Tuesday, December 31, 2019

A portrait commission and a New Goal for a New Year

"Bible Study" (16x12, conte and pastel pencils, from client photo) sold

Well, another year is gone and a new year begins again.

I was thrown off my usual rhythm in November when my schedule had me in Montreal for a workshop and various other things kept me away from doing my annual 30-in-30 November challenge. Then I was largely offline most of December, immersed in portrait commissions at a Holiday craft show that I've been doing for decades.

It's strange and powerful this hold that the creative urge has over an artist. It's too easy to let it all slide and get caught up in other daily routines, errands, paperwork, dinner chores, and then another day is gone and nothing new has been created. But the urge is still there, like a craving.

Commission work is wonderful and is awesome for paying the bills, but when 99% of it is from client photos, it's not creation, it's copywork. It takes skill, yes, and occasionally one gets to copy a lovely image with exciting light and a decent composition, like the one above, but what the client still wants in the end is an accurate copy of their photo.

After a month of commissions (and more yet on my schedule) I'm dying to dive back into my own ideas. The distractions and excuses are still loud: my database broke, the paperwork is overflowing, one of my hard drives is glitching, and the master closet is scary. But I have decided that the only way I'll be able to really get back to work is to tell someone I'm going to do it! (Because I'm a woman of my word.)

So here it is: I'm going to jump start my 2020 with a 31-in-31 month of posts!

Fine print: I will be using the Leslie Saeta set of rules for my 31-in-31, so if I don't paint a new painting every day, I'll be able to fill in with some of the portraits I did last month (starting with this one.) But I will be posting something that has not been posted before, every day this month!

Thanks for following along with my journey, stay tuned for more, and let me know what you think!


PS: see more Detailed Pencil Portraits on my drawings site RitaKirkmanDrawings.com.


Saturday, December 28, 2019

X O Award of Excellence in Chicago

"X O" (pastel, 12x6 inches) $1250

I haven't had time to post much in December, but now that my local craft show (where I've done portrait sketches for the last several years) is over for the Holidays, I'll be back to posting more frequently again I hope!

I noticed that I had bragged about this award on Facebook but didn't blog it, so here it is! I'm thrilled to say that "X O", an offshoot of my Renaissance Portrait series, won the Award of Excellence (equivalent of Second in Show!) at the Chicago Pastel Painters 7th Biennial National Juried Exhibition, Pastels Chicago 2019.

Since my own personal subtitle for this one is "Biker Santa", I thought it made an appropriate post for this time of year... Santa's headed toward his leisure days after all his hard work last week. ;)

See some progress pics of X O on an earlier blog post here: http://ritakirkman.blogspot.com/2017/10/x-o-wins-award.html

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

"Transience of Innocence" in Southwest Art Mag

"Transience of Innocence" (pastel, 26x19 inches)

I'm proud to announce that my painting "Transience of Innocence" has won an Honorable Mention in the 2019 Southwest Art Artistic Excellence Competition, and is published in the Dec 2019/Jan 2020 issue (page 70.)


Friday, November 22, 2019


"Minuet" (pastel on primed Yupo, 7x5 inches) click here to bid or buy

My last demo from Montreal to be posted. She's a sweet little fawn from our neighborhood.

I've been watching flight prices to Australia, preparing for my string of workshops down there next summer. Hopefully will be buying my ticket soon! So exciting!

I'll be teaching near Coolangatta NSW, Adelaide SA, Melbourne VIC, and Devonport in Tasmania, as well as of course the Pastel Expo in Caloundra Queensland in September. I've got most of them listed on my website now, check it out if you've got Australia on your bucket list! Their late winter / early spring (August/September) is a cost-effective time to travel there, away from the more expensive seasons. I'll be down from early August to mid-September.

For you more home-bound USA folks, I'll be in Texas in January, and up the east coast (NC, VA, NH) next fall!

Hope to see you somewhere!


Saturday, November 16, 2019


"Ester" (pastel, 7x5 inches) click here to bid or buy

Another demo from the Montreal workshop. A curious sheep I met in Texas somewhere.

If you haven't heard, my next workshop is close to home. January 18-19, 2020 in Georgetown Texas. Start you New Year off with a creative boost!
Contact Donna at donna@cordovanartschool.com
Click the flyer for more details...

Thursday, November 14, 2019


"Sugarbun" (pastel, 7x5 inches) click here to bid or buy

Finally getting around to posting my Montreal workshop demos. It was a wonderful workshop and a lovely first-time visit to Montreal. The day before the workshop I walked the entire botanical gardens, took the metro to the art museum, then back to the gardens for an evening light show. In a new pair of boots! When I got back to my AirBnB, I felt like this bunny looks - ready for a 12 hour nap!

 The students hard at work!

 Happy Paintings!

My next workshop is closer to home... At the Georgetown Art Center, Georgetown (Austin) TX. At the perfect time for New Years Art Resolutions! Click the flyer for details and contact Donna Staten to register.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Emma - a poodle commission

"Emma" (conte and pastel pencil, 12x16, from client photos) sold

It's that time of year when my focus returns to the commissioned portraits almost exclusively. Hard to believe another Christmas is just around the corner! This adorable and beloved poodle's human saw my work at the Main Street Fort Worth Art Festival last year and commissioned this drawing of her darling Emma, from 3 separate photos of her. (I flipped one of the pics to improve the composition.)

November had been my traditional "30-in-30" month for the past several years, when I would paint and post every day, completing 30 paintings in the month. That changed this year when I was invited to be a caricature artist at my home town's ever-popular and classic annual German festival, Wurstfest, which runs for 10 days in early November each year. (Only waited about 25 years for the spot, lol! Read more in my newsletter here!)

So now I'm out here enjoying the Wursfest and in between caricatures I'm getting a jump on some Holiday commission work in advance of the annual craft show at Rolling Oaks Mall in San Antonio next month (which I've been doing for a long time!)

If you like my portrait drawings, feel free to share my site RitaKirkmanDrawings.com, and let your friends know there's still time to order for Christmas!

Thanks, I appreciate you!


Wednesday, October 23, 2019


"Ellie" (pastel, 8x8 inches)

The other painting I finished at the Carriage House Gallery last Saturday. Ellie will be with me at my Montreal workshop this weekend, as an example of my work!

Ellie is short for Elouise, since I painted her from another photo a while back. Such a sweet little heifer.



Monday, October 21, 2019


"Ozzie" (pastel, 12x6 inches) $300 unframed for a limited time

One of two paintings I finished at the Carriage House Gallery on Saturday, since I needed at least a couple of paintings with me to my workshop in Montreal this weekend. I haven't been painting any "inventory" (aka: Non-Commissioned Work) recently and so I didn't have any new available unframed paintings... and since I'm flying to this workshop, I can't just toss all my stuff and a bunch of framed artwork into my van...

Anyway, I really like Ozzie, I think he's cute. And I'd kill for those eyelashes!


Sunday, October 20, 2019

The Ruby Princess - Best of Show at PSST

"The Ruby Princess" (pastel, 8x6 inches) $1150

One of my new Renaissance portraits is in the Pastel Society of Southeast Texas National Juried Exhibition, Art of the Pastel, ​October 19 - November 16, 2019 at The Gallery at Round Top, 203 E. Austin, Round Top, TX.

I wasn't able to attend the reception on Saturday, but I was so excited to receive a text that my Ruby Princess won Best of Show!! Wow! A huge thank you to show judge Jeannette Cuevas, and congratulations to all the other winners!

See all of this year's winners here:

Some progress pics:

 I started off too light in the highlights so I wiped off that side and went more slowly in the lights.

 The background was too "cotton candy" and the blue wasn't working... so I wiped it off, added more thinned terra cotta primer, and went with some warm greens.

 I used some of my precious Roche iridescent gold pastel here and there..

Monday, October 14, 2019

Young Diana

"Young Diana" (pastel, 10x8 inches) $1200

One of my most recent themed portraits, Young Diana is currently in the Connecticut Pastel Society Renaissance in Pastel 26th Annual National Juried Exhibition, at the Slater Memorial Museum in Norwich, CT. The show will run from October 11 – December 6, 2019.

Many thanks to Jurors of Selection Judith Leeds, Jeanne Tangney and Kurt Weiser for selecting my painting to be included!

Artists Reception: Sunday, October 27, 2:00 – 4:00 PM

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Roxy - a Quick-Sketch Portrait

"Roxy" (pastel, 16x12 inches) sold

This is one of what I call my "quick-sketch" portraits. These are very popular in the Holiday Season and throughout the year as a lower-priced gift option, at $75/face.
I use burnt umber and white pastels, and sometimes sepia conte pencils (more of the pencils on human faces.) These take about 30-40 minutes from a photo, or 15-20 minutes from life (mostly with still-sitting humans for that kind of timing!)

This is one of my portrait options at Rolling Oaks Mall in San Antonio during their Christmas craft show. The dates this year will be December 6-24, 2019. If you want to order early and beat the rush, just send me an inquiry through my pencil portrait site, RitaKirkmanDrawings.com, and mention "quick-sketch portrait".
Roxy's photo
 I can get one of these done by mail usually within 4-6 weeks, but in December it's quicker, as the portraits are all I do then. But if you need it shipped back in time for Christmas, don't wait!


Tuesday, October 8, 2019


"Razorback" (pastel, 6x6 inches) sold

My last leftover forgotten image from the summer, this one was a demo at the IAPS pastel convention in June, and also one from my multi-demo process. (Read about this process on yesterday's post.)

This was an Arabian colt I was lucky to get photos of at a ranch in California years ago. It was early evening and the light was amazing.


Monday, October 7, 2019


"Cassandra" (pastel, 6x6 inches) sold

Another overlooked demo from July's workshop in SD. Purchased by a student, I had forgotten to get a photo when she was done, and luckily the gal who bought her was able to send me a pic before she framed her.

But I did have a photo of the underpainting. Cassandra was one of my assembly-line underpainting demo...

When creating my small "daily" paintings, I spread one layer of gold colored primer across large pieces of Gatorboard (or Yupo), then cut to size and transfer my drawings, working in 'batches' of 6 to 12 at a time. Then I underpaint in an "assembly-line," working each layer of primer on each painting in a row, then going back to the first for the next layer. I like to demo this process in my workshops with a "multi-demo", where I show this assembly line approach on 3 or 4 small paintings at once.

These first layers are gold colored. This is Golden brand Quinacridone Nickel Azo Gold fluid acrylic color mixed into Golden brand Pastel Ground at about a 1/4 (color/gel) ratio. The gel is clear, so the color mixture is semi-transparent, and gets darker on each application. I usually apply 2 more layers of the gold to get the light values of the underpainting established.

The final layer of primer here is the Art Spectrum (brand) Pastel Primer in the terra cotta color. I lay it into the darkest areas, then scrub and dry-brush it into the medium values of the gold to continue the value scale and add more depth to the monochromatic underpainting.

Occasionally on animals with black fur, I enjoy using the black Art Spectrum primer, or a mixture of the Golden pastel ground with Ultramarine blue fluid acrylic, which over the terra cotta color shows as a nice, rich dark value.
A cow underpainting with gold, terra cotta, and ultramarine blue.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

New work at the Gallery at Brookwood

"T is for Tiger" (pastel, 12x12 inches) $550

The rest of my current inventory from the year has been delivered to the Gallery at Brookwood for the winter. These are most of what I have there now. Hope you can take a visit, their gift shop and gallery are a sublime shopping experience!
Not only that, but all art sales help support the citizens of Brookwood.

"Twin Fawns II" (pastel, 18x18 inches) $975

"Shadowfire" (pastel, 24x24 inches) $2300
"Cow Lick" (pastel, 18x24 inches) $1730
"Twilight Road" (pastel, 9x12 inches) $475
"Smith" (pastel, 10x10 inches) $475
"Peggy" (pastel, 12x6 inches) $390
"Banded Archerfish" (pastel, 4x6 inches) $250
"Butterball" (pastel, 6x4 inches) $250

Later this month I'll be enjoying my first international workshop, in Montreal, Canada! I'll try to make some new posts while I'm there.