Tatiana and Olga 2010

Tatiana and Olga  2010

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Evolution of Alexei

Evolution of Alexei : over  2  1/2 years

As I have said  my current portrait of Alexei  was happy and laughing for years. I liked the laughing Alexis.  He was unaware of the future and was happy,   as he was in life during this time .

Or it could be seen as  a portrait of his Spirit. A portrait of redemption , a statement of " death where is thy string ? " Certainly  I  thought that the number  3 image above would basically be  the final one in any case

However when I finished his father's portrait ( after an epic battle)  Tsar Nicholas was  so good, that Alexis was no longer good enough; some improvements were called for. After a few strokes,  I was tumbled  back to square one, a blank.

Though I would rather not have to do it and I certainly lamented the loss, square one is not always a bad place to find oneself. One is no longer in a position of having  to " save" something that's not working anyway. One is  free to go another direction, and that's what happened. But how I got where I am today, this extra level of accomplishment , I can't say. I just kept painting

If I had or was able to envision these portraits from the start, perhaps it would all have gone faster? Lord knows. But I  have had to grope all along the way  and that takes time.

All I know is the panting keeps improving , so I keep painting. When it's done, it  will be a vastly better painting than I could have ever foreseen and I'm grateful.

Papa Brontë Video

Rev  Patrick Brontë

I recently read a letter by Rev.Patrick Brontë that had been hidden in a library for well over a hundred years; only rediscovered  in 2006.

It was written in 1855  to his Bishop at the time of his daughter's Charlotte's passing. She was his last reminding child out of six.

It's a remarkable document. It shows the greatness of this much maligned man. He bares his own sorrow, with dignity and  bears tender witness to his son in law, Arthur Bell Nicholls's " very great" grief as well 

It's to be remembered Patrick  Brontë was adamantly  opposed to Charlotte's marrying Mr. Nicholls. However well  before Charlotte's passing, Patrick had  learned to rejoice in the happiness she and Arthur found.  

Here is Rev Brontë's letter

My Lord Bishop,

Amongst the various letters of kind sympathy which we have received, Your Lordships Letter gives us especial pleasure – It is worthy of One who is justly esteemed the Father of His Clergy, and I will retain it amongst my most valued treasures, as long as I shall live.

 “A word in due season, how good is it”. And most assuredly, if a season of sorrow, needs a word of consolation and support ours is that season.

I have lived long enough to bury a beloved wife, and six children – all that I had. I greatly enjoyed their conversation and company, and many of them were well fitted for being companions to the wisest and best. Now they are all gone. 

Their image and memory remain, and meet me at every turn – but they themselves have left me a bereaved old man. 

I hoped and wished that the Lord would spare them, to see me laid in my grave, but the Lord has ordered it otherwise, and I have seem them all laid, in that place “where the wicked cease from troubling And the weary are at rest”.

I have not only my own sorrow to bear, but I am distressed for Mr. Nicholls whose grief is very great. His union with My Daughter was a happy one. They were well fitted for each other, and naturally looked forward, to future scenes of happiness for a long time to come – but the Lord gave, and the Lord took early away. 

May we both be able from our hearts to say blessed be the name of the Lord. But I have often found and find in this last sad trial, that it is frequently extremely difficult to walk entirely by faith, and sincerely, to pray, “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven”. 

Mr. Nicholls, who is every thing I could desire, to the Church and to me, intends to stay with me, during the brief remainder of my life.

 May we beg that your Lordship will sometimes remember us in your prayers?

I remain, My Lord Bishop,
Your Lordship’s Most
Obedient Humble servant,

Patrick Bronte


I was moved to make  a video of Rev Brontë's   letter

The Brontës. Patrick Brontë. All that I had

The music is  from " Hart's War"  
composed  by Rachel Portman


   The Duke  and The Clergyman 

 The Duke of Zamorna and  the Rev Arthur Bell Nicholls

As an artist, I notice patterns. Lately I noticed a similarity between the young Charlotte's drawing of The Duke of Zamorna, her greatest love interest creation in youth and Arthur Bell Nicholls, Charlotte's  eventual husband.

 In an era of prodigious sideburns, both had extra amazing mutton chops. Charlotte seem to favor them;particularity coal black ones 

While Arthur was no  Duke of Zamorna ( one has to read CB's  juvenile  writing to even believe what a thorough going rake and blackguard her love hero was )  Arthur most likely was as close as one could get  in the West Riding of Yorkshire....at least physically

In the 8 years leading up to his proposal, Charlotte always complained of Mr.Nicholls's  narrow views. But she never derided him physically. That is remarkable. Because part of her genius was an extraordinary talent for creating comical word pictures of those around her.

 Once Charlotte called a person,for example," A little Welsh pony " it was impossible not to laugh and remember it ever afterwards. Poor James Taylor  especially came in for such  treatment. Charlotte seemingly  could not write about him at all without adding telling word pictures of, what were to her, his physically short comings...and she liked the fellow!

But about Arthur's looks Charlotte never said a word. If she did not like them, I believe she would have treated him as she did most others .

The first words we have from her about Arthur was in  a letter from 1845 to a Mrs Rand, the wife of the master of the National School at  Staley Bridge . For CB , when speaking of curates, this is fairly glowing lol

Papa has got  a new curate lately a Mr Nicholls from Ireland ---he did duty for the first time on Sunday---- he appears a respectable  young man, reads well, and I hope will give satisfaction.

 Well eventually Arthur certainly did. Charlotte may have  liked Arthur as a man , but she felt great annoyance when ever Arthur  opened his mouth to speak. 

In exasperation Charlotte  wrote  to her friend,  Ellen Nussey 

  I cannot for my life see those interesting germs of goodness in him you discovered. His narrowness of mind always strikes me chiefly 

 The significance of Arthur's narrow mind faded when he proved to Charlotte he could be as overcome with love as herself; suffer greatly for love's sake and be as determined as the Duke of Zamorna  ever was in gaining his love interest. 

Okay! Back to work!


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Art Projects Update

I have been in such a Haworth dreamland since my return from England that I'm behind in my other  pursuits such as this blog. I have been furiously writing and painting from a cloud  ...now it is  time for an update

Alexei: Painting Update

Alexei Nikolaevich, Tsarevich of Russia
In my painting of the Tsar and his son, my  portrait of Alexei  is going in a completely  different direction than I thought it would,

He was happy and laughing for years...now he looks more thoughtful and somber  as if he could see the future. I wanted the laughing Alexei ,  but the art gods have decreed otherwise. Even this photo is a bit happier than the portrait currently  emerging .

It's hard to explain being excited about a picture one has painting for over two years . There has been moments of disrepair of course, but if one keeps going, another shore is reached.

One is asked to go deep to solve the problems , to thoroughly investigate.  If you care about your subject that is not a difficulty, it's an opportunity.  One learns things one would not if all went smoothly.

What is interesting is my breakthroughs often happen right after I say " I'll never get it" It's almost as if  giving up  the idea I know what I'm doing,  frees me up to find another way .

Bronte Novel Update

Not surprisingly in Haworth and now afterwards  I have been writing my Bronte novel  furiously .

There were two major rows over Mr. Nicholls between father and daughter. In Jan of 1854  Charlotte told her father she had been writing to and meeting with  Arthur Bell Nicholls . This news was not greeted with joy. She now wanted Papa's permission to gain " a better acquaintance" . After a time, Patrick grudgingly agreed.

Weeks later Charlotte went to her father and told  him she was marrying Mr. Nicholls , he was returning as Haworth's curate and they would be living at the Parsonage with him.  This caused an uproar. Neither Bronte gave an inch. Only Tabby's intervention broke the impasse.

This week  I spent four days writing about  that last  battle  and what fun it has been . It's the greatest fun to bring 45 + years of Bronte  reading and pondering to bear on such a scene.

The historic threads  and patterns run deep, my novel is written by a Bronte fan and it's for the Bronte fan, in that they will see how  I constantly bring in the history . Happily   my writer/ editor  husband, assures me it will appeal to a wider audience.   

I had a disappointment in my research. Last year I was informed Arthur first officiated at Haworth in 1844 . This was news! All the books say it  was May  of 1845!

I am very interested in how Arthur even got to Haworth . No one seems to know. We are told he most likely read an ad for the position, but that is conjecture 

 I wrote back to my source to double check. It took them some months  to answer.  During that  time I wrote a scene where Rev Bronte's curate in 1844, James Smith, invites Arthur to Haworth to see the place in hopes he will take over for him and I wrote a scene were they discuss Haworth and  the  Parson's family .

I based the  idea of a connection between these  Irishmen  on more than the 1844 date , which would include  a large part of Smith's curacy. But also because Arthur Bell Nicholls told Clement K. Shorter antidotes about Smith  in the 1890's ( such as Smith  would  also fire  pistols into the church yard ) Arthur somehow knew Smith ...so why would Smith not be a  link that got Arthur to Haworth ?

Then I heard back : A mistake had been made. The May 1845 date was correct. ... and when one thinks about it,  it's hardly likelly  140 + years of Bronte research would miss an earlier year! lol

But now I had this lively  scene that seemed without a foundation ...what to do?

 I did more research and it turns out both Arthur and James Smith got their decrees from Trinity in Dublin. They were alumni. It  seems impossible  to me they were unknown to each other and  Smith did not have at least a hand in Arthur Bell Nicholls arriving in Haworth. 

Luckily I'm writing a novel, I have some leeway .. so the scene stays

Smith left Haworth under a cloud of debt and it was even thought he took off with money meant for a charity. I can see  in that case Arthur would not want  to underscore Smith's  role in his  coming to Haworth, But again that is speculation...yet the silence on just  how Nicholls got there is strange

The Parsonage in winter

I could not be upset with being given this  misinformation because it got me thinking  along these lines and writing about a connection between these two  Irishmen. Eventually I found other reasons for the possibility .  So it actually helped me to be misinformed! But always double check and check again!

Since writing the scene between Charlotte and Partick,  Rev Patrick Bronte has stepped forward like never before. The more I learn of this man, the most I like him. One comes to love him really. His letters after Charlotte's death are remarkable documents and they show a  great closeness between  Rev. Bronte and his son in law  existed from this time

This book is about their relationship as well  as Charlotte and Arthur's . When CBN dies ,Arthur becomes an apprentice  in grief  and learns how to survive it  from a great Master in the art. Who but Patrick would understand Arthur's level of grief?  Bronte , who had  lost all his family , called Arthur's grief "very great" . He should know.

The echo of Arthur's grief  over the loss of Charlotte is something that helps fuel this novel.I have always felt it  keenly. Now I am telling its story

Patrick Bronte and Arthur Bell Nicholls.
Two Irish farm lads who made good

Arthur  is often praised for staying with Patrick after Charlotte's death . In my book that amazes him. First, he had promised Charlotte he would care for Patrick, and fought hard for the right . Her tragically  early death did not void that vow. 

Secondly  imo  Arthur could  have gone mad without  Rev. Bronte to care for and guide him.  Indeed  when Patrick himself dies 6 years after Charlotte , we know Arthur was inconsolable.  I'm sure this was in part because  his last  task  for Charlotte was finished , she was truly gone. But  it was for Partick's sake as well .  Arthur later called Patrick " My greatest friend "

So this is a novel about Charlotte Bronte and Arthur Bell Nicholls and others in  the Bronte circle But it is also has as very  important characters ,  Patrick Bronte and the 2nd Mrs Nicholls, Mary Anna Bell Nicholls ...all have great love stories  to tell

Okay! Back to work!

Friday, October 31, 2014


My husband and I are back from our trip to Haworth. It was as magical as one could hope for and more . The Parsonage, the Church , the village,  the stunning beauty of the moors,   the welcoming people, even our B and B,  were all  marvelous  beyond our greatest  expectations

The odd thing about it , and this added to the magic, was we both felt we had been there before. Perhaps it's all the years of looking at photos, but it felt like a coming back  to a place rather than seeing it for the first time.

More posts to come , right now I'll share some photos

Thursday, September 25, 2014

And now, Alexis

When I was  battling  the Tsar's tunic  for a year  I was  also  improving Nicholas's  portrait  all during that time.  Which  I think is one of the reasons the tunic battle dragged on . However  though out all that,  Alexi  stood at attention, as good as gold with a cheeky grin, and ready to go.

Finally the Tsar is great, the background is great , the video is ready...now Alexis is giving me fits

He was fine for that year, but Nicholas has turned out so well,  I deemed Alexis needed tweaking...opps now I'm in trouble

 Portraits are such delicate things really ... a false stroke and a likeness is lost. When I came to,  I had retained only  an eye and his mouth... his jaw and sides were a mess

Portrait painting on a canvas is not  digital.  Sadly there's no reset back to where you started...if only! But then I'd still have  the  problem  that Alexis was no longer  up to his father level .

One needs the gall of a riverboat gambler to cash in on an OK portrait  in  the hope to gain a  better one ...because there's no guarantee whatsoever you will get  it . It could easily be snake eyes . One can  only press on.  Paint  for your life, paint for  shore.

The good news is Alexis  coming around and he will  better than before

Embrace the trouble...it does free one  up once the okay  is gone, to try different things ..But there has been times when I wish I could hit that reset button!

        On to Haworth!


In October my husband and I will be traveling to Haworth!

Charlotte said Haworth was difficult to get to and one had to have a good reason to travel there ...and guess what?  It's still no snap  . We will be taking two planes and a cab!

I'm swooning and can't wait .

When you have an intense  interest like The Brontes  or Romanovs,  you place a great deal of attention on the people , of course...insight and  thinking etc, But you are  not use to having so much come back at you from them..What I mean is  being at their home and walking the same  moors, they will  become far more real than ever before. Of course your mind knew they actually lived ...but it's the totality of the OMG they were real  found in their actual  settings that  will hit one. 

 It will be astounding just  to walk though the Parsonage door.

 I'm packing smelling salts and I told my husband if I faint, don't be so foolish as to try to catch me, just get out of the way lol

Being in Haworth   can't help but impact my book and partly that's why we are going.  The book goes on, I'm looking forward to weaving  together all I have written and will write  . Just like with the painting, it's a matter of digging deep to find the gold

Rev Patrick Bronte's Novel

Many people do not  know Papa Bronte wrote  the first Bronte novel in 1818...

It's called

The Maid of Killarney; or, Albion and Flora:

 a modern tale; in which are interwoven
some cursory remarks on religion and politics.

I finally found place to read it online


It's not Jane Eyre or Wurthing Heights...but it's not too bad at all. It reads like a Bronte novel somewhat. The places  where the emotions are calm.   For Rev Bronte was eager to prove the Irish can be calm and clean and refute  the usual stereotypes prevalent at this time .

We always  hear how the Parsonage was spotless., The wish for cleanliness was not the only reason why. They were quite sensitive to  being thought "typically " Irish . Charlotte wrote from her honeymoon  how she glad not to find the Irish " dirt " she was raised to fear .

The Bronte sisters  genius is still a wonder , but one cannot say their writing abilities came completely  from  no where  It only seems  so when the influence of  their father and their  Irish blood  is purposely obscured...which it certainly was for many years 

No longer is the question how  and where did  the Bronte children   learned to write as they did ?The  question  also  is  : Where did Papa learn ?

There was a strong story telling tradition within the family and apparently   they were  literate  for generations. Either Patrick's grandfather  or  his great  uncle may have been involved in setting down Irish myths among a group of scribes  doing this earlier in the 18th century. The family fell into poverty around Patrick's father's time and and so this  history was disguised.

It takes nothing away from Rev Bronte's achievements  to learn reading was in the family even before he was .   Patrick makes reference  to this  history  with  a  few lines in his autobiographical letter he  sent to Mrs. Gaskell when she was writing Charlotte's life . But that part was edited out .

Okay back to work and packing !

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Two years and counting

July 25th 2014 marked the 2nd year of my current Romanov painting of Tsar Nicholas and his son Alexis in 1916. I'm still painting

The Tsar , Alexis and the River 1916

The good news is I am no longer painting the Tsar's tunic. Which took about 10 months  of this time  and I finally had to abandon the photo I was basing him on and use a new one. So the painting doesn't quite looked like this photo. Alexis  however is the same

There to fore I would strictly stay with the Romanov  photo I was basing the painting on...well no more

When I started I didn't even have this fine copy of the photo and so made many  mistakes that never would have  been resolved since I was looking a fuzzy photo. Just one example :  I can see now half of the Tsar's chest area is his side. No wonder it didn't work when I tried to make it all the front...

Thankfully the tunic is done... I am now painting beach,  grass and sky. Wow it's great  painting something besides a tunic!

The Tsar's tunic was made a thick wool it looks like to me.  And he like wearing it loosely. Consequently  those sleeves would bunch up oddly and  looked like a over head photo of  the Alps , but a photo of those mountains  on its side !  I still had difficulty with the 2nd tunic I went to in desperation . " Ordeal by sleeve"  as it was known around here

I was like Jacob who wrestled with an angel and would not let the angel go until it blessed him. People have  lauded me for sticking with it , but what else was there to do? Quitting would be much worse than keeping on and I have to say I enjoyed it 90 % of the time and learned alot

We have this idea everything must be instant...why?

Now   is the fun time of a painting. The tweaking time. When the accomplishment is achieved and one is after the  many details . It's like coating down a hill, a fun ride ...AT LAST

Bronte Novel

I have  written so much and add more daily . Once my  current Romanov painting is complete,  I will be doing the novel full time for a few weeks at least. 

My problem is not writing, that seems endless, my difficulty at the moment  is  organizing.  So I want to devote all my working day  to the novel to get a handle on it all.

I'm finding investigating the family's Irish background revelatory. The Brontes  were Irish . They certainly were seen as such in Haworth. Given the strong story telling tradition in the family ( grandfather Huge and father Patrick) the sister's writing abilities do not seen as out of the blue as it did  before .

One of  Mrs Gaskell's aims  imo  was to affix  an English  veneer firmly  on  this Celtic tribe . One can say yes but there is the Branwell side. Indeed...but that's Cornwall and still Celtic. 

Charlotte loved  being English and all things English. But that meant a state of mind  more than blood because any over view of English history will show they are almost as much mutts as we in the States are! ( I said almost)

The first people,  Romans,  Angols, Saxons, Danes, Normans, it goes on and on...I'm sure I have forgotten someone 

Irish history at this time  also plays a large role  with two strong Irishmen on the scene ...plus I've done  more Church research. Charlotte was not simply Evangelical...she favored the Board Church movement. It's enough to say she and Arthur Bell Nicholls could not be further apart in their views and still  remain within the Established Church of England. How they over come that divide is a good part of the book because over come it they did .

 I was about to work with a researcher in the UK when I felt I had to tell them  the book I was working on was a novel. I was concerned that would not find favor and I was right They were gracious, but no longer interested. I'm just going to have to prove novel writing can be serious history too...well serious enough to call for  respect 


July 30th was Emily Bronte's 196th birthday.  I wanted to do a drawing of her and her beloved dog, Keeper, but wound up just doing Keeper!

Keeper is a fascinating name for Emily's dog. Did it mean this animal would be kept? Some of the Parsonage's animals were not as we know. Or did the name mean he was a "  keep" , a source  of security and protection .  I rather think the latter. 

With Keeper at her side, Emily could  roam the moor night or day. She would not be free to  do so other wise imo. She writes so often about the night, I put Keeper on the moor in the moon light . He is  watchful, on the alert and ready for anything. I advise you not to trifle with his mistress! lol

Keeper on the moor

 Okay , back to work!


Sunday, June 29, 2014

....that dim, quiet June Morning....

 Today, June 29th, 2014  marks the 160th anniversary of Charlotte's Brontë's marriage to
Arthur Bell Nicholls .  In a letter to her dear friend and school teacher, Miss Wooler, later that summer, written on  August 22 1854 , Charlotte mentioned the walk they took  down together  to the church on her wedding day

My dear Miss Wooler......

.....I really seem to have had scarcely a spare moment since that dim quiet June Morning when you,  E.Nussey and myself all walked down to Haworth Church---Not that I have been hurried or oppressed---but the fact is my times is not my own now ;Someone else wants a good portion of it .....

I have thought for awhile of doing a drawing of Charlotte , Miss Ellen and Miss Wooler  walking down the lane to the church.

Quite a moment indeed ....and a journey.   It was well Miss Wooler was there, as she had to give Charlotte away. I'm sure she did it admirably


Speaking of anniversaries, the 2 anniversary of my Nicholas and Alexis painting will be in a month ......and I actually think I'll finish around that  time! It's been an adventure


My Brontë novel goes on. Much  have been written , much is left to write . It's interesting how a    scene   I thought  was finished,  gains  a  new direction  because of something I wrote in another section  later ...a link is  formed  between and  I add it in.

 I looked around the web for novel organizational  tips  etc. and you know what? No software or advice can take  the place of work  lol... the best tip is : write , type  in , write... just keep pluging  away .  I find some of  the on line stuff takes one away from writing...and  the writing is always the most important thing .

Okay! Back to work!

Next post should be my painting of Nicholas and Alexis 1916!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

OTMA 1914 - 2014

OTMA 1914

May 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the OTMA's  iconic 1914 formal photograph session.

 Most people know the Tsar's daughters  from these photos taken a few months before World War I

The theme and aim   at the time seems  to have been a type of nostalgia  and so even as they were snapped  there was an other world  feeling  about them . Their dream like beauty   is  a charring contrast  with what lay ahead for them and the world


Bronte Novel Update 


I  finally started putting  together all the word documents that constituents  my Bronte novel into one file ...as near as I can figure I have written  about 270, 000 words 

When all is said and done,  it seems this amount  would produce a paperback of 300 or so pages...I can't quite believe these numbers myself ...but it's safe to say there's alot and I still have a good deal yet to write about! A friend early on said this would be at least two volumes lol

Writing is not the hard part I find . I have only to open a Bronte bio   or critical study  from the last 150 years  and I find an answering stream starts in response , which I  then write it down.  Other stimulates are at times  line of dialogue rings  in my heard and a scene will build from that. Often it's like writing an important message before it's  lost. My husband knows not to interrupt  if I 'm writing in a note book!  lol
Something has just beamed in

 The  greater challenge  for me will be the weaving together all  these different scenes into one book .  Luckly I'm following  the  time line as closely as our knowlege of the Brontes will allow and that's my map. 

Armed with Charlotte's letters and a 1853-54 calender,  my aim is to get it right as I can. I will be printing it out everything to construct sequence  as it's difficult to arch the drawing together of the people involved when I view it all in one computer file.

 I would say 90% at least is backed by history and the rest is  very highly likely imo, certainly possible . However it is 
a novel . I  do invent many  conversations  and even letters .But their creation is based on history and  known,   real  letters . I dare it  will seem very plausible to the Bronte fan

It's no fun if one invents things from whole cloth. The fun is working  WITHIN the box of known Bronte history. It's marvelous when a new perspective  squares with history and then " snaps"  in to place like a puzzle piece 

It's also fulfilling  as a long time Bronte fan to  weave the history deep within the prose , in many layers and  also connect  events not usually brought together . Only another  Bronte fan will catch all the references while reading


Romanov Painting 


Naturally I'm still painting Tsar Nicholas and his son Alexi 1916. The Tsar's trunk  is totally different than it had been for 15 months or so. I'm certainly finding it easier to paint...and I'm chipping away at it . There is constant discovery, so it doesn't pall



 1914 -2014  

              I made a video celebrating the 1914 Photos


           It has other photos of the girls taken that year

          Music by the wonderful Rachael Portman  


OTMA.  The Tsar's daughters 



Okay! Back to work!