Demo Video #1 Underpainting

I am excited to start doing some demonstration videos. These first videos will be quick introductions to my painting process. I hope to soon do more detailed instruction along these lines, and in the mean time wet the appetite for those of you who are artists, aspiring artists, and on-the-fence artists to jump right in and develop your skill and appreciation for art.

So join me in my stdio for the next few minutes!

-Jonathan 

More than a portrait

Today, I have been looking back at some of my works over the last ten years and I wanted to bring back some stories. Sometimes paintings just come to life in a moment of genius and I stand back and say, how did I even do that?! Such is the case for many of my portrait paintings. Some are long labors of love, while others have seemed to effortlessly float onto the canvas with emotion, impact, and yet accuracy to the subject as well. I know that it is not just me doing it. The hand of my Father is so keenly present in these moments. 

So today, I'm sharing a portrait of a friend of our family, a woman committed to the kingdom of God. This is her story that she provided for me a few years ago when I painted the portrait. I hope you read and are inspired. 

This portrait of my husband and me was painted in a season of my spiritual journey that found me living in Afghanistan. And if the eyes are truly the windows to the soul, I look into my eyes in this portrait and see that I was to learn life changing lessons as we prepared to go to this land of such extremes.

In 2003, my husband made an exploratory trip to western Afghanistan and returned to tell my 15 year-old daughter and myself that the needs were tremendous, the doors were wide open and that a humanitarian organization would facilitate possibilities for Philip to create an educational institution in leadership.

Iasked myself, "How would I fit in, in a culture so very different from the western cultures I have lived in? How will I relate to the women, will I have to cover just my hair, or my face too? Do I have something to offer?"

We had spent 17 years in France and 1 year in Northern Ireland, and loved other cultures and languages, but I was aware that I was struggling with a sense of my usefulness in God's purposes in this setting. Would I even have any kind of affinity with the women, any connection?

That is when a familiar passage in Scripture became alive to me where I was at. In Mark 14:3-9, a woman broke her costly alabaster box of perfume to anoint the feet of Jesus. There are many lessons in these verses, such as the disciples dismay that the perfume was not sold to use the proceeds for the poor, but what spoke directly to me were the comments that Jesus made concerning the woman. These comments were my preparation for Afghanistan. Jesus told the disciples first of all to leave the woman alone, that she has done a "beautiful thing to me".

It struck me that I was going to a land where women had few rights and in public they were almost "invisible" because of the burqa, women had suffered most harshly during the years of the Taliban rule with no formal education and virtual lockdown within their compounds; yet in that first century culture Jesus declared the worth of a

woman who did something beautiful for him, and that gave me hope that I could live in a country like Afghanistan and touch the heart of Jesus and do something he would consider beautiful.

He also said that wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world what she haddone would be remembered.

This is a message of hope I could share with woman in Afghanistan. And thirdly, and for me, most importantly, Jesus said of her, "She did what she could". Those words felt like an arrow shot out of a quiver when I read them, but they hit their mark and pierced my heart when I found myself volunteering in a burn unit in the hospital in Herat, Afghanistan shortly after we arrived.

A French organization was working to start a proper burn unit, and my daughter and I went to see their set up. At this time in 2003 they were just beginning at the end of a hallway with over 20 women and children waiting to have their dressings changed.

There was no sterile room, just buckets and a sink, and half of the young women had burned themselves with gasoline in desperate suicide attempts.

The French nurse was tremendously brave working alone, so I asked who was helping her. She said that the Afghan nurse being trained was on maternity leave. I looked around and saw that it would be hours before she would get through the dressings so I asked her if I could help her , she responded in

French, "Yes, if you can". And I thought of those words of Jesus,

"She did what she could".

I thanked Him for preparing me for all we have experienced and lived in Afghanistan."

 

Commissioned Painting: A to Z

It all begins with a great idea. How can I bless my kids and leave them with something to remember their upbringing when they are older? For one family, that idea developed into commissioning three paintings of their land and home so that eventually these paintings would be given to each of the three adult kids of this family. Great idea. Enjoy some beautiful paintings and then pass along the joy to your children! 

So over the course of ten months, I began developing three paintings that captured a sense of the family's home and land. 

I begin the process by first working with the client to see where a painting will hang in their home in order to determine the size that the painting needs to be to bring the most impact. We discuss favorite memories of their home, favorite views and I try to get a really good idea about what is most desired to be communicated through a painting. Working with clients to develop a painting is one of the really enjoyable aspects of what I get to do as an artist. Although this is a business, its also my life. And relationships are what is most important in life. And in order to truly captivate the attention of a client with a work of art, I want to know as much as I can why they desire a work of art and what will speak to them most. 

After walking around the property exploring different options, we narrow it down to one particular view. But lighting is everything in my world. So, I schedule a time to return and take photographs as just the right time. 

A week later, I return early in the morning. I want to be there before the first light hits the top of the trees. 

After settling in and finding just the right angle, its time to wait. The scene is rather dull before the light hits. We needed it to be in late fall so that enough foliage had fallen off the trees to allow me to see the house through the trees. The whole time, I am taking many photos to compare how the light is changing. 

Then the magic starts. Those first rays of light come breaking through in color filled warmth. Got it!

 

An hour after arriving and after taking multiple shots and getting close up shots of the house for details, I feel I have what I need to return to the studio. 

After hours of sorting through photos and selecting the ones that capture the light and angle just right, its time to draw the watercolor preliminary sketch. This the fun opportunity to get out the pencil and enjoy time at the drafting table. 

A day later, the preliminary sketch is done and sent to the client for approval. And they love it! So it's off to the canvas now! Having a solid idea of what the final painting will look like because of the sketch, its nice to jump right into the painting. And I have deadline of Christmas to get it done. Only two or three weeks to complete the painting.

Twenty pots of coffee and many 1am painting hours later, it's ready for framing and delivery!

The best part is that reaction of amazement and delight when I unveil the painting just in time for Christmas. 



Explorations with pallet knife painting

"Back Road"  12x24 Oil on Canvas - Just SOLD

As an artist, I am continually pushing myself to discover new ways of creating beauty on the canvas. For me this means studying other great artist, both historical icons of art and contemporary masters. Then experimentation is essential. I want to continually grow as an artist an refine and perfect my craft. Perfection may not be the right word, but I will always strive for advancement. 

Close Up of "Returning" 14x18 Oil on Canvas - Just SOLD

Recently, my goal has been to achieve more vibrant paintings by painting predominantly with pallet knives. I had done a couple painting in the past with pallet knives, but had laid them down for a while. There is a certain richness of color that is only achievable by applying thick paint with a pallet knife. Here are a couple recent pallet knife paintings along with one that is on the easel now, ready to be finished. 

ON the Easel now. 

A close up of this work in progress, showing the texture of the pallet knife work.