-gold and blue in the sunlight--lifted just enough so that it would not touch the ground. It flowed out on either side like a floating train and his head on the long blue reed-like neck was drawn back as if his attention were fixed in the distance on something no one else could see...."


    "'A tail full of suns,' and he crept forward on tiptoe and looked down on the bird's back where the polished gold and green design began. The peacock stood still as if he had just come down from some sun-drenched height to be a vision for them all...."

    Chick9, this process is fascinatin'.

  15. Koo-koo-a-joo. Or is it coo-coo-a-joo? to you too, dear Chick9. Would you believe I went and googled the lyrics, which yielded this result: goo goo g'joob. Never could quite hear the lyrics clearly back in the old vinyl days. And I'll sure as shit never come up with a haiku nearly as twisted or poetic :)

    Have a great Wednesday filled with good light and productivity!

  16. amazing & thrilling and though explaining the process may be challenging and even a bit of a drag for you it's so fascinating and oh her face is incredible I LOVE your stylized style. thank you again so much for sharing all of this - can't wait for the next episode. xo S + Gang

    ps. some of my best ideas I find are tiny little scratchy, not at all pretty thumbnails - I love that you included yours

  17. I make beautiful water all the time, so let me know if you want some tips.

  18. Is the sidebar quote from William Henry Channing new? It could have been written by my Mom. She taught all of us to identify life's "great riches". Which, absolutely does include 'listening to stars and birds, babes and sages with open heart'. I think one of the things I most enjoy (there are many) about your themes is they always are a revelation of 'great riches'.

    It is wonderful of you to share this process with us all. Many just do not know thought must be as fluid as the paint. Preceding the paint. As if your mind is at one stage of the painting while your brush is at another. When there is an issue, the process of going back mentally to correct the hand can interrupt that fluidity.

    Hats off to you for the extra hard challenge of having the light source come from directly overhead. That is a crux in any painting but more so in a portrait.

    I am looking forward to the busy water. Will there be fishes?????

  19. You nailed the intensity of her gaze. And what I now know about the importance of varnish, I learned from you! (and passed along to my pop.)

    Also, why I never took my painting further than college. It's best I just admire.

  20. Years ago, a very close family friend (we called him Uncle) was an artist and product researcher/tester for Speedball paints. The paint and colors you use immediately brought me back to the times we (my siblings and I) would visit his studio and watch him paint or do Linoleum Block Printing (he was actually famous for that) or wood cut printing or product testing... We were there a lot. I haven't thought about those days in quite a while. Keep up the good work.

  21. I think you're describing the process pretty darned well. Especially the "eyes" part.

  22. Good evening Chickory,

    I'm really enjoying this process. Watching how you conceive of and then implement the different stages is very interesting.

    That you're doing it in the heat that your having down there is amazing. How do you keep from sweating into the painting? Or is that what you mean about working on finishing the water?

  23. tina: speaking of which - have you been drawing with your oil pastels? Great to see you. I missed you at the FM. no truck. :-(

    deborah: theres a whole lot of wrong in that painting if reality is your guide...but that was too much. the poor woman would flop over from the weight! walking the line . interesting insight. thank you!

    aunty: thank you for the peacock imagery. a tail of suns...i love that the most. Have you told your flannery group you have a blog friend who is painting the Great One? Thanky kindly for yore kind words on this artwork...i preciate that.

    eggy: its uh coo coo KA joo. just leave out the yellow matter custard dripping from a mad dogs eye. ewww

    susan: but like me, you have pretty tight drawing once you actual layout the final piece. we have many similar approaches...but I am wondering -what is a large piece for you? WOuld you go 40x40? I really want to go bigger...much bigger but i need more space and different tools first.

    Puerileuwaite: there you are!! yes you do make beautiful water - just not on the carpet! please!

    fishy: i found that quote and thought thats about where I am coming from. I was very low about the truck, but I am better this week. Indeed the path of art is a road of riches in its own right -and it is its own reward. Thanks for your comment, I am thrilled you have joined me in this process. there might be fishes. we'll see.

    moi: oh good. what did he say? Is he receptive to varnishing one? I think you should do the one with the couple in the pool yourself. get the good stuff -the GOlden UV/WVA (something like that) varnish.

    buzz: i used to LOVE lino cutting. I still have some of my fact Moi bought one of my former pit bull dog, Otto. Id love to see your uncle friends work if you have any. thanks for stopping by!

    troll: thank you -they eyes are the key and they anchor this piece. had I been an egyptian or mayan i would have been sure to align them dead center for power. D'oh!

    Karl: i look like a sweaty mess all day. around 2-3 its a little rough. But its not awful...I could never do this in the city with all that pavement and steel. ive actually gotten used to it and when i go into an air conditioned place its freezing to me. Grherhahaha! I do believe I can literally say i sweated over this piece.

  24. Hey Chicky baby! Wow, I can imagine how hard to put into words what you are actually doing and thinking, one never thinks about the "splaining part until you try to describe/write/teach. WE all appreciate you taking the time.

    Good natural light makes such a difference doesn't it? And I can totally relate to turning the painting around as you go, a different perspective, very interesting.

    Getting the eyes right was always hard for me...they have to have life in them and I love Flannery's gaze, you nailed it girl. Although your work is stylized, it's not flat and cartoonish (as some artists) so I can really appreciate the layers of paint, it makes such a difference. Thanks for for taking the time to share the process. xo


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