What can I say? My Muse has a mind of her own.
About a month ago, I got a call from my sister-in-law’s youngest sister.
“I have this friend Nick,” Bethany began,“His wife, Suzy, is the sweetest, kindest person in the world and they have twin daughters who were born on Suzy’s birthday. I know! Can you believe that? What are the odds? Anyway, Nick was saying Suzy’s so devoted to being their mom it’s like she doesn’t get to have her own birthday anymore and Nick wants to do something really special for her this year. He wants an artist to…”
I suggested directing Nick to my website and, if he liked my work, he might contact me. Nick emailed the very next day. Nick wrote that Suzy loved all things Day of the Dead and what he was hoping for was her portrait in full Day of The Dead regalia … and he needed that painting to fit into a 36” x 28” niche.
“Hmm,” I said, “that’s an odd size and I don’t stretch canvas but maybe there’s a work around. Are your okay with gold leaf and rhinestones?” Nick said the Magic Words.
“You’re the artist. I trust your judgment.”
Here's the work-around I came up with: one 24” x 24” canvas flanked by three 8” x 8” canvases. Suzy’s portrait would fill the big canvas and the three smaller canvases would be sugar skulls. As you can see from this mock-up on the floor of my studio, they nicely fill the 36” x 28” footprint. (Yes, visual pun intended.)
Once Nick gave the thumbs up I put on my smock. I started with black underpainting. Then I did a rough sketch of Suzy. Gold leaf came next. Then the portrait. Didn’t quite nail the angle of the head but, in my defense, I was working from a teeny tiny image and hey, it’s art, and art is subject to the artist's interpretation. Then I started in on the sugar sculls: black underpainting again, gold leaf, and iridescent pearl acrylic layered with glass bead gel, for texture and luminescence.
So far so good! Now for the embellishing. Nick said that red roses were Suzy’s favorite flower so that’s how I came up with her crown, Then I worked on her “make up”. I used pearl and glitter dimensional fabric paints for the facial tattoos because I wanted the textural quality, then I hand applied scads of tiny colorful rhinestones to the golden ribbons flowing from her crown. "Crystalizing” the sugar sculls followed after that.
The red background that I’d floated around the sugar sculls didn’t work as well as I thought it might so I covered it up with more gold leaf. (No, there’s no such thing as too much gold leaf.)
Below: the completed “La Raina de Dia de Muertos” with Suzy and Nick. Happy birthday, Suzy! And The Thoughtful Husband of the Year Award goes to ...
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