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Sunflowers Unusual Commission

June 5th, 2014

Sunflowers Unusual Commission

I've received an interesting commission request recently; an unusual one for sure.
One of my clients asked to paint sunflowers for her. Nothing unusual yet. I have painted sunflowers many times and my customer was sure I can handle the job. She liked the bunch of sunflowers that I have painted before:
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My client asked if I can finish already started painting of sunflowers. Her late father-in-law was a wonderful watercolor artist and died before finishing this artwork.
His name was Palmer Stinson. He entered a world of watercolors when he turned 70; and he painted for more than a decade producing gorgeous landscapes, floral paintings, and still life artworks. He also loved to paint Sunflowers. Palmer started a series of sunflower paintings and had chance to complete two large pieces.
The last one he started; but, late years and illness did not allow him to paint; and he had to stop before age 88.

I have to admit, the request to finish one artist's work was surprising and a little bit scary. But I was also curious how I will handle it. I had to work in collaboration with the artist's spirit.

The Sunflowers were already drawn on a paper and the artist was able to place a couple of washes for the flowers.
I had to cover the work that was already done and mask the flowers and leaves for a background wash.
I chose bright ultramarine blue for the background, and started from small sections going up.
The last section of the blue background was tougher than I thought. The section was large and I had to go carefully around each petal (even they were preserved by masking liquid) as I didn't want to ruin the beautiful artist's work on sunflowers.
After the background was completed, I have started painting sunflowers' leaves and stems.
Then I placed the veins on the leaves and texture on the sunflowers' centers.
The artwork was completed.
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I did enjoy painting this artwork, working in collaboration with the artist that passed away; yet he was there in his artwork.
One evening, when I just finished painting the first few ultramarine blue sections, a thought crossed my mind:

"What if there is a message that artist wanted to place into this artwork. I wonder if he was thinking to place some kind of symbol there; maybe... a heart"

Imagine my surprise, when I came back to the work-inprogress to continue painting, I saw an obvious heart, in one of the leaf.
And not even one heart I noticed but two were there!

And I have not noticed them before.

Conscious or subconscious ? Who knows!
The message has been received
:0)

To see step-by-step pictures, go the the post:
http://irinasztukowski.blogspot.com/2014/06/sunflowers-rising-unusual-commission.html

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Baby Blue

May 30th, 2014

Baby Blue

My Botanical Impressionism series is continuing; and, now I feel like going to a Baby Blue mood. It started with painting on handmade paper when I created a few little handmade watercolor cards.
I placed one card against a blue canvas and instantly fell in love with the idea:
a handmade paper edges with the baby-blue canvas bring somewhat vintage feeling into the artwork. Yet the flowers, that are painted spontaneously, give a good impressionistic feeling.

Here are a few more recent designs:
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Botanical Impressionism

May 25th, 2014

Botanical Impressionism

Right before Easter Sunday, I am posting some of the festive designs that I recently painted.
I call this style Botanical Impressionism.
Created in the fast manner with the colors right out of the tube simple flower arrangement such the one with Iris Flowers and The Tulip Bunch look great in cooler colors surrounding.
On another hand, warm Poppies and Roses Bouquet are calling for neutral beige colors helping these flowers to "pop-up":
Some of the above paintings appear more as botanical art when framed in the vintage style white wooden frames.
Yet, when printed on a stretch canvas, they start obtaining more Impressionistic qualities.
And the Summer Flowers Bouquet in the Pitcher and Tulip Bouquet in the Glass Vase are great visual examples here.


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Art History Essay Virgin of Vladimir Icon or Do Miracles Exist

May 25th, 2014

Art History Essay Virgin of Vladimir Icon or Do Miracles Exist

Art History Essay: Virgin of Vladimir Icon
- or -
Do Miracles Exist?

Virgin of Vladimir icon belongs to Byzantine period of art and believed to be painted between 11th and 12th century in Constantinople. The history of this icon and adventures that it experienced for the last eight centuries are not only interesting but have a veil of mystery and magic touch. From Constantinople to Kiev, from Kiev to Suzdal, from Suzdal to Vladimir, from Vladimir to Moscow; and, every time this icon protected the city in which it appeared. The performance of this icon’s miracles is well documented in historical papers. The image of this icon is well known. The subject matter is not just a Virgin and Child as we can observe in other icons of the same period; but, this work of art has very distinct features that became widely known in our days as Virgin of Compassion and Tenderness, Merciful Love, or even Loving Kindness *.
How is this image different from other images of Virgin Mary? In early icons of Byzantine period Virgin and Child are usually represented in straight position, directly looking at the viewers and Christ is usually has a ruling pose blessing the World. In Virgin of Vladimir we see the union of Mother and a Child. Their cheeks are pressed against each other. Jesus is looking at mother with love and faith. And even his body is out of proportions (the head is much smaller than the child’s head would be) and he is dressed in adult tunic that shines with gold, we still can see the child who is engaged in a very special moment of love and compassion with his mother. Mary’s head is tilted towards the Child. She is looking at us, but her facial expression is implying a loving mom who is protecting her son; yet it is showing awareness that she is the Mother of Jesus, Son of God.
The pallet of the unknown artist was very limited. We can see lots of dark colors for Mary’s veil and a lot of Gold colors that would distinguish a very special moment that is represented on this icon. The decorations of Mary’s clothes are beautiful and very ornate. Yet the gold does not disturb from looking at Virgin’s and Child’s faces as in my opinion appear as the main point of composition. The composition itself has triangular character, where the top of the triangle is Mary’s face and her eyes. The artist tried to show us ideally beautiful woman with Greco-Roman facial features. Her face is slightly elongated, she has very small mouth and big eyes; that exact features were considered to be ideal in 11th – 12th century. The composition of the painting is very simple. There is no background except the gold that is surrounding these two figures and the letters that represent what we see on the painting. Placing the symbols is a typical approach of Byzantine artist to compensate three-dimensionality. And even we can see attempt of the artist to give the clothing some 3D effect, we still can observe overall flatness of this image.
In spite of limitation of the pallet and a simple perspective we still can see the great dynamics in the Virgin of Vladimir icon.

The body of Jesus is leaned towards Mary. Virgin’s hands also play a very important role in the composition. If to draw imaginary lines from both hands (not arms) the lines will meet where Christ heart would be. I find it mysterious and incredible. Mary’s left eye is in exact line if we divide the painting in two parts vertically; yet, symmetry is broken down with the head tilt that brings the completion to the composition. Mary’s gesture is protective and loving. She holds her child with care. Her eyes are inviting us to be witnesses of her love and compassion. She will protect this child as she protected each city where she goes. Yet her eyes also show a deep sadness as if she knows that Jesus came to people to save them by his own suffering. There is no doubt that looking at this icon people believed in miracles; and, its famous endeavors, as well as legends around its performance would make this icon miraculous in return.

Do Miracles Exist?
This is just a thought for a brain; but, when I decided to write the paper about one of religious artworks, I had to choose from at least 100 plus images from different religious entities. The day I have decided to write paper was June 23. I was going through the papers of one book and Virgin of Vladimir attracted my attention. Thinking only one second the decision had been made. I have started research on-line and the fist information on this subject I picked that the celebration of this icon is performed in Russia during three days of the year: May 21, June 23, and August 26**.
June 23 !!! Miracle?! Coincidence?! I leave this question open..

Bibliography:
*http://www.iconsexplained.com/iec/iec_001_vierge_de_vladimir.htm
** http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/7424.htm

Sincerely,
Irina Sztukowski

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People Magazine Feature

May 22nd, 2014

People Magazine Feature

My Little Apple got a Big honor to be published in PEOPLE magazine online.
This miniaute painting, An Apple, was a part of the series
ArtZ Vitamins.
I am glad it was chosen by a lifestyle editor of People magazine
to accompany an article about
decorative design and home décor ideas

(text of full article is here: http://greatideas.people.com/2014/03/12/lauren-conrad-home-office-decorating-get-the-look/. )
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Irina Sztukowski
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Eiffel Tower Walking The Dog in Paris

May 22nd, 2014

Eiffel Tower  Walking The Dog in Paris

How many times one artist can paint the Eiffel Tower and Paris skies?
I did a lot; but, I've never gotten tired of doing that!
Once I painted the Eiffel Tower with a lady walking towards it.
evening in Paris red scarf
The art collector from Covington, LA is a happy owner now.

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Another painting of the tower is now in San Francisco:

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It is proudly hanging with another painting that has the Eiffel Tower in it too.
Evening In Paris.

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By the way, this Evening In Paris (above) was selected by an independent site www.Famous101.com as one of the Best Paintings of the Eiffel Tower, which makes me so so proud :0)

And just a few years ago, one of my art collectors ordered a commission to give to her dear friend the painting of the Eiffel Tower as a wedding gift:

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And last month the same international client wanted a similar painting for herself, for her new house. The request though was that I put not only two ladies walking there, but as well her favorite dog. So, I fearlessly grubbed my brushes and started creating. After approval of the sketches, washes after washes, the skies got their wind and clouds; the Lady Tower got her lace-look dress; and, the girls with a happy dog started walking towards the setting sun:

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The question I have in my head now: would I paint the Eiffel Tower ever again? And I believe the answer is: absolutely YES! Each time I paint, I feel that I go again visiting Paris, walking to the Tower, watching the evening Paris skies, and have fun!
:0)

Irina Sztukowski
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Briones Park - The Gate To the Ranch - Impressionistic Landscape

May 22nd, 2014

Briones Park - The Gate To the Ranch - Impressionistic Landscape

An old gate to an archery range in Briones Park, Martinez, CA. This sweet rural landscape in the heart of the East Bay (San Francisco Bay Area) was painted on 100% Cotton handmade paper.

I liked the feeling and texture of the paper, how it absorbed the water and paint. The rough edges give somewhat vintage look.
I placed the painting on the hard surface and took a photo to emphasize the edges. They look great on a canvas print as if the canvas made of solid rock:

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Irina Sztukowski
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Would Monet Approve

May 22nd, 2014

Would Monet Approve

A couple of days ago I visited an excellent exhibition in Legion Of Honor in San Francisco: The Intimate Impressionism. And I was thinking what is the difference in our days between impressionistic style and realistic one.
The art of Eugene Boudin for example, was quite realistic, when Auguste Renoir's landscapes with pastoral scenes were more on impressionistic side.

I pulled a few of my works and investigated them with the new eye.

Here is somewhat impressionistic seascape:
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and here is a more realistic seascape with the girl and the ocean:
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Or, here is the impressionism style rose bouquet:
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Vs the one in more realistic manner:
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Same comparison between the portraits of pets. This cat is painted with quite realistic approach:
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When this kitty brings somewhat impressionistic feeling:
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My thoughts are that when I paint with fast brush strokes, looking more at the whole picture, or working outside in the plein-air situation when weather is changing rapidly, objects are moving; then, I think the artwork has more impressionism in it. Yet still realistic, the fast and fresh approach has impressionistic feel. On another hand, the details and carefully thought composition call for more realistic style.

I hope Monet approves my thoughts :)

One of my followers later wrote:
Interesting comparisons, Irina. Now you have me curious - I must do some reading about "impressionism". I always felt that any painting was impressionistic, in that it was the artist's perception and reaction to a scene, subject or model. But I don;t know as much as I'd like about the legitimate category. Thank you for prodding my interest :)

My answer was:
That's exactly what started my thoughts! I am reading a book by S.Roe "The Private Life Of The Impressionists" and the first thing I've learned that they (lot of them at least) started studying with teachers from the Academy in Paris. Then, along the way, they started expressing themselves; and , impressionism was born. I guess, there is a very thin line between Impressionism and Realism (Academic, classical means).. And most likely you are right, it is more in the artist's feeling , the artist's ability to communicate to the public and provoke their thoughts.. Cheers! Irina

Per Oxford Dictionary:
Impressionism - A style or movement in painting originating in France in the 1860s, characterized by a concern with depicting the visual impression of the moment, especially in terms of the shifting effect of light and color.
A literary or artistic style that seeks to capture a feeling or experience rather than to achieve accurate depiction.

Irina Sztukowski
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Art History Essay. Henrietta Johnston. How to Be a Woman Artist in 18th century

May 22nd, 2014

Art History Essay. Henrietta Johnston. How to Be a Woman Artist in 18th century

I found a story about one incredible woman who was actually not only earning money from her paintings: but, at some point of her life, selling her art was the only income source for her family. She was the first known woman artist here in America at the beginning of 18th century. And even though her primary medium was pastel, not watercolor; her portrait paintings are vibrant and fresh, which remind me an Old School watercolor art. Too bad there is no self-portrait that I could find (oy, I better hurry and make a few more self-portraits myself that couple of centuries forward historians don't complain when digging up my watercolors :0)

One Portrait Two People Lives

Above is a portrait of Anna Cuyler Van Schaick by Henrietta Johnston, 1725 Pastels, NY State Museum Collection

Anna Cuyler’s (Mrs. Anthony Van Schaick) portrait by Henrietta Dering Johnston is dated 1725. Henrietta Johnston was noted first American woman artist who actually earned living by making art. When she painted this artwork at age 51 she was already an accomplished artist who made her name by painting portraits, mostly in pastels. Her style was well recognized and she had an established clientele among her friends and acquaintances. Being an artist at the beginning of 18th century was not an easy job even for men. Being an artist woman in the man-in-power dominated society was complicated task indeed.

Between the end of 17th century and the beginning of 18th century America is experiencing social and political turmoil. Although there was obvious expansion of English empire, the end of 17th century greatly disturbed already shaking European colonies. Variances between reach and poor, free and slave became more obvious. There was continues disagreement between settles and Indians. Religious movements tried to dominate each other. The beginning of 18th century returned stability to English North America together with economical growth and incoming immigrants seeking a better life in the New World. It is interesting to note that Henrietta Johnston chose the portraiture and medium of her paintings as many other artists of 18th century not only due to a fashion but as well to availability, economical and commercial situation of that time:

As it was in painting, American draftsmanship before 1800 was dominated by portraiture. Among the earliest examples of the genre were in the medium of pastel, imported into the American colonies as far back as the first decade of the 1700s and best exemplified by the extensive production of one of this country's first notable female artists, Henrietta Johnston (ca. 1674–1729) (Avery)

At the time when photography was not invented the artists who made portraits were quiet popular. Henrietta’s talent was not only appreciated but as well in a big demand. Unlike many women of 18th century who were not seen working as in the modern sense of understanding, Henrietta earned making her art. She was able to make what she loved to become her profession. Her life was fulfilling yet not a trouble-free. Born in France, immigrated to England, and later moved to the New World, Henrietta’s life had some glory as well as some difficulties. After being married to her first husband for ten years she became widowed at age 30 with two little children on her hands. And even thought her first husband belonged to a high society of England; after his death Henrietta’s life had to have new turn:

In 1705 she married Reverend Gideon Johnston (1668-1716), a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, who was the vicar at Castlemore. Appointed Bishop’s Commissary in South Carolina by the Bishop of London, in April 1708 Johnston and his wife arrived in Charleston. (Severens)

And even though at the beginning of 18th century South Carolina where Johnston’s moved in 1708 became one of the richest British colonies in North America; the family’s personal life faced a lot of economical difficulties. But there was one precious thing that could not be taken from Henrietta; and, actually helped family to survive difficult times, her talent:

Reverend Johnston became the Rector of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, and repeatedly wrote to the Society of the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts requesting payment of his salary, which was often delayed. In one letter he states:

“were it not for the assistance my wife gives by drawing of pictures…I should not be able to live,” indicating that Henrietta Johnston was compensated for her portraits, making her the first professional woman artist in America. (Severens)

Henrietta’s portraits are simple and show the great school although it is not known where she received her art education. We can only guess that the portraits resembled the subjects; but, they certainly have a character that the artist caught on the panel with her beautiful pastels. Her female portraits are very gentle; usually dressed in chemises and carrying feminine romantic mood. Portrait of Anna Cuyler represents Henrietta Johnston’s style in all its glory. The lady on the portrait is dressed in warm gold-toned-sepia silk gown. Her face is beautiful yet real. The artist did not simplify the features; instead, she presents the actual woman with the strong character. From New York State Museum online project we learn about Anna Cuyler that she was born in Albany in 1685 and she was the oldest daughter of Johannes and Elsie Ten Broeck Cuyler. Her father was a famous merchant and even was appointed a mayor of Albany and her mother was the daughter of one of the founders of the Albany community:

In 1712 twenty-seven-year-old Anna became the second wife of thirty-year-old Anthony Van Schaick, Jr. He was a son of a faming-based, early Albany business family. Over the next fourteen years, Anna gave birth to at least nine of the previously childless Van Schaick's children - the last arriving as she passed her forty-first birthday.( Bielinski)

Van Schaick family requested to paint Anna’s portrait in 1725 when Anthony Van Schaick was commissioned lieutenant and captain of militia by Governor Hunter. At the time when portrait had been painted Van Schaick family was well known and respected in the colony. Henrietta Johnston captured a young woman, a wife of the official figure, a mother of nine children in one small pastel painting. Just by looking at one portrait painted almost 300 years ago in America and by learning sources of information we can reveal the history of a country, the history of one person and her family, and the history of the artist’s life.


Cited Works

Avery, Kevin J. "Late Eighteenth-Century American Drawings." The Metropolitan Museum Of Art. 2000-2011 The Metropolitan Museum Of Art, n.d. Web. .

Bielinski, Stefan. "Anna Cuyler Van Schaick." The People Of Colonial Albany. New York State Museum, n.d. Web. .

Severens, Martha R. "Jonston, Henrietta De Beaulieu Dering." South Carolina Encyclopedia. University Of South Carolina Press, n.d. Web. .

Additional Bibliography

Perry, Lee Davis. Remarkable South Carolina Women (More than Petticoats Series); Globe Pequot; First edition; ISBN-10: 0762743433

Forsyth Alexander, ed. “Henrietta Johnston: Who Greatly helped…by drawing pictures.” Winston-Salem, N.C.: Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, 1991. ISBN-10: 0945578032

Middleton, Margaret Simons, Henrietta Johnston of Charles Town, South Carolina: America’s First Pastelist. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1966. ISBN-10: 1135797714

Foner, Eric Give Me Liberty!, Volume I, Second Seagull Edition, 2008. ISBN: 978-0-393-93255-3

Irina Sztukowski
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How To Draw And Paint An Egg

May 22nd, 2014

How To Draw And Paint An Egg

Practicing drawing is essential for the artist. It is a wonderful way to master very fine shading. To emphasize the roundness of the egg one should not forget a few tricks such as example: the effect of cast shadow and reflected light. For preparation of the drawing subject, place an egg under the desk lamp or window to cast a shadow. Observe the subject carefully, use light lines, and draw easy without pressing. While drawing, step away quite often in order to compare the subject and the drawing.

After practicing how to draw an egg, which is essential for the artists, it will be easy to paint the same subject in watercolor. For the beginning try to use only one color: paynes gray or black. Apply more water for shading, and leave the whit of the paper for the light. When painting an egg with watercolor, it is easy to use wet-on-wet technique, where the surface is pre-wetted by the clear water, and then the artist applies paint (dab by dab) into a wet surface making sure the paint goes only on the shadow part. For preparation of the painted subject, place an egg under the desk lamp or window to cast a shadow. Observe the subject carefully, paint slow, but do not allow water to be absorbed by the paper until the last paint is applied. Step away after fist wash is completed. Wait until it is dry; and then, repeat the application from step one (wetting the paper with clear water) again if more contrast is needed.

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