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Monday, September 30, 2013

Portrait #6 in the Indian Women Series.

Started Sketches for a New Portrait Today.


I took a few days, maybe a week, off and out of my studio.  Guilt set in at first, but then I realized I needed a break.  So I worked in the garden, read, did some cooking, went to some social events, did a little house keeping, cleaned out the shed (boy did that need to be done) hiked, biked, and zipped out of town for a couple days.  

Interestingly enough, just yesterday I was asked if I paint every day.....you guessed the answer:  no.  However I did respond that I do something creative every day and that my mind is always working towards the next painting, paintings. So it wasn't a surprise that I blasted back into the studio today with fresh ideas for about five new paintings.  If there was only more time in the day. 



Here's the rough sketch of what's to come, at least one of what is to come.  And this is a ROUGH sketch, so there will most likely be changes.  Check back....I will post the progress.

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Fifth Portrait.

 As Promised, The Process Continued.

Sally Snooks
20x20
1000.

Mentioned in an earlier post, this series of Indian women portraits is an experiment for me having never painted portraits previously.  The promise was I would share this process with you, so here is #5.

Laying on base pigment to begin new portrait.

I came across a wonderful photo of Sally Snooks and after some research I see her name printed as Snooks and Snook.  I also see her heritage assigned to Washoe and Piaute, so more research is required.  She definitely lived and worked in the Tahoe area and is recognized as a talented basket maker.

Base layers of pigment in the background and addition of lighter and darker tones in the face.

I decided to place the face off to the left of the canvas with the eyes looking down to the right, off the painted space.  I get so involved in the the process that I forget to stop to take photos, so some of these photos make fairly large leaps between one another.  

After a few more facial details, the head scarf and clothing areas get base color.

Painting in details on the scarf and decorative band.

The decorative areas on the head scarf and band across the painting are inspired by designs from two of Sally Snooks' baskets. 

Scarf and bank completed.

I struggled with this portrait.  When it got to the point you see in the photo just above I was very disappointed.  I was not sure I liked the composition, the facial tones seemed flat.  I walked away for a few days, but left the painting where I would see it constantly. I returned and spent time plumping out Sally's left cheek as well as altering come of the lights and darks throughout the entire painting.  You will also notice, in the photo below, the addition of the lighter blue tones in the background.  I also added a top varnish layer of Liquin to give the painting a high gloss finish.  For better or worse, it is complete and you can decide what you think.

Sally Snooks
Acrylic on Canvas
20x20
1000.

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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Indian Portrait Paintings




 The Fourth Painting in My New Series.

Dat so la Lee with 8 Degikup Baskets
24x24
1200.

Let's take a look at the process for this particular painting of Dat so la Lee with 8 degikup baskets and while doing so you will read a bit about the baskets too.  Painless history.


The canvas began with the same palette used for the previous 3 paintings and some of the same composition elements, the rectangle behind the head symbolizing a throne back, the stripe across the top third of the canvas an area that will hold a design from one of Dat so la Lee's baskets, and a ring of degikup baskets circling her neck.


Dat so la Lee is most famous for developing the degikup basket style that consisted of a large spherical shaped basket with a flat base and a small opening. It is estimated that she produced nearly 300 baskets in her lifetime, some taking a year to create.  Amazing.  In this particular painting I choose to represent some of her degikup baskets as well as the face of this talented woman.

After laying on some of the flesh tones I begin to concentrate on the dark and light areas of the face, all the while trying to think of anything but the fact that this is a face.  Remember, this is all new to me.

Traditionally, Washoe utilitarian baskets, or degikup, were round, watertight baskets made to hold such things as acorn mush, pine nut soup, and a drink made from wild rhubarb. 


By adding darker areas, shaded line work, the features become more obvious.

Degikup were also important in Washoe ceremonies. During the Washoe girls’ dance, food was put in degikup and given to singers in thanks for their singing; another degikup was thrown out to the dancers as a gift.  


The hair and beginnings of the head scarf go in....I needed to leave the face alone since I was nervous about overworking.

These baskets, the degikup,  were relatively simple in form and design—as were Dat so la lee’s first baskets. However, Dat so la lee transformed the shape and design of degikup, making truly aesthetic, sculptured baskets.



After painting in basic shading for her head scarf I went back to her face and had an 'ah ha' moment...thank goodness...using the same techniques I use to paint my rocks I was able to simplify, intensify, give character and depth to this face.

The Carson Valley and Lake Tahoe were home to Dat so la Lee.  Because I live and work in this area, I want to honor the early, talented women, those of the tribes that inhabited this area, the women who wove tribal history into their baskets.  This is why I am choosing to paint portraits of these women, and the first woman I have chosen to paint is Dat so la Lee, this the fourth of her and fourth in my series.


After more research about the degikup basket and Dat so la Lee's degikup baskets in particular, I painted in the base colors for the baskets making them slightly larger than they were in the original sketch.  Selecting a design from one of her baskets to place on the head scarf  repeats what was done in the first portrait.


It's the local Indian basket weavers I want to honor with portraits: Dat so la Lee, Lizzie Peters, Jennie Bryant Shaw, Tillie Snooks, Tootsie Dick, Maggie Mayo James, Lilly James, to name a few.  These women lived and worked in the late 1800's and into the early 1900's.  Their craft was traditionally handed down mother to daughter, the creation of utilitarian vessels that were spectacular in design as well as being useful in life. Because it is the women I want to honor, not the baskets, the focus in my paintings is general, not specific.  My painted baskets do not compare to the precise and intricate weave these women accomplished and I do not strive for them to do so.

Detail of the painting showing the completed scarf and the beginning of the basket designs, all inspired by actual baskets woven by Dat so la Lee.


The background stripe filled with another design from one of Dat so la Lee's baskets.

Creating these women in paint is my way of acknowledging  and honoring their lives and their craft.  


Dat so la Lee With 8 Degikup Baskets
24x24
1200.


To contact me click HERE
To visit my web site click HERE

Monday, September 9, 2013

First Portrait.


The Why and How of The First Portraits.


Dat so la Lee
12x12
Acrylic on canvas
800.

Because she is the most noted of the Washoe Basket Weavers, Dat so la Lee has become my first subject.  I want to give you some historical information about this famous Washoe Basket maker who is recognized throughout the country as among the most skilled traditional basket weavers to date..... much of this information comes from several different articles written by Carol Van Etten, Rachelle Larson, 

I began with pencil sketches based on photographs


"The Quiet One", Debuda, was born sometime between 1825 and 1850 near Lake Tahoe.  Details about her girlhood  have vanished however it is known that she spent much of her adult life working as a housekeeper and cleaning woman.  


After sketching my composition onto the canvas pigment is laid down focusing on dark and light areas.  Some of the features begin to take shape.  At this point I work very quickly and try to focus on anything but the fact this is a face.

Not wanting to reveal their given names to the white man, Indians frequently took on names of friends or employers.  It is said that Dr. S.L. Lee was the first white man to admire Debuda's work, hence she selected Dat so la Lee as her name.  When she married Charley Keyser she took the name Louisa Keyser.  Primarily you see her referred to as Dat so la Lee, or Louisa Keyser and she is sometimes referred to as The Queen of the Washoe Basketmakers.  Her baskets have the initials LK woven into them as her signature.


Layers of pigment and the features bring the face to life.

In 1895 Abe Cohn, a prominent Carson City merchant was introduced to the baskets crafted by this Indian woman.  He aggressively marketed Dat so la Lee's work concocting colorful stories and legends to describe her designs.  Her baskets gained international interest as an art form and what was  originally selling for a few dollars began to sell for more. 


A collection of baskets created by Dot so la Lee

At the beginning of each summer, Dat so la Lee, Charley and their little dog would make the trip over the pass from Carson City, cross Tahoe by steamer to Tahoe City where Johnny Hurley's boathouse, at the mouth of the Truckee River, had been rented by Cohn for their use.   In this building, dressed in voluminous skirts, Dot so la lee would weave baskets at a steady, untiring pace, using fingernails, awl, lips and teeth to work willow, birch and fern.  These baskets would be sold through Cohn's curio shops.


Dat so la Lee was frequently photographed wearing a head scarf.  I am choosing to paint this portrait with a scarf, however I am using a design element from one of her baskets as the decoration on the scarf material.  This is my fabrication, not something that is seen in the photos.

During the early 1920's, an appreciation for Indian art began to surface and the superior skill evident in Dat so la Lee's baskets began to command four-digit price tags.  Yet, she continue to live out her inglorious days in the employ of Abe Cohn, weaving legends of the Washoe people into beautiful, mathematically intricate creations to adorn the homes of white people who did not understand the dying culture the baskets represented, nor the patient and gifted weaver who believed her hands were spiritually guided.


Additional shadows have been added.

Dat so la Lee departed her earthly life on December 6, 1925 and is buried at the Stewart Cemetery near Carson City.  Her grave reads:  Myriads of stars shine over the graves of our ancestors.  


After layers of glazing, and the addition of high and low lights, the portrait is complete.

The other day I was reading about an auction of Indian baskets which included one created by Dat so la lee.  The expected sale price of that particular basket was close to $600,000.  Experts recognize Dat so la Lee as having been an innovator in basket making because she introduced unique, non-traditional designs and materials in the making of her baskets.    


Dat so la Lee
12x12
Acrylic on Canvas

The Carson Valley and Lake Tahoe was home to Dat so la Lee.  Because I live and work in this area, I want to honor the early, talented women, those of the tribes that inhabited this area, the women who wove tribal history into their baskets.  This is why I am choosing to paint portraits of these women, and the first is Dat so la Lee.

Queen of the Washoe Basket Makers
24x24
Acrylic on Canvas
1150.

Demonstration
20x24
Acrylic on Canvas
1150.


To contact me click HERE
to visit my web site click HERE





Monday, September 2, 2013

New Things Going On In The Studio, Part II


Painting Portraits

Really?  It's true.  And though I am still painting nature inspired compositions like rocks, pine cones, produce ( I will never tire of these), 






 I am compelled to add this new subject matter, portraits.



My studio is a very busy place with lots going on.

It must have started over forty years ago, my fascination with weaving and other fiber arts that has led me to portraits.  In a college art class I was introduced to warps and wefts and I was smitten.  Further individual study with a variety of weavers and types of weaving led me to experiment with fibers of all types and techniques of all types.  Not only did I train with traditional Navajo rug makers but contemporary artists who used looms and three dimensional techniques which I incorporated into my creative endeavors.

Rapunzel
Linen and Flax
Woven by Pamela Hunt Lee 1974

So how did this lead to portraits?  After my move to the Lake Tahoe area in the early 1970's, because of my interest in weaving, I wanted to know about the local Indian women and what they had woven.  Quickly I discovered that Washoe Indian women had a proud sorority of weavers that were active during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and they had woven baskets.    



Knowledge of these Washoe women and their talents influenced my desire to create  baskets (though mine were made from man made threads rather than local plants) which eventually led to a line of jewelry based on basket making techniques.  I also composed series of paintings inspired by traditional women's fiber arts.  Clearly I was and am influenced by women's art and craft.  

Decorative Baskets
Woven by Pamela Hunt Lee


During these years I held on to the image of the historical, local Indian women.  These images have simmered and are finally coming to the surface, finding their way into my sketch books and onto the canvas.  

Sketch of Dat so la Lee
by Pamela Hunt Lee

It's the local Indian basket weavers I want to honor with portraits: Dat so la Lee, Lizzie Peters, Jennie Bryant Shaw, Tillie Snooks, Tootsie Dick, Maggie Mayo James, Lilly James, to name a few.  These women lived and worked in the late 1800's and into the early 1900's.  Their craft was traditionally handed down mother to daughter, the creation of utilitarian vessels that were spectacular in design as well as being useful in life.  Some of these women sat for formal portraits and these photos exist today becoming the inspirational basis for my first portrait paintings.  

Dat so la Lee
Acrylic on Stretched Canvas
12" x 12"
800.


Creating these women in paint is my way of acknowledging  and honoring their lives and their craft.  

Come back, check in, let me tell you what I am thinking and show you what I am doing as I proceed through this new project.  

To contact me click HERE
To visit my web site click HERE