Fun with Friends

Three years ago Stephie Butler from England and Joanna Lodewijks-Pijlman from the Netherlands came to visit for a week and for Stephie to teach a two-day portrait workshop. We had a such a marvelous time that it seemed afterwards as if it had been a dream, and I wished they would come back. Well, they did! Last week they both came for another visit (nine wonderful days this time) and another portrait workshop. We had the best time exploring the Hudson Valley, painting together, experimenting with art mediums and styles, eating good food, and just hanging out together.

Other than the two days of the workshop, we spent some time at home most days and some time visiting someplace pretty. On Monday Joanna demo’d painting loose, colorful backgrounds and flower painting in the morning, then we went to the Vanderbilt to see and sketch the river views.

My flower painting following Joanna’s demo
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Stephie and me sketching the Vanderbilt view
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Joanna with her sketch
Me sketching

On Tuesday we worked on various paintings from Monday and then, since the weather was perfect, we grilled steaks for lunch and ate on the deck, then walked and sketched on the Walkway Over the Hudson.

Lunch on the deck

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Wednesday I did a demo of Chickadees in the morning, after which we had lunch at The Matchbox Cafe in Rhinebeck (they have the best burgers!) and then wandered around Rhinebeck (of course stopping in the Rhinebeck Art Store), then went to Olana, the home of Frederic Edwin Church of the Hudson River School of Art, where we enjoyed the river views and the sunset.

Colorful Chickadee demo painting
Olana river view

Thursday we visited Topfield Equestrian Center, where there are beautiful, friendly horses in a picturesque landscape. We had a wonderful time sketching and photographing the horses, after which we headed to Beacon for lunch at Homespun Foods, which we wanted to go to since we had enjoyed it three years ago. It was just as delicious this time, and we very much enjoyed the peaceful outdoor courtyard surrounded by flowers.

Topfield Equestrian Center

Topfield Equestrian Center horse sketches- ballpoint pen
Friends and flowers at Homespun Foods
Homespun Foods in Beacon courtyard
Delicious Greek salad at Homespun Foods!

Friday and Saturday were Stephie’s watercolor portraits workshop– an excellent workshop! Stephie is an outstanding and inspiring teacher from whom I have learned so much and gained much enthusiasm for painting portraits. My mother and sister and one of my brothers were also at the workshop, which made it extra special for me.

Stephie demonstrating and explaining (my mother, my sister, and my brother are on the right)
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Stephie demonstrating painting a girl from Namibia the 2nd day of the workshop
Stephies portrait
Stephie’s portrait from her demo the first day of the workshop
Me painting a homeless woman from Brazil
My portrait from the 2nd day of the workshop (Many thanks to Gunnar Salvarsson for the use of his reference photo)
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My portrait from the 1st day of the workshop– (Many thanks to Steve Evans for the use of his reference photo)

To me it is really interesting to see how we each use the same general approach, and yet maintain our own style. As a good instructor, Stephie always encourages her students to develop their own style, while incorporating her  approach and techniques.

Joannas portrait day 1
Joanna’s portrait day 1 of the workshop
Joannas portrait
Joanna’s portrait from the 2nd day of the workshop

Sunday we were ready for a break, so after I got back from church we stayed home and played with charcoal. I hadn’t used charcoal in a very long time, but Stephie and Joanna had done some charcoal drawing together a few weeks ago, which inspired me to give it a try. That is one of the great things about spending time with other artists; I picked up many tips and new skills, and also was inspired to try out new mediums, approaches, and subjects.

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Joanna’s charcoal of a landscape from her town in the Netherlands
Joanna’s charcoal drawing of a wolf
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Stephie drawing a lion in charcoal
Stephie’s lion in charcoal
My charcoal portrait of a man we met in Alaska (75 year old man with incredible house truck)

Sunday evening Stephie and Joanna treated Stephen and me to dinner at Shadows on the Hudson, where we finally got to see the beginnings of fall color on the far side of the river. By the time we were finished eating it was dark, and the Mid-Hudson Bridge was lit with beautiful blue lights- a wonderful finale to a great week. I am already looking forward to Stephie and Joanna’s next visit!

More Memory Project Portraits

My father and I have continued to make portraits for children through The Memory Project since first doing portraits of Ukrainian children in February (click here to see those portraits). In March we did portraits of children from Bolivia who live in an impoverished area on the outskirts of a city. My father did a caricature of a thirteen-year-old boy named Jose and I did a watercolor of thirteen-year-old Laura. My sister, Jennifer Thompson, also did a watercolor of fourteen-year-old Isidro, and my brother Thaddeus Thompson did an acrylic portrait of a Bolivian boy, Jose Michael. It was fun to do these as a family!

Laura
Jose
Isidro
Jose Michael

After doing the portraits of Bolivian children, my father and I wanted to do more, so in April we did portraits of children from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I did a watercolor of nine-year-old Abati and my father did a caricature of eight-year-old Baraka. These children have very likely suffered from war, violence, displacement, and malnutrition.

Abati
Baraka

I’ve never considered myself a portrait artist, but it is a privilege to be able to do a portrait that will help a child in these circumstances realize that he or she is special and valued as an individual. While painting the portraits, I often pray for the child I’m painting, that somehow he or she would experience God’s love and care and that my portrait would in some way convey that love to the child. If you’re interested in participating in The Memory Project, you can find out more information at https://memoryproject.org/.

The Memory Project

My father and I just participated in the Memory Project, which connects artists with youth around the world who have faced poverty, abuse, neglect, violence, loss of parents, or other serious challenges. The Memory Project sends the artist a photo of a child, and the artist then creates a portrait of the child and sends it back to the Memory Project. The portrait is then delivered to the child along with a photo of the artist, with the goal of helping the child feel valued, important, and cared about as an individual.

We were sent photos of two young Ukrainian orphans, Ilya and Ivanna. Artists can make the portrait in any style or medium on paper or canvas, so I did my portrait in watercolor, and my father did his as a caricature (he has done many thousands of caricatures of children around the world). He drew the boy playing soccer, since it is such a popular sport in the Ukraine. I really enjoyed working together with my father on this project., and we’re planning to sign up again, along with my sister and one of my brothers. I’d really would encourage any artists who do portraits to consider doing this very rewarding project.

Working together in my parents’ dining room
My father sketching out his portrait, adapting a head-on view for a caricature
Ilya playing soccer
Ivanna

Joy!

I started this painting in Stephie Butler‘s watercolour portraits workshop here last August, but then got busy with life (a new grandchild) and didn’t have a chance to finish it until yesterday. I also often take a while after a workshop to let the ideas and instruction settle in my mind as I practice the techniques on other subjects, before I go back to have another go at the initial subjects. This woman’s smile and obvious joy captured my attention as soon as I saw her photo (by Steve Evans), so I was eager to paint her and attempt to share some of that joy in watercolor.