Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Posted by: Kate

I'm thrilled to announce that my painting "Israfel" has received Second Place for still life in the ARC Salon!

"Israfel," oil on dibond panel, 50x26", 2013
I worked on this painting for seven months last year and I never mentioned it on the blog.  The reason was because my in progress shots were complete crap--I hadn't upgraded my camera yet, the lighting was very dim, and I couldn't step far back enough from my painting to take a shot.  My studio then was pretty cramped.  I knew I had backed up to my sight-size spot when my spine hit the corner of my drafting table.

And then, when the painting was done, I was kind of burnt out on it.  It immediately sold to a collector who had been expressing interest in my trompe l'oeil work (YESSS!!), and since it was a direct sale I did one of my super fun write ups and certificates of authenticity!  I often make these for paintings before I send them to galleries, but I have the sinking feeling that my galleries don't always show them to clients.  I like to print these out on nice paper, something a bit thicker than normal, and place it in an envelope or a pouch adhered to the backing on the frame.

(A big thank you to Kate Sammons for sending me a copy of her own certificate template.)

The write up reads:
The inspiration for Israfel came from a poem of the same name by Edgar Allan Poe.  A single verse of this poem can be found inscribed on the door to the right of the violin – as if lightly penciled by some long ago graffitist.

If I could dwell
Where Israfel
Hath dwelt, and he where I,
He might not sing so wildly well
A mortal melody,
While a bolder note than this might swell
From my lyre within the sky.

The angel Israfel plays a divine music that is the song of his own heartstrings.  Unlike other artists, he relies on no instrument or medium for expression – that which he has to express pours directly forth from its source.  The poet laments that, being an earthly mortal, he is limited in his own creative expression: his music will always be corrupted by the imperfect instruments of man.  As divine and as true as the inspiration in his heart is, he will never be able to deliver it in its pure and perfect form to the world.  Its earthly manifestation will always be a pale echo of the original inspiration.

The canary represents the angel Israfel with his innate ability to create music.  The violin is our imperfect instrument on earth.  The door forecasts the poet’s eventual passage into the next realm, the one in which he may finally be unlimited in his creative expression like the angel Israfel.

The narrative is close to my heart.  I am perpetually frustrated by how warped and inferior my paintings come out compared to the perfect picture I had in my head at the moment of inspiration.  It's painful and ego-destroying, but it's more than that too.  It sends me into a downward spiral of WHYBOTHER.  My painting "Israfel" itself is quite a bit short of what I had in my head.

I find a lot of similarity between the Israfel poem and the myth of Icarus, the youth who flew too close to the sun so that his wings melted and he plunged to his death.  Both are about little men striving for things greater than they have a right to.  As you've noticed from the title of my bird alla prima series, the Icarus theme is a pet of mine.

And another thing, has anyone thought about the fact that the ONLY art form that doesn't require an instrument or tool of any sort is song?

If I had done a work in progress post, I would have drawn your attention to a few things:
  • The paint chips were applied with a palette knife after the wood grain of the door was finished.  I used impasto medium to beef up my paint.
  • There is a Super. Simple. way to check your lines to make sure they are straight (for instance, those violin strings), and it doesn't involve a ruler or a plumb line: simply line up your eye against the edge of your painting so that you can see the line foreshortened lengthwise.  Any little bobbles will become immediately obvious.
  • The violin was HARD.  It's not presenting itself head on, so it's not perfectly symmetrical.  And yet, it has to seem symmetrical.  Furthermore, there was a ton of lost and found.
  • I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say that a full 50% of my time was spent dithering over drawing issues.  Drawing gets exponentially harder the larger the painting.
  • Everything in this painting was done sight size from a set up, but the canary was painted from a photo.  No shame.
  • I acquired said canary as a pet expressly to model for this painting.  I still have him.  He is fabulous.


  1. Very beautiful painting, very beautiful subject and well though out.
    I like the emotional balance; the closed door with the earthly tool guarding it, then the promise represented by the bird, he exudes something encouraging, like he's pointing the viewers' attention to the violin. "This is it, this is what you'll be working with, show me what you got"
    ... Very very neat, Katherin! Kudos and heartfelt congratulations.

    I like this sort of work because I really believe art has an big impact on the individual and collective psyche of a people; it can either deepen or poison man's view on the world. This one is certainly a contribution to our (almost dead) Western culture.

  2. A hearty Congratulations!! The painting is amazing, and I loved reading your write up!

  3. I thoroughly enjoyed both your painting and commentary. I particularly relate to what you said and I quote " I am perpetually frustrated by how warped and inferior my paintings come out compared to the perfect picture I had in my head at the moment of inspiration. It's painful and ego-destroying, but it's more than that too. It sends me into a downward spiral of WHY BOTHER. My painting "Israfel" itself is quite a bit short of what I had in my head." Oh how I struggle with this very thing. Something sparks this vision for a painting and my vain attempts to bring it to fruition make me also ask "why bother." But, I haven't torn my studio apart yet so there is still hope. Blessings!

  4. Wonderful painting, wonderful post. Thank you for sharing the process and the result. In response to song being the one art form not requiring anything added, I propose adding dance to the list. Margie Gillis, for one, can perform emotionally devastating dance pieces unaccompanied by sound.

  5. Fabulous piece. I love how I didn't see the violin first glance. Mystery.

    Someone recently asked me about Certificates of Authencity. My eyebrows went up. Nicely composed example there.

  6. Very beautiful painting and very encouraging to know that there are those collectors that can appreciate tromp l'oile as a fine art form - maybe there is hope for us realists yet!

    I absolutely love the story about the canary - both that you used a photo and that you bought him and kept him as a pet. I get so tired as an artist that paints animal of the pounding drum about always painting from life. Ummm...OK I want to paint a cheetah. Anyone know of one that wants to be my studio model for the day? Or should I just go ahead and fork over $20K to go to Africa on a safari and maybe I will see and cheetah and maybe I would get anywhere close enough to sketch one and maybe the light and everything else would be right...

    I also like very much the thought you put into what the painting would say and how it would say it.

    Thanks so much for sharing this stunning piece of work and the story behind it,

  7. Fantastic painting and well worth the time and effort. As to the "I am perpetually frustrated by how warped and inferior my paintings come out compared to the perfect picture I had in my head at the moment of inspiration." I call this "the Abyss" and I think all artists have it. I try to surrender to the fact that the reality of the painting's end will never match the ideal. So I try to follow what the painting dictates. Regardless, the viewer isn't aware of any of the frustrations or shortcoming you think there are.

  8. First, Congratulations on the ARC Salon Still life award! Much deserved! But even more, this painting. It is incredible. So well conceived, composed and executed. I need more and better adjectives to say what I really think.

    For me, I love all the different textures, but the first thing I noticed when I really started examining it enlarged (thank you for those) was the strings and you address that. I probably would have used a snap line to make sure they are straight. You reminded me of looking at them in perspective. Why I had forgotten that, I don't know. Age likely,but that is what I used to do when pin striping cars back in my former life. Thank you for the reminder. Kate, this is a beautiful painting you should be proud and inspired to create more beautiful paintings Well Done!

  9. A truly beautiful painting and one of your best I think! The work goes beyond the usual trompe l'oeil rendition and seemingly lives in a different way - would have loved to have seen the original. Congratulations on completing a truly amazing work and also the well-deserved award!

  10. Congratulations on the award and everything that goes with it. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts - especially the soul-baring stuff. I'm sure many artists share that feeling of inadequacy. It is helpful for those of us who think we're alone; after all here's a hot-stuff talented artist who has those feelings! After your workshop, I gave a lot of thought to your comments about surrounding yourself with things that are part of you, and how they end up in your paintings, whether literally or not (if that makes sense) and it has given me a lot of inspiration. I've done a violin as well, they are a nightmare. George Love