Sunday, May 30, 2010

Memorial Day 2010: Remembering the Martin Boys

Rembembering the Martin Boys

Sometimes, when you examine the lives of those who have gone before you, it is hard to believe that they were just a whisper in the wind. Yet, they make a huge impact either for the good or the bad on all they touch. The Martin Boys where just such a group of young men. Born of Irish/English watermen stock in Tidewater, Virginia they lived through depression, the death of their father and a World War in which two of them served at the end. They were stubborn and brilliant, filled with honor, valor, and a greater sense of duty than most young people could hope to conceive of. My father, the youngest, of the four knew in addition the true definition of sacrifice.

While their greatest accomplishments were done outside of their service, this time impacted their lives and helped built a foundation for the measure of success they all accomplished. While not all flew they surely know what it meant to soar with the eagles.

~James Joseph Martin Jr. Was a journalist and Newspaper man in Hampton, Virginia

~Fred William Martin was key in the developing of the wind tunnel for NASA. He went on to head the Aero-Space Department at Auburn University in Alabama.

~John Hope Martin excelled in engineering and taught at Virginia Tech when it was still VPI. Later after early retirement due to a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis he, always the scientist, conducted research on the effects of Barometric Pressure on arthritis.

~Robert Andrew Martin became a pastor and spent his life comforting people and helping those in need. He was in addition an Educator, Social Reformer Artist and Puppeteer

In addition to their achievements each of the 4 brothers had eye troubles that made reading and writing incredibly difficult. Uncle James was blinded at a young age by the MS that eventually took his life. Each of the other three had varying levels of what we now know as amblyopia, dyslexia, and astigmatism. In addition my father overcame a speech impediment and partial deafness to become a public speaker, as well as a pastor.

To my uncles and my father, Yes, We remember! Thank- you All!
(click on the photo to see it larger)

Happy Memorial Day 2010

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Garden Ponies Collection ( The Back Story)

Whew what a day! Ive been actually vacillating between doing a collection of prints and art cards with the crazy horses for several weeks now. But I would get all excited about it then .. just hit a motivational wall. It does happen from time to time. I wonder if it might have something to do with the fact that Im really into this garden direction. So this morning I didn't actually plan out my day I just thought well I will start the process of working on The Garden Ponies. I had been planning their collection for a while, besides everyone really loves the painting that sees it.

The Garden Ponies is strictly the creative response to a lawn guy who didn't show up for 6 weeks in the middle of the rainiest spring we had had for about 5 years. The outcome of that was .. yes, a Hayfield in my backyard. In fact I was surprised we didn't get cited for it by the town. Yes, it was real hay. Orchard Grass to be exact, with what ever the birds brought in over the years. I suppose at one time this was a pasture or farm land or something prior to 1950 when the house was built. When I saw that hay waving in the breeze, well I just let my mind run wild as if .. what would happen if there was a little pony paddock back there. And one of them had figured out how to knock the poles down across the gap in the fence( we had a pony who used to do that) , then off they would go checking out the flowers, drinking from the birdbath and perhaps even peering into the windows while we ate breakfast.

As soon as I began working on the layouts and prepping the photography for the note cards, I knew I had made the right project choice. And I was able to give my first three chapters in my graphic design course a practical workout.  What I learned about Photoshop really came in handy with these little printed bits. I haven't laid out the larger prints yet. But all of the Cards are done. Tomorrow or Friday I shall have the entire collection up and running... well online.

You can see the first of the collection now up on Etsy in my LindaLMartinArtist Store.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Some Photography Tips for Commissioned Pet and Equine Portraits by LindaLMartinArtist

Last month I had the coolest thing happen to me. One of my clients wanted a specific color scheme in a painting of her dog. She sent me a designer’s sample of the color she wanted. All I had to do with one of the background elements was to match it to the sample.

One of the hardest things for an artist, especially for us who sell commissioned work online is to get the color correct. Sometimes the computer monitors are set slightly more intense or provide more contrast so we don’t always see what you see as the client.

Sometimes the photo you send us doesn’t show slight variations in color. Such as the little mare I painted last winter. On the photography I was sent on the computer made the mare look black instead of chocolate brown, which was her color.

As an artist I have learned to ask questions if something looks off. But it’s not always possible to determine the right questions to ask. Anything you can do, as the client to help us see what you envision, is more likely to produce that product you really want and the quality you expect.

Another problem is that sometimes clients expect very refined details or dramatic whimsy however the photographs are sent with back lighting that puts the pet in shadows that distort color and make details impossible to see. Fig.1 is an old photo of my cat Nikki. It is back lit and so its hard to tell that his color is really gray and not black. Also you cant actually tell what color his eyes are. Although it’s a dramatic photo with a lot of fond memories it is not a helpful photo in making a portrait of the cat.

Fig. 2 Is from an old photo taken about the same time. But this time the light is from the side so that it casts a complimentary and contrasting shadow. Nikki’s true color which is gray can been seen. And His eye color, which is pale green can also be seen. Although the photo is a little washed out there is enough contrast and drama in the photo to paint a nice color rendering of Nikki.

Fig. 5 Is a more recent photo of Nikki. It is a much better shot as far as documenting his personality and his true coloring. The shot still has a nice cast shadow and side lighting with just enough shading and texture in the background to make it interesting.

Fig. 4 is a photo of my old horse Piper. This one was taken about two years before he died. He was 39 here. Piper was actually a silky deep black all over. However, if he stayed out in the sun, his hair would burn and lighten to almost a dark bay(this is why you keep show horses in during the day). This is an old photo too, and as you can tell ,well loved. However, even this scanned photo, though not sharp gives strong contrast. The sun was at just the right angle to brighten his face and cast a shadow on his neck.

Although, the detail in his shaded eye was not good, in fig.3 I lightened the image with photoshop. Not only did the eye details show up, so did the gray on his muzzle and face, which was more in keeping with his actual age at the time.

In a painting like this, it would be client’s choice to paint the horse with or with out the gray and to paint the horse with black or darkbrown.  I would need  the client to tell me or point out what was not obvious to me on the photo, especially regarding gray areas that sometimes appear as highlights. Not easy to tell in the image.

I often have to paint from photographs like this. Sometimes because a pet has died or at the time of the pet’s life there wasn’t enough money to commission a painting so all that remains to work from is a family snapshot, taken years earlier.

One of the most challenging paintings I ever painted was of a mixed breed dog that had a brindled and spotted coat and had died. The dog was also an amputee. My job was to take all the reference photography and paint the dog as he was before he lost his leg. It was a very challenging painting simply because of the coat color, but more so in painting the dog’s missing leg. The reference photographs didn’t show the side of the missing leg in the direction it need to be painted.

It is at times like this that we artists need a huge imagination, a lot of prayer and clients who are willing to communicate.

The outcome was worth it. The client’s father had owned the dog for many years and wanted to remember him as he was when he was young. That was how I painted the dog. The note of appreciation I received was worth all the effort.

Just to review: the better the photo the better able we artists are able to give you what you want in a cherished memory of a special animal friend. I want nothing better than to have you be blessed by the outcome of all our efforts.
If you are intereseted in a pet protraits please contact me at or

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

How Artists Pass the Time

Every year  in Virginia we have to have our cars inspected. Not really a big thing. And really a good thing for road safety.  So today early, I had to grab a shower and a cuppa coffee and head to the local Mechanics shop. I arrived at 8am and was out before 10:00. Power steering issues. So what does one do with 2 hours to kill.

Well the first thing I did was catch up on the week's local news papers. Our county publication is one of the few locals left in the country that still covers major horse racing, shows and events. That's because a third of the major Steeplechase Stakes Races held in Virginia are held in this county including one of only 4 Graded Stakes Timber races in the United States. The Virginia Gold Cup and The International  Gold Cup. And two of the oldest Horse Shows are held here too.  Its been 10 years since I graced a Virginia style race course. I am still very interested in returning some day. I love steeplechasing best. Always have.

As I was flipping through the pages, I came across some of the pre-coverage for the Gold Cup just held last weekend ( they used to simulcast the Derby  when it was held earlier in the day.) There was a wonderful photo by Eclipse Award Winning Photographer Doug Lees. It reminded me of a painting I saw just this weekend  by Equine Artist Linda Shantz.  Well I'm not about to copy someone elses hard earned work, but I did use Doug's photos as a reference to study the lights and darks of horses side by side and over lapping. My Three ponies doesn't do his work justice, however, it was fun playing with ear direction, expression and contrast. I completed the study in  a little over an hour then shared the results with the billing receptionist. She was very excited. And  she gave me a lead I hope to follow up on in a few weeks.

Here is the result of my time in the waiting room. Thanks to Linda and Doug for the challenge.

"Three Ponies"
by Linda L Martin, Artist
Graphite on Strathmore Sketch Paper
5.5 by 5 inches
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