Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Many thanks and warmest wishes to all of you who have followed my art journey on Grander Joy of Spirit in 2009. God bless and I'm wishing you much joy on Christmas and during holiday time! More to come soon!

Friday, December 18, 2009

My Visit with Mary Magdalene

A mother and her two children in front of the reliquary

Newly renovated stained glass windows at St. Thomas Aquinas church
the French relic of Mary Magdalene positioned atop a limousine for the outdoor procession
both relic and priests were escorted by bagpipers in front...
...and a mariachi band behind them

worshippers carried religious banners and images through the streets of Brooklyn

after the outdoor procession one of the French priests assisted with the dedication service
as the Knights of Columbus, congregation, and guests looked on
and while a soloist led a gorgeous rendition of "Jerusalem" upstairs in the sanctuary...
...the mariachi band simultaneously celebrated at a coffee and cake reception downstairs

and Madonna and Child were placed in a position of honor during it all

It may not be everyone's tradition to venerate the relics of saints, and forgive me also if I miss aspects of it which are of special significance to you if it is your own religious tradition, but I was so taken with this joy-filled, reverent celebration over the first visit of a relic of Mary Magdalene to this country from southern France! It was so special for me in fact, that I have had to digest it for weeks before I could cull my photos of it's procession, just to try to share with you in pictures what it was like to be there in person in November when this relic came with several priests from Frejus-Toulon, France to St. Thomas Aquinas Church in my neighborhood.

If sometimes it is unfair in life, and it's not until after we are gone that someone sees how special we were; if it crosses cultures to try to answer just one celebration in our memory; if it's just centuries later, and it's Brooklyn, New York, then my visit with Mary Magdalene was huge in it's importance and its influence only on Mona Conner. If it was just me, I was joined by hundreds of others who paid respects to her as well. And if you were there, it was hard after just one day's visit to see the wonderful celebration come to an end and the relic packed for it's next location on it's tour around the U.S. It's not only Catholics or specific religions who are impacted by saints. They are still being created today, and they walk among us.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Friday, December 4, 2009

White Madonna & Child Niche, Aix-en-Provence, progress

36" x 24", further progress with my pastel on Wallis paper

I made some further progress on Wallis paper and I'm feeling better about it, but still exploring options.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

White Madonna & Child Niche, Aix-en-Provence

two views of the 36" x 24" pastel-in-progress on Wallis paper

Experimentation is an important aspect of being an artist. I've made a start on the white Madonna and Child on a pastel surface that is new to me, Wallis paper, and I'm struggling a bit to get used to it since I'm learning that it has a more abrasive, less smooth texture than La Carte, and it doesn't 'grab' the pastel in the same way. I also wound up showing more of the Madonna than I had plotted out, simply because it was such a large sheet.

In reading about these two pastel surfaces, I learned that Wallis paper has an abrasive made with white aluminum oxide, while La Carte is coated with finely ground vegetable flake and cork, giving it a more velvety feel to the touch.

If can locate some La Carte tomorrow, I may start another version, cropped as originally planned. I'll probably give both versions a whirl until I see what feels the most comfortable to me for this subject matter.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

White Madonna & Child Niche, Aix-en-Provence

photo © Mona Diane Conner 2008

I've made three drawings in my effort to start a new pastel of a beautiful white Madonna & Child niche statue that I photographed in Aix-en-Provence during my trip to France in 2008. It has taken three tries to decide what part of it I want to include for a large pastel painting. Sorry for an extraneous, uneven tone in my digital shots of my drawings, (strictly practical compositional sketches, rather than artworks themselves), but you can see how I started off wanting to show most of the niche structure at first, and then began to zero in more.

Since I also really like the idea of portraying part of the lamp, as in my photo, I am doing a fourth drawing for a miniature painting of this same scene (which will roll out on my miniature painting blog). My miniature version will include the lamp and give me an opportunity to show the entire structure of the niche that surrounds this statue. But for my pastel I want to dramatically zero in on the Madonna & Child itself, so the drawing at the top of the post shows you how it will be composed.

I had a search to locate a certain color of the pastel surface I wanted, only to get it home and discover that I got the color I want but the surface is defective. As a result, I may try doing this on a darker color than I would have liked just to get it started. With all this preliminary action going on, I'm asking Mary to please support my effort to paint the White Madonna & Child!

I was very charmed while in Aix-en-Provence to discover these niche statues of Mary and other saints which seem to adorn every building corner there, making it one reason that Aix-en-Provence was my favorite spot in Southern France. It's going to be a fun, too, painting more niches like the White Madonna & Child over a period of time.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Difference Between Modeling Mary and the Mary Within

Thanks to all of you who visited here and commented on my progress with "The 'Mary' in Kimberly" while I was completing miniature paintings for several competitive shows. I do love painting large just as much as I love my work in miniature! Having given it my all during two key months when many of the miniature show deadlines overlap, it was important to rest and revitalize for a bit, but I've been looking forward to getting rolling again with my portrait series. I have two pastel portraits awaiting completion, and a new piece I'd like to begin, but first, here is an interesting comparison that I hope might stimulate some spiritual discussion:

Detail of my Madonna and Child drawing using Karen as a model

My drawing for a Madonna and Child painting using Karen as a model.

"The 'Mary' in Karen" miniature portrait in egg tempera

The first "Mary" portrait in my series---the one that I began this blog with---was "The 'Mary' in Karen" (above, the only miniature in this series). But as some of you know by now, I also love to paint Mary herself, and it was in that spirit that I used Karen as the model for Mary in the above Madonna and Child drawing, one that I did a while ago, but still plan to use as the basis for a painting.

So I've drawn Karen as Mary, and have also attempted to paint the 'Mary' within Karen, but in my mind, as well as in my creative intent, these are not the same thing. And I wonder, does it come across as I intend? Apart from the fact that in the Madonna and Child drawing I've taken some liberties with Karen's likeness and hair, and given it a Renaissance feeling, do you see and feel the difference between one effort and the other?

Monday, September 21, 2009


I'll be returning soon to my large portrait work, but September is quite a busy month for me as I prepare for several miniature shows during this period of time. So, until my next post, you might enjoy seeing what I'm working on in miniature, including a miniature portrait in progress at this link: The Ruby Slippers

Saturday, September 12, 2009

"The 'Mary' in Kimberly," panel painting progress

I'm overdue for a progress report on "The 'Mary' in Kimberly" egg tempera panel painting, (my computer keyboard wasn't working, but I'm back in action), so this update represents several painting sessions since I last posted on it. I began to under paint the veil and worked on various areas of the painting.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Alex Garcia's Portraits in Egg Tempera

"El Boricua," by Alex Garcia (self-portrait), 6" x 8", egg tempera on panel

"Be Still," by Alex Garcia, (portrait of the artist's wife, Carmen)
20" x 16", egg tempera on panel

"Little Linda," by Alex Garcia, 8" x 6", egg tempera on panel (Alex's daughter)

"Little Puppet," by Alex Garcia, 8" x 6", egg tempera on panel (Alex's youngest son)

Alex's lovely family!

Generous artist and friend of mine, Alex Garcia, does so much for other artists, I'd like to thank him with a post, if it's just to show you how special his own art is. The example on top of this row of portraits shows how irresistibly Alex manages to get a spiritual quality in his portraits which is both iconic, and icon-like.

It's so inspiring to see how Alex does his egg tempera paintings. I recommend a visit to his website to see his step-by-step portrait of Carmen, his wife, and how beautifully he has also portrayed two of his children, shown here, as well as many others. I can't wait to see the finished portrait of of his oldest son, which is currently in step-by-step progress on his blog.

I believe it has been partly out of his respect and admiration for other egg tempera painters, such as Andrew Wyeth, and his willingness to take the time to study and to appreciate how others have worked with the medium that Alex has so finely tuned his own skills as a tempera painter. And it's easy to see also, from these family portraits, what a loving father and husband he is!

Friday, August 28, 2009

An Online Review of My Portrait Series

Sorry for announcing this late because I've been out of town, but this week my spiritual portrait series has received a lovely review from Alex Garcia on his new website: "Artists I Like". To read it, please visit this link: Mona Diane Conner - Spiritual Beauty

Thank you Alex for your very kind words about this series which is so close to my heart!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Progress on "The 'Mary' in Terry #2," & "The 'Mary' in Unni"

"The 'Mary' in Terry #2," (in progress) 19 1/2" x 15 1/2", pastel on La Carte pastel board

"The 'Mary' in Unni," 11 1/2" x 8 1/2", pencil drawing
(click images to see them larger)

Apart from her talent as an artist, fine art photographer, and musician, my friend Unni's wonderful spirit has been an inspiration to me. She has made an amazing recovery from major illness for the second time. In the summer of 2005, around the time I first began to dip into the idea of trying to make spiritual portraits, I met Unni at a religious art show where we were both participants called "Spirituality in the Arts" at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, CA.

When I showed Unni one of my first studies (the one which is also the masthead for this blog) and described my series to her, she was so enthusiastic about it that she posed for me right on the spot, and this drawing is based on her pose at the art show. I haven't forgotten how her enthusiasm has energized my effort with this series. Just wish I'd done it sooner for Unni's 'Mary' portrait, but at least this drawing is a start.

Unni credits her recovery from illness in part to the practice of a gentle flowing form of hatha yoga, which she now teaches. Please take a moment to read more about Unni, at her website: Unni's Healing Yoga

Sunday, August 16, 2009

"The 'Mary' in Terry," #3, further progress

"The 'Mary' in Terry #3", (more progress) blue and white pastel on colorfix pastel paper

I have a little more work on the dark blue robe and general fine-tuning, and I want to try something special for the background which entails a trip to the art store, but more soon on this limited color pastel. Next I'll resume my progress on "The 'Mary' in Terry #2".

Saturday, August 15, 2009

"The 'Mary' in Terry," #3 in progress

"The 'Mary' in Terry #3", blue and white pastel on colorfix pastel paper

Sorry for my absence here while I've been preparing for another miniature show. There are always lots of details to handle and wrap up when preparing to ship a show, but it also inspired me to bust out and try something different before I resume completion of "The 'Mary' in Terry #2". I'll post the final version of this one tomorrow.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Portrait of Lauren

"Lauren at Twenty-two", 4 1/2" x 4", graphite drawing

My niece turned twenty-two today, and here is a drawing I made for her birthday! Happy Birthday Lauren!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The 'Mary' in Terry, pastel #2, step 2

(pastel in progress on La Carte pastel board, 19 1/2" x 25 1/2")

My thanks to all of you who commented on my blog while I was taking a brief break!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Early Influences

In my early life there was only one occasion when I got to stay up late in my jammies and watch two painters....when my Mom decided to sit down alongside my Grandma Conner and try to learn from watching her how to paint. I thought it was very exciting, their paintings thrilled me, and I will always remember it as a time that was an important influence upon my early life as a painter.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Money Matters

Read this article:
Finding Money For Your Dreams

I got sick on my 'vacation at home' and it slowed me down enough so that just when I needed some connecting information on the topic of artist grant applications, this excellent article caught my eye. Thanks Mira of Mira's List!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Returning to blogging soon, but I'm in the midst of a two-week break for re-organizing, hosting several special guests who I'm really looking forward to seeing---some old friends and my Florida cousin are coming to town, and this week to enjoy the three days of festivities when Amma, my Indian guru is here in NYC, including darshan (she offers hugs to thousands throughout the three day period), pujas (religious ceremony), live music, chanting monks, clothing & jewelry bazaar, vegetarian Indian food, and Devi Bhava.

Attending Amma darshan is a fascinating, internationally flavored experience. No cameras are permitted, so I can't share it in photos, but to give you a few highlights, so far I sat next to a woman who flew in from Paris (where Amma also tours), watched darshan taking place while Hindus intermingled with people from many religions and cultures, and while Voices of Unity, a large choir from Unity Church in Manhattan simultaneously stood behind Amma singing some rousing gospel songs after the swamis did a round of bhajans (devotional music). I even saw Iggy Pop milling around.

If it sounds like something you'd like to try out, it costs nothing to attend, and Amma is probably coming to a town near you. Here's a link to the North American part of her annual world tour.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

"The 'Mary' in Terry," pastel #2 in progress


"The 'Mary' in Terry #2" (in progress), 19 1/2" x 25 1/2", pastel on La Carte pastel board

"Mary in Kimberly" Panel Update

My progress is somewhat gradual because I photograph this egg tempera painting after every 3-4 hours work, but over several sessions you can see what is happening. For this session I was working in the same (and a few additional) areas. I have further blending to do on the skin, particularly on the right side of the face, once the paint has set more.

Hoping to also post the start of my new pastel of Terry later tonight.

Friday, June 26, 2009

"Mary in Kimberly" panel update

This session I worked further on her hair, beginning to define it's rhythms, and on blocking in some shadow in areas on the skin near the hair.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

"Mary in Kimberly" egg tempera panel update

In this session I worked on some subtle layering on the hair on top of her head, softening and shaping the eyebrows, and on giving the forehead more dimension.

A few more tips about working with egg tempera. If you try the suggestion in my video demo below about substituting gouache or watercolor, of the two, gouache is your best substitute option of the two, but I mentioned both if you don't have gouache on hand.

Choose a rigid support. The ideal surface for egg tempera is a rabbit-skin glue gessoed panel. (Acrylic gesso will not absorb as well or adhere the paint as well). Other surfaces I have used are Strathmore or Crescent rag illustration board (without gesso), something with a smooth tooth. I recommend this for beginners to try, but choose four-ply, not bristol, and avoid getting the board too wet to avoid warpage.

Apply the paint very thinly, and in layers. A common mistake most beginning egg tempera painters make is to apply the paint too thickly in one individual layer. Build your paint gradually and remember that the principle is translucency. You are building layers to create an illusion of a color, for example a layer of green, with a layer of vermillion on top would make a warm shadow on a face.

For any other questions that may arise I recommend this great online forum about egg tempera: Egg Tempera Forum

Sunday, June 14, 2009

"How to Mix Egg Tempera Medium," my video demo

I want to mention that my work from my recent post on miniature eye portraits has moved over to my newest blog, "Eye Portraits in Miniature," so please feel welcome to visit there to see further paintings by me on this topic in the future.

I hoped to post this video last weekend, but I went briefly out of town, so here, as promised, is my demonstration showing how I mix my medium for egg tempera painting, the medium I am using for my panel painting-in-progress of Kimberly, and which I have used for most of my paintings since my first introduction to it in 1976.

Obviously a demo like this can only scratch the surface, but I hope it may tempt you to try this wonderful medium! For more information on working with egg tempera I also highly recommend a visit to the Society of Tempera Painters website and it's informative discussion forum about the medium. Also, see my additional tips in the post above this one, and in the comments column.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Pencil drawing for the next pastel of Terry

(In the process of transferring this onto the pastel board.)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

For Terry

I've started another pastel of Terry, and hope to post an update on it's progress later tonight or tomorrow; however I want to let everyone know that Terry's mother, Mary, passed away on Sunday.  I send my love out to you, Terry, and express thanks to everyone who prayed for Terry, her Mom and family members during a tough time for the Sebastian family.  I appreciate condolences on behalf of Terry in the comments column this week.

Friday, June 5, 2009

"Terry's Left Eye" miniature eye portrait

"Terry's Left Eye", (actual size) 3/4", egg tempera on vellum

enlarged view of miniature eye portrait

Prayers continue for Terry's mom, Mary.  Terry's prayer:

Dear God,
Thank you for Mary and the beautiful life you have given her and us by being a part of this wonderful family.  Countless prayers have been sent on her behalf.  My prayer for her today is that she has the courage to let go and focus on that part of her that will never die.  That she see with her spiritual eyes that she is whole now.  That she remembers part of her is a part of You; that she is able to love and accept herself unconditionally right now exactly where and how she is - cancer and all.  Amen.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Peek at my progress on Terry's eye

(enlargement of 3/4" diameter original in progress)
egg tempera on vellum

Monday, June 1, 2009

Miniature Eye Portraits of Terry and Kimberly

sketch for Terry's left eye portrait 
(shown larger - actual dimension is 3/4" diameter)
sketch for Kimberly's #1 left eye portrait (3/4" diameter)
sketch for Kimberly's #2 left eye portrait (3/4" diameter)

On my miniature blog this week I am painting miniature eye portraits of my friend, fellow artist and blogger Kathleen Coy and her husband Jason, (thanks Kathleen!!) so I thought it would also be fun to try some miniature eye portraits of several of the women I have been doing spiritual portraits of, especially because of how our eyes,---even just one eye,---are an expression of our spirit.

Above are three sketches I have prepared to paint.  I'm trying two portraits of Kimberly's left eye, from two different photo references, because it's very interesting to see how much one eye can change with just a shift in the angle, lighting, or facial expression.  See my posts on the Ruby Slippers for more information about the charming tradition of miniature eye portraits or "lover's eyes".