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Friday, September 12, 2014

The Most Complicated and Thoroughly Researched Feather I have Ever Done

Upon seeing the Robert Burns portrait I painted upon returning from adventures in Scotland, an acquaintance in Scotland asked me if I would create a portrait of Bonnie Prince Charlie for him.  Now this gentleman is also a Jacobite reenactor, so I knew if I attempted this it had to be as right as I could make it in every way.

This one painting required more of me than any ever has before. First and foremost, I had to push my skill set and technique higher than they were at the time, otherwise what came out the end of my brush would not measure up to what I could envision in my head.  Fortunately, this commissioner is quite patient and did not mind me working away to improve what I could do.  There were several failed attempts at the portrait as my ability was not yet up to the challenge.

There was much more to it than mere growth in skills. Also required was an enormous amount of research.  Many historic portraits of the prince exist, but as I read and studied, it became apparent that not all are as they claim. A number of these portraits of Prince Charles Edward Stuart are actually of his brother, Henry Benedict Stuart. At this point I had to learn to look through the artists' styles and recognize one brother from the other.

Further difficulties. I chose the setting for the Prince to be Edinburgh.  Prince Charlie's residence in Edinburgh was a very brief window in time, the winter of 1745-46, so my representation of him needed to be very age-specific. The problem with that is, existing portraits that were truly of himself portrayed him as a youth and as an older man. None at this time existed that were painted in Scotland when he was there.

I fussed about with every bit of detail in this portrait, down to every symbol and every minutia - except for the Prince's face. I was sketching and guessing at what he may have looked like at age 24, and was afraid to commit that concept to paint.  Great fortune in timing struck, however, when the discovery of a fantastic little Ramsay portrait painted from life of Prince Charles Edward Stuart hit the news earlier this year. This one was found hidden away in Edinburgh, and was indeed painted when the Prince was in Scotland.  Although anything I could ever hope to produce could never in a million years come close to a Ramsay, at last I have an image of the Prince at 24 in Scotland from which to go by!  In an odd coincidence, I had already painted the Prince's coat a pale blue and based it on the riding coat he wears in a statue depiction of him astride a horse.

With all the reading and research done in preparation for this commission, I had a lot of material from
which to pull together a lot of symbolism within the painting.  Look out the window, and you will see Arthur's Seat, as well as a bit of St Giles Cathedral. This places the Prince in Edinburgh.  He places his hand upon an 18th century French polished marble and hardwood inlaid table, which represents his Parisian ties. Above him is an 18th century Italian wall sconce, representing his Italian origins. Within that sconce, with lit candle, is a cameo of his father, King James. This represents the rise of 1715, his father lighting the way for the rise of the 45.  Upon the French table is a cut glass vase, containing three white roses - two in the bud and one in full bloom. This is a well-known Jacobite symbol, and represents King James and his two sons, Charles and Henry.

 I wanted this portrait not to have a dull expression as so many portraits do, but to be full of life and
maybe a little bit of mischief. Hopefully that was achieved on the Prince's face.
The candle's flame is only 7mm

I'll include some closeup shots from this feather painting, so that you may see the details in these elements.

Very happy with the way the table came out. It's not easy to paint over the feather's quill.

There are far more hours invested in the painting of this feather than I care to count. I stopped counting after forty.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

The list - Getting It Done!

The single most effective time management tool I have ever utilized is a hand-written list.  Any time I go for a period without working from to-do lists, I do notice a drop in efficiency and productivity. Far more gets accomplished with a list to guide me than without.

I do prefer the tactile feel of applying pen to paper. It's more carefully executed and more permanent than a list produced on a digital platform. There's just something about the act of writing that is more thoughtful and more deliberate.

Many recommend that one create lists on daily, weekly, and monthly levels, and some say annual and five-year lists should be considered.  Although I do write down longer-range goals, I think that for now, I'm doing pretty well with just a weekly list to help guide me along.  It allows me to focus on the week ahead, plan and prioritize, and make commitments on execution without feeling trapped by the restrictions of daily lists, or overwhelmed by a detailed monthly list.  Flexibility is nice.  If you've got a good head of steam and you're really sailing through projects, you can knock out even more on that week list than you originally intended for the day.

As your projects and priorities get accomplished, there are further benefits.  The act of making check-marks and drawing lines through items is ridiculously satisfying. That satisfaction goads you on to complete more so that you can make even more check-marks and lines.  At the end of the week, you may not realize how much you accomplished, but then you pick up that messy list and have a look - and with a sense of accomplishment you realize that yes - you actually did get a lot done!!  That finished list is now also like a checkpoint on a map.   It shows your progress on longer range projects so far, which will help you chart your course for the coming week.

I've put an awful lot on myself for upcoming projects, goals, and aspirations and even adventures in the next twelve months lying before me.  With all that daunting stuff ahead, using lists has gone from handy to essential - or maybe even mandatory. It's the only way I can keep everything straight.  Without goals you don't have a destination - but if you have a goal and are without planning and lists, you have a destination without a map or compass, or a solid idea of how to get to there from here!

Well, back to my own list for the week ahead - let's see how much of that I can get accomplished!