Monday, September 29, 2014

Sarah Ferguson McDonald

This is Sarah Ferguson McDonald, a pioneer in the 1850s crossing the plains at the Platte River.  Her husband James McDonald had contracted cholera the day before, helping another sick pioneer the cross the river.  It was a fast-acting disease, and he was dead that morning.  Sarah was left to bury him alongside the river after putting her children to bed.  As she stood in the rushing water to wash the off the dirt and mud from the grave, she pondered for a moment how easy it would be to let the water take her away to her husband.  She was brought back to her surroundings by her small child calling to her from the wagon.  The next morning she packed up and continued to travel to Zion with her children.

I chose April as my model, because she has always struck me as a woman of beauty and strength.  She travels on in her life, despite hardships and downfalls, including losing her baby daughter.  She and her sweet spitfire daughter Oakley, also pictured, would have made great pioneers.

I have enjoyed speaking with several of Sarah's ancestors after painting this.  I know that her decision to endure to the end despite the death of her husband and the hardships of pioneer life was invaluable to her young family and all those who followed.

John Trebonius and Martin Luther

The story here is that John Trebonius was an instructor in the 1500s, where men usually kept their hats on indoors.  However, he always removed his hat when he came into the classroom, as a sign of respect towards the boys he was teaching.  He said that he never knew if he was in the presence of future greatness.  As it turned out, a young Martin Luther was in his classroom, (depicted here in a green and tan tunic on the front row.)

I was given a very short deadline on this painting, and had to round up several boys and a man quickly.  There was no time to find outfits.  Thanks to my sister, four boys and an actor practicing "Fiddler on the Roof" at the Valentine Theater in American Fork, I was able to take pictures immediately.  I then doubled the boys in different positions, changed everyone's features, and added period clothing.  (Thank you Anya Allred for again coming through with fantastic costume references!)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Joy and Dixie

This story is about two women, Joy and Dixie, who were neighbors and friends for 50 years. They helped each other through many hard times, and celebrated good times together. Joy became terminally ill, and was too weak to do much other than stay in bed. Even though Dixie was in poor health as well, and was taking care of a sick husband, Dixie planted a beautiful flower garden for Joy to see out her bedroom window. After Joy died, the neighbors learned that Dixie had let her backyard go in order to keep up the beautiful front flower garden for Dixie.

I have wonderful neighbors named Josephine and Lyla who were generous with their time and let me photograph them for this painting. Thankfully, both are still healthy and able to plant and work in their flower gardens!

Notes During a Concert

I got to paint my mom in this one!  Thank you also to my cousins who also posed on the spur of the moment at their sisters' baby shower.  (Yes, two sisters--I punctuated correctly.)  I had a very short deadline, and it was divine planning, I'm sure, that placed me at a shower with all my models available that day.

The story is that a grandma of two teenage girls invited them to a choir concert.  She wanted them to experience some fine music with her.  As she was moved to tears, she looked over at her granddaughters, and was appalled to see that they were writing notes!  Later, she learned that they were writing a letter to their brother back home, sharing how moving and wonderful the concert was, and how much they were enjoying it.  The message is that we should not judge others too quickly, or jump to a wrong conclusion, but we should think the best of others.

Turtle on a Fence

Alex Haley, author of the book Roots, had a painting on his wall of a turtle on a fencepost.  When people praised him for his accomplishments, he would say, "I am like that turtle.  He didn't get where he is without help."

It was a little tricky to paint this one, since my favorite position of Haley was in black and white, so I had to imagine the color.  I still need a lot of practice painting dark skin.

Jane Eyre

I was asked to illustrate the scene from Charlotte Brontë's novel Jane Eyre where Helen has just been flogged on the neck, yet she can still teach Jane about the power of forgiveness.  I had never read Jane Eyre, so this was another learning opportunity for me.  

I wanted this to be an impressive and moving piece, especially since it would have many more viewers than usual--it was shown before the October LDS General Conference.  But the scene was a very undramatic one by nature.  The girls lived in a boarding school, and everything there was very plain by design--the walls, their clothes, even their hair.  I decided the only thing I truly had to work with was the lighting.  So I chose to pose Helen in front of the fireplace so she and Jane would be backlit, and play with a bit of chiaroscuro.  Unfortunately, watercolor is very hard to darken, so once I did my best with the paint on paper, I had to employ a digital darkening and contrast as well.  Therefore, the original painting is not as impressive as this version.

Thank you to sisters Katrina and Rachel for modeling.  You've become some of my good friends since you moved in, and I've been hoping for a painting in which I could use both of you, so here it is!  Hope you like it!

Ben Franklin's Whistle

When Benjamin Franklin was a boy, he traded all his money for a wooden whistle.  He was excited and pleased with his purchase, until he brought it home and learned from his siblings that it was worth much less than what he had paid.  Any time since then, he used the term "paid too much for his whistle" any time someone was spending their time, money, or effort on something that was worthless.  Are we paying too much for our whistle?

Thank you Sage and Carson for playing dress-up and posing for my pictures, and for Anya, who always comes through with awesome costumes!

Facing Rough and Rocky Roads

Lloyd Newell said, "If our own road ever seems to fit this description, we can take inspiration from the spirit of the pioneers. British pioneer Patience Loader described finding such inspiration on a frigid morning after a snowy night, when her mother asked Patience and her sisters to get up and start a fire. They each responded that they couldn’t—that it was too cold and they didn’t feel well."

"Mother said, ‘Come, girls. This will not do. I believe I will have to dance [for] you and try to make you feel better.’ Poor, dear mother, she started to sing and dance [for] us, and she slipped down as the snow was frozen. In a moment we were all up to help [her,] for we were afraid she was hurt. She laughed and said, ‘I thought I could soon make you all jump up if I danced [for] you.’ … She said that she was afraid her girls were going to … get discouraged, and … that would never do.”2

I was excited to paint this, since I had painted Patience Loader before.  She was one of the girls helping her father pull the handcart in a Pioneer Day painting I did in 2009.  So I asked the same family if I could photograph them again, and they were happy to help.  Thank you Heather, Erica and Nikki, and especially Tanya for dressing up and dancing, even though you felt silly!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Audrey's Parade

For "Loyalty to Liberty" on July 3, 2011
This was for a Fourth of July broadcast.  This little girl was asking her father questions about patriotism and their country while waiting for the hometown parade.  Unfortunately, as I was painting this, I realized I hadn't planned on painting any other people on the sidewalks--only Audrey and her dad Brian!  Whoops!  That would have been quite a boring town--and why would a whole parade come for just two people anyway?  So I drew and painted all the rest of the neighborhood watchers, then Photoshopped them into the final painting.  I hope you can't tell.

Henry David Thoreau

From "Finding Joy in the Journey" on May 22, 2011

Thank you Scott for posing for me, even after you sold your house and had moved out!  And thank you Ruth for allowing me to photograph your new home's previous owner in his old bedroom!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Over Bananas

There is a Polynesian fable, one which is more violent than is here related.  A monkey and a turtle were friends.  One day Monkey saw a banana stalk floating down the river.  He wanted the bananas but couldn't swim, so he suggested to Turtle that he retrieve it, and they'd split it and plant their parts.
From "The Fruits of Selflessness" on April 17, 2011
Once Turtle brought the banana stalk back, however, treacherous Monkey took the top half of the stalk, with all the bananas, and ran off.  But Turtle knew that his part had the roots, so it would grow into more banana stalks over and over, while Monkey's bananas would be the last, and would never grow anymore again.
I like using this children's book, storytelling style of illustration, so it was a fun opportunity.  Plus, I got to learn about how bananas grow!

Elder Wirthlin

Joseph B. Wirthlin said,
"Over the course of my years, I have met thousands of people. I have dined with the prosperous as well as the poverty-stricken. I have conversed with the mighty and with the meek. I have walked with the famous and the feeble. I have run with outstanding athletes and those who are not athletically inclined. 
(read from right to left)
 One thing I can tell you with certainty is this: You cannot predict happiness by the amount of money, fame, or power a person has. External conditions do not necessarily make a person happy… The fact is that the external things so valued by the world are often the cause of a great deal of misery in the world. Those who live in thanksgiving daily, however, are usually among the world’s happiest people. And they make others happy as well." 
(read from left to right)

The Warden

I was asked to illustrate a story about a warden of San Quentin, a high-security prison in California.  The prisoners were not treated well before he arrived, and he made major changes and improved their way of life.  They respected him so much for it that he could walk among them, as he is doing here in the yard.
To find my men and yard to paint, I found the old Humphrey Bogart black and white film "San Quentin" on DVD.  Not too bad, except Bogart dies in the end doing the right thing.  I also found some old war images of soldiers and prisoners to use.  So if you recognize anyone in this picture, it's probably coincidence.

We Need Others

This was an interesting experiment in painting that we'd never tried before.  The story is about a man who gets sick, but he wants to keep it to himself, so only his wife knows.  But slowly, friends, home teachers, visiting teachers, neighbors, and family learn about it, and help him by bringing food, praying for him, etc.  
 What happened on the TV screen was, they showed the first painting, then the husband's and wife's expressions changed and people started fading into the scene one at a time, until you ended up with the second painting.  It looked like magic!
It was very time consuming on our end, though.  I had to paint both paintings, trying to get the backgrounds identical, which is impossible, and then I learned it was also unnecessary, since we painstakingly masked them completely out of their old background anyway.  In the end, I learned a lot, it was nifty to watch live, and I'm grateful to Lori, Bill, Alyssa, Brian, Mark, Ann, and Lydia for their help.  And thanks for the yummy cookies, Alyssa!