Now that this painting, which was commissioned for a fundraiser effort, has made its way to its final destination via an exciting in-person auction, I am free to make the official reveal:
St. Joseph the Humble
As I mentioned, this painting was commissioned for a fundraiser, in this case for the group Young Catholic Professionals.
The folks at YCP and I were in talks about this painting long before we knew that this year would be declared by Pope Francis as the Year of St. Joseph. The conference was originally scheduled for last September, but of course was pushed out until this spring. In the end, the timing was auspicious, as the Conference took place over the weekend of May 1, feast of St. Joseph the Worker.
In the process of this painting, I was certainly meditating on St. Joseph the Worker. I tried out different poses with my model, considering painting the Saint with his hammer and square to emphasis his carpentry. St. Joseph the Worker is absolutely my patron in my studio and I am devoted to him especially as the model man who provides for his family with hands-on work. In the end, I chose to paint St. Joseph with his flowering staff. His head down, his brow somewhat furrowed, his mind pondering the tasks placed before him and his heart in prayer, he eventually emerged to me as a man most humble. Hence the title.
I had the pleasure of traveling to Dallas, TX for YCP's annual conference and presented this work at the VIP reception before the concluding gala.
"John is a very talented artist who clearly puts his heart and soul into his commissioned pieces. The painting exuded light, depth, and sophistication, which translated into an excellent live auction experience with substantial funds raised for our non-profit." - Jennifer Baugh, Founder & Executive Director of Young Catholic Professionals (YCP)
After the unveiling, I painted on my signature as the very final step to complete this work.
Here's a shot of the winner (left) and the gentleman who graciously agreed to let this painting go in exchange for a whole separate commission. So another St. Joseph painting will soon be underway!
The auction was very exciting, with two bidders eventually getting into a bit of a war over the piece! After considerable back-and-forth, time was running short. The auctioneer made the suggestion on the spot: would I be willing to paint a second painting for the runner-up? I agreed, and in the end, you might say, the painting sold not once, but twice to benefit YCP.
And then to make it even more complete, a priest was available to give the painting a blessing on the spot! So the artwork was able to go to its new home all ready as a blessed object to aid in prayer and devotion. It was perfect!
Many thanks to my model, an excellent study for St. Joseph -- my brother-in-law. We had a good - if quiet - time in the studio to make this come to life.
It was a pleasure producing a portrait of this impressive home in Ann Arbor for a friend and his wife to give as a gift to his in-laws.
We heard from the patron that the process and product met and exceeded his and his wife's expectations and that the portrait was well-received -- always a pleasure to hear that the gift-giving went over well after putting the love into the process!
I used pen and ink and watercolor on paper for this portrait. Please take a look at my portraiture page if you're interested in learning more about your own house portrait commission!
I'm very pleased to share with you one of my major projects from 2019: my first formal portrait in oil of my wife, Deirdre.
I set out with the cooperation of my gorgeous wife, Deirdre, to make a beautiful and elevated portrait of her. I have long wanted to attempt a portrait of my wife that was more than a quick pencil sketch (which I often have the pleasure of doing) and I'm very grateful that I was able to work on it this year.
We set about gathering together three or four different outfits a few weeks before the sitting. I took these outfits in the studio to coordinate and harmonize them with different background draperies and other props that I had well before Deirdre came in for the photoshoot. With this previous preparation we were able to set about posing and snapping photos of Deirdre in the context of my studio's wonderful North light. (I actually had her come into the studio on her birthday!)
During the process I would take dozens of photos, giving Deirdre some direction about her pose ranging from asking her to perform small actions like straightening her hair or setting out a fan to inspire or discover a pose that I had not yet imagined to asking her to tilt her head slightly one way or another to refine a pose that was already working very nicely. Every once in a while I would give Deirdre a break from posing and we would discuss the images that we had taken so far and she would be able to give me immediate feedback about what her favorites were. After about an hour and a half, 300 pictures, and various adjustments, we went back home to start the sorting and editing process.
Some work in progress shots:
After hours of sorting and editing I narrowed the source material down to four photos and let our Beauty Advocacy community help us decide on the final! (thank you!) Then the work of the final painting got started.
As we went through the development of the painting it was fascinating to both Deirdre and myself how the image was transformed. A painted portrait from a photograph can never be an exact copy (which is a good thing). It will always be changed in some way through human eye and mind. It was remarkable to see how some slight shift in an eyebrow or the curve of the lips could bring about large changes in the tone and expression of the sitter and the feel of the painting altogether. I hope that the crafting of these nuances has brought about a deeper and truer image of Deirdre than the camera was able to capture; one that is in fact more reflective of her personality, warmth, and dignity.
One of the last adjustments to the image that we decided to make was to change Deirdre's earring from a large wooden one that was in the original photo to a smaller, gold, fan-shaped hearing that you see here. I made this decision for a number of reasons - the first reason was to elongate the feel of Deirdre neck to give a greater feeling of dignity and grace - I felt the large chunky wooden earrings took away too much from the vertical lines at this particular angle. After this I tried a vertical silver earring which we found made the picture overall feel too cold. Finally we decided on the earring that you see here and we're very happy with the warmth and interest it brought to the picture.
I'm also pleased with the way the wedge or triangle shape of the earring plays into and interacts with the other triangles in the composition. If you take a look you'll see a series of these shapes in Deirdre dress, made by the angles of her arms, her fingers, and of course the shape of the fan at the bottom of the painting.
The fan is an antique one that Deirdre fell in love with at a thrift store when she a teen (and had a penchant for costumes and all things dramatic) and which her mother later gave to her as a gift. The bracelet she wears is also an antique and, although it's not visible to the viewer, is actually a Rosary bracelet so that it can be a sacramental companion to prayer. Hopefully the brightness of her face and some aspects of her character are complemented by these details.
I am thoroughly delighted with this completed the painting and we hope you will be too!
Now I need your help again: what do you think should be the title?
Chesternest is named after the apartment home where my wife Deirdre and I grew our family from one child to three. We called our apartment 'The Chesternest' because of its location in Manchester, NH as well as the fact that Deirdre was in 'nesting' mode when we moved in, as we were expecting our second child. Being on the second floor of a three-family home, we felt "nestled" into our spot above a street where we came to make many friends and share a beautiful season of our life.
That home, which we left this past spring, was filled with happy memories including the more than three years of my drawing and painting training under Paul Ingbretson, many hours spent playing with our little ones, and hours of friendship and parties with other families from the neighborhood. It was our cozy nook for a young family in a small city.
I hope this painting communicates some of that feeling.
Among the elegant ceramics and delicate dried hydrangea blossoms, a small porcelain bluebird is making its nest inside a stacked teacup. The blue and red-browns and yellows that predominate this painting have an air of calm and quiet about them. They are subtle rather than loud. There is a sense of stillness and perhaps even distance about this still life that I hope will remind the viewer of the peace of a home. The blue china cups and plates that are stacked and scattered throughout the painting are actually from the set of dishes we used as a family on a daily basis for our meals, and are artifacts weighed down with the memories and happiness of those days for me.
Information for collectors: Please see further details about Chesternest on the Still Life page.
Hello there, I'm John H. Folley, an oil painter in the Boston School tradition. Thanks for visiting the Beauty Advocacy Blog, where it's my job to help you become a more discerning art appreciator.
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