Clothes don't make the person...

...but those clothes, drapes and props surely do make the portrait.

THIS is what photographic reference photos for a painting should look like! 

If you're serious about improving your photographic skills in order to paint better portraits, find a copy of this book and take notes.

Seidner has taken photographs that look like Old Master Paintings with a single light source. 


Sadly, many painted portraits nowadays look like "snapshots" taken with a flash bulb. 


This woman's skirt is just a drape. She has fake doll's hair braids pinned to her hair.

This stunning "outfit" appears to be a blanket and the "hat" is feathers.

Drapery, ribbon, a fake flower and a lace tablecloth....I imagine that lots of things are "hidden" - like rubberbands, safety pins, clips, scotch tape, etc.

Material around the hair - a dress....on backwards?

Here is a vest with gauze tucked into it and arranged for the photo.

Jewelry in the hair, one glove, a pin, tablecloth, scarf. It is the arrangement of pose, color, texture, value, props and idealized lighting.

Get the idea?

Use your imagination and get creative with drapes, props and scraps in a photo shoot! For me, it is just a big girl's version of "playing dress-ups." 

The Shift Has Finally Hit the Fan!

President Barack Hussein Obama.

HOPE is such a good feeling and I am tickled pink to call myself an American again.

Heavens! This guy can paint too. Wow.

Obama 'Hope' Portrait Enters The National Portrait Gallery

This unofficial portrait of Barack Obama by Shepard Fairey quickly became an icon.

The original work can now be seen in the National Portrait Gallery's new arrivals section.

A Reuters photographer named Jim Young snapped the original photo.

Fairey's use of the picture is well within the parameters of what’s considered "fair use." 

He transformed the image—flipping and re-orienting it, adding jacket, tie and the "O" Obama logo, and converting it to his block print style—make it consistent with all legal precedents for public use.

Exactly copying the recognizable work of another, especially without attribution, is a no-no...and the mark of an amateur. 

Now you can make your own "Obamicon" — your image & message in a style inspired by this iconic poster. 

Recognize Vermeer's "Girl in the Red Hat?"

Here's a view of Vermeer's hometown. Perhaps you have you noticed that Vermeer is my very favorite painter?

Waste some time, play around and enjoy this clever little cyber-gadget.

Coming at Midnight, February 17th

A (wildly funny) peek at the digital conversion headaches some may experience.

One Ringy-Dingy

January 12, 2009

To our family, friends & clients...In case you tried to call…

This morning I was shocked (an understatement) to find out that at least 50 people have called me over these past few weeks/months and left messages I never got.

Remember Lilly Tomlin's gig as "Ernestine the Telephone Operator?" I think she may be back.

It seems we have "a voice mail program" somewhere in cyberspace via Fairpoint. This squirrelly feature appears to work only if and/or when it wants to.

Here's my Fairpoint Fantasy explanation for this embarrassing mess.

Other than cry a lot, here is what we have done to correct this:

We called Fairpoint Customer Service and have forever cancelled their Voice-Mail-From-Hell feature. 

We have turned our home answering machine off in case it contributed in some way to this problem.

So, if you have called me anytime prior to 1/12/09, left and message and assumed that I’m ignoring you - I assure you that I’m not.

Secretary of the Arts? A Great Idea!


Quincy Jones and a friend from his early days, Ray Charles.

Quincy Jones has started a petition to ask President-Elect Obama to appoint a Secretary of the Arts. 

While many other countries have had Ministers of Art or Culture for centuries, The United States has never created such a position. 

We in the arts need this and the country needs the arts--now more than ever. 

A big thanks to Quincy Jones for a great idea - the timing is certainly right! 

My signature was number 22,430. 

"I was never very good at music when I was little. I never paid any attention to it in school."
- Quincy Jones

Ancient Medium Meets Modern Methods

According to Roman historian Pliny the Elder, encaustic was used as early as the fifth and fourth centuries B.C.E. 

It is made by melting beeswax with a small amount of resin and then adding pigment while the mixture is still molten. 

The artist works quickly out of the pot, for the wax begins to harden as soon as it leaves the heat source. 

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Jasper Johns (shown above with early work) was virtually the sole practitioner of encaustic. 

Today, thousands of artists have caught on to this ancient, luminous medium, yet most art lovers are still unaware of it.

Joanne Mattera wrote THE book on Encaustic Painting (above). She also writes a darn good blog on the subject.

People ask me about encaustics, what it is and how I paint with it. 

Frankly, this is a new medium for me and I am still exploring (and struggling with) it. But it continues to fascinate me and I'm hoping to do more work more with encaustics in the coming years.

I'm still a novice (encaustics-wise) and feel like I really don't know what-in-the-heck I'm doing. I'm still on "square one" and there is sooooooo much to learn here.

In the beginning, the little videos in this post helped me get the hang of it.

Songbird, 8" x 10" Oil and Encaustic on board by Karin Wells

The hard part is that I am basically a realist painter - and this medium is hard for me to control.

The Traveling Pear, 5" x 9" Oil and Encaustic on board by Karin Wells

Currently I am alternating layers of oil and encaustic paint (several of my paintings are in this post).

Cambric Tea, 10" x 10" Oil and Encaustic on board by Karin Wells

I found this demo below that gives a basic introduction by Kathryn Bevier for *

Note that "Enkaustikos Wax Art Supplies" are sold by FineArtSupplies.

I find encaustics difficult to control but the video below shows how encaustic portrait artist David Hoffend uses a electric heated pen point (C5) - available from

Portrait of a Woman, 15" x 15" Oil and Encaustic on board by Karin Wells

 Sometimes I incorporate a pen technique (as in my portrait above) but am ultimately more comfy with a brush in my hand.

The last video is soundless, but shows the artist is "playing" with the paint and you can get the sense of what pure fun it is to work in encaustics.

And finally this video of how R&F Paints makes their pigment sticks. (You'll thank me if you turn your sound down or off on this one - somebody had a good "eye" for music).

It will take place Friday-Sunday, June 5-7, 2009, with three days of workshops.

Time for a Laff

How many artists does it take to change a light bulb?


One to change it, and nine to reassure him about how good it looks.

How many modern artists does it take to change a light bulb?


One to throw bulbs against the wall, one to pile hundreds of them in a heap and spray-paint it orange, one to glue light bulbs to a cocker spaniel, and one to put a bulb in the socket and fill the room with light while all the critics and buyers are watching the fellow smashing the bulbs against the wall, the fellow with the spray-gun, and the cocker spaniel.

How many surrealists does it take to change a light bulb?


One to hold the giraffe and the other to fill the bathtub with brightly colored machine tools.

How many visitors to an art gallery does it take to change a light bulb?


One to do it and one to say "Huh! My four-year old could've done that!"

Artist Pablo Picasso surprised a burglar at work in his new chateau.

 The intruder got away, but Picasso told the police he could do a rough sketch of what he looked like. 

On the basis of his drawing, the police arrested a mother superior, the minister of finance, a washing machine, and the Eiffel tower.

"Computers are useless. They can only give you answers."
--Pablo Picasso (seriously, he said this)

Suggested bumper sticker for the starving artist: "My other car is a bike, too."

An artist asked the gallery owner if there had been any interest in his paintings on display at that time.
"I have good news and bad news," the owner replied. 

"The good news is that a gentleman enquired about your work and wondered if it would appreciate in value after your death. When I told him it would, he bought all 15 of your paintings."

"That's wonderful," the artist exclaimed. "What's the bad news?"

"The guy was your doctor..."

After his wife divorced him, Joe asked his best friend, Bill, to fix him up with a blind date. 

Bill obliged. The next day Joe called up Bill and shouted at him angrily: "Bill, what kind of a guy do you think I am?" 

"That girl you fixed me up with was cross-eyed; almost bald; her nose was longer than her arm; she had a full beard on her face; and her ankles were thicker than her thighs."

Bill answered: "Either you like Picasso, or you don't like Picasso."

There was this world famous muralist. In the prime of his career, he started losing his eyesight. 

Fearful that he might lose his life as a painter, he went to see the best eye surgeon in the world.

After long hours of delicate eye surgery and months of therapy, his eyesight was restored. 

The painter was so grateful that he decided to show his gratitude by repainting the doctor's office.

Part of his work included painting a beautifully realistic gigantic eye on one wall. 

When he had finished his work, he held a press conference to unveil his latest work of art entitled, "The Doctor's Office."

During the press conference, one reporter asked the doctor, "What was your first reaction upon seeing your newly painted office artwork - especially that large eye on the wall?"

To this, the eye doctor responded, "I said to myself 'Thank God I'm not a proctologist.'"

Portrait of Joanna

I really like Contemporary Narrative Portraiture. It is a combination of Reportage, Idealism and Theatre. 

This is a painting that tells a charming story about Joanna.

This portrait is unusual for me because it contains so many different animals, plants and objects requested by the sitter.

This details shows fall leaves, a gazelle (on the granite rock),  water drops, herbs.

This has three special blue colored river rocks, deer antlers, a trident, a wild boar, a red newt, and a blue jay.

This detail has feathers (one blue), an antique snake bracelet, a pet rat named Lola, an antique ring (on sleeve) and a circle-within-a-triangle-within-a-circle symbol.

This is the top of a special wand and in the bark of the tree is a sea turtle, a monkey, a luna moth, a snake and a lotus flower.

Painting this was complicated to paint so it didn't look like a scene from a Disney flick. It was a LOT of fun to work in (and sort of hide) these different elements.

How I Painted Joanna's Portrait

This is the finished portrait of Joanna. 20" x 24" Oil on Linen.

When painting in layers, it is important to understand that each layer is painted to facilitate the following layer - NOT to correct mistakes.

Start with a plan and draw it out in detail before you ever pick up a brush.

Of course I began with a raw umber toned imprimatura. See this.

When the imprimatura was dry I transferred the drawing to the canvas, used a black Sharpie marker for my guide lines and began to "draw" using raw umber and Liquin. I like to use a soft brush.

This is a close up detail of the beginning of the drawing process. You can see my drawing (cartoon) under the paint.

This is the finished raw umber drawing. It can be done in one day, but sometimes I take more time. Even though it gets dark, the Raw Umber is a warm amber and transparent.

Be sure to let this dry.

This is my first layer of white in building the "dead" underlayer. To begin, I scumble a mixture of Titanium White and Liquin onto the dry surface.

Then I slowly begin to build up white as you can see in this detail. Except for some areas of the sky, I'll stick pretty much to the figure.

Note that light is applied thickly. Shadows are thin and transparent.

This is day two and I'm still building light.

This is a detail of how the light is built and as far as I wish to go on the figure and objects in the foreground.

I'm starting to glaze color into the background and put in the first skin tone glazes.

You can see the rest of my process here: