Tag Archives: Soft Pastels


AmaterasuMy current series of works are inspired by various goddesses.  With each goddess, I’m researching their mythology and symbolism.  Then I’m devising a list of photo shoot ideas to explore with local models and a talented team that includes my husband, Brian, who photographs the shoot.

For this most recent Asian Goddess shoot, we had the  talented and beautiful local runway model, Mai Dang. She brought a full suitcase of various traditional Asian outfits.  Prior to the shoot, I had a brainstorming session with our hair/make-up artist,  Georgette Khaziran of Verdecia Salon, who came up with a complete list of hair styles and make-up combinations that would complement each goddess.

We also had our two friends, Michael and George, on site that provided tech support.  In addition, George was able to put his martial arts training to work by demonstrating marital art poses and forms for the model during the weapon shots that ranged from holding swords of all sizes and lengths to daggers and even an axe!

For my first Asian goddess painting I decided to paint Amaterasu, who is known in Japanese mythology as a sun goddess and the most important Shinto deity.  Her full name is Amaterasu-o-mi-kami (天照大神) which means “glorious goddess who shines in the heavens.”

In this soft pastel painting, I illustrated some of her symbols including the rising sun disc, which is also shown on the Japanese Flag. The sword or blade represents might and honor.  I also incorporated Japanese Kanji characters which, when translated into English, reads as “The Goddess of Sun”.

The goddess Amaterasu called out to me because of her diverse character.  As a sun goddess, she oversees the Japanese fields of rice.  She was also known as an accomplished weaver of stunning satins, silks, and brocades.  And for those of you interested in reading more about the myths written about Amaterasu, you can find more information at Goddess Gift, a site dedicated to “celebrate, to nurture, and to share understandings of the goddess in every woman.”

Her inner strength is part of her beauty, and thus, I thought it appropriate to include this work in this week’s theme at Illustration Friday, “Strong”.

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The Goddess Freya


Freya is a Norse maiden goddess of love, beauty, fertility, war, wealth, divination and magic.   Traditionally, she is captured in warrior poses with a Viking helmet  and her sword.  Other folklore imagery illustrates Freya in her cloak of bird wings.

For this soft pastel painting, I’ve captured her transformational fairy powers with dragonfly wings that create the wave effect of  northern lights when in flight.

To see more fairy inspired creations, check out this week’s Created Byhand Challenge.


Here is a photogtaph of the work in progress and the photographic reference Natalie was using to create Freya.  She said it was about 80% done at this point.  -Brian


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The Fairy Photo Shoot.

Nyx, Goddess of Night

Natalie’s latest painting of the goddess Nyx has just been completed.  Its fifth in the series so far, and probably my favorite one to date.  It is hypnotic and has a certain pleasing symmetry.  But that’s just me, and I am admittedly biased.

The painting is the result of what Natalie had called the “Fairy Photo shoot” which took place in May.  We had a few friends over and had an absolute blast.

The actual photo shoot planning started months before.  Natalie placed a casting call to models on Model Mayhem, a social networking site “Where professional models meet model photographers.” Natalie’s plan was to do a Fairy shoot and take images of models in whimsical dress  she will then use as a reference when creating the pastel itself.

Through Model Mayhem we electronically met model Jessika Napua Akana.  She and Nat exchanged a few emails and we decided to meet at Sacred Grounds coffee shop to discuss the shoot.  Jessika proved to be very professional and contributed plenty of great ideas and was a joy to work with.  We also met with our good friend Georgette Khaziran who is an absolutely exceptional hair and makeup artist.  After a few rounds of meeting and brainstorming, we chose a date and made it happen.  We had three models that day.  Natalie would also act as a model with Jessika and another one of our dear friends.  It was really a great collaborative effort.  Everyone was creative, inspired, and focused on making the shoot a success.

I pulled double duty.  I was photographer as well as chef. The day was going to be a long one, so I wanted to make sure we had all sorts of drinks and edibles.  I think I shot a few thousand shots that day, while Mikey and George, and another pal acted as grips.  In the following weeks we spent some time each night removing the blurries, the unfocused, and the somehow unusable pictures, we still were left with many hundreds of excellent photographs.

Sorting them, going through them, rating them, was a process that took time.  Natalie wanted to find the right shots and do something incredible.  After completing long and difficult task of sorting, she finally had a few chosen that she could use for pastel work.

Nyx is the first picture to come out of photoshoot.


Georgette Khaziran is available for appointments at Verdecia Salon in Citrus Park,

call 813-852-1509 to schedule an appointment.

Georgette did the hair and makeup for the three models.  She also did it twice for each model since we had a costume change.  She was amazing.  When she wasn’t in the changing room working on models, she was out on set with me touching up and arranging hair dynamically as the shoot wore on.  Absolutely incredible.  She ran about the set with a curling iron and makeup palette making sure the models were always presented in the best light possible.  And also, to drop a shameless plug, she is currently a stylist at Verdecia Salon which is next to Citrus Park Mall.  Call her for a cut or color, she does phenomenal  work. She has a wide range of services to make you look drop-dead gorgeous.

Special thanks to Michael, George, and all of our other friends that were a part of this shoot.  Can’t wait for the next one.

The following is a slideshow showing with a few sample images from that day.

If you’d like, you can also check out the full image gallery.

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Nyx, Goddess of the Night

Nyx, Goddess of Night

Nyx, Goddess of Night, is a soft pastel painting that I created today in my studio and submitted for Illustration Friday’s theme, Hollow:

“If night leaves anything undone in the working of destruction, day follows to accomplish it.” (Sophocles, Oedipus the King 196)

Night can leaving you feeling hollow in your soul, but you can transform it.  Listen to the muse.  Let her speak through your creations.

Nyx is a powerful goddess of the night whose dark light falls from the stars, and who influences not only the world of mankind but also the gods.  She inspires artists to create and the muses have been known to sing her praises.

Nyx is my fifth goddess soft pastel painting in my most recent series.  She is born out of Chaos and her offspring include Aether (atmosphere), Hemera (day), Momus (blame), Ponos (toil), Moros (fate), the twins Thanatos (death) and Hypnos (sleep), the Oneiroi (tribe of dreams), the Hesperides, the Keres and Fates, Nemesis, Apate (deception), Philotes (friendship), Geras (age), and strife. An interesting list indeed.

Here I have painted her as a young maiden, full of hope as she ponders worlds unknown.

Thanks go out to the model, Jessika Napua Akana, who posed for this painting, Georgette Khaziran, the hair and make-up artist, and my husband, Brian, who shot the reference photograph.

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It's a Surreal World – Opening Night


It’s a Surreal World opened on Friday, April 4, 2008, at the Progress Energy Art Gallery in New Port Richey, Florida. The featured artist of the evening was Patrick Stickney who explores dreams, meditations, and myths in his paintings.  He works in various media depending on what fits the subject matter and his inspiration of the moment – acrylics, tempera, charcoal, ink, colored pencil, paper collage, photo montage, and even enamel spray paints.

The exhibit also included three soft pastel paintings featuring my new goddess series: Polyhymnia, Summoning Brigit, and Mari, Goddess of Dreams.  This series explores various archetypes from the religious to creative muses with dreamlike imagery.  Polyhymnia features a nude transposed against a guitar with little cute goldfish swimming around.  Summoning Brigit is another goddess posing nude this time with a long flowing piece of silk amidst a colorful background with a hidden light bulb.  And finally, Mari, Goddess of Dreams, has a nude cradled by heavenly wings against a full moon and imagery of transformation symbolism with the butterflies against a stark ocean view with deep red poppies.

The exhibit also featured a new mixed media painting created just for the exhibit entitled, It’s a Surreal World.

New Goddess Series

[Featured in the photo: Polyhymnia, It's a Surreal World, Summoning Brigit, Mari, Goddess of Dreams, Shakti, & Chaos Theory]

Along with these new paintings, the exhibit also features three large scale metallic prints of original paintings that have sold in prior exhibits and on my online Etsy store, Surrealmuse Studios: Shakti, Chaos Theory & Original Desire.

Other exhibiting artists include Eva Diana Berman who was born in Germany and grew up in Bavaria.  For this featured exhibit, she selected works from her portfolio that explore the discrimination, aggression, and violence that impact women, and explains:

Today, on a regular basis we are reminded of the fate of some of these unfortunate women. Some are scarred forever, some go missing, and some become pioneers to stand up for women’s rights.

It is these facts that prompted me to create the “Fractured Roses” series. Through the use of slashes and breaking up the planes of the canvas I intend to invoke feelings of uneasiness in the viewer as a reminder of the vulnerability of women.

Eva Diana Berman

Another exhibiting artist, Melissa Fiorentino, who’s influences range from Michelangelo to Piet Mondrian, strives to bring a convergence of the human passions, emotional thrills, despairing nightmares and the conquest of dreams together to the conscious and unconscious level of the human aspirations.  A variety of color schemes, intense and sometimes risky subject matter help Fiorentino’s work to project a very shocking and different motive . She tends to have a unique style bringing a representational piece, abstract and a portrait all into one. It is a way to allow for there to be a reality and dream or nightmare enclosed onto one image. As Melissa explains in her artist statement:

Nothing speaks to me more than our own emotion .. Basically my main goal is to … [bring] together a surreal and abstract idea of what a person feels while they are experiencing life.

Melissa Fiorentino

Featured below, another one of Melissa’s paintings encompasses an esoteric metaphysical feeling next to Sherry Shamback’s Spellbinding Garden & Altar Stones, spiritual words encased in cement. The small round ones have astrological glyphs on them and double as (stick) incense holders.


Branden Lukes, another exhibiting artist of the evening, displayed very large paintings that were done on different types of wood.  It is surprising how the different textures of wood in each piece really contribute to the whole experience work.  His use of  simple colors and sweeping black lines is evocative of modern comic books, anime, tribal tattoos, and finer graphic novels.


The exhibit also includes works of art by Virginia Erdie, Kathrine Jakob, Wes Trigger, the curators of the event, Paula Showen and Michelle Collins, along with many other gallery members.  It’s a beautiful exhibit so do check it out if you’re in the area now through May at Progress Energy Art Gallery:

6231 Grand Blvd.

New Port Richey, Florida 34652

Phone: (727) 848-6500

You can read more about the exhibiting artist bios & artist statements here on PEAG‘s website.
Micheal, Shannon & Natalie

After after the art exhibit, we wandered the streets of New Port Richey and discovered the festivities of the Annual Chasco Fiesta that featured pow wow dancing and various vendors from food to arts & crafts.
Chasco Fiesta - NPR

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Challenge yourself to take artistic leaps

This week’s theme at Illustration Friday is “Leap”, which is the perfect opportunity to share this soft pastel painting I’ve been working on the past month.

It represents a leap into experimenting. The semi-nude woman appears in a half awake dream state. The wings gently hold her as she chases butterflies, creatures of transformation and renewal, while the deep red poppies are in full bloom alluding to endless possibilities.

We must continuous challenge ourselves to evolve, to experient. As Marcel Proust once stated:

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.

So if you find yourself emerged in creating from comfort, challenge yourself to try a different medium or style. These experiments in time will lead to inspiration, and possibly even a new direction with your artistic path.

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The Power of Whimsical Art

whimsical artTonight I discovered Mixed Media Monday.  It’s another meme site that challenges mixed media artists around the world to create something new based on a weekly theme. 

This week’s challenge, Whimsey, sparked something inside so I pulled out my collage scrap box and instantly came across this design I had created a couple years ago during my decoupage cigar box phase.  Most of the design was created using Stampington rubber stamps if I remember correctly. 

It’s the perfect little creation to follow this past weekend where I literally locked myself in my studio.  Didn’t pick up the phone.  Didn’t even really go outside much.  And it was the best weekend ever.  I painted to my heart’s content. 

The painting, untitled for the moment, is quite diffent than anything I’ve painted in the past couple years, and I love it. 

For the longest time, it feels like I’ve gotten so serious about my artwork that I haven’t taken time to just loosen up and enjoy the moment.  As Linda Naimen wrote once, “Delight yourself and delight your world.  Edison, Einstein, Picasso, and da Vinci all loved to play and they loved to explore.  Through play we open our receptivity to imagination, intuition, and daydream.  Play is the root of genius.”

Embracing the whimsical side of art allows us to experiment, to step outside the boundaries of what is considered proper, acceptable, or approved.  So the next time you catch yourself getting too critical or serious about your artwork, just place this quote by Henry Miller somewhere near your easel, “Paint as you like and die happy.”

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Surreal Music

surreal music

Created for 4×4 Friday‘s theme, Music, using soft pastels. I’m still working on the shoulder, and am debating on whether to leave the background simple or not. Please feel free to leave your thoughts and feedback…

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Believe, my 2007 Christmas design.

believeBelieve, my 2007 Christmas design, is inspired by vintage photography provided by lorivintage55stock and the Lumos font.

Tell me what you think.  I’d love to hear your comments!

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A tribute to my love

balanceAs I sketched in my pastel journal this evening, thoughts of balance came to mind and I recalled a post I once wrote in response to one of my readers. He asked advice on how to find time for art when you’ve got a full time career that exists completely outside of the art world. Some days it is definitely not easy and I find myself stretched thin to make time for everything I have on my to-do list for the day. Especially the last few weeks.

We had a bit a of a scare when Brian ended up going to the emergency room at the hospital after an accident at work. While I won’t go into the gory details, the doctors warned they might have to amputate his finger before they operated. So I guess in a way, this piece is also a tribute to him and the love we’ve shared these past seven years. I cannot imagine my life without him and I am so thankful that everything turned out okay. He still has a long way to go before he can regain use of his left hand due to the severity of the accident, but the important part is that everything turned out okay and he’s healing up better than expected.

My gratitude also goes out to everyone that night that played a role in getting him the medical care he needed. And yes, they were able to thankfully stitch his finger back to normal so he will most likely recover completely without any major complications. The bones will heal over time and although we won’t know the end result for a few months, we have plenty of reasons to be optimistic. He is left handed, so it is more frustrating than anything else.  His biggest problem right now is boredom. Despite it all, his spirits are high and he is keeping a very positive attitude.

So this is for you, my love. I feel so blessed to have you by my side in life. Every day I discover more reasons to love you…

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