Tatiana and Olga 2010

Tatiana and Olga  2010

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!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

He will not separate us.

Arthur and Charlotte

As she lay dying Charlotte Brontë Nicholls over heard her husband, Arthur,  praying that she should live.

Charlotte's  last words were"

" I'm not dying am I ? 

He will not separate us. 
We've been so happy "

On the surface it seemed sadly  said in vane.
Charlotte  indeed passed shortly there after

But as one learns  the history of her husband, Rev Nicholls's life afterwards, one can say  in actuality Charlotte spoke a prophecy .

They were still newlyweds when she passed  and Arthur Bell Nicholls never really recovered from her loss.

 He told a friend " My heart is buried with Charlotte  in Haworth " In a sense they  were not separated  even for the 50 years Arthur lived beyond the little woman and  famous author he adored .

As Arthur lay dying , his  last words were

  " Charlotte.... Charlotte "

This  water color is meant to express  this extraordinary bond  that death could not break or time dim.  

 It is named : " He will not separate us."
 I depicted Arthur as  years older than he was when  Charlotte's died . He went grey quite fast afterwards .  Charlotte  is meant to look the same as she did  when she  became ill . 

Open  it in a new window to see the full size 

We know Arthur read Charlotte's books aloud  to her father, Patrick , in the years after her passing. In my picture , I  imagined she would draw even closer as Arthur read her words

Reading alone is powerful. Reading aloud is amazingly so. I wonder how he got though some of the passages, as they are so evocative of the woman. There was only one Charlotte Brontë ....as Arthur Bell Nicholls could have told us. 

                                        Romanov painting  

Of course I'm still painting the Tsar and Alexei , and enjoying it.  The good news is after 7 months of just painting Tsar's tunic and sleeve,  I have finished  these item  after two days of toe to toe painting ...it's a good feeling to finally win this round!

 It's much like a mathematician who wrestles with a problem for a very long time. You don't get bored tackling the same thing day in and out, because it is  not the same, one's work on it has altered the situation . But it's hard to explain...perhaps the thrill of the hunt is in there too

Meanwhile the father and son's  faces are great and I look forward to finishing! 

There are a number of reasons why each painting takes the time  it does. For one thing I am not a trained painter, I just paint. One tends to go the long way in that case. 

But the other is the emotions  that come  forth  as  these likenesses emerge . I  gotta go slow or I 'll  blow a fuse. 
 I have a number of other Bronte water color  projections  I'll be doing and of course I will be starting the Charlotte , Arthur and  Patrick portrait trio  once Nicholas and Alexis  are completed

But Romanov fans never fear! I will return  to  painting the family!

                                               Bronte Novel   

My Bronte novel is roaring along so  I can barely keep up.  I have some scenes I  should have  typed into the computer already , I'm behind in my transcribing.

 I write in long hand and then type the scenes in...Pad and pens are everywhere because I don't know when or where some of the novel will beam in . If I don't get it down right off, I can forget a good deal. ....and if I don't transcribe in a timely fashion , I find it hard to read my  own writing ! 

I put a topic heading  on each scene so I will know what it is about when I read it later....I seem to jump around time line wise... but the fact I'm doing  a historical novel makes  the writing a novel  possible I think . Because I don't have to figure out a plot or what happens next...that's already been done by the real people I'm writing about .... The other thing that makes it possible is my librarian  / writer husband will look it over and proof read it when it's finished lol 

There's alot of crying and laughing as I write and there still is a  ton to do when  I weave these scenes together into  their proper  time sequence. Meticulous work

Charlotte's letters will be an essential  aid. A big thank you to Margaret Smith,  the letter's editor. Her foot notes are a joy and allow the reader to understand CB's great letters more

Also a must is Juliet Baker's " The Brontes "  and so many other books, a Bronte novel should have  a bibliography  as much as a regular Bronte biography  !
and let me just say writing this is soooo much FUN 

Okay! Back to work!

 See you next time!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

One year and counting

The Tsar and Alexis on the Dnieper River 1916

 Today is the one year anniversary of starting my current Romanov painting   It's of the Tsar and his son Alexis in 1916 standing on the shore on the Dnieper River. Above  is the photo it's based on

  It seems I'm getting slower as I  get more into  painting    lol

Isn't one supposed to get faster? More proficient?

It seems I start at square one with each painting.... each is a voyage of discovery 

But  as  Dr. Johnson once said "  Proficiency is the end of wonder "


If  6 months ago  I knew I was to write"  it's a year and I'm still painting"  , I wouldn't be too happy because I was  then still battling  the  painting  .

The  only answer is one just  keeps painting.

 I'm never bored as I'm problem solving  all the time. What seems simple once it is  figured out ,was  utterly  inscrutable before hand.

 Just today I saw something that I had missed for  last year...and once this detail was  applied , it fixed  a whole area.  Everything is interdependent and has to be right

 As I paint,  the piece  gets better...inch by inch, but better .

Right now the Tsar and Alexis  faces are amazing... that heartens one greatly . Because for a long time they were not. For months they were awful and I have the photos to prove it. lol

When  finally  the likenesses are better than you dared hoped they  would be ,  you know the accomplishment is achieved...now it's a matter of time to nail down the details

I'm working on the Tsar's  tunic, which by the photo one can see is complicated ...I knew that arm with the creases  would be tough, but not this tough.  It's been months.

It's well one doesn't know the difficulties before hand  ! lol  plus it's a fuzzy photo...which adds to the difficulty.  But it was the best one for what I wanted to get across.

When I started thinking about this painting  nearly two years ago, I thought it was going to be all about Alexis 

However once I started, it immediately became about the father and son relationship. About a perfect moment  just before the coming tragedies . 

On the river

 The hemophiliac  Alexis  is visiting his father, Tsar Nicholas II at  the Russian HQ during WW1

This time on the river in 1916, could easily be the happiest of young Alexi's life.  His health was fairly good and he was with his beloved father in the military atmosphere he adored. 

I really want this one to be shown finished and so have kept  process photos under wraps 

However here  is how it statred a year ago!

 Pretty straight forward right? How can this simple design  take over a year to paint ?

Well it's funny, when everything must fit together  correctly and a good likeness achieved , it's not as simply as it seems...and what is? 

The video is ready to go and I hope to post the finished painting soon! 

                                   Brontë  Novel Update

The Brontë novel roars on and I'm having the time of my life.

It's writing   Brontes  by day and painting Romanovs by night. 

I'm finding a great deal of Brontë history that has been "flown over"  so to speak  and I'm incorporating this history in the novel

At the moment  that means investigating  the Taylor family

Charlotte met Mary Taylor at Miss Wooler's school when they were young girls. They remained friends for life . Mary offered Charlotte Brontë a  mental companionship she found in few places  outside the parsonage in Haworth. 

Charlotte stayed at Mary's home, The Red House, and got to know the Taylor family very well. 
As the  only Tory among the Radical Taylor's , Charlotte  held her own . But as Mary said " We astonished each other with each sentence" 

Mary took off for New Zealand in the earlier 1840's to find a more fullfilling life than  Endland could offer a middle  class young woman at that time .

 However Charlotte  and she wrote  to each other  as if they were not separated by a hemisphere and Charlotte remained friends with the Taylor family still in England. Indeed over the years Mary's brother , Joe became particularly close

Though Charlotte and Joe  never would have  drawn together even as friends normally ( he use to drive her to distraction. )  Joe  became like an exasperating brother to Charlotte . She complained to her other great friend, Ellen Nussey about Joe, but Charlotte  cared greatly about him and the other Taylors

With the Brontës  old friends and time served is what counted. 

Charlotte became very found of Joe's little daughter, "Tim". 

Tim would call Charlotte "grandmama " Charlotte seemed to wear the name proudly .

Another on going investigation is the subject of  religion . This has proved a treasure trove. 
Being  in the Church of England by no means meant automatic  agreement among the faithful . There were different sects within the church  and feelings ran high , very high.

It is the greatest fun to keep the work  well within the actual  history of the Brontës and to create a  work of fiction within this framework. The Bronte fan should be able to see how  the  history is at every step. 

It means research and more research...but what fun when dots are connected?  !

Those who have read parts of my novel  have given it an astonished  thumbs up lol  

Like with the  Romanov paintings...I don't know enough to know what I'm trying to do is  impossible  and so I'm  just going ahead and doing it

                                   That's Zen  in a nut shell   


Of course after my painting of the Tsar and Alexis is finished, I will start  work on portraits of the three main people  in the novel:

Charlotte Brontë , her father, Rev Patrick Brontë 
and  Rev Arthur Bell Nicholls 

On my blog role you will find a link to the Brontë blog I hang out at  .
 It's called "  The Brontë Sisters " and is  run by a super nice Dutch watercolor  artist name Geri.

 Love for the  Brontës can be found there


Okay,  back to painting and writing!!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

OTMA in Costume







A couple of fuzzy photos from this series of OTMA in costume is all I have seen...most here are new to me
" Astonishing beauty"  is all I can say. I'm speechless...but then OTMA photos  always speak best  for themselves.
Usually I would post these directly on AP forum . But I find Photo bucket difficult to use these days...and one can't get a big size posted it seems
So I'm creating a post on my art blog for these treasures...for  theses  dreams come true  

Sunday, March 17, 2013

" I really and truly did see her"!

Charlotte sees a fairy

One day in the autumn or winter succeeding Mrs Brontë's death, Charlotte came to her nurse wild and white with the excitement of having seen a fairy standing by Baby Anne's cradle.

When the two ran back to the nursery, Charlotte was flying on ahead and treading softly not to frighten the beautiful visitant away.

None was there besides the baby sleeping sweetly in the depths of her forenoon nap. Charlotte stood transfixed, her eyes wandered incredulously around the room

"But she was here just now" she insisted

" I really and truly did see her"!
and no argument or coaxing could shake her from the belief


When I read this antidote about  the young Charlotte Brontë seeing a fairy standing by  her sister Anne's cradle,  I could truly  see the fairy too and had to make a drawing!

 I saw the fairy give a bow  to a fellow elfin  creature  lol

It's characteristic Charlotte could not be persuaded  she was mistaken
about seeing  her fairy friend . She knew her own mind early on!

open a new window to see it in its true size


Of course  I'm also working on my latest Romanov painting of Nicholas and Alexis from 1916 . After a month , Nicholas's  tunic is finally making sense!

I never thought this one would take so  long...but one never knows!