Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Painting Ourselves

In a Green Shade is a 24x12 oil on linen by Shirley Fachilla.
Artists love to paint painters. They paint portraits of themselves painting, their friends painting; heck, they paint acquaintances and perfect strangers painting. It’s usually the activity that’s the real subject, not the person.
As far back as the 17th century, Rembrandt and Vermeer were painting themselves in the act. Of course, they had a reason. Each of their “painting self portraits” was a demonstration of technique and skill. Both paintings probably hung in the studio and were intended to impress potential clients.
The Impressionists were also continually painting one another with brushes in hand. In their case, I think it was mainly that they were all out together working “en plein air” and injecting a figure in the landscape added more of a challenge.
We’re still at it today. But now, sometimes the painter and his feelings are the true subject, rather than the activity.  In the above painting, it was the art effort I wanted to capture. The painter is an acquaintance, a fellow member of the Chestnut Group, and is totally engrossed in applying that next important brushstroke.  
The canvas is in the Corse Gallery in the inaugural WPSE exhibit. If you’re around Jacksonville, Florida during the month of May, you might drop by to see.   

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

"If Thinking Could Make It So"

If Thinking Could Make It So is a 18x14 open studio oil by Shirley Fachilla.

The lovely girl pictured here is the same model as my preceding post. This is not such a grand likeness, but actually, it wasn’t intended to be.
This one is really all about mood and shadows. Sometimes in open studio, you can almost feel the model thinking… thinking about something that really matters. And then sometimes you can see the model almost fall asleep!
At present, this painting is on its way to the Women Painters of the Southeast inaugural juried show at the Corse Gallery in Jacksonville Florida
I would like to thank my excellent painter friend, Brenda Morley, for liking my painting and telling me so. Without her encouragement, I probably wouldn’t have thought to submit it. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Detail of Likeness, a 24x12 oil by Shirley Fachilla done in open studio. 
I paint in an open studio every Monday with a live model. Because I’m not really a portrait painter and because I’m trying mostly for a good painting, my work often does not end as a good “likeness.” This time, however, I think the likeness is there, at least physically.
But though it captures her look, it doesn’t show the real girl. It doesn’t reflect her sweetness, her gentle nature, her patience…the list could go on! In some of my other paintings of her, it seems to me that those un-seeable attributes are quite apparent.
Maybe one day I’ll be able to combine the two, the likeness and the inner person. It’s certainly something to strive for.
When faulted for not achieving a “likeness,” John Singer Sargent  famously commented that in a hundred years, the lack of a likeness wouldn’t matter at all. No one would know; no one would care. It was a good “painting” and that would grant both the painting (and the sitter) their portion of immortality.  

Monday, April 2, 2012


 Working from a photo for me is a process of evolution. Unfortunately, I find it easy to get lost in that “process.” I must keep reminding myself what I want the painting to be and not become lost in the techniques of turning a photo into a painting.
I decided to share my steps of working from a photo in this post.
Here’s the reference photo:

First, I sketch to create a composition that will work in the dimensions I’ve chosen for my canvas. For obvious reasons, the sketch, done on any handy scrap of paper, is for my eyes only.  

This time, because light was the true subject of my painting, I also needed to design my pattern of light and dark. Eliminating color from the equation, I used a small canvas in the same dimensions as my final piece to establish light and dark rhythms.

Then because color harmony was lacking in my specific photo reference, I added color to my small piece to resolve color issues.

Finally I did it big (well, bigger) and of course, made more alterations. For instance, I changed the old-fashioned wooden seat of the diner to unify my two figures. I did so hate to lose that old-fashioned booth!

Lunch in Thomaston, Maine is an 18x14 oil by Shirley Fachilla.

Lunch in Thomaston Maine is on view along with a bevy of other paintings by my friends: Jean McGuire, Gale Haddock, Jean Gauld-Jaeger, Pat Mayo and me at the Tennessee Art League, 808 Broadway, Nashville, TN in our exhibit August in Maine. If you’re near, come see!

Is it too early to send an invitation?

Pieces by (clockwise from left to right) : Susan Harlan, Janet Garner, Shirley Fachilla, Mike Martino and Topper Williams. So many ...