It’s for the Children

It’s for the Children

Last weekend, I had a wonderful opportunity to be able to do live portrait sketches at the United Special Sportsman Alliance Summerfest Event held in Pittsville, WI. This was kind of a summer camp for children with special needs, offering them various outdoor activities like archery, fishing, kayaking, paddleboats, horseback riding, and crafts.

And every event was free. Many vendors came from different places to volunteer their time and resources to be a blessing to hundreds of disabled and special needs children. This was a place where they felt welcomed, special, and not alone.

So I set up my tent Friday morning, and started sketching portraits around 9am. Instead of doing the sketches on a first come first served basis like I usually do, most of the sketches were by appointment. This allowed the people to go and enjoy the day, and then come back at time they were scheduled.

I must have sketched about 50 faces between Friday and Saturday morning, each one taking about 10-15 minutes.

 

Pencil portrait artist Matt Philleo drawing live portraits at the United Special Sportsman Alliance Summerfest Event on Friday July 15, 2016 at Pittsville, WI

Pencil portrait artist Matt Philleo drawing live portraits at the United Special Sportsman Alliance Summerfest Event on Friday July 15, 2016 at Pittsville, WI

One portrait that stood out in my mind was of a African American boy, about 14, with down’s syndrome. Although mostly non-verbal, he exuded charm. He would lift his eyebrows up and down and wink at me, in a completely innocent yet seemingly flirtatious way.

Since the portraits were set up mainly by appointment, people that walked by and wanted one done had to be fit in the schedule. There was a girl who would not be deterred. She kept coming back several times, even though I was busy with the appointment sketches, that when I had the smallest window of opportunity, I fit her in. She reminded me of the persistent widow in the Bible, who kept demanding justice until the judge relented. And that of course, was Jesus’ parable to illustrate the God will answer prayer…if we do not give up.

I truly enjoyed doing these live portraits, and now that my wrist is fully recuperated, I can type up this blog post with ease!

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Celebrating 25 Years of Doing Commissioned Art

Celebrating 25 Years of Doing Commissioned Art

It all started back in 1991 at age 14, when my mom’s friend asked me to do a drawing of her friend who had passed away and paid me for it. Backing up just a bit, shortly before that I had just learned how to draw realistically from a photo. I had drawn OK up until that point, but suddenly, faithfully reproducing the details of a photograph “clicked” for me. Here is that commissioned portrait, a montage of several photos put together into one cohesive drawing.

 

My first commissioned drawing, 11 x 14, pencil on paper, 1991.

My first commissioned drawing, 11 x 14, pencil on paper, 1991.

One of my first realistic drawings was of one of my favorite bands, Metallica. I did two of them, one of the whole band, and then one of the lead guitarist, James Hetfield. I don’t have that first drawing, but here is the second one–pencil on paper.

J_Hetfield, Pencil on Paper, by Matt Philleo, 1993

J_Hetfield, Pencil on Paper, by Matt Philleo, 1993

While doing that first drawing of Metallica, I was so engrossed in what I was doing that I don’t think I took a break for hours. My eyes were glued to the paper, close in so I could capture all the detail. I came downstairs after several hours of working. My pulled me aside and asked me, “Matt I need to talk to you. Are you, umm…on drugs?”

“Mom, you know me better than that!”

“Well, your eyes are all dilated.”

I then explained how I was drawing for hours (probably with poor lighting) and we both got a little laugh out of it.

But those realistic drawings, if I remember correctly, is what she showed to her friend, and that spurred on the first commission. I had a couple more from teachers in high school and one of my brother’s coworkers. Mostly by word of mouth, I was given and completed several commissions before graduating. This is what I wanted to do when I grew up.

Since then, I have done hundreds of portraits over the years, for folks to give to their loved ones on many different occasions. Birthdays, wedding anniversaries, Christmas, to commemorate lost loved ones, Mother’s Day, and “just because.” Here’s a few of my favorites:

How to Paint Acrylic Portraits Final-clear by Matt Philleo

How to Paint Acrylic Portraits Final-clear by Matt Philleo

Commissioned wedding portrait, 16 x 20, acrylic on canvas, copyright 2015, by portrait artist Matt Philleo

Commissioned wedding portrait, 16 x 20, acrylic on canvas, copyright 2015, by portrait artist Matt Philleo

"Williams Family Portrait," 8 x 10, acrylic on panel by artist Matt Philleo

“Williams Family Portrait,” 8 x 10, acrylic on panel by artist Matt Philleo

"Walking in His Footsteps", 11 x 14, pencil on paper, by artist Matt Philleo

“Walking in His Footsteps”, 11 x 14, pencil on paper, by artist Matt Philleo

To celebrate 25 years of doing commissioned art, all commissions will be 25% off until March 25th!

If you are looking at having a portrait done (Mother’s Day is coming up soon :)) this would be a great time to get your order in. For more information on my portraits, please visit my official commissioned artwork site, www.traditionstudio.com or contact me.

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All Moved In

All Moved In

It’s been a little while since my last post. The craziness of the holiday season is over now, and it’s time to get back to writing.
Lately, I’ve been busy setting up my new studio at Artisan Forge Studios. (1107 Mondovi Rd., Eau Claire, WI–across from Walgreen’s on Clairemont Ave)
They put up some of my art and info on their website too, if you’d like to check that out. 
It’s easy to underestimate the amount of work it takes to move your business, equipment, and supplies, even out of a 9′ x 13′ room. But stuff had been accumulating for a while tucked neatly (sometimes) onto shelves, but once the shelves came down I realized half of it isn’t needed and it’s not coming to the new studio.
 
My crowded old art studio.

My crowded old art studio.

A lot of mess!

A lot of mess!

This is really the first time I’ve moved anything major in over 13 years. Even though it’s not a whole house move, I forgot the dynamics of moving and all the downtime involved.
My new studio room is a 12′ x 12′. It’s a little bigger than my old 9′ x 13′ studio, if you measure by the floor plan, but vertically, it’s like comparing the Wells Fargo building in Eau Claire to the Sears Tower. My old home studio just clears my head at about 6 1/2 feet, but the new studio is nearly 10 feet tall. Goliath’s head would just barely be touching the ceiling of my new studio, whereas in my old one he would look like the Hunchback of Notre Dame! I’m glad to have this extra space for storage and working on larger canvases.
Here’s a little more of the backstory on why I decided to move out in the first place.
My studio at Artisan Forge, 1107 Mondovi Rd, Eau Claire, before painting.

My studio at Artisan Forge, 1107 Mondovi Rd, Eau Claire, before painting.

The new studio is great, but I wanted to “tweak it a little” to make it my own. I didn’t care for the boring grey color it was painted in, so I freshened it up with two-toned off white and chocolate brown, separated by a white stripe, mimicking a chair rail. The colors are close to my business/website colors and they’re a lot brighter to reflect the light in the studio. The more light there is, the easier it is to paint and draw!
My studio at Artisan Forge after painting.

My studio at Artisan Forge after painting.

After letting the paint dry, my next step was to put up shelving. I reused some neat metal shelves with adjustable brackets from my mother-in-law’s old house (Thanks, Mom!) that are kind of like the shelves you see in department stores. Very handy.
My main shelves.

My main shelves.

 

Oh, actually, before that, I did reassemble my drafting table, and my palette shelf on wheels. I love this drafting table. I got it from a friend and church over 10 years ago. It’s better to work on than an easel for smaller canvases.
Got my wind up clock going again too, after sitting in our basement for 6 years. Hopefully hearing it chime on the hour will help keep me productive.
Display wall and clock reminding me to get some work done!

Display wall and clock reminding me to get some work done!

One of the walls in the studio will be reserved just for displaying new art. They will also give me a little display space outside my studio too. I’m excited to have a place to show my art publicly, meet with new clients, and people in the community.
I’ve already met some cool people. One of my studio neighbors makes bead creations, the other is a sculptor. There’s an architecture/ design firm there and a guy and gal who make really amazing custom guitar pedals featuring unique sounds you can’t get anywhere else.
I’ve prayed and dedicated this room to God, to be used to serve His Kingdom purposes and for His glory. I want to continue to do paintings that bring encouragement founded upon the truth of the good news of Jesus Christ and Biblical principles, and even more than I have. I’m looking forward to meeting people in the community, sharing ideas, collaborating on projects, teaching, and gaining inspiration from the other artists who work and exhibit here.
This morning, I finally got my shelving set up, and am officially at work. I modified this TV stand into a palette cart/ paint shelf. It’s on wheels, and just the right size to hold my palette while I paint, and all my paint below. It tool a little work to cut wood to size for the shelving and screw it in, but it’s done and the sawdust is swept off the floor.
My new studio at Artisan Forge Studios, 1107 Mondovi Rd, Eau Claire, WI 54703

My new studio at Artisan Forge Studios, 1107 Mondovi Rd, Eau Claire, WI 54703

This afternoon, I worked on a couple sketches for portrait and illustration commissions. It felt good to finally be doing art and not carpentry!
My drafting table and easel.

My drafting table and easel.

Thank you everyone for all your wonderful, encouraging comments throughout this transition. I plan on having an open house event in the not too distant future. I will keep you posted on that, and of course, you’re all invited!

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New Old Portrait Drawing

New Old Portrait Drawing

I was doing a little cleaning when I discovered a CD that had a file saved on it I thought was lost. It was the image of this drawing here, a commission I did back in 2010. If I remember correctly, this was the drawing I did for a gentleman at my church–the commission that helped bring in the rent money when I was a month behind. I’m glad I found this portrait again–it’s one of my favorites!

He wanted to commemorate his parents wedding anniversary–I think it was their 70th, but again, this was 5 years ago, so I’m not sure.

This is an 11 x 14 pencil on paper drawing, and it took over 20 hours to complete. I got a really great scan of this drawing that captured the detail and texture of the graphite in the paper. First is the entire drawing and then below that are some close-ups…thanks for looking!

Custom Pencil Portrait by pencil portrait artist Matt Philleo

Custom Pencil Portrait by pencil portrait artist Matt Philleo

In the detail below, we see them at the time of their wedding, along with an image of their church.

Custom pencil portrait drawing by artist Matt Philleo, detail

Custom pencil portrait drawing by artist Matt Philleo, detail

Custom Pencil Portrait drawing by artist Matt Philleo, detail

Custom Pencil Portrait drawing by artist Matt Philleo, detail

Below, of course, is the picture of this couple when they are well advanced in years. In the lower right is an image of the family farm.

Custom Pencil Portrait drawing by artist Matt Philleo, detail

Custom Pencil Portrait drawing by artist Matt Philleo, detail

And here’s the detail of that.

Custom Pencil Portrait drawing by artist Matt Philleo, detail

Custom Pencil Portrait drawing by artist Matt Philleo, detail

I love doing custom commissioned portraits like this, where I can incorporate elements that are near and dear to the people being portrayed. When they receive this as a gift, it is extra special to them, to not only have a portrait of the two of them, but to proudly display the longevity of their marriage and interweave them into the surroundings of their lives.

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Goodbye, Wonderful Old Woman

Goodbye, Wonderful Old Woman

Today, I said goodbye to a familiar face: a drawing I’ve had in my collection for 22 years. It is one of my favorites, but it was time to let it go.  A customer who met me at the Falling Leaves Art Studio Tour this year bought a print of this drawing, and later through email, said she loves the image and would like to buy the original. 
This is a drawing I did back in 1993, when 15, so it is very special to me. I discovered that black colored pencil could achieve a really rich black, almost like ink. In addition, although nearly impossible to erase, it doesn’t smudge like normal graphite pencils. When I showed it to my art teacher, she loved it, and later on referred to it as the drawing of “that wonderful old woman” The name stuck.
Woman, immigrant Great Depression

“Wonderful Old Woman, “ 9 x 12, Colored Pencil on Paper, by Matt Philleo

My source photo was of an elderly woman, an immigrant from the depression era. I chose not draw a background behind her, leaving the white of the paper to draw even more attention to her face.
You can imagine the stories she’d tell if you waited a while to listen. Her careworn face, etched with deep wrinkles, is almost like a roadmap that guides you in learning more about the difficult journeys of her life. And yet, behind that melancholy stare there is a glimmer of hope, a firm resolve to not give up and to make it through.
I met today with the customer to hand this drawing over to her. And I’m glad.  The joy of this drawing blessing somebody else makes it easy for me to let it go, and I’m glad she will be proudly displaying it in her home. 
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Artist Statement

Artist Statement

I create art to comfort and encourage. In our present era, with increasing crime, scandals, and a wall of isolation erected by too much dependence on technology, the need for encouragement is greater than ever. I don’t look at the world with myopic, rose-colored glasses, pretending everything is perfect.

I go through trials, difficulties, and personal struggles and so do you.

During these times of despair, I reach out to God for help like the ancient Psalmists did, and eventually light arises in the darkness. His grace overcomes my weakness. After experiencing the breakthrough, I have a burning desire to share this joy with others so they can be encouraged too. For me, art is the best way to do this.

Ever since I was a child, I have loved to draw and paint people. I especially love to capture emotion through facial expressions and body gestures. Occasionally, I paint landscapes, but I am primarily a figurative painter.

In my paintings, the people interact with God and with each other in relationships where truth, love, compassion, trust, hope, forgiveness, perseverance, and dignity are practiced. In highlighting these virtues, and the often the struggle to obtain them, I hope to create a dialogue with the viewer, to instill a desire for something greater, and to demonstrate God’s loving care in times of sorrow and need.

My medium of choice, since being introduced to it in high school art classes, is acrylic paint. I appreciate its quick drying time and low toxicity. Using a centuries-old glazing technique, I mix the paint with a clear acrylic medium and apply layer upon layer translucently, which allows the white surface of the canvas to reflect through. The result is a colorful, vibrant surface.

For example, in one my portraits, for a gentleman’s suit, I applied burnt umber brown, ultramarine blue, and alizarin crimson methodically, in a series of fifteen to twenty layers, to build up the final color of black. This uniquely-composed black has much more richness and depth than using black straight out of the tube.

When doing narrative or concept-based artwork, my inspiration comes from various sources:

Sometimes it can come from a passage of Scripture during my daily reading.

Sometimes it can come from a sermon by the pastor.

But just as often I am inspired by my relationships with others, especially my children. They teach me so much about the way God sees me and how having a simple trust in Him brings delight to His heart.

Once an idea for a painting comes to mind, I quickly record in it my journal. Next, I begin to sketch it and prepare a photo session so that I have realistic references to draw from. Typically, friends, family members are my models and, like a play director, I ask them to “act out” in a still version the various scenes I will depict later on canvas. The resulting photos then become the basis for my painting.

Finally, after completing a well-defined sketch, I begin the actual painting process. Before and during a studio session, I pray, asking God to help me capture the beauty of the people I’m painting and convey an idea that will encourage the viewers, hopefully drawing them closer to Himself. I paint in a detailed, representational style so that my artwork can be easily understood by a viewer of any background or education level.

I enjoy the process of painting, but I believe the end result of a great work of art is more important than enjoying the process. At certain points during painting, it is not fun; it is just plain hard work.

Just as in the rest of life, when you don’t give up and see a difficult project through to completion, there is the satisfaction of a job well done. And you have something to show for your efforts and struggle, something that you can offer to bring encouragement to others.

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