Been working on my paint chops recently and I am finding Portrait Painting Atelier by Suzanne Brooker quite informative. Chapter Five: The Painting Process is particularly useful, in 14 pages laying out a way of systematizing the approach. The breakthrough for me was in the section ‘Working in grisaille’* because I never fully understood the relation of the underpainting to the finished piece.

Also under ‘Handling the brush’ I found “Brushwork is the signature of a painter. Every brushstroke interprets light, volume, space, movement, direction, or texture. This means that your intention must be clear before the brush touches the canvas.” So true in anything, the intention is what will pull it off.

**Grisaille (French: gris ‘grey’) is a term for painting executed in monochrome or near-monochrome, usually in shades of grey. Many grisailles in fact include a slightly wider colour range. Paintings executed in brown are sometimes referred to as  brunaille, and paintings executed in green are sometimes called verdaille.  A grisaille may be executed for its own sake, as underpainting for an oil painting (in preparation for glazing layers of colour over it), or as a model for an engraver to work from.



I’ve written here about artists, styles, and interests that I found inspirational. But they’ve either been dead or someone whos work you look at in a museum or listen to on the CD or go to the theatre or on DVD.

Today I’m inspired by Elizabeth Briel. A contemporary, who I’ve only met through a blog, online photos, and a TED talk. Here is an American born and educated artist who now lives and works in Asia.

From her ‘about’ page:

“My first taste of solo travel was the hardest: after working a year of 40-to 60-hour weeks while completing a painting degree, I saved up enough to embark on an independent study abroad art and language program in France.

After graduation I stumbled onto an accidental internship at the Liverpool Biennial Fringe festival, and worked as a sculpture apprentice in Tuscany, then did what every American artist is supposed to do: moved to New York. There I worked with artists’ and photographers’ portfolios, but  wanted to be challenged every day by what I saw and experienced on the streets around me. So eventually I decided to satisfy my curiosity about another part of the world: Asia.

I crash-landed in Korea to teach Art and English, ….. Then I moved to Cambodia to teach photography to children and worked with the Angkor Photo Festival.

Still on the move, I relocated to Hong Kong, where I founded a community gallery and fulfilled a dream: to illustrate a children’s book.”

Here is a particularly insightful, actually brilliant analysis of what it takes to BE an artist

Additionally she has completed a book on handmade paper and established an artist studio in Italy for resident paper artists. And is now living in Bejing, China.

As I said I’ve never met her, but the informal, informative posts to her blog and the social awareness artworks she has shown make me feel I have, because here is art as I have learned to define it. A communication of a message through a medium that the viewer/experiencer ‘gets’. Whether it is the beauty of an ancient temple gate photo or one of her watercolor ‘rants’ about equality for women or simply the fact that this person up and left and “crash landed” in Asia to make art; I get it.

And because I get it I’m inspired. Thanks E.


Stephen “Stevie” Ray Vaughan (October 3, 1954 – August 27, 1990) was an American guitarist, singer-songwriter, and recording artist.

Listen to the studio version of “Little Wing” on The Sky is Crying.
One take, no overdub, and if you listen closely in the quiet parts you can hear the amps crackling and sizzleing.

Left us all too soon.


Giovanni Boldini was born in Ferrara, Italy in 1842 the son of a painter of religious subjects. He went to Florence in 1862 to study painting. He trained on the Italian Renaissance masters and combined work and study for many years, in Paris and London, and Holland and Germany. He developed his own, distinct style, and his portraits grew in fame, helped greatly by a portrait commissioned by Giuseppe Verdi in 1886, the biggest celebrity of his day.

Portrait of Guiseppe Verdi

Verdi gave Boldini an introduction into the world of opera, which led to many commissions for portraits, and to many intimate paintings of opera fans in theatres and cafes around Europe.

Boldini lived in Paris from 1872, where he moved in the Impressionist’s circle, a friend of Edgar Degas. He also became the most fashionable portrait painter of the time in Paris, with a dashing style of painting which shows some Impressionist influence but which most closely resembles the work of his contemporaries John Singer Sargent and Paul Helleu.

Boldini’s paintings showed his subject in soft-focus, elongated, in movement, alive, and sophisticated. His portraits were flattering. The brush work was swift and bold. It is this masterful brushwork that gives his paintings the sense of motion.

He also painted landscapes in the naturalistic style of his day, influenced by the Macchiaioli schooled artists he knew in Florence, and worked on engravings, with pastels, watercolors and etchings. It was only toward the end of his life did his style change, becoming more impressionistic (possibly due to his failing eyesight), using mainly dark, rich colors. His subjects changed as well. No longer having to rely on portraits for a living he began painting the subjects he wanted to paint, which seemed to be the female nude.

Yet another change that came late in life was that bachelor Boldini married; in 1929, aged 86.

He died of pneumonia 11 July 1931, and is buried in his hometown of Ferrara, Italy.


I took a minor in theatre at university. So I’ve always enjoyed acting, actors, the stage, and film; and there are many fine actors. Brando, Jack Nicholson, Tommy Lee Jones, Meryl Streep, Tom Cruise, and Cate Blanchett. All have played such a broad range of character you almost, though having seen them numerous times, have no idea who they are because they are so diverse.

Here are a few of the faces of Cate Blanchett:

Elizabeth I, Dr. Irina Spalko, Galadriel, and Annie Wilson.

Catherine Élise “Cate” Blanchett was born in the Melbourne suburb of Ivanhoe 14 May 1969. Her work has earned her several accolades, including an Academy Award, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, two BAFTAs, and a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Blanchett has described herself as being “part extrovert, part wallflower” during childhood. She attended a primary school in Melbourne. For her secondary education she attended Ivanhoe Girls’ Grammar School and then Methodist Ladies’ College, from which she graduated. She studied economics and fine arts at the University of Melbourne before leaving Australia to travel overseas.

Blanchett made her international film debut with a supporting role as an Australian nurse captured by the Japanese Army during World War II, in Bruce Beresford’s 1997 film Paradise Road.

Her first high-profile international role was as Elizabeth I of England in the 1998 movie Elizabeth, which earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. She lost out though to Gwyneth Paltrow, but won a British Academy Award (BAFTA) and a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Drama.

Blanchett was exposed to a much broader audience when she appeared in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings. She played the role of Galadriel in all three films. In 2006, she starred in Babel opposite Brad Pitt, The Good German with George Clooney and Notes on a Scandal opposite Dame Judi Dench. Blanchett received her third Academy Award nomination for her performance in the film.

In 2007, she won the Volpi Cup Best Actress Award at the Venice Film Festival and the Best Supporting Actress Golden Globe Award for portraying one of six incarnations of Bob Dylan in Todd Haynes’ feature film I’m Not There and reprised her role as Elizabeth I in the sequel, Elizabeth: The Golden Age.

At the 80th Academy Awards Blanchett received two Academy Award nominations; Best Actress for Elizabeth: the Golden Age and Best Supporting Actress for I’m Not There, becoming the eleventh actor to receive two acting nominations in the same year and the first female actor to receive another nomination for the reprisal of a role.

She next starred in Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as the villainous KGB agent Col. Dr. Irina Spalko.

Blanchett’s husband is playwright and screenwriter, Andrew Upton, whom she met while she was performing in a production of The Seagull. They were married on 29 December 1997 and have three sons: Dashiell John, Roman Robert, and Ignatius Martin.


As I have previously defined an Italian word (a language I do not know), disegno, let’s look at another one.

The Oxford English says “2. The treatment or disposition of the light and shade, or lighter and darker masses, in a picture.” and cites John Opie’s 1806 Royal Academy Lectures on Art “Chiaroscuro includes not only light and shadow as it effects each separate part, but the proper division and distribution of the whole surface of a picture into bright or dark masses, whether the darkness be produced by shadow, or by the proper colour of…the objects represented.”

The word comes from Italian for “light-dark”, chiaroscuro is defined as a bold contrast between both light and dark. A certain amount of chiaroscuro has the effect of light modeling in painting, where three-dimensional volume is suggested by highlights and shadow. A departure from the pre-Renaissance flat field styling.

A few examples of chiaroscuro painters include Rembrandt, Giovanni Baglione, and Caravaggio.