Monday, November 30, 2009

When and Where to Paint

I've worked in many places - confined areas, basement, public areas and open space and found I enjoy painting in my own work space at home away from distraction of daily life with lots of natural sun light. Indoor lights can give the wrong sense of colour so most of my paintings are created during the day time with the sun shining through the windows.

I always use an easel, never a table and I try to paint in a large room so I could examine my painting from a distance and from various angles. When painting a portrait or at that matter any other art piece, it's very important to observe your work from as many angles as possible.

Music is also added to my environment -another important part of my world when painting. It lifts the mood and puts one in the creative state of mine.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Foundation of My Art

I begin my painting with a quick light sketch of my subject in charcoal, laying out my art, keeping in mind the perspective of my subject with relation to the work space on canvas.

The colours are applied in stages on both of my preferred mediums (oil on canvas and soft pastel). I first apply a soft colour for the background, skin, and clothing etc. filling the work space with a cool hue to recede the background. When I'm working in oil, I normally wait about a week for the first stage of painting to dry. From there I start building my artwork with various shades. My oil or soft pastel paintings will have approximately three or four levels of colour on completion. Between each stage, I continue examining my work for desired changes - shading, perspective and accuracy.

Warm hues are added to areas of my painting to bring in the subject. When you look at my portrait painting you will see the closer I feel the subject should be, the warmer the colours are.
I try to stay away from blue shades for the skin tone shadows. I know it's used quite often by many artist, but I prefer to use a cool shade closer to the skin tone for the shadows. The nose, eyelids, cheeks, ears, chin, fingers are painted in warmer tones with a hint of highlights from the implied light source. Always try to keep in mind the direction of the light source when choosing your shades.

Texture is added on the final stage of my oil paintings by brushing in thick layers of paint.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Portrait painting - know your colours

There is so much to learn about colour.

Lets start with skin colour
I find that many contemporary artists use a very limited palette of colours when it comes to painting portraits. This is a personal choice. I prefer the more traditional/classical method... using a good selection of colours mixing them as I go along. I start with a base colour depending on the skin tone of my subject, mixing small amounts of varying shades for the facial landscape.

The warm colours are used to bring out the features by sculpturing in the colours and the cooler shades for receding and shadowing. Keep in mind that skin tones will vary, depending on the lighting in the room and/or the natural sunlight from the outdoors.

PRIMARY COLORS Red, Yellow and Blue
All other colors are derived from these 3 hues.

SECONDARY COLORS Green, Orange and Purple. These are the colors formed when mixed with two selective primary colors.

By mixing these colours in different percentages you'll get a wide selection of hues warm and cool. For more information check out the many books on the market titled Colour Theory.

There are artists that spend way too much time formulating the right colours. I prefer to mix colours as I feel with no rules or restrictions; just relying only on my observation and mood.

For the beginner I would first suggest a good understanding of the colourwheel; then go ahead and do as you please... this is all about being creative.

Keep connected... more to come on colour

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Key to Portrait Painting - Observation

Once you have learned your subject, next comes observation. Your first option is reviewing the many introduction books on the market available with basics portrait drawing techniques. These techniques will give you the basic fundamentals on body proportion and colour, so you can have a clear understanding of what you are observing, but don't rely on this alone.

Train yourself to observe
It's not enough to know the fundamentals. You must now learn to paint what you see in all the possible perspectives, colours, shades keeping the fundamentals in the back of your mind. Understanding and observing should come together as one. To train yourself to observe... keep painting. As you continue to paint your observation will improve. You will learn to see with each artwork you create.

Research the arts
Look at other artworks... visit galleries. Read about the history of art... find similarities with today's artists and yesterday's artists. There is so much to see and experience.

Take your time
I don't believe it's a good idea to rush an art piece. Take your time, checking out the details, composition, and colours to choose. Walk away from your art from time to time. Look at it the next day or two. You' ll find that you will see things differently and a few adjustments are in order. Step back occasionally as you are painting and take a good look. Put your painting in front of a mirror and look at the reflection. Place your work upside down and observe closely... you'll be surprise how the mind works.

Continue to learn by creating...

Monday, August 24, 2009

How to Paint a Portrait - Know your subject

Learn all you can about what you choose to paint, whether it's a person, animal, and/or landscape. Remember, you will be spending many hours working on your art and understanding as well as observing is the key to creating a master piece.

Knowing your subject gives you a window into their world. As you draw a portrait of a person or persons learn about their personalities. This will help you portray their image. If it's an animal, learn about the breed, features and behaviors. If it's a landscape, study the land and location with it's tributes - shades, light, colours etc.
Understand what you are seeing.

Decisions to consider prior to painting:
Are you considering a detailed piece or a line artwork? Will it be a full body, half or head and shoulder only? How do you want to present this painting... in what medium and size? These are a few of the many questions you'll be asking yourself. Composition, style, texture and colour are all very important. Will you be using a combination of warm and cool colours? Understand your colours... know how to use them. There is no right or wrong. The mood is set by your choices... envision your art but be flexible. At times you may find yourself moving away from your original thoughts half way through your painting. That is OK... go with the flow.

Learning, observing and understanding brings you closer to creating your master piece..

Monday, August 10, 2009

Tribute to Haiti - My venture with soft pastel

"On the way home (24"x19") soft pastel painting

In 2005, for the series "A Tribute to Haiti", I had just discovered, and began using soft pastel as my new medium. From first glance, I found some similarity in texture with this medium and charcoal, but when I touched the soft pastel, I fell in love with the soft velvet like texture compared to the coarse touch of charcoal. The pure pigments from the soft pastels gave out beautiful shades of colour.

The soft pastel was perfect for what I was creating... the blending qualities are wonderful. So I ventured into this new medium with much to discover.

The full series "A Tribute to Haiti" can be viewed on Youtube as well as individually on my gallery website.

This series was especially created for Healthy Smiles for Haiti - a charitable organization
(Note cards of this series are available through the organization)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

First Portrait Drawing in Charcoal (Nov. 2003) and what followed.

"Cheerful Times
(14"x17") charcoal drawing

The art piece "Cheerful Times" was my first portrait drawing which brought me back in the arts.

A close friend from childhood had requested a drawing in memory of her dear mother. She maintained I had promised her a drawing as a child and never produced one. After all the years that had past outside of the arts, this was a great challenge. I agreed, upon one condition... if I disliked my work once completed, the artwork would be discarded without her ever viewing it.

When the drawing was completed, my family and friends loved it. The support was unbelievable and the beginning of my new life as an artist had just begun.

In 2004 my website was created and many more charcoal portraits were soon to come. I was invited to become a member of Art's Hamilton (The Art Council of Hamilton) followed by the Women's Art Association of Hamilton (W.A.A.H.). Both of these art groups played a major roll in my pursuit in the arts.

Below are the following two personal artworks created in 2003

Quiet Moment & Boy's Best Friend

Friday, August 7, 2009

To Dance - A Special Project (2008)

To Dance (36"x36") oil on canvas
Artist - Anna Sponer

To Dance was inspired by this insightful quote:

"To live is to dance, to dance is to live"
- Snoopy (from the comic strip Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz).

Dance is one of the most beautiful art forms, displaying passion in its full glory. It also transcends art as it embodies a universal language, that moves the heart and soul of us all.

In this painting “To Dance”, the children are expressing themselves through imagination and impulse, parading their innocence, joy and wonderment. They are surrounded by the pure natural beauty and energy, they share as one.

This painting is about how the struggle for life can become a celebration of life!

The art piece "To Dance" was created for Hamilton Health Sciences Foundation, auctioned off during the Inaugural Ron Joyce Invitational for Mac Kids Fundraising Event held at Fox Harbour Resort in Wallace, Nova Scotia August 7th to 8th 2008. This painting was auctioned off at $12,000.00 with all proceeds given to McMaster Children's Hospital, Hamilton, Ontario. The painting was than donated back by the recipient to the Hospital, to be hung some time in the near future for viewing.

The soft pastel painting above "To Dance" (19"x 24")
was the original draft created for acceptance.
This painting is now in the possession (privately own) in Wisconsin, U.S.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Paintings from the series "Arts Speak about Poverty"

A complete collection of paintings from the Series
Arts Speak about Poverty.
Created by Canadian Artist Anna Sponer
Full gallery website:

Click images below to enlarge

"Angel's Rose" soft pastel painting

"Unsold Roses" oil painting on canvas
"Stolen Shoes" oil painting on canvas

"Broken Heart" oil painting on canvas
"Alone" soft pastel painting

"A Child's Dream " soft pastel painting
"A Child's Prayer" soft pastle painting

"Black Rose" oil painting on canvas
"Angel's Tears" oil painting on canvas

"Indecision" oil painting on canvas
"Hurt" oil painting on canvas

Arts Speak about Poverty - Visual literacy

Arts Speak about Poverty... promoting poverty awareness through visual literacy.
A collection of paintings were created for this special series:

"Unsold Roses” depicts Poverty in our Cities. Feel through your eyes the helplessness and loneliness expressed by her weeping body. Desperately she is trying to sell... with little of what she has.
A single black rose, a symbol of beauty, simplicity and hope for a better future, is barely visible among the red roses in bloom.

"Stolen Shoes" the young girl is re-considering her decision to leave home. She muses upon her own innocence as she copes with the harsh reality that her shoes have been stolen. She has not yet been hardened by the streets as her unblemished beauty reflects. She is on the precipice of relinquishing her quest for escape or hurling herself further into the savagery of street life. The imagination must decide her fate...
You can view the complete collection of paintings from this series, posted on this blog and my full gallery website:

Monday, August 3, 2009

Myself and my blog

My name is Anna Sponer and I'm a self taught Canadian artist born and raised in Hamilton, Ontario and presently working in the Greater Hamilton and Toronto area.

As a child, I was fascinated by the simple drawings created by others, and immediately wanted to learn to draw, so I began sketching my immediate surroundings. During my early teenage life, I spent many hours at the public library viewing and sometimes copying the works of the Great Masters, especially Leonardo da Vinci; I was overwhelmed by his creations.

With no formal art training and after graduating high school, art school was not an option; so I enrolled in the Computer Systems program and worked as a computer programmer. Years later, I joined the Ontario Real Estate Association. In 2003, with over 12 years in Real Estate, I decided to make a career change.

Not intentionally, and after many years outside of the arts, only to experience art by visiting galleries through my travels abroad, I found myself drawing portraits in charcoal for family and friends. A lot of unexpected attention was drawn towards my art work and my life as an artist re-emerged. I first worked in charcoal, progressed to soft pastel and recently included oil painting as my new medium.

My full gallery website was created in 2004 which is consistently updated.

My World... The Art World had just begun.

This blog has been created so many can join me by sharing their personal experiences, thoughts and knowledge of the fascinating world of visual art.

Connect and be a part of our world…
The Art World

Leonardo de Vinci
Soft Pastel Painting
by Anna Sponer