Tatiana and Olga 2010

Tatiana and Olga  2010

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!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The time it takes is the time it takes

Every time I think I'm close  to finishing my  current Romanov painting of Nicholas and his son , Alexis ,along the Dnieper River in 1916, the painting goes  to another level and the time table shatters too...when a part of the painting  zooms up in quality one has to bring everything else up to that level as well, in fact  that's part of the fun

This painting has  followed the usual pattern so far...it   bolts out of the box and then I get mired on one thing. In this painting it was Alexi's head and face...the photo is fuzzy and  trying to figure things out was difficult...it was months of painting and painting.

Nicholas  was steadily coming in...thankfully

Currently  both faces are good...what is my concern right now is Nicky's uniform. That can take some time, because everything must make sense and fit

I have had help from my  friend Nicola from Russia. He has helped me in the question of the uniform's colour.  I began speaking to him about this painting  in Sept 2011...you have to take the long view, well I do anyway. He appreciates my keen wish to get it as right as I can

These paintings are quests... looking back on some I wondered how I dared  to  even start...but you just  start painting  and keep painting for shore

There are times when I think , well the ride is over...but you keep painting  and you get there

That's been my experience.

Quests aren't about expectations. In fact I'd say it is when my expectations are once again  proved unworkable and  I  give them up, that  the painting  goes forward.

It's a process of giving up one's ideas of how things should go while still painting...and it happens many times over during a painting .

So lord know when it will be finished. But I promise when it's done, no one will be disappointed..and that's another reason these paintings take so long...the emotions they bring up as one gets nearer the end...The video is ready to go.I'm looking forward to showing off this one!

As a Romanov fan, being able to make paintings like this, well I wish I could bring people along the trip truly. It can be hard, but it's always so rewarding. Quest is not too big a word. You have to dig deep to get any where..at least that's how I paint.

                                    Brontë portraits

Of course while I'm painting Nicholas and , Alexis , I'm thinking ahead of my  next paintings. There  will be a short break from Romaovs and I'll be painting Brontë portraits!

Charlotte Brontë                                  Arthur Bell Nicholls

I will do a portrait pair of Charlotte Brontë and her husband, Arthur Bell Nicholls .
 Theirs was a powerful and unexpected love story that is often over looked because their happiness was so short lived. Charlotte tragically died within a year of their marriage

I will  also be doing a portrait of Charlotte's  father, Patrick Brontë, as well  for this was a love triangle of sorts and who can resist this photo to paint?


Rev. Patrick Brontë
 ( Papa)

But speaking of challenges , this will mark the first time I'm trying to make a portrait based mostly on other art work. All  we have of Charlotte in the way of photo is a small, profile...and I wonder if that was taken without her knowledge! lol She seems to be watching something else.

I'm working from four images. I show  them here from earliest to last

Charlotte by her brother, Branwell

I will be using the famous  portrait of the sisters painted by their brother, Branwell...which I think is a quite good beginning . He should have kept going. But it seems staying power was not Branwell's strong suit. But I find everything in  the one photo of Charlotte that we have is in this painting by her brother. Her nose looks different his painting. That is because other artists had her turn her head
to the side imo

Charlotte by J. H. Thompson,    Branwell's friend

The 1850 Richmond portrait
The portrait of Charlotte by  the society painter, George Richmond  was done at the behest of Charlotte's publisher, George Smith.  It was a gift to her father. Mr. Smith was clever. It would be hard for Charlotte to refuse such a gift for Papa.

Otherwise I can see her declining. Charlotte did not care for her looks. And while she may not have been the era's ideal, she was by no means as  ill favored as she thought. 

Charlotte  received four marriage proposals and certainly her successful suitor,  Mr.Nicholls, thought her alluring enough to stay her father's curate  in order to win her when he could have had his own living else where. It seems this tiny woman caught Arthur's heart shortly after he arrived in Haworth.

Only known photo of Charlotte Brontë

One thing I have notice  is how Charlotte's hair has the same sheen in each picture...this tells me it was a of a fine nature. Also she seem to have a redish cheeks because that is shown everywhere as well.

One can gain insight by looking at her father's photo because it was said she took after him.

All the Brontë  children seem to have a predominate bottom lip and it's in all the pictures. Richmond cleverly dealt with Charlotte's nose by not putting in one side . I'm basically going to follow his lead and paint his portrait, but in my  way ...which means using his  original , not the many variations  that have been  made of it since

Rev. Arthur Bell Nicholls

For Arthur I'm using his most handsome photo.  However , one of  Arthur Bell Nicholls eye lids drooped a bit, and that got more pronounced with age. It makes me wonder if this photo is flipped, because that eye is on the other side in his other photos...but no matter, this how people expect to see this photo and I like how it  makes it seem  they are looking each other's way. I also like that by painting a pair, their images will match more closely than before 

 I think Arthur is a good looking fellow. In his  2 honeymoon photos, he looks a bit put out and I wonder if that is to due Charlotte refusing to join in the photographs! lol

Charlotte had no idea her father's  statue  like curate was capable of her high  level of emotion and passion until 7 years after Arthur  first arrived at Haworth and  in a overwrought state , he  asked for her hand in marriage 

The  manner of his proposal  was the shocking part of the event for Charlotte. That penniless Arthur Bell Nicholls had the temerity to ask at all, shocked her father, Patrick.
Her father was furious and Charlotte was rather dazed and confused. It took another 18 months of  Arthur's persistence  and her own loneliness to convince her to accept him.

Once she did, much to Charlotte's own surprise, a  happiness she had never known  steadily  blossomed. Intellectually Arthur was not her match, but how many were? These two  found common ground in a simular dry sense of humor, a love of constancy , a great love of nature  and finally in love itself . 

Charlotte  grew to love Arthur deeply. She refers to him as "my dear boy" and she was expecting their child at the time of her death.  All this  makes Charlotte's untimely passing all the more sad.

And though Patrick  opposed the marriage at first , Charlotte's  father's  letters after her death, touchingly refer to the  marriage's happiness  and the promise it held for all. Patrick's  tender, dignified expressions of grief in the face of  the total loss of his six children are  heartrending to say the least.


                                        Brontë Novel

The other interesting event that has come about since I last posted  is I find I have so much to say about this time in Charlotte's life that I'm writing a novel about the Brontës!

 It occurred much like the paintings....like spontaneous combustion, it just happened!   I'm having alot of fun

And wow,  there  are ALOT of novels about the Brontës! The  earliest I have found were published in the 1930's . They have appeared ever since with  great regularity and show no signs of stopping.  And no wonder, often  the history  of the Brontë family is as interesting as the Brontë novels themselves! It's an amazing  story

But does the world need  another novel about the Brontës?

That's not the question an artist asks themselves.

The artist asks  :  What do I need to do?

It seems I need to write  this novel . It also seems to be writing itself!

Everyone who has read some say thumbs up, which is encouraging ...what's funny is I find looking at modern novels  also very encouraging...after reading awhile I'll say," oh  I can do that!"  Let's see if I say that as it goes along. LOL I have a feeling, much like with the paintings,  one day I will be amazed I dared to start it. 

 But once started, why stop? Simply keep at it

The doing of a creative project  is as important as the result, in some ways perhaps more. It's at 150-180 pages at the moment with lots more ahead.

It will have the exact  known history or at least there will be a  good case for whatever  I depict. I'm really interested in working  with the known facts and the more than likely. That doesn't mean there won't be surprises.  

Much like the Romanov paintings, you almost have to be a fan already to see what I'm doing.  I'm using Charlotte's letters, which can be enjoyed on the surface of course , I love her way with words. But they always reward a careful study as well . There is  also 150 years of excellent Brontë scholarship to lean on.

But  after 40 +  years of reading about them  I know a great deal myself  and that helps to keep the fingers flying  as  I write . It's fun to have to work within  the known history and still find much to say that imo has not be said before.

I can promise  no  vampires or zombies will appear.

If that's a spoiler, so be it lol

Charlotte 's father, Patrick and Charlotte's  widower, Arthur  drew close  after Charlotte's tragic passing . In his will, Patrick called Arthur, " my beloved son". Who could understand each other's grief as well as they?  

Arthur was devastated when his father in law passed six years after Charlotte in 1861...perhaps that is when the full weight of her death was felt by Arthur. When  there was no longer anything  left to do for his beloved wife.

Arthur lived another 50 years after Charlotte's death. He married again,  he was surrounded by fond friends and an adoring family of nieces and nephews in his Irish home . 

But  in all those years,Charlotte  never left  his heart or mind. In old age, Arthur  would wonder aloud how it will be  upon his own death, when he and Charlotte  would meet again , a meeting he never doubted .

Arthur's  last words were

" Charlotte... Charlotte"

perhaps a calling and  then a greeting. 

They both  had waited along time