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The Therapy of Painting a Deceased Loved One


I have the luxury of being a painter, and I specialize in portraiture. I have painted portraits for others of their deceased loved ones where there is no emotional attachment for me. What is it like to paint your own deceased loved one?
 
I recently completed an oil portrait of my dad, who passed way in September of 2017. I spent sixty-four of my dad’s eighty three years either with him or knowing he was only a phone call away. I have lost grandparents before but this was the first time losing a parent. He was not the parent I thought I would lose first.  And it was hard. To this day I still find it hard to believe he is gone.
 
My impetus to paint my dad’s portrait was as a gift for my brother. I had done a colored pencil of my dad many years ago and that has gone to my sister.  Perhaps it was easier to begin the process of this painting because it was a gift, not solely for me.
 
I chose the photo we used for my dad’s obituary as my reference. It was a fairly recent image of him and we all liked it. I selected my surface, gathered my paints and brushes and got to work.
 
Rather than doing a preliminary sketch I decided to just draw with my paintbrush directly onto the canvas. His face was so familiar to me after all. I must admit the likeness came fairly easily.
 
Interesting things happened.  Was his face always this ruddy? My dad lived in the Atlanta area and played tennis year round practically, whether it be cold or blazing hot. His skin had been subjected to much sunshine. I can’t say the same for mine living in Rochester. As I painted I saw resemblances and shared family features with my siblings, my paternal grandparents, and myself. The process was becoming a history lesson of sorts. It was a study in genealogy.  It was constant discovery.  Each day of painting was a joy rather than grief. It really was cathartic.
 
As I painted I began to ‘talk’ with my dad (in my head of course, although if I was alone in the studio I am not so sure that I didn’t talk out loud sometimes without knowing it). I relived memories, conversations my dad and I had had over the years, and of course as with all of us, had some regrets.  It was quite an experience.
 
I enjoyed the process so much that I now intend to paint my Grams (my maternal grandmother with whom I was extremely close) and maybe even my late first husband, Doug.  I have painted Doug as part of paintings for each of my children but never as a sole portrait. This one will be really hard but after this past experience might be well worth it.
 
I know there are many others who have painted portraits of their deceased loved ones in the past, and are in the process of doing so now but I wanted to share my experience.  My studio mates of the Main Street Artists were very encouraging as they always are. I am truly grateful to be surrounded by wonderfully supportive friends. Thank you all!q
 
For commission inquiries please contact me at suzizeftingkuhn@gmail.com


Building on Failure

Building on failure
 
In 1993, when I took my first watercolor painting class at the Memorial Art Gallery, we all wondered how long it would take to get good at this. The teacher, local artist Wendy Gwirtzman, told us our discard pile might be way over our heads before we felt satisfied with our work.
            In other words, maybe never.
            I’ve persevered, had some successes, won some prizes. But lately I’ve been in a terrible slump, painting almost every day but feeling like I have no idea what I’m doing, making rookie mistakes, covering pristine watercolor paper with mud. On the plus side: The discard pile keeps getting taller.
            If you wonder what I’m talking about, take a look at What’s Wrong with this Picture?, which accompanies this post. I’ve struggled with this thing for several months, no kidding, and at this point I believe any future it has lies in the recycling bin. If you have any helpful comments, please send them along. (I’m open to cutting and saving bits and pieces – always a possibility with watercolor.)
            I decided revisiting past projects might be a way to jump start my creative battery. First I dug through my “works in progress” drawer and immediately moved a bunch of these to that growing discard pile. I realized that some projects have been sitting around for more than two decades. I’ve long forgotten the inspiration.
            I moved a couple to the top of the “possible” pile; one is currently in the active category. I’m hopeful; perhaps I now have the skills to complete it.
            Finally I opened a dusty portfolio of paintings that I had once considered complete but had never framed. One in particular seemed, well, pretty nice. It’s a watercolor on rice paper, a technique we experimented with in one of Wendy’s classes years ago. The rice paper is glued onto heavy (300 pound) watercolor paper and the picture is painted on top. Fine detail is not possible, but you can get a pleasant misty, dreamy affect. I did a little more work on it, and the result is One Pine Day, which accompanies this post. It’s now attractively matted, framed and hanging at the Main Street Artists gallery/studio.
            My spouse likes it, and several friends had kind comments, which made me feel better. I am not ready to throw away my paints and brushes! Ever the optimist, I’m sure my next attempt will be better, maybe even sort of good. In any case, I remind myself, for me the joy of painting is the process, not necessarily the result.
            Stay tuned . . .

– Kathy Lindsley














Snow Cone, watercolor










One Pine Day,  watercolor





Just Imagine


I recently painted a small wooden Christmas star that a studio associate gave me and had another associate inscribe the word “Imagine” on the front.  I’ve been looking at this word for a few weeks now and thought of what an impact this word had on me. I began to visualize what those individual letters meant as far as my artwork was concerned.
I=image:  “To form a mental image and then support it.”
M=meaning:  “That which is actually expressed or indicated.”
A=action:  “An act that one consciously wills or acts upon.”
G=give:  “To set forth or show without expected compensation.”
I=instinct:  “A natural or innate impulse to action.”
N=natural:  “Growing spontaneously.”
E=effect:  “Power to produce results.”
I have produced many paintings but never really reflected on the process of how everything moves forward from the onset of creating the painting until I saw this word. What is the first thing you do, or should do, prior to putting paint on paper? You investigate and form a mental image of the piece you want to paint and then support it with a brief sketch. You then take the image and actually bring meaning or life to it. Then consciouslyact on it by placing that concept on paper or canvas. You create your image and finish it without expected compensation (to receive compensation of course would be appreciated!). 
I have always had a naturalimpulseto action when I paint an image that has great meaning for me – such a memorable vacation photo, a place of beauty I have visited, etc. Those paintings come easier for me because of that deep meaning and wonder about them.  And because of continuously urging myself to do better I begin to grow spontaneously without given thought.  Thus the power to produce better results is done without hesitation.
I am continuously inspired and supported every day by my Main Street Artists studio mates. Their supportive words give me strength and the drive to go forward.  
– Gabriele Lodder



 

And so it begins...

We are entering the holiday season with all its hustle and bustle. We are all busy in the studio preparing for the Hungerford’s holiday hours. As I type this my studio mates are decorating with all the bright and shiny things. I am not immune. 
 
We know our Saturdays will be here spending time with our customers and visitors. It’s always fun to meet new people and visit with old friends. I truly enjoy meeting people that are discovering the Hungerford for the first time. We’ve been talking a lot about this lately. The Hungerford is one of those unique places where you can buy a gift for someone that is handmade and will hold special meaning to the receiver. Most of us will do work on commission but at this point if you want a holiday gift it will have to come off the wall. We have plenty to choose from. It is especially satisfying when our art speaks to someone in a way that makes them want to take it home or give it as a gift.
 
It may be busy but, thankfully, I have my painting that helps to center me. I am trying to paint through all the craziness that is starting to descend. I still have four paintings in various stages of progress. There is something very calming about tuning out the real world and applying color to canvas. It’s meditative. It is calming.
 
I hope that you can find a peaceful centering spot in the midst of all the celebration. I hope that you will join us at the Hungerford for your holiday shopping. Most of all, I hope that you enjoy your holiday season with family and friends.
 
Happy New Year.
 
Peace,

– Christine D. Norris


Animals Have Feelings Too

“How it is that animals understand things I do not know, but it is certain that they do understand. Perhaps there is a language which is not made of words and everything in the world understands it. Perhaps there is a soul hidden in everything and it can always speak, without even making a sound, to another soul.” ― Frances Hodgson Burnett
 
I paint portraits. As in painting a human being, painting an animal brings the same challenges and joy to me. The more closely I look at animals, watch them, study them and photograph them I realize that they portray many of the same characteristics that we humans do – and usually with much more compassion for others.
            For the past few years I have been building a body of work of animal portraits. Whenever I am in a new area I seek out their local zoo or, in the case of Raleigh, NC, where I have family, a research center. There is much objection out there to zoos and while I fully understand the zoo naysayers’ views, I also know that many of these animals were born in captivity and most likely would not survive in the wild. Some zoo habitats are better than others, and seem more humane while others do make me cringe. There have been instances when I can see sadness, frustration in the animal’s eyes but at times, and more often than not, I do see curiosity, intelligence and contentment. My goal is to portray the emotions I see and to represent the majesty of the animal as best as I can.
            To date I have visited zoos in Portland, OR, Denver, CO, Rochester, NY, New York City  and Asheboro, NC. My latest adventure was to the Duke Lemur Center in Durham, NC.  The Duke Lemur Center does non-invasive research with their population of several hundred lemurs of different breeds. Most of us are most familiar with ring-tailed lemurs but there are other breeds. Their goal is to learn ways to keep lemurs from becoming extinct as they are well on their way to doing so. I urge you to check out the Duke Lemur Center and see for yourself the good that they do.  http://lemur.duke.edu
            While visiting the center back in June I was able to take their “walking with the lemurs” tour and it was fascinating. Here we were out amongst the lemurs and I was able to get some amazing photographs for future reference for paintings. I would highly recommend this tour if you ever get the chance. It is worth every penny!
            I hope you will stop by our studio at the Hungerford, 1115 E. Main St., Rochester, NY, any First Friday (5-9 p.m.) or Second Saturday (10 a.m.-3 p.m.) to see what animal I am painting. I would love to talk to you about them. Commissions welcomed!
            There is always something to see and talk about with one of us, The Main Street Artists.  We all love to share what we are doing. If you want to stop by during the week call 585-233-5645 first to make sure I am there and I would be happy to show you around our two studio spaces.
 
– Suzi Zefting-Kuhn

Prints are available of most originals. 



 
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