Tatiana and Olga 2010

Tatiana and Olga  2010

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!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

A new direction

Work in progress

After trying to match a straight forward face with a 3/4's turned body for 10 months, I finally realized  a  new direction was called for...it is  the obvious one . Turn the body straight ahead as well . And so now I'm using a different photo  the Tsar  in my painting .  Here is a photo, but I stress it's still a work in progress and by no means finished 

How can one be excited about a picture they have been painting for almost two years?

Because it's never the same painting

And so the work goes on.

Alexi has been waiting patiently for me to solve the problems of his father's portrait  for a long time now

and so have the Brontes!

Bronte portraits in the wings

The good news in the waiting  is I know the  paintings  will be better for  it as I'm writing my Bronte  book all  during this time.

Time ripens ideas and goals and one often  becomes  more daring

Bronte Novel
I just counted. I have 80 word documents of scenes  in five folders...with lots more to come

  Just  today I was writing  about Emily's funeral. Charlotte's  6 month falling out with Ellen. 1852: CB's trip to Fiely . 1853 : Wit-Sun...I hop about 

Recently I've become interested in Margaret Fuller and wrote about  her story's   impact on my Bronte novel. There are fascinating similarities and differences between these two women of genius . Reading about one offers insights into the other

Charlotte Bronte     and    Margaret Fuller

                The snares of the world are less dangerous than the demons of solitude."
                                                                                                               M. Fuller

 If Charlotte Bronte had written Jane Eye a year earlier and Margaret Fuller had come to England a year later, they would likely to have met as they moved in similar circles.

But by the time Charlotte was seen in London, Fuller was Italy.

Tantalizingly , they were both in  Manchester in the late summer of 1846. Charlotte was there nursing her father after his eye operation. She was also writing " Jane Eyre"  at his bedside.  Margaret was just off the boat from America, visiting schools and other institutions  on her way to London .
It's too bad they did not meet. I think these two women of genius would have appreciated each other and I would love to read how each described the other, for they used language like no one else.

Margaret Fuller has been nibbling on the edges of my consciousness for some time. One has to investigate Fuller finally. She is too grand a figure in American literature , women's studies and journalistic history to ignore forever. If she's not well known , the fault is ours, not hers.

As Fuller was making another impingement on my brain, my sister sent me Megan Marshall's new biography of Fuller. I read a page or two and decided I need to learn more about Margaret Fuller before reading so evocative book and so get the most out of it.

I began a general read . As with the Brontes, there are many years of books about Fuller to explore.

Margaret was born with genius and then  was schooled arduously in the classics by her father. She learned Latin at 6 .  Fuller was such a genius, that mid 19th century American intellectual males had no difficulty admitting it and treating it as a matter of course. As the undergraduates stared, Margaret  was allowed the use of the Harvard reading room. The first woman ever to gain that distinction.

She was the first American, man or woman, to be a foreign correspondent for a major American newspaper. She ran a military hospital nearly 10 years before Florance Nightingale. Besides brains, she had a large portion of Yankee grit 

It's is fascinating to track Chalotte Bronte and Fuller's travels in the London of their day, like ships in the night . Both knew Harriet Martineau quite well...and both had a falling out with her. Both met G. H. Lews, and both thought little of him. He was saved from the worst from Charlotte because he resembled Emily.

They both saw the French actress Rachael  perform and were bowled over. Fuller went back time and again to see her and Charlotte hardly dared to.

As children, both woman found real life such an excruciating  bore they created their own inner world  which  was far more real to them.

After death, both were the subject of a swiftly published biography that sought to smooth out what was deemed as their unladylike  rough edges...that is, their genius.

Fuller found she was more of a celebrity author in Europe than in her own country. The likes of Carlye, called on her. Much like Charlotte a short time later, no door of literary London that Fuller cared to open was closed to her. 

 A difference here though is Fuller had been highly social all her life. Dinners, meetings and such held no terrors for as they did for Bronte. Also  Fuller's assent to fame was slow and long. Bronte was famous literally overnight with no chance to  grow accustomed to  the attention ...besides being a shy Bronte

I soon found out why Margaret Fuller has come swooping on to my radar at this time with such force: because in some respects Fuller's love story is much like Charlotte's own.

Women of genius marry men not deemed their intellectual equal.

In all fairness one cannot compare Fuller's eventual husband, Giovanni Angelo Ossoli, with Arthur Bell Nicholls in matters of education. Rev Nicholls was a graduate of Trinity University and Ossoli was taught his letters by the  local priest. Being a minor nobleman and gentleman already , education was not seen as a necessity for Ossoli . Arthur however made himself a gentleman through education.

But when comparing these men with the women of genius they loved ,one can for the sake of discussion speak of them together

Both women knew many would not understand their choice and even had moments of embarrassment when announcing their marriages.

About Ossoli , Margaret writes frankly that he was not in any respect such a man as her friends would expect her to choose.

Charlotte wrote that her match would not be seen as brilliant, yet in it she herself "saw germs of real happiness." Quite an endorsement for Arthur from Bronte's  pessimistic pen.

How these men had success where others had failed was found in the great love they had for these woman of genius of course. But it was vital  that both gentlemen's view points  created a space which contained the accustomed male/ female roles . Both men  saw themselves as  knights errant to a lady in need. ; as  argent  rescuers of a damsel in distress.

In Ossoli's case, that was exactly how he meet Fuller. She was alone in St.Peter's having lost her travel companions, and in distress. He offered her his help. At first it was to find Fuller a carriage, but none were available. So Ossoli escorted the fair lady on the long walk home. The next day he was seen under her window . This meeting has the outlines of many a bedtime story

Of course, in Arthur's  case, he had  for years  witnessed Charlotte's suffering from her terrible loneliness , which even world renown was powerless to quell.  Finally Arthur could stand no more . He  stepped out of the background one December evening to declare himself and , in his mind, recuse Charlotte .Arthur was then embroiled in a 18 month  quest to win Charlotte's hand.

Giovanni  Ossoli    and     Arthur Bell Nicholls

Given the role of champion, men of lesser lights could have a firm standing with women of genius. They honored  the brilliance, but saw  too the costs . This is the benefit of the supposedly "dull" man . They are not dazzled, resentful or in competition with the mentally superior woman like so many others . They just adore them .

Both women were also very passionate. Few people could withstand their emotions at full or even half blast. Nicholls and Ossoli welcomed all the Bronte and Fuller could give and returned it in full measure.

This took the women a bit of time to understand. They were so use to "earning" regard with their brilliance . Just to have it given to them for their "home self," as Charlotte would say , was unusual

They were use to enticing others with that brilliance...yet in one's late 30's, even genius can get tired of that...particularly since it was not working. They found most others could only take so much.

Margaret wrote, .... To some I have been obliged to make myself known; others have loved me with a mixture of fancy and enthusiasm excited by my talent at embellishing life. But Ossoli loves me from simple affinity; he loves to be with me, and to serve and soothe me. . . . In him I have found a home."

I believe Charlotte would have said the same of her "Dear boy."

Both women were Protestants to their marrow, yet both made compromises on that score to the men they married. Ossoli was a devoted Catholic and Arthur was a devoted adherent to the Oxford movement within the Anglican church, which for an Evangelical like Charlotte was almost as bad . But the women finally looked to their husbands' simply piety and goodness , more than what they felt was an erroneous doctrine

While there are many similarities ...their stories contain great differences as well

Fuller had no idea to marry Ossoli in order to be his lover. He was 11 years younger, penniless like herself, a Catholic and with a family who would be outraged at such a marriage to the point of disowning him. The couple kept their alliance a secret on both sides of the Atlantic . 

Ossoli asked her to marry him shortly after their affair began. She refused sighting the unsuitability of age, empty purse and religion .  Fuller only came to marriage finally because she became a mother , then she grew to love both positions.

In Charlotte Bronte's case it could only be through marriage that she would know physical love ...and sadly motherhood was denied her.

It is interesting how  Fuller met and got to know George Sand before arriving in Italy. I believe that meeting helped Fuller to see her way to putting aside her upbringing and enjoy sexual love without marriage.

Margaret saw that Sand, the advocate of free love, was herself a very high minded woman and in no way degraded by loving outside of marriage . That meeting, plus Italy itself, freed Fuller .One can sense the relief as the New England frost melted under these influences

In New England, the levy  for a woman pursuing an intellectual life was celibacy. Italy exacted no such  price.  Being a Protestant was outrage enough...what was one more and a far more understandable one at that?  In New England the lack of marriage between lovers  was the scandal. In Italy, marriage with a Protestant was the outrage

Bronte greatly admired Sand, but I think even meeting her would not allow Charlotte to so leave behind her upbringing as to take on a lover in the flesh without marriage. Bronte never stopped being her father's daughter, indeed never left his house.   It is fascinating that  it was while Bronte was away from England she experienced some of her highest romantic emotions. It's as if these 19th century women must be away from their own counties and in  foreign lands to try these wings.

While Charlotte's father, Patrick, was ever on the scene. Fuller's father died when she was 25 and Fuller became the head of the family. She saw to her mother's care and that her younger  brothers were educated. Fuller was more on her own than Charlotte ever was. Therefore she was able to move beyond her original sphere.

But since Bronte never truly left Haworth's Parsonage, if   there was to be sexual love for Charlotte, beyond what she knew in her inner life, it would have to be experienced as a wife.

Politically they were worlds apart. Charlotte was a stalwart Tory and Fuller was a self-described Radical...indeed a hero of revolution as was her husband. But that would not stop either woman from appreciating each other greatly.

I can quite see Charlotte listening to Fuller enthralled . Margaret was one of those geniuses who make you feel smarter yourself after reading their words...and apparently the effect was even greater in conversation.

Charlotte was often too socially awkward to impress in person. She was more comfortable  one on one or with pen in hand . But I think they would have recognized something special within each other on sight.

I believe these woman would have had much to say to each other . It's a tragedy both for them and us, that they died so young. 

Okay! Back to work! 


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

You have to laugh

After nearly two years of painting Tsar Nichols II and his son, Alexis from a fuzzy photo, I finally saw a clear copy just  last week. So much that was unknown and a mystery  is now plain to me.

Tsar Nichols II and his son, Alexis 1916

If I saw this but a short time ago it would made a difference ...but I'm too far down the road of combining photos of the Tsar's tunic together to back track now

My husband says he prefers the  Tsar's  more straight forward pose in the painting than  his  3/4 quarters one in the photo and I have to agree...so it's actually not a bad thing I didn't see the  better quality photo till now. I would not have changed it if I had .

Sometimes, in fact often,  adversary brings gifts

The other boon is this clear copy allows me to finish the places  I did not alter...I had no idea the grass was that tall . I can finally see  the chairs  and where Alexi's ear is etc

I'm enjoying the ride! All one can do!

                                        Bronte Novel Update 

The writing and research goes on. Right now I'm  reading about  Ireland in the 1840's : A very hard time in a place well use to hardship. Certainly it would be a topic of discussion between two  Irishmen  with family back home as they met to  talk over Church matters. Politically it was a complex time

The religious research never stops . It's fascinating  to read periodicals from the time. Many are on line, via Google. So much writing about religion and it  was a blood sport... I guess it still is

I am trying to figure out about surplices, the white gown worn by clergymen  when they officiate. Were did the different  sects  within the Church stand on them at that time ? Rev Bronte speaks of surplice fees fairly early in his ministry at Haworth, so he wore them ....yet Charlotte lampooned them  in "Shirley" ?.

It's not easy to learn about the Church practices of this time...at least I have not found it so. A good place for help however  is from novels of the time. They will toss off tid bits  for one to catch . I keep hoping to run into a Church of England history buff who can answer some questions.

I'm getting a sense of what will be required to pull all the pieces  of the book together. Right now it's like making a  mosaic and  later  I will  apply a wet brush over all to bring unity.

I cannot say how much enjoyment and fun this is affording me.

Because I have 4 spoiled cats ( my own fault, I own )   when the weather stops behaving  like January  around here , I will be going to my local library to work on the book.

If I'm not home, they will sleep. If I am here,  it's endless  refereeing  and requests ( demands) for...well I won't bore you . Pets owners will know what I mean.  

Okay! Back to work 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Changing Perspective

The photo I'm using for my painting of the Tsar and Alexis  has the Tsar in a  3/4quaters pose. After awhile  his image insisted on a straight forward facial portrait
Any artist or author will tell you there are times when the creation  will have its way and not behave as one wants

Okay , but  I planned to keep the 3/4  quarters facing  body  and bring the two together.

I like to paint the Romanov  photo as it is . But bringing  these two view points together   is a  difficult task and  an added  problem  was the original photo is so fuzzy. 

The Tsar's  left shoulder has little or no information and it's the trickiest part . I think that's what has stumped me. I also think whoever took the photo was sitting down as the pair seem to be looking down into the camera. Well the painting was having none of that either

On top of this was the amazingly complex right sleeve....again , fuzzy 

I went ahead and painted. I painted and  I painted and painted .  And because I'm  bull headed, I painted a  sleeve and tunic for 10 months, of the year and a half I have been painting this picture

After 10 months  I finally got that sleeve.  But the tunic has defeated me

So I'm now turning the Tsar's body straight forward too...but I'm keeping that sleeve,  by God

There are so many CLEAR photos of Nicolas  where he's facing straight on, it will be a joy to paint using them!

This will be an unusual Romanov  painting has it will not be of  one photo only, but a combination.  It's been tough, but I've learned so much and really I feel worse for those who have been waiting for this picture ! 

However as soon as I started painting the body straight on as well, things have gotten much better

         Bronte Novel Update

The Bronte Novel marches on. I have written a great deal and a good  deal is still  ahead. I look forward to blending the different parts together 

 I have taken  a photo of some of the note books I have filled as I write it. I write long hand and then type it into the computer . 

 I find I write  the way   Emily  Bronte wrote " Wuthering Heights ".
.... at least according to Martha Brown

Many's the time that I have seen Miss Emily put down the tally iron as she was ironing the clothes to scribble something on a piece of paper . Whatever she was doing ironing or baking she had her pencil and paper by her I know now that she was then writing Wuthering Heights 

I  too have a folder of  just scrapes of paper with notes, some are sales slips and backs of envelops ! Whatever ever is at hand will do . I also keep on hand  lined  note books  for " beam ins"  as I call them.

A scene will uncoil in my mind and one has to get it down then and there. Something imperative will be lost if one waits .Indeed it can't wait . Very often  a scene will start  with perhaps  one line of dialog and build  from there. I'm writing every day and enjoying it greatly

My church history research goes on...remarkably hard to track down, but vital to the story

I hop from one part of the history to another.  I'm also learning the usefulness of flash back to add to a scene . Not surprisingly  while wring a Bronte novel , there is a good amount of crying as I write  ...but there is alot of laughing too.

 I'm also thoroughly enjoying using Victorian language. It seems flowery, but it is a  very exact language . One has to listen to what is being said, but if you do, you'll  know just what the other person meant . It's fun to use

Okay back to work!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Preview: In progress Nicholas and Alexi 1916


I've been painting my portrait of Tsar Nicholas  and his son Alexi for so long now, it must seem like a myth . I've just added it up. It's been 16 months .

 It keeps getting better so I have had to keep painting.

 I've had challenges, but the Tsar's  tunic beats  them all...months and months .  Nicholas liked a loose tunic and the folds are many! At times I couldn't face  telling  my husband, yes I was painting the tunic again...

I've learn looking is not seeing

Since it must seem  like a myth, I have made a short video showing the progress from day one in July 2012 to Sept 2013... well over a year

In the finale  image, one  can see in Sept  the Tsar's tunic was still  not finished.. his medals and shoulder boards  etc....plus the sky is not done and I am still painting to this day, 3 months later.

 But by this photo, taken in Sept 2013, a good measure of the portraits have been finally achieved   For months that was not the case, they were pretty awful..

The only answer is to keep painting  and that I will do...
I'm hoping soon it will  be done...but who knows!

My Bronte novel goes on swimmingly and  since my last post I have  discovered historical novels are now  hot...upon a  closer look it seems what is so trendy is changing the history around to meet modern tastes

What fun is that?

 For me what is rewarding when   writing a historical novel  is  illustrating  the real history . Not pulling " what if " out of the air , often  just to shock and titillate .

I have found the real history is always so much more interesting  than anything we can cook up. After reading  some   of these books, there is a  sense of a missed opportunity. 

 Research shows respect to one's subject. But even more than that,  it also gives one a  treasure trove  of  drama and pathos to work with  that  should not be deprived from  oneself , the reader and last but not least, the subject 

Back to painting and writing!