Letter from Leonora Holsapple Armstrong to Dorothy Baker
14 April, 1951
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Especially as you are the granddaughter of dear Mather Beecher – whom my grandmother admired so profoundly and loved deeply – I have wished very much to know you, at least through correspondence, until we can meet, as I hope we may in the not too distant future……
As you asked me in your note for a picture of myself, I am enclosing a snapshot that Jeanie Bolles took of me when we were together in São Paulo, as it is clearer that any more recent one, and also two still older pictures because of their associations – one taken with dear Elizabeth Greenleaf the summer we spent together at the Fellowship House at Greenacre just before I came to Brazil….
Loving greetings to you ….
It’s been almost two years since I packed up all my oil paints, brushes, etc. and stored everything in a storage locker in the mountains of northern California. Did think to save out my plein air painting kit – stuffed into an old backpack that my son Jon used in 9th grade. Left the backpack with my father, and a kind friend brought it to me here in Israel last week. WHAT excitement!!! The smell of oil paint as I reached in to bring out the cigar box sized pochade painting box, and my fingers meeting up with sticky wet paint! Only one casualty of ultramarine blue squished between a suitcase rib and the bottom of the wooden box…. Small price to pay for the entire bag full of paints, linseed oils, brushes, palette, old apron, bungee cords, and other painting-in-the-wilds accoutrement!
This first photo shows most of the stuff spread out on my desk. Sketch book for planning composition, huge bundle of brushes which were cleaned and packed on 27 Dec. 2010. Extra white and cadmium yellow [the large tubes], tube of Kiss-Off [a great quickie paint remover!], small painting panels, various view finders, mini bungee cords, clear bag filled with 37 ml. size oil paints [mostly Gamblin], my apron from Daniel Smith, colour wheels, pouch for tripod, linseed and stand oils at the back. The pochade box is on the right edge of pic.
Was trying to look into the mirror exactly as I did to do the portrait. However, the light had changed dramatically. The light coming from the left is from a lamp in the dining room, and is much brighter than the actual light that I painted by.
After painting fast to get the light right, noticed that my facial proportions are only just barely there because of habit of doing self-portaits demonstrations for all my workshops and classes! At this point had to stop because even after doing a wipe-out there was still too much paint on the board to do detail work – eyes etc. Bad glare on the photo as the sun had gone down as well……. However, doing a self-portrait is a great way to try out new paints, or try out a new technique. All it takes is a mirror; the model is free!
Above is the first self-portrait I attempted in oils. Done while at University of Calif. at Santa Cruz, 1993, this was done on the deck outside my student apartment, painted on the back of a piece of masonite board while observing myself reflected in a sliding glass door! Lack of ability to worry about much detail created a great impressionistic touch.
This self-portrait in oils was done in my Sonora Studio in June 2007, and was the first one attempted with glasses! I’ve worn glasses since I was 14 years old, but had never put them into a self-portrait! This one was done with more precision and hard edges.
These two photos show how one can have fun and experiment with colours and brush techniques by doing different sittings with yourself as the model. In the top portrait Van Gogh has used a more traditional style with dark background allowing the realistic pale complexion and red hair to stand out.
In this portrait Van Gogh has replicated his face but also played with amping up the colour and swirly brushwork throughout the background emulating the movement of hair and beard. Sorry that these images are so small. One of my favourite books is one of the “Faces of Van Gogh”, a wonderful compilation of Van Gogh’s many self-portraits made throughout his life.
A photo montage of still life painting, still life on table, self-portrait, and artist in the mirror.
Just for fun – here’s a picture taken of part of the bookcase-storage unit in my old studio, showing four small portraits in a row painted of my daughter, the newspaper article about it in the upper right shelf; a small square portrait done on wood using all cosmetics as paints; a landscape of Silver Lake in the High Sierras at the upper left; various art show invitation cards; reflections of other paintings in the mirror; and a portrait in black ink done of me by my studio partner Sherie Drake, in the foreground.
Hope this has been inspirational!! Happy painting!
Sunday had the opportunity to be at the Shrine of the Bab for over an hour near sunset.
This has been one of the coolest weeks here in Haifa since last May.
And Sunday evening was one of the most perfect evenings so far…warm but not hot, balmy actually, but with a slight breeze. There was very little noise from the streets below, and only a little bit of jackals calling; the intoxicating scent of jasmine and frangipani blossoms wafted through the colonnades.
These photos were taken on the western side of the Shrine, and tho they do not have the same quality as a day time photo, they show different aspects of the beauty of the architecture.
The Greatest Name symbol in the southwest corner of the colonnades.
Then walked up the Terraces through the dusk filled gardens to the sounds of chirping cicadas.
Here is a sequence of photos showing some of the process of painting a still life. The inspiration was some fresh eggplant (purples) little orangey-yellow peppers, a spring green collander and white garlic with purple stripes. A plaid and a striped cloth were chosen, and a bottle of olive oil set at the back…
Below shows my view of the still life set up and the under-painting started in order to establish placement of objects and dark and light values.
Below is a close-up of the canvas after adding some of the local colour across the painting.
Now the canvas is quite close to being finished. All items have local colour and once the cloth and background are done, we can start thinking about a frame.
Gave it a dark background in order for the cloth to pop. Edibles are still not very pronounced.
Here’s a larger picture below showing the finished painting with all the highlights on the vegetables, and shadows on the cloth.
Super close-up of one section of the painting. The orangish outlines are the under-painting still showing through. This is done in order to keep the adjacent colours from smearing into each other as you drag the brush by. It also creates a vibration of colour next to colour.
Here it is hanging in the Gallery. Decided to not frame it after all. And it looks good with the other two wrap around canvases along the top row.
O My handmaiden, O My leaf! Render thou thanks unto the Best Beloved of the world for having attained this boundless grace at a time when the world’s learned and most distinguished men have remained deprived thereof. We have designated thee ‘a leaf’ that thou mayest, like unto leaves, be stirred by the gentle wind of the Will of God — exalted be His glory — even as the leaves of the trees are stirred by onrushing winds . . .
We admonish thee to do that which will serve to promote the interests of the Cause of God amongst men and women. He doth hear the call of the friends and beholdeth their actions. Verily, He is the Hearing and the Seeing. – Bahá’u’lláh
Tuesday, August 16th 1977
Hostel Acosta, Iquitos, Peru, S.A.
I have been here for four days. I am in another world. I feel like no one else lives in the world. We are so far away, so isolated. I’ve never felt like this before when visiting a foreign country. The jungle is immense, colossal, and stretches away forever. The rivers wind muddily through the never ending, even, dark carpet of tree tops. The glitter and gaudiness of America are gone; also the efficient, the slick and shiny perfectness of quick effort-saving devices. My world is now among the safe, secluded cement mazes of an ancient Peruvian city, sprouted upon a cliff in a bend of one of the most mighty rivers in the world, the Amazon. I am closed in on patch-worked cement streets, on holey, broken, pitted-out excuses for sidewalks, by the checkered bright pink, green and blue, and brick coloured fronts of continued house-fronts…one after the other; interspersed with tiny shops with windows and doors wide open, children and dogs on the steps, iron grill fencing off door stoops and car ports, and patches of green. People hang out their window sills and sit on chairs tending their stores with their eyes on the street, watching their world go by them. Their faces are carmel-coloured, smooth skinned, wide, open, sparkle-eyed and friendly…curious, of my white skin and “American” features, and “fashionable” clothes.
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It must have been our second evening here in Iquitos that Dad took us for the first time to the Plaza at 6 o’clock to see the birds. It happens every evening on the hour, just as the church clock strikes. At about ten minutes to the hour the sky above the Plaza begins to fill with thousands of whirling birds. They fly in from the jungle in huge swarms, hundreds in number. As they gather, they fly in formations as fluid as fusing gasses, or oil paint on water. It is one of the most beautiful sights in Iquitos. Then as if on silent cue, they all swoop in descent to rest in the trees of the Plaza – jostling each other, ruffling their wings, bedding down for the night as darkness swiftly engulfs them.