Friday, December 18, 2009

Frances O’Farrell and the Dream Painter

Frances helped me create the luminescent flowers, the iridescent head feathers, and the wonderfully out-of-focus background foliage of the "Sunbird."

In a time long forgotten, in a land called Sherman Oaks, a radiant, exuberant, beautiful, wise, and always upbeat actress and portrait artist gave oil painting lessons. Frances O'Farrell held weekly evening classes in her studio on Ventura Boulevard. In that studio a novice could produce, after a mere four or five sessions, a painting that could be proudly hung in their home.

Frances kept things simple. She provided new students with a one page handout listing all the required art supplies and paints. Included in the handout was a small graphic labeled with the palette location for each paint color. With supplies in tow, and breathing air perfumed with linseed oil, students set out on their creative explorations.

Because her classes were small, Frances provided ample instruction. She stealthily watched over each student and if your painting went amiss in a flash she was there, at your side, redirecting you and encouraging you to add a “nitnoy” of red or blue or purple. Frances never critiqued, she never criticized, she never compared, she never demeaned, she simply suggested, she simply guided.

With this straightforward supportive approach, I tried my hand at depicting a person's visage through the traditional techniques of grisaille and glaze. I learned to begin a portrait by troweling a tinted ground on canvas and smoothing the fabric’s texture. I learned to underpaint a portrait in values of gray, and then slowly build upon that underpainting with glazes of delicately tinted Copal medium. Layer atop dried layer, the glazes fused into glowing flesh tones. I learned that one should, when creating a portrait of a woman, flatter her by painting her eyes just a little larger than life.

Painting a realistic portrait did challenge my color deficiencies. I was unable to readily discern the delicate pastel pinks and greens that created my subject’s subtle flesh tones. To help me, Frances formulated a series of color dabs. It is true I have not attempted traditional portrait painting in a very long time, but I still keep those formula notes and dabs of color within easy reach.

Yellowstone Falls
I attended Frances’ class once a week for about year. During that time close friends asked me to paint a picture of Yellowstone Falls from a photo in their souvenir booklet. Frances, of course, provided guidance as I launched into capturing the dynamics of cascading and crashing water. My friends, Don and Ingrid, promptly framed and prominently hung the finished painting. The painting still hangs in their dining room, but that’s not the story’s end.

Of their two daughters, Teri became a culinary artist and Traci became an artist of murals. Traci became “the dream painter.” After graduating the Art Center College of Design, Traci went on to establish a successful business painting happy murals on a wide range of interior walls. Her wall art has included magical fairy tales painted fancifully in children's bedrooms.

Through the years, Traci repeatedly related to me, that as a young girl, she would sit enthralled in front of the waterfall painting, exploring the scenery and looking for the little people walking up the distant path - somewhat like a fairy tale. She recently emailed me these kind words, “I know you find it hard to believe, but seriously…you were the only artist that I knew growing up and you were much of the reason that I decided to follow my passion for art. It is cool to see what you do with your talents!”

The waterfall painting would not have happened without Frances and, albeit indirectly, Frances helped guide the vision, passion, and career of a young girl she had never met.

Still Painting
During the period of time I took lessons from Frances, she was commissioned to paint a portrait of President Gerald Ford’s wife, Betty. The portrait of Betty Ford, leaning against a White House railing, appeared in the Walter Foster publication, “How Frances O’Farrell Paints Portraits.”

I had the pleasure of recently speaking with Frances. She still paints and shares her skills with others. And Traci, well she can be contacted at her website, “the dream painter.”

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

"Rudebeckia I"
9" x 12", Oil on Canvas
© 2009

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Digital Art
© 2009

I use photos of our garden flowers, manipulated with Photoshop Elements, as another form of creative expression. The Cleome flower, from a season passed, is the subject of this digital art.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Our Garden

Sunflowers from our garden.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


3.5" x 5", Graphite on Paper
© 2009

Thursday, June 4, 2009

First Juried Art Show(s)

Saturday, May 16, my wife and I attended an artists' reception at Chemers Gallery in Tustin. It was the first time we attended a reception for a juried show in which I had a painting hung. The painting was "Tustin Morning." (I'm thinking there's nothing better than sipping Champagne at an artists' reception!)

Sunday, May 17, we visited the Mission Viejo Library. Two other paintings, "Fancy 'Tude" and "Penguin on Ice," had been juried into and hung for the Saddleback Art League's "Spring Reflections" show.

It was a very exciting weekend and the first time I submitted to, and was juried into, an art show, let alone two shows. -Bernard

Friday, May 15, 2009

"Fancy 'Tude"

 Fancy 'Tude
12" x 12", Oil on Canvas
© 2009
My source material was "The Fairest Fowl." Photography by Tamara Staples. Essay by Ira Glass.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

"Penguin on Ice"

"Penguin on Ice"
Watercolor on Paper
© 2006

   I took several successive watercolor classes at the nearby Irvine Fine Arts Center. I had a terrific instructor, Marlene Gerloff, who gave us the freedom to try a wide range of techniques with a variety of subjects.
   I worked on many paintings. However, there were only two I considered successful enough to frame. "Penguin on Ice" was one of the two.
   "Paint animals and use a wet-into-wet technique" was the assignment on the day this picture was painted. Marlene supplied several magazine clippings of animal photos. I chose one with three penguins. To simplify my composition, I focused on one of the penguins. It sketched out quickly.
   To further simplify matters, I decided to use only three colors from my palette of 26 watercolors. I chose only the secondary colors of orange (Cadmium Orange), purple (Ultramarine Violet), and green (Viridian Green). The entire painting was composed of just these three colors. Even the black feathers were made from several glazes of two or three of the colors. I was amazed at the versatility of this limited palette.
   I'm told that the underside of the left wing is purple; I was shooting for gray. I would have been reticent to purposefully paint the underside purple. However, this fortunate misstep added accidental interest.
   Besides wet-into-wet, I used washes, dry brush, and the aforementioned glazes.
   I have yet to master the medium, but that does not diminish my enjoyment of watching wet colors spread, swirl, and blend with expected and unexpected results.

(I use a Quiller Palette and a Quiller Wheel. I tried a rectangular Robert Edwards palette, but found it difficult when trying to locate the complement of a selected color.
The round Quiller Palette is designed as a color wheel. Working from a color wheel and using watercolors was a manageable way to further understand color relationships. It helped me mix colors in my head - to imagine the resulting mixtures.
Furthermore, the palette and the laminated Quiller Wheel graphic allowed me to arrange my watercolors with confidence. I checked the names of the colors on my paint tubes against the names called out on the graphic. I depended a lot on the tube labels. With an Ultra Fine Point Sharpie, I carefully wrote the names on the ridge of each paint well.)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

"Tustin Morning"

"Tustin Morning"
9" x 12", Acrylic on Canvas
© 2009


The Tustin Art League is putting on their second annual art show at Chemers Gallery. Today I excitedly submitted my painting. This is the very first juried art show to which I have made a submission.

A tree had to be included in all art work submitted. The subject matter had to be located in the City of Tustin. From all the locations I reviewed in and from the many photos I took of Tustin, I kept on coming back to this mobile home in Parque Santiago. I tried to capture some of its charm. And, yes, the heart actually does hang in the window.

Monday, May 4, 2009

San Fernando Valley Rural

"Bantam Cockerel"
12" x 12", Acrylic on Canvas
© 2008
I grew up in the San Fernando Valley. My fondest childhood memories are of those few innocent summers spent eating over-ripe apricots freshly fallen from our two enormous trees, playing with caterpillars, chasing our bantam hen, watching our tumbler pigeon somersault erratically through the sky, and just laying around through the midday heat.
The "New Hampshire Bantam Cockerel" photograph in Tamara Staples' "The Fairest Fowl" inspired this painting and brought back to mind those pleasant memories.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Silverado Canyon

"Silverado Canyon"
9" x 12", Acrylic on Canvas Board
© 2008
I took a photo of this scene a few years earlier. It was one of those rare winters when it snowed in the nearby hills. My wife and I took a short drive into this remarkable landscape. I pulled off the road and hurriedly took some pictures; I'm so glad I did.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

"A Companion of Diana" Posted

"A Companion of Diana"
Graphite on Paper
© 2009

Karin Jurick has posted my drawing of "A Companion of Diana" on her "Different Strokes From Different Folks" (DSFDF) blog. There were over 100 interpretations posted.

My drawing measured 8-1/2" from the bottom of the statue's base to the top of the statue's head. I used an HB pencil for most of the drawing. I used 6B and 8B for the darkest shadows. The paper was 9" x 12". Given the amount of detail, the multiple light sources, and the subtle changes in values - next time I'm using a much bigger sheet of paper.

With each teeny, tiny stroke of the pencil, I marveled at the complexity of the statue. I was continually amazed by the sculptor's ability to create an entire story of the adoration of a dog for its mistress, the fondness of the mistress for her dog - all delicately portrayed with strength and beauty.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Lavender Fields in Red - At Least I Think It's Red

“Lavender Fields Study”
9” x 12”, Acrylic on Canvas Board
© 2009

I'm pretty much lavender, purple, and violet color challenged. So, I changed and saturated the colors of the reference photo in Photoshop Elements to where I was comfortable with what I saw. Using the PSE image, I gave myself permission to paint this radically tweaked landscape.

I'm looking forward to painting a 30" x 40" version of this study. The interpretation of the lavender in the larger version will be a bit more blue.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"What Is He Doing Now?"

“Lago Santa Margarita, Reflections”
4” x 6”, Acrylic on Canvas Board
© 2007
A friend of mine, Larry Carlson, recently self-published a book of insightful and touching prose entitled,"What Is He Doing Now?".

Pages from the book can be read at (Click on the book cover to open the book. Click on each large page to turn the pages. Right click to zoom in.)

I was honored that Larry included a detail of one of my paintings to illustrate his Introduction on Page 4.