Wednesday, September 23, 2015


This painting, entitled "American Heritage 2", is a newly completed companion piece to "American Heritage."  For many years I have wanted to paint this illustration, and finally, I feel the project has been fully expressed.

I am honored to have this diptych accepted into Artprize ( in Grand Rapids, MI.  They are currently on exhibit at DeVos Place (303 Monroe Ave. NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503), from September 23rd through October 11th, 2015.  If you are in Grand Rapids and wish to vote for my entry, my vote code is:  61952

Limited edition prints of these paintings are available.  These giclee prints of "American Heritage" and "American Heritage 2" are signed by the artist (myself), and are offered printed on paper or canvas.  Each print is accompanied by a Certificate of Authenticity.  A 27" x 27" (original painting's size) paper or canvas print (edition of 250) is $575.00 (unframed).  An 18" x18" paper or canvas print is also offered (edition of 250) for $395.00. Please contact me at if you wish to place an order.  Please specify "American Heritage" (boy reading) and/or "American Heritage 2" (girl reading) when placing your order.

To view other works, please visit:

As I mentioned earlier, the concept for this illustration had been coursing through my imagination for many years.  Finally, the stars aligned and it was time to move forward.

The reason for this work is the same as its predecessor; inspiring children to read, and thus, educating themselves as a worthy pursuit.  Education has always been a cornerstone of strength in any successful society.  It is my intention that these paintings stand as a testament to this universal truth. 
Furthermore, applauding the incalculable contributions American women have made to our great Nation is paramount.  Mothers, wives, sisters, and any number of ambitions give our families, and thus, our country the necessary bonds to thrive.         

Three months were spent this summer (June - August, 2015), to finish this work.  I have documented the step-by-step process below, for those interested in the creative process.  

As with any of my illustrations, the process remains the same.  First, I make preliminary sketches called "thumbnail" sketches (typically about 2" x 3" in size).  This helps to establish the composition, or placement of the the characters in this case.  Once I am happy with this arrangement, it is time to find models.

This proved to be more time consuming than in the past.  It is crucial to find people with features that truly express the spirit of the subject.  Starting with friends is a great place to begin.  My friend Joann Pitteloud would make a great aviatrix.  Picturing her as such in my mind's eye was easy, and fortunately, she enthusiastically agreed to model.  Being a creative soul herself, she understood the nuances such a project entails.  Colleagues and students from the college where I teach (Laguna College of Art and Design) also jumped in to help when asked.  Christa Jech (suffragette), Lacey Bredsguard (Annie Oakley), Kimberly Winters (Harriet Tubman), Emmalyn Tringali (Betsy Ross), and Monica Magana (Sacajawea) all graciously accepted my invitations to pose.  Of course, I had to find the star of the show - The girl reading the book!  A friend of my son's, a girl named Talia, would prove to be just perfect.  It can be a challenge to work with children; communicating expressions, subtle movements, and keeping their attention during a photo shoot are all potential obstacles to capturing the much needed reference.  However, she was very attentive and delightful to work with, and being that we were all family friends helped a great deal.  With hair braided (thank you Mary!) and ribbons in place, we moved through the shoot with ease.  Thank you, one and all, for your contribution to this painting - It couldn't have happened without you!   

                                                                                                          Lacey Bredsguard as Annie Oakley

Now it is time to move onto researching costumes and props that the model's will eventually use in the portrayal of their characters. For example, Betsy Ross was just 24 years old when she sewed our Nation's flag.  It seemed a natural touch to have her proudly displaying the thirteen starred creation in her hands.  Fortunately, I found an excellent costume shop - Bianca's Historic Costumes, located in East Long Beach, CA (562-235-8887,  Bianca and Peter were very helpful in offering just the right dresses, hats, and gloves to bring this image to life.  Thank you both! 

Things were moving forward and everything "felt right."  This feeling cannot be overlooked in the creative process.  I tell all of my students that they must make every effort to find that "creative spark" of inspiration before beginning a new piece.  If that feeling can be carried through with its original enthusiasm intact, then it is almost guaranteed to be a success.  

Usually, I would proceed from the thumbnail sketch stage to refining rough sketches followed by the final drawing.  However, time would not permit these important steps (apologies to Mr. Rockwell), as I knew the Artprize deadline would arrive quickly.  

Instead, I went from the photo reference to the final painting.  The following steps will visually explain each stage from block-in to finish:

                                                                                   Drawing and block-in underpainting with acrylics

                                                     Unifying glaze of Brown Madder Alizarin creates "jewel-like" effect

                                                 Simple underpainting establishes general value and shape relationships

                                                 Detail of girl's head shows "relative finish" compared to block-in areas

                                                                  Color block-in/detailing continues... Many changes to come!


                                                                     "American Heritage 2" and "American Heritage" (diptych)

I sincerely hope you have enjoyed this post regarding "American Heritage 2."  It is always a pleasure to share insights with students and creative enthusiasts alike.  Please feel free to contact me ( if you have questions or comments to share.

No comments:

Post a Comment