Monday, January 23, 2012

Close up and Personal

For over a century now, thanks to the invention of portable tubes of paint, artists have been packing up their painting gear and heading to the big bright outdoors to paint plein air. Winter, spring, summer, fall…. Daytime and nighttime …… I must admit I am hooked, too. I started painting on location as a little girl with my family. My dad would lead us to the greatest nearby spots to paint and sketch… and I continue to this day with my husband, Howard Friedland, and many artist friends….. I love it! From our back yard to the exotic corners of the world, it is all calling to me to paint. What a thrill to be standing at my portable easel, smelling the air, feeling the breeze ( hopefully not too windy ) and gleefully accepting the challenges of painting plein air.

Howard just finished a painting depicting one such outing. He wrote a great description of that afternoon to include on the back of his painting. I thought you would enjoy his adventure and his painting. Here it is…

Bear Market by Howard Friedland                                                             10 x 12 Oil

Grizzly Encounter
written by Howard Friedland

The bear depicted in my painting “Bear Market” is a Grizzly that I saw
“Close Up and Personal” as they say.

A few years ago, a couple of artist friends and I were painting in Glacier National Park.
We had just set up our easels behind the campground at Many Glacier, a spectacularly beautiful area of the park. We chose a mountain scene that was visible beyond a nearby creek. The other two painters set up along the bank of the creek and I chose a spot about ten feet back.

Soon after we put our first brush strokes on our canvases, I heard my friend Tom English yell out “BEAR! BEAR!”
Just then, I looked up and saw a grizzly bear ambling up the stream in our direction.
Immediately, I pulled my canister of bear spray out of its holder and pointed it toward the bear with my outstretched arm. The other painter with us did the same. At this point the Griz was no more than 20 feet away. My heart was thumping out of my chest! I knew, if he wanted to attack us he could have just leapt and been on us.

He sniffed at us for a while (it seemed like an eternity) and proceeded to continue ambling up the stream, which thankfully turned away from where we were.
It wasn’t until I knew we were out of danger that I realized, rather than whip out his bear spray, Tom whipped out his camera and took several photos of the bear.
What was he thinking?!!!! 

Anyway, Tom was nice enough to share a photo of our encounter with the Grizzly bear.

I decided to paint this painting to remind me of just how close, this Close Up and Personal wild experience was.

Howard Friedland

Here is another painting of Howard’s
Bull Market by Howard Friedland                                                            8.25 x 14.75 oil

NOTE: Howard’s painting “Bear Market” and “Bull Market” are heading to the stellar invitational American Miniatures Show opening February 11 at Settlers West Galleries in Tucson.  In a few weeks you will be able to see all the paintings on line at
 It is always a fantastic show!
See more of Howard Friedland’s paintings at

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Sunday, January 8th, was a very special day for many reasons. I will tell you why in just a moment.

For 40 years I have been a professional artist, 32 years as a watercolorist and the past 8 years as an oil painter. During that time, I have done hundreds of shows and created hundreds of portraits. I love painting people. Many, many of these portraits have been commissions and it has been my highest honor to paint loved ones for a family.

In December I met with a couple, Valerie and Cam Gould, that loved portraits! Their home is filled with paintings and sketches of generations of their family members. They asked me to paint a portrait of their daughter, Christie. She is now 25, however, they wanted a portrait of her when she was three years old. Out came the albums of photos and we had a great time looking through images of the little tyke and settled on one image.

Like many commissions that dig back into the past, there are always challenges. Sometimes the photos are faded or damaged, or in black and white. The photo that we chose this time was a terrific image of her little smiling face, but it, too, had a sizable share of things that needed to be changed. For starters, the size of her entire body was less that 1 inch high, but the light wrapping around her face was priceless. When I tried to enlarge it to see her face, I realized that the photo became grainy and out of focus. (When this is the situation, I am so grateful for the years and years and thousands of sketches that I have done studying faces.) in the old photo, she was dressed in typical play clothes and sitting on bright colored inflated balloon bags. The setting and the clothes just didn't do her face justice, so using the inspiration of her little face and her body position, I set out to create a painting that would ooze with charm and innocence.

We found photos of her in a darling timeless dress and decided to have her seated on the old brick steps of her childhood home. By softening the background to colors found in nature, I created a portrait that let her darling face reach out to all of us.

Now, getting back to the big event of last Sunday. From the very beginning, my clients were very excited to host an unveiling party for this painting. Never before, in all the years of my painting and drawing commissions, have I ever been honored with an unveiling of my work at a client's home! I thought that perhaps a few of their friends and neighbors would stop by, a lovely thought and I was very pleased. This event was set for Sunday January 8th.

On the 8th, Sunday.... Howard and I arrived at the Gould's early in the afternoon to set up the painting and to my amazement, it wasn't going to be a small gathering....there were beautiful plates of food and candles set out all over! 60 friends and neighbors had been invited to this gala catered event. As the afternoon slipped into evening, more and more people arrived. It was a huge success! Everyone was thrilled to see the painting. What an honor to have my work presented in this way. It reminded me of the royal portraits through the centuries and how they were always presented at an unveiling for the court. I felt like a rock star!

A big huge thank you to the Gould's for trusting me with this awesome commission and for hosting that incredible unveiling! We all had a great time! Sunday was a great day of connecting with old and new friends.... and old and new memories.

Christie by Susan Blackwood
20 x 24 oil