Painting the amazing Nina Simone

Heather often comes back from the big city with a load of canvases from Michaels.  They have a brand that I quite like and offer a two-for-the-price-of-one deal from time to time.  When you go through as many canvases as I do, deals are pretty important.  The process of getting dozens of canvases in her small car and safely back to Fort McMurray is a delicate dance. One 24" x 36" canvas ended up having a tiny tear by the time it made it back to my studio.  I quickly did a patch job and set it aside for a project that might fit the small imperfection.

This past Sunday three guests, along with Heather and Ben, participated in my 3-hour UNLEASH THE ARTIST WITHIN portrait painting experience.  I'm more comfortable calling it an "experience", as opposed to a workshop, because it is very hands-on.  I offer some insight on my portrait painting process and we all tackle different compositions of the same subject together.

Generally speaking, the first hour is spent doing a brief introduction, applying a grid to the source photo and canvas, and sketching out the lines of the face.  The painting happens in the final two hours.


It was a delightful experience with a five very different approaches.  Jacquie, Mindy and Ben went the abstract route while Heather and Valerie went the realistic path.


I also went realistic, painting on my 24" x 36" imperfect canvas, while doing regular check-ins with all the participants to ensure they were making progress, but most importantly, having fun.


By the time I finished the face there were less than 20 minutes left to apply the background.  I had no idea what I was going to do.  I just grabbed four colours and began making long both sweeps down the canvas.


Nina Simone was an incredible artist who died in 2003.  She was a classically trained pianist, singer, songwriter, arranger and civil rights activist.  She was fierce, proud of her African American heritage, and angry at was she witnessed in the mid- to late-sixties and early seventies happening with race relations in the US.  Like so many of us, she was perfectly imperfect.  My painting attempts to capture all of that in its execution and in its physical structure.

This painting is available for purchase.  For now, she's hanging in our bedroom.

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