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The Therapy of Painting a Deceased Loved One

Posted on March 25, 2018 at 8:56 AM Comments comments (1)

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 [email protected]

Building on Failure

Posted on February 19, 2018 at 9:53 AM Comments comments (0)
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

Posted on January 22, 2018 at 10:56 AM Comments comments (0)

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...

Posted on November 15, 2017 at 11:17 AM Comments comments (8)
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.

– Christine D. Norris

Animals Have Feelings Too

Posted on August 29, 2017 at 10:45 AM Comments comments (0)
“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.
            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. 


Pressing Matters

Posted on July 27, 2017 at 11:59 AM Comments comments (13)

Pressing matters
Watercolor, my preferred medium, likes to be free.
            And so, I’m always looking for new ways to loosen up, stay fresh and become more intuitive in my painting, Recently, I’ve been playing around with a technique I discovered in a terrific book, Experimental Landscapes in Watercolour by British artist and author Ann Blockley (
            The basic technique is quite simple: Find some interesting leaves, twigs or other plant material. Place a piece of watercolor paper on a bed of paper towels. Spread some rich, juicy paint on the paper (all over, or just in particular areas). Press the plant material into the wet paint. Top with a sheet of plastic wrap or wax paper (crinkled up, if you like). Top with a piece of Plexiglas. Put something on top – like heavy books – to press it down. Wait for a few hours (the paper doesn’t have to be completely dry).
            When you lift everything off, the paper will hold some interesting textures and impressions. It’s really impossible to predict – or control – exactly what you’ll get. I love that!
            After the paint has dried completely, you decide how to proceed. This is where you put your imagination to work. What do you see? Where can this go? You could draw and paint a composition, or complete the painting freehand, finding shapes as you go. It could move in a completely abstract direction, or you could find a landscape, a still life, maybe even a portrait. I don’t want to try to be too literal, though. I love the fantastical, impressionistic feeling this method offers.
            As for what to use, here’s a tip: Sturdy, waxy leaves work really well. Small twigs, stems and seeds are good. In the accompanying paintings, you’ll see ferns, which are wonderful. The foreground leaves in In the Pink are sweet woodruff, (my favorite ground cover). The background textures in all three paintings comes from crinkled wax paper and plastic wrap. You can also try cheesecloth, net, gauze, lace, etc.
            Now, when I’m out in the garden or off on a hike, I’m looking for textures and shapes that I can try in a painting.
            I’m seeing the world in new and wonderful ways. And that is the great gift that art brings to us all, always.
– Kathy Lindsley 


Memories, Feelings, Interpretations, and Truth

Posted on July 25, 2017 at 9:14 AM Comments comments (10)
Are the marks, composition and color harmonies in our artwork influenced by our relationship to the subject matter or concept? Should they be? Are the proportions and placement of images and shapes directed by the attachment we feel, and meaning we consciously or unconsciously assign to them? How important is our personal connection to our subject matter? That is what I’ve been pondering during the creation of my last four pieces. Is the integrity and quality of my art even linked to the answers of the above questions?
               Then again, maybe I already have my answer. I am so grateful for artist Brian O’Neill and his abstract workshop I took this past year. One of my finished paintings had visual bits and pieces, elements that were a synchronization of the reference photos I had brought in, portraying glimpses of home, family, mood and relationship. I felt this was one of the more successful paintings I ever did. It wasn’t forced, and I didn’t over think it. I didn’t have to make any conscious decisions about the positive and negative space. I wasn’t deliberately or consciously trying to create a metaphor using design elements . . . no commentary on mood using color, or distance between shapes revealing a hidden meaning of my feelings of closeness to someone or something. With the help of a meditation exercise, I could just let it happen. Yet, that painting spoke everything I needed to know about my subject, and I welcomed the revelation.
               These past five years have been a test of my physical, mental, and emotional endurance.
               I left a career I loved, teaching elementary art, in order to explore and facilitate how best to care for my mother as she progressed through the stages of cognitive decline. As her memory failed, I wanted to capture in my art those things which once held special meaning for her. She had never moved my father’s jacket from where it hung in his shop in 1986, at the time of his death. She could look at it frequently, as his shop was on the same property as her house. This building is where she then began to store her gardening tools. I created a pastel portrait of my father’s jacket which I titled  Still. A part of my mother’s iris garden, which hugged the white painted concrete foundation of their home, was also captured in a pastel titled Remains To Touch. The dirt around the once so lovingly cared for irises was now speckled with crumbs of debris and decaying organic matter. As I gazed at these images during the process of getting what was once their home ready to sell, I felt deep emotion and a connection to what was symbolized there. I took many photos.
               Prior to participating in O’Neill’s abstract workshop, I probably would have tried to force a metaphor of these subjects to which I had a personal connection: my father’s jacket, left behind and slipped out of at too young an age, and my mother’s nurtured irises, abandoned by their caretaker who at some point could not even remember their name. Though the subject of jacket and iris are recognizable, and deliberate, I thoroughly enjoyed the freeform abstract approach I took with laying out the subject and putting down the color. Referencing my first paragraph – “the importance of personal connection” – I’ve come to this conclusion: Though personal connections make for a great launching pad, I would never want them to define the perimeters of the journey.  Personal connections should motivate, but never limit.  
– Jackie Lippa

 All artwork by Jackie Lippa

Finding Color in Black and White

Posted on June 1, 2017 at 12:21 PM Comments comments (2)

Finding color in black and white
Remember that feeling you got when you were a kid and opened a new box of crayons? All those colors? All those possibilities? Every color held a world of describing the things around you and the ideas yet to come.
            Every spring feels like that for me. Opening the shades from the long winter of monochrome to spring’s blast of light and brilliance of hue, I am in awe every year by the pinks, purples, yellow greens and blues.
            This winter I decided to challenge myself and take on the formal study of drawing under the tutelage of Brian O'Neill, one of Rochester's finest painters. We work strictly in black and white in order to train the mind and eye to better see and interpret value. Being able to see objects and the reflection of light with the subtle changes of value from darkest dark to lightest light and how to render those components makes the artist’s  ability to express what she sees in a believable way much more accurately. And I am finding that my appreciation of color is expanding as a result of this challenge to work only in black and white. I am beginning to not only see a pink as pure pink but its relation to its origin and the colors next to it.
            In his teachings on color theory Josef Albers says “In our perception, juxtaposed colors  change each other in two ways, on the one hand in regard to light, on the other in relation to hue.
As there is nothing large or small in itself but only in relationship, so any color appears lighter or darker and brighter or duller in connection with other colors.”
            The ability to see the relationships of colors to each other and how the eye perceives this is therefore the real skill. And how to affect another’s way of seeing and feeling is the magic of art.
            Of course as a viewer of art, you are not always aware of what it is that is pulling your eye. Or what that feeling is that you get when something pleases you. Or even disturbs you. You are not aware of the principles that go into making a piece work or not work. For me as a viewer, I am drawn to light and rich colors. Paintings that loudly pronounce when a blue is the main attraction. Or when a yellow wants to shine the brightest. So when making art I tend to let colors perform to their greatest capacity.
            It is ironic that what seems the exact opposite is the very thing that makes an artist’s ability to say something about color can be said most accurately by her understanding of black and white. I’m not sure to what degree my understanding of this concept can be reflected in my work yet, but I can say that my eye is definitely improving as well as my patience for the process and my deeper appreciation of color. Though I am still in the beginning phases of learning through this particular challenge, I am excited to see what I will be able to say when I apply what I am learning to whatever approach taken to create a painting.
            My hope is that whether it is with charcoal and white pencil or with pure color pigment, the person seeing the outcome is somehow invited to see and feel something new and inspiring. And just like the joy that the colors of spring brings after a long monochromatic winter, so too is one’s deeper understanding of color when black and white is studied and understood.
            Without dark there cannot be light. Without winter there can be no spring.

– Linda Cala

To What End Paint

Posted on April 22, 2017 at 11:06 AM Comments comments (3)
To what end paint?
            Fame? Not likely in my case, for a variety of reasons. My mother wanted me to paint, but my father would have insisted on perfection, whatever that is, to exploit any talent the kindergarten teacher told my mother I had. It took me until I was 30, after years of therapy, to have the courage to express anything at all on canvas,
            Wealth? By the time I was 35 I realized I could never support myself with art. I needed a profession to pay for painting, so I went to medical school. At a recent show, I sold four paintings. After the gallery takes 40 percent, I might rather have kept the work for the fee, which hardly compensates for the effort put into it. 
            Self-publishing is a very expensive business. In 2013, I published my first children's book, Froggy Family's First Frolic. Although we have sold most of the books we had printed, we still took a considerable loss. I don’t enjoy marketing that much, but reading the first book to children and hearing parents describe how much their offspring adore having it read to them brings me great pleasure. 
            Glory? One of my teachers kept telling me I had to get my work out there, so I entered shows. Some I have gotten in, some I haven’t bothered with. One of the pieces rejected, TWICE, is a small painting that our daughter Helen Mirra, a world-renowned artist, said is the best I have ever done. It is my favorite. Only a few members of Main Street Artists wanted a print of a painting based on an ambitious collage honoring them.
            Power? Actually, yes, making art is healing, and it has taken me through a number of very rough times. Art brings me power by the necessity of practicing non-attachment. Now it is keeping me alive. For each of the last three projects (my first book, Froggy Family’s First Frolic; the Main Street Artists collage and painting; and my current book, Froggy Family’s Fine Feelings) I have said to myself, “God, please let me live long enough to finish this project.” 
            To what end paint then, if not for Fame, Wealth, Glory and Power? Ultimately, as the fox said to The Little Prince (Antoine de St Exupery, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1943):
             “It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”
            My motto in life is “Love God, and waste time. It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.” 

– Margot Fass  

Top to Bottom:  Final cover in oil, acrylic color study, first study in charcoal


Posted on March 15, 2017 at 2:41 PM Comments comments (5)
"Galleries are going to reject you, people are going to say insensitive things about your work, critics are going to ignore you and family members are going to plot to steal your painting time but you have to pick yourself up and go back at it.” ~ Cathie Harrison    

     I am just coming off of another show that required entries and paintings being juried. It is always a tossup…will they like my paintings? Or not?
     I understand this process is subjective and beyond my control. Once you fill out that entry form, pay the fee and send it in, you are putting yourself out there. You hope that your work will be worthy enough to be a part of the show.
     A year ago this same show ended with all three of my pieces being rejected. In days past this might have devastated me. I did have a momentary thought that I might need to change my painting style in some way. Silly! My studio mates, a constant source of critique and support, reminded me of that. I paint what I see as beautiful or interesting. I don’t necessarily follow composition rules but, what I paint is all me. It is a “Norris.”
     There is this dichotomy. I paint because I have to. I also paint because I hope that my paintings will evoke an emotional connection for someone else. If someone purchases one of my paintings, that is a bonus. I am just happy if it makes them feel something or if we can have a conversation about a shared appreciation for a special place.
     This brings me to the current show. Two of my paintings passed muster. They were rejected from last year’s show. They got a second chance.
    There is a fine line between rejection and acceptance. You cannot let it rule you. Just keep painting.

~ Christine Norris