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June 2008



9 Beginning the Portrait of Rowdy: The aikido community lost a profoundly accomplished and funny woman on May 25, and I have offered to do a portrait for her memorial service and to give as a gift. Rowdy Arrington Twomey was a second level black belt in aikido, and has been involved in martial arts since she was seven and living in Japan.

This is the first lay-in, and is a tough painting to start--not only for the connection I have in painting someone who was a joy to learn with and whom I considered a friend. But also because she was intensely camera shy. The photos I have for reference are...well, blooming awful. And I want to put her in the traditional garb of aikido, and of course there are no images available for that.

I've asked friends to pose to get the hands right (they'll be on her sword), and to pose her in the position of just drawing the weapon.

This is a 24 x 18 inch acrylic, and I'll share its progress in the next few days. Her memorial service will be on the 12th.

After that, I'll be working on the two mural panels for the Cheval mural mosaic.

Congratulations to Randy Smith on his acquiring the Amicalola River painting!
10

Here's the painting completely in the "Uglies". The features are not correct, the hair's too yellow, the hands and sword aren't realistic-looking yet.

All of this painting has been done with layers in acrylics, and it is mostly done with the cools in the cool box. The background, however, crosses over from the cools of ultramarine blue and burnt umber with the addition of thalo blue to give it some "oomph".

I will continue to layer and make corrections, fixing the attributes of the face and start to tighten down the look of her humorous half-smile. She now has on the white "gi" and the black "hakama" of the aikido practitioner, and her hands are roughly in the position for drawing the sword.

I found it interesting that at this stage, Rowdy's face seems to share the sadness of not being here--perhaps I'm painting her with my own sadness. This will evolve....

On another note, today we had triplets born to Uke, the young goat I shared with you last year. She's now a momma, and with her first kidding, triplets are amazing! And what's more amazing is how they are the spitting image of their grandmother, whom I still have. Got kids? Looks like I'll be bottle feeding them, as first freshener goats don't always have enough milk. So cute...

11

Well, she is coming along now... I'm building the facial planes with the correct values and colors, and starting to tighten down the smile she'd get just before starting an art on the mats.

She loved her sword, and showed it to us once, and that love of the martial arts of aikido comes through in this pose. As I build this composition, I also love the subtle changes I need to make to correct something that isn't working right. The beauty of acrylics is that we have many opportunities for change by overpainting! I've corrected her sleeves, her hand positions, and especially her stance, yet there are just as many more to come.

For example, although her expression/essence is in her face, she still doesn't have her nose and eyes "right". And her white top doesn't show the underlying form well. That's coming with additional layers and glazes.

I have to laugh, knowing that my model for the fabric is Alberto, and the model for the hands on her sword was another black belt--but she was wearing rings and bracelets!! Of course, no jewelry is allowed on the mats, so I paint it out....(grin)

In a design sense, I've lightened the area on the lower quarter so that the shape of the stance she's in will be stronger with the contrast between the dark hakama (skirt) and the lighter background.

Here's an image of the March Air Museum and our mats. These four are the others with whom I train, Ron, Alberto, our sensei (teacher) Ace, and Steve. They all knew Rowdy well.

21

She may be gone from her friends and from this earth, but I know in my heart that she will be close for those who knew her and see this portrait. I'm through with it now, and it was as though in painting her, I was releasing my connection to my loss. That sounds selfish to say, but please know that to me, letting go is one of the most powerful and freeing events one can have. It's a closure.

You can see from the finished portrait that I did nothing to erase the life she lived, and it is fairly easy to see her approximate age. This was intentional--Rowdy made no bones about her life and character, and my mission as an artist is to not gussie up the people I paint by doing the "cosmetic surgery" thing with my brushes. I painted her strength, and yet I think I also captured her gentle spirit.

I'm chuckling, though, because Rowdy would have hated to be painted and I have to say I thought I could hear her yelling at me while I was doing it! This painting will be publicly displayed only once, this afternoon, at March Field Air Museum, where her memorial will be held. She worked there as a volunteer coordinator and loved the planes!

A 20 x 18" acrylic on canvas, it is in the loving hands of Ruth and Ace Atkinson in their new home in Tijeras, New Mexico.

For those of you who have lost loved ones, I offer a small book by Ted Menten, "Gentle Closings, How to Say Goodbye to Someone You Love" as a way to get through the hard times. It has helped me immensely in the loss of both parents, and allows me to gently understand what we feel when we've be left.

In talking about this portrait, the finishing layers of paint show best in the white garb of her "gi", and in the layers that are in her hair. There truly isn't a better way to see how I paint in acrylics if you'll spend time seeing those layers that end up looking like hair and fabric.

Today I start the mural mosaic process for my two panels. I hope I can share the procedure with you, but I've heard through the grapevine that they are asking artists not to share early images. I'll have to ask about that