The Things We Artists Do for Art

The Things We Artists Do for Art

 

It’s amazing the things you have to do sometimes to get a painting to look realistic.

 

I’ve been commissioned to do a painting of the five loaves and two fishes for a book cover illustration, a commentary on the book of Mark in the New Testament. I didn’t want to copy a stock photo (illegal) but I didn’t want to just make it up (not very realistic)

 

So I bought some fish, some flatbread and a basket. Took the pics just as the sun was setting. Then I cooked the fish tonight and ate it with the bread. Best fish I’ve had in a long time! 🙂

 

Here are a few pics that I took…

 

"Loaves and Fishes Basket" photo  2017 by Matt Philleo

“Loaves and Fishes Basket” photo 2017 by Matt Philleo

 

"Loaves and Fishes Basket" photo  2017 by Matt Philleo

“Loaves and Fishes Basket” 2 photo 2017 by Matt Philleo

 

Even though this is not my usual subject matter–portraits–it’s good to do a still life once in a while to keep up with your color, shape, and value rendering skills. Many of you have seen this painting on Facebook already, but I wanted to get this posted to my blog. 

 

 

Have a blessed weekend!

Matt

A Painting of Encouragement

A Painting of Encouragement

I am thankful for my job as a portrait painting artist.

I am so blessed to be able to paint portraits for a living. Many of the commissioned portraits I do are given as gifts, and they are very meaningful, especially when it is given to keep a memory alive for someone who lost a loved one.

Here is a miniature portrait I finished earlier this month. It’s a 5 x 7, acrylic on hardboard. I don’t do many miniature paintings like this, so it’s always fun to challenge myself and see if I can paint the details in such a small format.

This portrait was commissioned by a woman from my hometown in Merrill. She gave this as a gift to her daughter for her birthday, a portrait of her and her dad, who passed away recently.

 

portrait artist

Commissioned Portrait, Acrylic on Hardboard, 5 x 7, by portrait painter Matt Philleo

Here is what she and some of her friends wrote on Facebook:

 

“My mom and Randy came over today to visit and give me my birthday present early. I was so touched it brought me to tears. She had taken a very nice photo of my dad and I, but the picture was pixelated. With dad no longer with us, she had a very talented artist paint the photo. It turned out wonderful. Thank you so much mom and Randy!!💗”

When I do commissioned projects like this, I’m always amazed at the love people show each other by giving such thoughtful gifts. I’m thankful that I can do this for a living!

If you would like a commissioned portrait done, just let me know. I’d love to be able to bring an idea to life for you or be a part of your plans to encourage someone else.

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If you have any comments or questions about what I wrote, please leave me your feedback below at the very bottom of the page! I will personally get back to you. Can you help me spread the word? Please share this post with your family and friends by using the social media links on the side or at the bottom of this page. Thank you!
Smoldering Wick, Part 2: the Photo Shoot

Smoldering Wick, Part 2: the Photo Shoot

In a previous post, I shared before how when I was going through a difficult time, God encouraged me with a verse in Isaiah 42 that inspired the painting “Smoldering Wick.” I sketched out the idea, and then the sketch sat around for a few years before I got the chance to actually paint it.

Isaiah 42, the suffering servant, sketch

Original pencil sketch for “Smoldering Wick” by Matt Philleo

 

There were many distractions–a part time job, painting commissions, and my own procrastination. I wanted the painting to be just right. Waiting for the ideal circumstances, I delayed starting the project.

But finally, one day I realized unless I actually just took some steps to start the painting, it would never happen. So I asked my brother-in-law, Zach, to come over to my house for a photo shoot. Why a photo shoot? It’s not like I run a model agency! Here’s why…

When you are trying to do a realistic painting, you can’t just “invent” the realism.

At least I can’t. Maybe some can. But I think history bears out that the best realistic paintings of all time–like Rembrandt’s “Night Watch” or Caravaggio’s “Conversion of St. Paul” were painted using real-life models posed specifically for the artists to paint from.

In other words, they didn’t just paint from memory. They used a reference.

I am not comparing myself to either Rembrandt or Caravaggio, by the way. But their work inspires me.

One day then, Zach came over to my house, which I transformed into something like a theater stage or movie set. Well, one room at least. My wife gave me permission to do that for a few hours, as long as I put everything back in its place when I was done.

The “set” for “Smoldering Wick”

 

In the Victorian times, they had writing tables, simple and elegant. This is where the main character would be sitting. To recreate this look, I used a folded up plastic table and then made a fake top for it out of a piece of hardboard panel, which I painted to look like varnished woodgrain.

 

Then, I got my oil lamp ready, and made a fake doily (the knitted cloth things underneath that kept it from scuffing a table) for it out of paper.

My trusty oil lamp with a homemade paper doily.

 

Interestingly enough, back during those kerosene-light days, the servant would come along and tend to the lamps in a house. He would bring a small foldable wooden tray on legs, carrying his supplies–a wick trimmer, a metal debris tray to hold the ash,  a cloth to clean the chimney, and a can of kerosene. The servant would carefully trim off the burnt edges of the wick, raise it up higher, clean the soot off the chimney, and fill the lamp with fresh oil. The result would be a fresh flame that burns longer and brighter.

 

The wick trimming tray used by butlers in the 19th century

This symbolizes how God allows trials in our lives to “trim” the rough edges off of us.

Sometimes we hang onto to things that are worthless and keeping us from our full potential, from shining our light brightly. The wick trimmer is like the trial that cuts away the sins, the undesirable traits in us, and God employs this tool with precision, and masterful, loving care. His goal is not to hurt us, but to conform us to the image of Christ. And Jesus is the true Light of the World.

And to top it all off, Jesus said that when He would leave this earth, He would send the Comforter to us, that is, the Holy Spirit. In the Bible, the Spirit is often portrayed figuratively by oil.

For us today, the Holy Spirit is like that oil–an oil of gladness and joy– giving fuel to run on.

Without that joy, we will eventually burn out, even if we are busy doing great things.

Now, for the kerosene can, as a prop, I grabbed an old metal gasoline can from the shed.

Old metal gasoline can used as a reference for a kerosene container.

I created this butler’s tray using a foldable TV-dinner tray covered with a cardboard box that mimics the sides of the antique tray. Of course, when I painted it in the painting, I made it look like wood rather than cardboard. But the cardboard structure was enough to paint by. The wick trimmer’s debris tray was cardboard covered with aluminum foil.

My brother in law had his tuxedo on, a perfect look for a victorian-era servant, and I had a dress shirt with a vest, and combed my hair in an old-fashioned style, and even shaved my beard to look like 1870’s style mutton-chop sideburns!

Next, we mounted my DSLR camera to a tripod and snapped a series of photos. In all, we probably shot about 200. It takes a lot of photos just to get a few that turn out. With a low aperature and slow shutter setting, we were able to capture the light from the lamp very well. As long as we didn’t move much.

Zach Couture and Matt Philleo posing for the photo references used in the painting “Smoldering Wick,” 30 x 40, 2016, acrylic on canvas

I tried to think of the sadness of this man, and how I felt when I was discouraged.

As I played the part, some tears actually formed in my eyes, and I knew that was just the look I wanted in the painting to convey the despair, the loneliness, the longing of hope that he experienced just before the light of the truth dawned upon him.

Matt Philleo posing for “Smoldering Wick”

Zach did a fantastic job in posing for the servant. He portrayed a genuine compassion in both his facial expression, and his body language. The servant was to symbolize Jesus Christ without actually looking like the typical long-haired Jesus that we are so familiar with in the Western World.

Jesus is the suffering servant.

He was tempted in all points like we are, yet without sin. He is acquainted with sorrows, and knew what it was like to have people reject Him, hate Him, and ultimately kill Him. And so He can sympathize with our weaknesses with true compassion and mercy.

Zach Couture posing in an interesting but unused photo reference for “Smoldering Wick”

We won’t discover the fullness of Jesus, though, just by looking at a picture of Him. Although that may help, the true picture of Jesus is formed in words–the Bible.

When we read about all that He did for us on the cross in taking our sins upon His shoulders and rising again to give us new life, it fills us with joy (if we receive it) and what was darkness and despair now turns to light and hope. I see my role as an artist to highlight, or draw attention to the truths already proclaimed in the Word of God. It allows me to speak and share with people that may never read a Bible or are turned off by institutional Christianity.

Zach and I spent the better part of the afternoon doing the photo shoot, and I ended up with some wonderful images to work from as references. The last step at this stage was to go through the images on my computer and select the best ones to use for the actual painting.

Smoldering Wick, Isaiah 42, Jesus, suffering servant

Main photo reference for “Smoldering Wick”

By the way, you may have seen already on Facebook, but I do have prints of “Smoldering Wick” available for sale now. If you would like to purchase a copy, I will sign it and put it in a distinguished black and gold mat, with a clear plastic sleeve. This is a special limited edition printed up locally by Eau Claire Printing Co.; I am only making 50 prints total. I would love for you to have one! Here is more information on how to order.

Jesus, Isaiah 42:3, Smoldering wick, suffering servant, painting,

“Smoldering Wick,” 30 x 40, acrylic on canvas, 2016, by Matt Philleo

Signing a limited edition print of “Smoldering Wick”

 

In my next post, I will share more on the process of how I actually painted “Smoldering Wick…”

 

 

Share Your Thoughts!

If you have any comments or questions about what I wrote, please leave me your feedback below at the very bottom of the page! I will personally get back to you. Can you help me spread the word? Please share this post with your family and friends by using the social media links on the side or at the bottom of this page. Thank you!

 

 

 

 

 

A Smoldering Wick He Will Not Snuff Out, Part 1

A Smoldering Wick He Will Not Snuff Out, Part 1

What do you do when you feel like you are at the end of your rope?

I recently finished a painting called “Smoldering Wick,” which I’ve shared on Facebook a little bit, and many people have asked what it is about.

Even though I just finished the painting just at the end of last year, the idea came to me several years ago. I was feeling discouraged about certain things in my life that weren’t measuring up, my failures and mistakes glaring me in the face, and I wondered if God could forgive me.

Many times when I feel this way, I get on my knees, open up my Bible in front of me and ask God to speak to me out of His word. Although I know God is forgiving and that He also will help me in all my discouragement and difficulties in life, I want to experience this forgiveness and goodness from God.

I want to know He is right there with me.

Some people may be able to, but I have a hard time shutting of the floodgate of my feelings. When I feel down, I can’t just put a smile on my face and pretend everything is OK when, inside, I feel like I’m drowning.

And I’ve found from experience that nobody knows me like God, not even myself.

And nobody cares to listen to me pour out the bitterness of my soul like God.

And nobody has the answers that I so desperately need like God.

And so this is what I do. I seek the Lord until He comes and reigns His righteousness on me. I know if I spend enough time there before Him, sooner or later, He will break through the hardness of my heart, or mind, and unbelief will melt away, and His light will cascade down upon me, breaking through the darkness.

And this all comes through His word, in the Bible.

So it was that one day, that I sought the Lord in my time of need, and I came across this promise in Isaiah 42:

Isaiah 42, the suffering servant, Jesus

Isaiah 42:3 ” A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out…”

 

In another translation it says, ” a bruised reed He will not break and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out…”

As I came across this verse, my heart was lifted up with joy. I felt the presence of God right there with me!

I knew that if I had even a flicker of a flame left burning for Him, He would not snuff it out.

In context, this verse, written by the prophet Isaiah around 700 B.C. was speaking prophetically of Jesus, who would be that suffering servant, God come in human flesh, the One would know what it was like to experience our pain, and could sympathize with us when were weak and beaten down.

And that’s exactly what I felt that day. It didn’t matter what I was going through, really. The trial that brought me up to this point, even if it was my fault. (Which it probably was) All that mattered was, God was in the house! God was in the room with me! And in experiencing that intimacy with Him: of His love, His faithfulness, His mercy, His gentleness, His kindness–I had everything I needed.

And so I wanted to commemorate this moment. Back in the Bible times, when God showed up, the ancient Israelites would put up a monument or a memorial stone to help them remember what God did for them. And so in the same way, I wanted to paint a picture to commemorate how God brought such encouragement to me! Also, I thought, “this may bring encouragement to someone else, if they get a glimpse of how kind, how patient God is with us.”

So I sketched it out. The title “Smoldering Wick” came right away. And then I thought, “I need to pick a time where they would use kerosene lamps to illuminate what they were trying to see,” so I picked the Victorian era.

Isaiah 42, the suffering servant, sketch

Original pencil sketch for “Smoldering Wick” by Matt Philleo

The servant would symbolize Jesus, who shows compassion on us when we are discouraged.

I wanted the pose of the man to communicate that feeling, with his hand on his master’s shoulder. The man would be obviously distraught, but reading the Bible for comfort.

Because I wanted this to be a large painting with a ton of detail, it wouldn’t be started for another couple years after doing this sketch. I was still working part time at delivering newspapers and later working at a local recycling facility, and between that and commissioned artwork, I didn’t have a lot of time to work on one of my own paintings.

But I had the sketch, and the idea was recorded. When the time was right, the next step was to get together the photography for the painting, so that it would look realistic enough to convey the emotion and the concept to whoever looked at it.

Share Your Thoughts!

If you have any comments or questions about what I wrote, please leave me your feedback below at the very bottom of the page! I will personally get back to you. Can you help me spread the word? Please share this post with your family and friends by using the social media links on the side or at the bottom of this page. Thank you!
The Light of the World Shining in Our Darkness

The Light of the World Shining in Our Darkness

Several times, I have wanted to give up being an artist. The end of last month was the most recent time.
After Thanksgiving, we had our “Small Business Saturday” sales event at Artisan Forge Studios.
But the day before I was very discouraged. The month of October and especially November were slow months, with not a lot of art sales or commissions.
Rent was overdue.  Our landlord called, after getting a partial payment on rent, and he wanted to know when we would bring our account up to date. I didn’t know the answer to that question. I didn’t know what to do–and I had already tried everything I knew. I felt like throwing in the towel.
Sharing these sentiments with my wife, she matter-of-factly and truthfully advised:
“God has always provided. He’s not going to stop now.” 
Feeling just a tiny bit better, I went to bed.
Artisan Forge Studios, a place of collaboration, painting, sculpture and more!

Artisan Forge Studios, 1106 Mondovi Rd, Eau Claire

The morning of the show I prayed, “God you’re a big God, so I am going to pray a big prayer. I pray that I would sell ‘Smoldering Wick’ (my biggest and most detailed painting, a 30″ x 40″ ) today at the art show.”

 

There was only a trickle of people that came in. But I smiled even though I didn’t feel like it and talked about the painting and the message behind it to whoever showed interest. During the middle of the show, two middle-aged men came in, and drawn to the painting, they asked me what it was about. They listened openly to the spiritual message behind it, and although they didn’t seem to quite share the same perspective I had, they loved the luminosity of the brushwork and the compassion portrayed by the people within the picture.

 

Then, out of the blue, one man said to the other, “So, do you want to get it?”

 

My ears perked up. And I thought, What did I just hear you say?

 

And they discussed where they were going to put it, and if I took credit cards. I told them I could take their card on the spot with Square. So we rang up the sale and it went through! “Congratulations!” I told them as I shook their hands.

 

After they left, I prayed “Lord, what did you just do? I asked for that painting to sell and you answered!”

 

Well, needless to say, my family had rent money.

 

I later learned that the collectors of this painting  just happened “by chance” to show up at Artisan Forge Studios that Saturday, the day of the show.
Acrylic painting of realistic figures in Christian inspirational art

“Smoldering Wick”, 30 x 40, acrylic on canvas, 2016, by artist Matt Philleo of Eau Claire, in collector’s home.


The Lord has done this many times for us. You would think I wouldn’t worry, but I still often do. But my faith is growing little by little, and I’m amazed at what God does. And so, yes, it isn’t easy being a full time artist in some ways, but it’s an exciting ride! This is what I’ve been called to do. So I’m just stubborn enough to stick it out (with some encouragement from the right people) when many people maybe think I should have packed up my brushes a long time ago, and given up on the fantasy of being a full-time artist.

Although I’ve already posted some images of the painting on Facebook, I’ve had a lot of people ask what the painting “Smoldering Wick ” is all about. I will share more about that and the inspiration behind it down the road, but for now, I want to say it has everything to do with the “the Light of the World.”
Jesus is the “Light of the World.”
“The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.” (Isaiah 9:2)
All of us were in darkness before Jesus came. Darkness in our sins, darkness in ignorance, or even willful disobedience. In my predicament here with the financial problem, I was in darkness. Not just the darkness of not having enough money to pay rent, but the despair of the feeling of hopelessness.  A lack of faith.
I think Jesus may have said to me, like He said to Peter, “You of little faith. Why did you doubt?”
Nevertheless, He answered my prayer. I didn’t feel so confident when I prayed it. But God, in His mercy, answered it. 
Now, should I have had more faith?
Yes.
But, God still answered my prayer, even with the little faith I had.  And so it gave me more cause to thank God for how kind He had been to me, as I realized I got far more than my feeble faith deserved.
My wife, who teaches the children’s Wednesday night Bible class at church, used a line as a metaphor for faith. She shot out a line with a sticky end and reeled in the object she desired as the kids watched. As long as she continued to reel, she would get what was attached to the end of the line. But if she set down the line, because reeling it in (or trying to get the object to stick) was too hard, she would never get the object at the end.
This is a powerful picture of faith and I still remember it.
It doesn’t take a rope to reel in a big fish. You just have to keep reeling it in with the line you have and not give up.
But, now, I want to say more about the object of our faith: there are many objects we want to pick up at the end of that line. But whatever the object is–maybe a better job, a nicer car, a relationship restored, healing for a disease, even forgiveness of our sins–and these all  may be good things to desire–ultimately the goal of receiving these transient things is to receive the true object of our faith, Jesus Christ. In other words, when we see how good He has been in answering our prayers and providing for our needs in the midst of the struggle, we will see Him more clearly. His generosity, His kindness, His consistency, His love, His power to deliver, His glory will be unfolded to us. When we see Jesus for who He is, we will be amazed. Our natural response will be to thank Him, to praise Him. And I don’t think there’s anything that pleases Him more, than when we rejoice at who He is.
Smoldering Wick, Bruised reed and the suffering servant,

“Smoldering Wick” 30 x 40, acrylic on canvas by painter Matt Philleo, with Isaiah 42

“In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1: 4-5)
None of us have ever seen God, but we do “see Him” as we experience His truth in the Bible, coming alive as we read, believe, meditate upon, and live it out. We stand upon His promises and we watch them come to pass.
Jesus said as recorded in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Jesus will breathe life into the smoldering wick: the soul with a flickering flame that still yearns to burn brighter.
May God’s riches blessings come to you this Christmas, as the Light of the World shines brightly upon your path!

Share Your Thoughts!

If you have any comments or questions about what I wrote, please leave me your feedback below at the very bottom of the page! I will personally get back to you. Can you help me spread the word? Please share this post with your family and friends by using the social media links on the side or below. Thank you!
How I do Shading with Acrylic (Video)

How I do Shading with Acrylic (Video)

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving. I know I did. It was rejuvenating to take a little time off from the studio, and spend it with family. Sometimes as an artist, you feel the crunch of having to create a lot of artwork, and your creative energies get tapped out. Thanksgiving’s a fantastic time to recharge, give thanks to God for all the blessings He’s given, be with family, and of course, eat a wonderful home-cooked meal.

Back to the studio tomorrow.

While teaching art classes lately, I’ve discovered one of the most challenging things for my students to learn is how to shade.

For artists and art appreciators, shading is a mysterious thing. We wonder how to do it, or how others did it.

Shading– the transition from a dark value to a lighter value in a two-dimensional work of art–is one of the most important techniques you can master to make a painting or drawing look realistic.

I’d like to share a video (hosted on YouTube) I created earlier this week about that, with you. This is my first art instructional video–in fact really the first serious video recording I’ve done, since the old days of playing around with a VHS-C camcorder with my buddies after school. We made some pretty crazy movies back then!

Somewhere towards the end of the video–maybe about 2/3 of the way through–is where I really get into it: how to do shading with acrylic and make it look real.

Hope you enjoy this video, and let me know if it helps you in your painting. Let me know, too, how I can improve it in any way, so going forward I can create some videos that are more helpful, or informative for you. Or maybe you don’t paint, but you are interested in the process of acrylic painting. Again, let me know if you’d like to see more stuff like this in the future!

And of course, as I always ask, please share this with your friends! Thanks!

Blessings,

signature_200dpi

Matt

P.S. I will have the painting featured in the video on display at the art show this Saturday at my studio. (1106 Mondovi Rd, in Eau Claire, 10-4pm)

Share Your Thoughts!

If you have any comments or questions about this post, please leave me your feedback at the very bottom of this page! I will personally get back to you. Can you help me spread the word? Please share this post with your family and friends by using the social media links on the side or below. Thank you!
 
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