Austin Oil Painter Val Rawlings: ‘Charly and a Vase of Tulips’

An Austin Oil Painter’s Granddaughter: Charly

degas-oil-painting-woman-vase-flowersThis oil painting started with a vase of noisy peach colored tulips that were shouting “Paint Me! Paint Me!”
A visit from my granddaughter Charly provided the perfect opportunity to reenact Edgar Degas’ A Woman Seated Beside a Vase of Flowers. Art critics have accused Degas of adding the woman as an afterthought. More likely it is an example of Degas’ aim to capture people in a realistic slice of life.

charlie-tulips-nailed-itOk, that was my aim too; I didn’t want an Olin Mills style pose. I wanted something more natural and suitable for an aspiring Austin oil painter. I got Charly behatted with a fluffy turquoise scarf. We set up the flowers on the table in my eclectic Austin oil painter’s studio and adjusted the lighting. I showed Charly our inspiration picture and sure enough — she sat down and nailed the pose!

charly-tulips-2But instead, I selected another photo of Charly looking “pensive”. It could have been titled “Grammy — how long do I have to sit here?” [Of course, she didn't actually SIT for the portrait; I painted it from the photo.] Charly moved and worked the poses like a high paid fashion model! We had so much fun! i’m sure no other Austin oil painter has the advantage of such a photogenic and cooperative model!

Another change I made was the tulips — I preferred the way they looked a few days later when they ‘relaxed’ (see below).

My Austin Oil Painter Art Class

relaxed-tulips-photoI took all these photos to a painting class in June and did a block-in as one of my exercises. It received the blessing of my instructor, Robin Cheers. She said I was ready for the BIG version. So I returned to my Austin oil painter supply closet and pulled out the 24×36 canvas I had been saving for something special. This was it! I set to work blocking-in and getting the forms in the right places.

I could hardly wait to cover every bit of raw white canvas. Then I began trying to get the lines of the face exactly right, and continued defining the vase, stems, table and background. It felt really freeing to paint so large. It was wonderful not to get hung up on tiny details until the final stages. I really wanted to keep it loose, but kept adjusting the skin tones and it got tighter and tighter. Finally I had achieved a credible likeness of my darling; so I stepped away from the canvas. I spent two more days on the tulips and the background. At last I was satisfied. I think it will be fun to display this in my studio over the funky turquoise table with a vase of flowers on it!

Completed Oil Painting — 7/7/14 — Austin, TX


Posted in Austin oil painter | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Vacation Paintings Delivered: ‘Babes on Bikes’, ‘Kyra in Repose’


The Story Behind My Vacation Paintings

It all started with an accidental party crashing, and ended up with my finding some wonderful new friends and creating a series of memorable vacation paintings. My adventure began 10 years ago when I joined the Port Bay Hunting and Fishing Club in Rockport, TX. I signed up to attend the Ladies Fishing Weekend that was advertised on the activities calendar. The only problem was that when I arrived, it quickly became evident that this was not a public event. The contact person, Liza, who had so enthusiastically encouraged me to come, was actually holding an annual private getaway with her favorite girlfriends!

I felt like a complete idiot! However, every one of these amazing ladies acted as if they were thrilled that I had arrived to join the group! [This reminds me of a favorite saying “You don’t meet a new friend, you recognize them”.] Anyway, it was a fabulous time and when the horse I picked won the Kentucky Derby and I was awarded their Derby Trophy, the “deal was sealed”. I HAD to return the next year to pass on the coveted Trophy to next year’s winner!

Group Vacation — Paintings, Wine and Travel

One of my fascinating new friends was Kyra Bowman, and a couple years later at the annual Ladies Fishing Weekend, she mentioned that she was taking a group of travelers to France. She had gotten a sudden cancelation and there was a single opening in the tour group. Well, I thought about it on the drive back to Austin and wrote her an email, saying that I would really like to go to France with her but I couldn’t possibly go without my travel buddy — cousin Karen.

Kyra wrote right back and said she just had another opening and we were IN! We had a great French vacation and took lots of photos, which I used to create several vacation paintings when I got back to Austin. Now fast forward a year and a half and another group trip with Kyra — this time to Italy. This time the group was all women, and we quickly became best friends. My companions were from all over the country: Texas, California, Oklahoma, Missouri, Florida. They were all so much fun and and just seemed to be celebrating the moment no matter what we were doing! We were all about the same age, with grown kids and lots of life experiences. We all love wine and travel and I just don’t know how to explain the great bond we feel.

I do know that after that trip we had a reunion in Austin, and 14 came, missing just one. Then six months later we had a reunion in California and all 14 came — plus Rosie who was supposed to have been in that original bunch, I am sure. Last month we had a reunion in Comfort, Texas (all 15).

Vacation Photos => Vacation Paintings

Have I lost you yet? How does that lead to this photo of two ladies holding the vacation paintings? Well, at the Comfort reunion, four of our ladies took off on cute turquoise bicycles for a tour of town. Denise took the cutest photo of the other three, Kyra, Cheryl and Sue. When I saw that photo I knew I had to paint it. Well, when I notified the subjects of the painting that I had preserved that historic moment in one of my vacation paintings, Cheryl snapped it right up! Kyra was disappointed, but asked me to do another painting from a picture of her in the Provence countryside. Rosie was reminded that she wanted me to paint a picture of her grandson and voila! — I had three commissions from dear friends I met through the most circuitous chain of events.

Oh, and I also painted a picture for Doris last year — peach and green colored hydrangeas from her garden. I am so so grateful to all these dear friends for supporting my art endeavors and inspiring these vacation paintings. It is a wonderful feeling to create something and have it received with such enthusiasm. Thanks to ALL OF YOU out there who have encouraged my journey with your kind words. It means the world to me. Gratefully yours, –Valerie

Posted in Figure Studies, Paintings of Women | 3 Comments

Plein Air Figure Study Painting — ‘Coffee Shop’


20 Min. Quick Start


After Another Hour


My Figure Study Painting Evolves

The images above illustrate the development of my latest figure study painting. I had the good fortune of attending a fabulous art workshop here in Austin last week. The event was conducted by two of my favorite local painters: Virginia (‘V’) Vaughn who specializes in landscapes — and Robin Cheers, a figure study painter.

The workshop went for 3 days, and we alternated between the landscape and figure study painting genres. On two mornings we painted plein air out at Brushy Creek Park. We spent the rest of the time in Joel’s Coffee Shop, painting from photos and from a real live model. It was an excellent combination of two rather diverse genres. V and Robin even managed to perfectly combine the two, when they presented us with a model who posed next to the creek!

Not only are these two artists great people, but they are wonderful teachers — and so humble and eager to share any tips that might get through to us. I’m sure I’ve heard some of those things before; but sometimes the time is just not right to absorb the concept until you hear it today! You know that moment when it finally sinks in . . . Oh, THAT’S what you mean!

Robin and Virginia were so enthusiastic and eager for us to be successful with our landscapes and figure study paintings. They emphasized doing “quick starts” which pushed us to capture the big picture and not “noodle around” too much on the details. We were instructed to get the main shapes of darks and lights of the figure study painting on the canvas, and then go for an exact recording of the color notes for later completion. At first the time limits seemed impossible; but the pressure was on to address the main parts, and it really made us improve rapidly.

Future Figure Study Paintings

I came home with 8 quick start figure study paintings that are solid beginnings for completion in the near future. Well, there might be a dud or two in there; but I am now confident I can take the next step and complete most of them. I also came away with a deeper yearning to do more figure study painting — both plein air and from photos. I really find it fascinating. My next project will be a larger version of a one of these figure study paintings — my favorite subject Charly posed by some tulips. Robin declared that the small “study” version was complete enough, and I should start on the big one — gulp!

It’s a rather intimidating 30″x40″. Yesterday, I wasn’t QUITE ready, so I completely reorganized my art studio(!) and worked the ‘Coffee Shop’ figure study painting, just to bring it a little further along. I paused at one point, thinking i was done; but when I examined the photo, I found at least three chair/table legs were missing!!! Well,  I wanted to be expressionistic, but I just had to add them in. At least her chair looks like it will stay upright now!

The three day workshop was bliss. There is something so invigorating about taking an art class, and switching between figure study painting and working on landscapes. It is so much more than just the art instruction. From the instructors to all the participants, there are so many things to be learned about how to make your painting passion work into your everyday life — and some are very successful at making it happen everyday! There are all those operational questions:
“Do you carry a sketch pad around with you?” (Several did all the time, several kept them in the car). “What paint brands and colors are best? Where do you get your business cards printed? What local events do you participate in?” (Check out the Marble Falls and Kerrville art festivals). “Where are there places to practice my figure study painting? Do you have a dedicated space for painting?” (I felt very lucky to have a whole room!)

I really don’t have any major obstacles; but we all struggle with letting other ‘things” get in the way. It is fun to find out that you are not the only one who needs a big old “kick in the pants”.

And now – I hope you all have identified YOUR passion! Take some time and just do it! Today! . . . or reorganize your space ;)

Posted in Figure Studies, Paintings of Women | 2 Comments