Monday, December 26, 2011

Scary Christmas to Me

Christmas can be a bit scary.  I don't just mean the whole "getting-the-house-cleaned-&-decorated-(omg- where did we put those ornaments?)-&-buying-presents-&-wrapping-presents-&-making-food-&-no-way-will-I-get-all-this-done-in-time" thing.  No.  My Christmas is even scarier than that.

"What could possibly be scarier than that?" you may ask in astonished skepticism. OK. I'll show you.  Be ready to hide your eyes.  It's-

a blank canvas.  This simple white rectangle has struck cold fear into the hearts of artists for centuries, and I am no exception.  The fact that I hadn't done this type of work in- oh, let's see- since I got my BFA in 1993- served to increase the degree of terror by a factor of about- well, a lot.

But I forged ahead, because, you know- it's Christmas.  My baby (my daughter, who, by virtue of being my youngest, will always be my baby) had expressed to me that she wanted a painting of a big, red, 'abstract-ish' flower to set on her living room mantle.  I chose one of my red amaryllis photos, and cropped it to make an interesting (or so I hoped) composition. 

the original photo

I sketched the composition onto the canvas, bought paint, got out the brushes, took a deep breath, and began.

At the end of the second day (sorry, I forgot to photograph the first day), I was surprised at how far I'd progressed, and was feeling pretty pleased with myself.  I guess it's sort of like riding a bike; it all comes back to you...

...or not.  At the end of the third day, it seemed I hadn't gotten much done at all, compared to day two.  What the heck happened?  Well, I was suffering from a respiratory infection, and it could be that I spent more time blowing my nose than painting.  Sure, that must be it, right?

The fourth day was a nine hour painting marathon; I could hardly believe it when I finally checked the time and found it was 4:00.  I'd started at 8:00 that morning, and after being surprised by the time, I painted for another hour.  At that point, I felt it was approaching the way I had envisioned it. What bothered me was the first part I had worked on- the big flower at the top left, which now seemed too flat and too orange.  The stamens/anthers were also a problem; I couldn't decide if they needed to be brought out more, moved, or what.  Two days to Christmas and counting.

The next day I resolved most of the issues.  I repainted the left flower almost entirely, including the stamens, which I moved over toward the right.  I repainted the background for at least the twelfth time, and decided to call it finished.  Here is the final version. For whatever reason, the background color looks weird in this photo, but otherwise it's pretty accurate. 

But then, my final, and biggest fear reared its ugly head:  What if she didn't like it?  Of course she would never tell me; she'd just live a tortured life with this horrible thing on her mantle.  What was I thinking?  The painting really wasn't abstract at all- my own personal style had taken over without me even knowing it!

It was Christmas Eve, so I resisted the temptation to re-paint the whole thing (yes, that insane thought did actually cross my mind), and decided to wait for her reaction before freaking out completely. (Yes, I can hear you all laughing right now...) 

She loved it!  She said she liked it because she could tell I painted it- it was my "style".  Do you think she meant it?  Maybe she just didn't want to hurt my feelings...

OK, now for an abrupt change of subject... I hope you've been reading Seth Apter's online collaborative project "The Pulse" on his blog The Altered Page.  Part three, "Master Class", is now underway, and my answer to the question, 'If you could take a class from one artist from anytime in history, including the present, who would it be and why?' is featured on the Christmas day post.  Please click on the link above or the image below to check it out!

Merry Christmas and a wonderful holiday season to you all, my dear friends.  May you be blessed by true peace and joy.


  1. Wow, Sharmon working a brush on canvas! It was impressive though. A subject that would strike fear inside me! You did though give me a moments pause to realize that the blank canvas disease has kept my brushes dry for too long and besides, my hands and shoulders hurt like hell doing all these graphite pieces, time to move the pain around! Hoep you had a great Christmas!

  2. Congratulations performed brush magic and should be very happy happy happy! Clean house...that is often over rated! Blessings, Mary Helen

  3. Wonderful post! I received five blank canvases and so far the drawings/painting is in my head! The fear, oh yes, there is a lot of fear! I am so happy though that the holidays are mostly behind us and it does feel good to be moving forward once again!

  4. Darn, I am sorry, I forgot to mention that I love your painting/flowers! Speaking of fear I really have a hard time painting there a method? I almost always mess them up. That is why I so admire those that can paint flowers! Well done!

  5. Well done!! It is obvious you haven't lost your touch. Of course your daughter loves it... what's not to love? The composition is 'abstract-ish' and the colour and brushwork great.

  6. sharmon, wow... it's wonderful! i loved that you moved the stamens as they seem perfectly placed now.

    smiling... : )


  7. What a gorgeous result...I knew it would be beautiful:) and that she would love it,,,who wouldn´t. If I lived closer I´d have you do one for me:)...Merrry CHristmas and have a happy NEW YEAR!!!filled with creativity and love!!

  8. You really work well under pressure!!!.. Gorgeous!!! may 2012 be an exciting journey!!

  9. Wonderfully done, Sharmon!!! You did a great job facing your fears and making some magic happen. Kudos!

    Since it's been so long to create like this, do you find yourself ready to try another?

    Happy Creating in the new year!!!


  10. Beautifully done, Sharmon! Love the lush colors!

    Wishing you and yours a very Happy Healthy New Year!

    Gaby xo

  11. Yes, Michael, I'm as surprised as you are- I guess I have more guts than I knew. The blank canvas disease is very common; read 'Art & Fear' by David bales and Ted Orland for an in-depth exploration of that topic! can't wait for your new paintings!

    Mary Helen- I do agree about the clean house thing; on the other hand... I may have to blindfold people before they come in! Thanks for your encouraging words.

    Janine, I'm glad you're moving forward- scary, but worth it! I have no special technique for painting flowers, except maybe to see them not as flowers but as shapes and colors. It's best to have a good photo reference, I think.

    Jo, thank you; she does seem to love it, as does her fiance. I'm anxious to see how it looks in her house.

    Lynne- thanks for being so sweet as always. I like them better this way, too.

    Thank you dear Cynnie; coming from a flower-painting expert such as you, I consider that a high compliment!

    Gwen- Thanks for the lovely compliment. Pressure is not usually my favorite thing, but it worked out.

    Don, I appreciate the kind words. I would probably not hesitate to try another now, but as I already have 4 series going at this time, I think it's best not to jump into another.

    Gaby, thank you so much. I enjoy lush colors in general, as you've probably noticed. Maybe I should try black and white sometime? LOL- that's probably not likely, though.

    Happy, healthy, and creative new year to you all!

  12. Sending belated- Oh- my-gosh-that-is-incredible-and- maybe-sometimes-pressure-is-a-good-thing! It is lovely. I hope your holidays were joy filled. xo teri

    PS I would be too intimidated to take a class from any artist... but I would love to follow Georgia O'Keefe around for a day.Going over to see your post now.

  13. Sharmon, I'm impressed. It takes guts to strike out in a new (old) direction, not to mention documenting it daily and hoping that it will be to your daughter's rose to the challenge with grace and style. The reds and red-oranges are lucious and full--I can imagine spending time in front of this canvas and letting myself become absorbed in the color.

  14. A wonderful gift from the heart and hand of mom. Happy New Year, Sharmon.


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