Locally Grown- New Painting in Progress

When I first moved here from NYC 7 years ago, I was in for an awakening in the produce department of our supermarket. Everything is shipped in from the states ( so you pay for food AND fuel ), and the produce is old by the time you get it.

I was introduced to Mr. Carter, above, a farmer, living here for the past 50 years and a strong believer in organic farming. Using a quarter acre of his land, my husband and I grew: lettuce, watermelon, peppers, squash, basil, chard, and fennel. And sold it at our local farmers’ market. We no longer grow, but still shop at the market to support the farmers who still do. We’re a fairly dry island and water is unpredictable.

It’s easier to paint a farmer than to be one.

I started the sketch on a toned canvas using vine charcoal- I love its’ softness. Then I washed in some tones to get composition.

Mr. Carter does have a face- I’m having some trouble getting it right so in the name of patience, I’ll get on it tomorrow after it dries a little more. The pants and the boots are NOT giving me trouble.

Works in progress remind me of the bride in curlers, no makeup, old clothes and sneakers. Then the stages of makeover, and layers, and magic, and good lighting and a loving congregation, and presto! She’s a beauty. I’m hoping some of that happens here.

Mr. Carter and Miss Bonnie as St. Croix Gothic.

Traded a pitchfork for a palette knife- neither job is easy.

I’m going to Florida to see my mother for a week – leave me some comments to come home to. Even constructive ones on finishing this piece.

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33 Responses to “Locally Grown- New Painting in Progress”

  1. nancy Says:

    Why don’t your paintings go through that awkward adolescent stage? Or are you hiding those?? nancy

  2. Sally Says:

    hello,I think so far the paintings working really well. faces are always difficult especially when painted a small size. Something i try when i’m having difficulty with this is turning both the painting & the reference sketch upside down while painting it…it seems to help me see the important shapes and values better. Good luck, though you probably wont need it.

  3. carolking Says:


    It’s been 7 years already! I can’t believe it!
    Love the painting so far. It’s already soft and lush and I’m sure when you finish it, it will be fabulous.

    Love the picture of you with the pitchfork…reminds me of Eva Gabor in Green Acres!

  4. razzbuffnik Says:

    Gee, where was that picture taken? Looks like you were trying to garden in a rubbish dump.

    The photo also reminds me of the painting “American Gothic” by Grant Wood. Maybe you could do a painting called “St Croix Gothic”.

  5. Janelle Goodwin Says:

    Your painting is going in a great direction. Can’t wait to see it finished. More than that, it seems you have an interesting life. Bet you have some great stories for your blog.

  6. w1kkp Says:

    I love the color palette! So subtle and dense, allowing Mr. Carter to be the focus. Those trousers, the folds. the highlight, the shadows–that appears to be very difficult to me, the non painter. His face will love his body when it arrives. Seriously, this looks like it’s going to be one of my favorites.

  7. bonnieluria Says:

    Nancy- I keep the adolescents in the closet, under lock and key for their own safety. They should never be let out until they’re grown. ( hope my son isn’t reading this…!) But thanks for thinking otherwise.

    Carol- Glad you can appreciate it in it’s step phases. Eva Gabor, yup, without the tiara and dangling earrings and the 7 brothers-in -law!

    Razz- It does look dumpy on the outskirts- Mr. Carter was already in his 80s’ and arthritic. Cleaning his yard was last on his list and that pitchfork was his walking stick- he was too proud to use a cane. And too frail to throw out old boxes. He used his efforts to plant and grow.

    Pat- I learned a lot from Mr. Carter about re-using, and re-cycling before it became an advertising slogan. He wasted nothing and could bring twigs back from near death. He really deserved being the focal point.
    You may be a non-painter but you are not a non-artist.

  8. nathaliewithanh Says:

    I think it is an absolute tragedy that local supermarkets buy from the States and not the local farmers. I was reminded of what vegetables and fruit are supposed to taste like when I was in St. Croix. So incredibly delicious!

    It looks as if you had first sketched his face features then you painted over them. Are you painting from memory?

    I hope that when it is done, you will show him your painting. I bet he will be tickled pink!

  9. wrjones Says:

    This piece is wonderful at every stage. You create a strong work with each stroke of drawing or painting.

    And – you have an engaging smile – that nap under the mast must have been very refreshing.

  10. Bill Guffey Says:

    Hi Bonnie. I like him. The legs and boots are looking great! I recently started painting more figures and struggle with facial features. As long as you stay loose with the rest of it, it would seem a few well placed shadows and highlights will bring the face to light (so to speak).

  11. bonnieluria Says:

    Sally- welcome and thanks for that very good suggestion about flipping everything upside down. It does trick your eye ( in a good way ). Your work is wonderful- I had a look at your site too.

    Janelle- thanks for the comments -Life is pretty interesting here for sure as we’re now getting ready for a category 2 hurricane just as the season was ending!

    Bill- you enlarge my head with your compliment. It’s usually the size of a lentil while I paint. Thank you- it means a lot to me.

    Bill Guffey- so glad you left a comment and a very useful one. You’re so right about a few well placed shadows. One thing I’m finding out with oils and smaller figuratives, is that you can’t get too picky and start painting nostrils.
    Your comment came at just the right time.

  12. bonnieluria Says:

    Nathalie- I drew the features to give me an idea of the size of the head and tilt,etc.
    When it gets down to painting in a small face, you have to obliterate the details and just try to capture simple lights and darks.
    Very observant, you are.

  13. david lobenberg Says:

    SQUINT when looking at his facial features and paint them in nice and loose like the rest of him( that you did so well!). Stay away from too much fussy detail, and if you are giving him a smile, the teeth is simply painted as a strip of off white. He looks like the type of person I’d like to hang with on a nice idle afternoon. You too!…just be careful with the pitchfork, please…I’ve had enough bodily injuries recently.

  14. Marian Fortunati Says:

    Hey Bonnie..
    Enjoy your visit with your Mom. Family means so much doesn’t it?
    I love this Love to see how you make these beautiful creations. The stages are so instructive…
    Will look forward to seeing him emerge from the canvas.

  15. Wreggie Says:

    We are thinking about you with the upcoming hurricane. Let’s us know when you are clear from harms way.

  16. JoAnn Says:

    By the time I get here it’s all been said, but I have to check in anyway. The painting is coming along great, executed with your wonderful loose grace. He’ll show you his face in time…

  17. bonnieluria Says:

    David-LOL- I am very careful with old rusty tools. I learned after moving here that my new motto has become ” OWtside Begins With OW!”.
    Thanks for that tip about squinting. I do that anyway.
    Glad you like the piece.

    Marian-Don’t you agree it’s so helpful to see all of our WIP’s?
    For so many of us, starting a painting is more challenging than working through one.
    Seeing how others start has been very informative to me.
    Thanks for dropping by again.

    JoAnn- I always appreciate your comments- loving your work as I do. These are the kinds of encouragements that keep me going.
    Thanks so much.

  18. bonnieluria Says:

    Wreggie- thanks for the message. We’re bracing for 10-15 inches of rain-yikes!
    And I’m supposed to be flying out of here tomorrow. We’ll see.
    Love the new look of your blog.

  19. Dar Says:

    This is really wonderful. I can’t wait to see the next few brush strokes. Do you spray a fixative over the charcoal?
    Hooray for organic gardening and shopping locally!

  20. Terry Says:

    ah, you lived in NYC – no wonder you recognized Little Italy!

    Great WIP bonnie! You got a great drawing sense, which comes through in your painting. That puts you way ahead in the game! Looking forward to seeing the finish.


  21. Sharon Crute Says:

    I keep a small organic vegetable garden in the back yard. If you’ve never gardened before, you’ve no idea how much work it is! I can’t imagine tending a quarter acre!

    There is a hierarchy here: the bugs eat first, the birds are next followed by the squirrels – then I get to have what’s left! Yup, that’s organic gardening.

    Hope you and yours stayed safe through the storm.

  22. Frank Gardner Says:

    Hi Bonnie, Looks great as is. Really does not need too much of a face. The details I need are all there. Great placement and posture.

    Ever see the Hawthorne Mud Heads? Just a few colors in the right spot are all you need.

    Growing food is hard. We don’t have time to keep much of a food garden these days.

  23. bonnieluria Says:

    Dar- thanks for the visit- yes, I spray a varnish very lightly over the charcoal. As a lefty, if I didn’t, I’d smear off every line with my hand.

    Terry, I’m happy to see your comment here- It’s really true that a good drawing is the foundation, at least for me with regard to figures. I can tell from the start, if I nail it in the drawing.

    Sharon- very funny progression you’ve listed there and it’s absolutely true in our environment which is year round. It’s hard and thankless but when you pick one or two really perfect heads of lettuce or a still warm tomato. it’s divine.
    Omar gave us a terrific shellacking- we’re still without power ( I’m visiting my mother in Florida and using a friends internet connection now ).
    We lost a lot of trees and had two days of clean up and chain sawing to get up our stairs that were covered in fallen trees.
    Could have been worse but it’s still a pain in the butt.
    I”m home next week and hopefully by then the power poles will be back up again. We’ll see….

    Frank-Wow- thanks so much. It means a lot to me to hear a great from you.
    I’ll have to look up the Hawthorne Mud Heads ( so good to learn about things you don’ know..) I felt a learning ‘aha’ moment or two on this one.
    It’s those times that seem to step you up a notch as a painter.
    And the notches never end.

    I just recieved some Raymar panels before I left home this morning- want to try them as the panels I’ve been using have been warping from the humidity and as a result, I’ll have to have them framed.

    Thanks for checking in again.

  24. Sylvia Jenstad Says:

    I agree this is going to be amazing…

  25. bonnieluria Says:

    Sylvia- thanks for the visit and the kind words.

  26. w1kkp Says:

    Are you back and with power?? Yea!

  27. w1kkp Says:

    Uh. Oh. I guess I was a bit too optimistic.

  28. Paz Says:

    Very interesting about the food. Good your still support the farmers. I like the progression of your painting. It’s going to look terrific when you’re done. Last, I like the photo of you and your friend with the pitch fork. hehe. 😉 Have a wonderful visit with your mom.


  29. Theresa Rankin Says:

    You are off to a fantastic start…I trust your instincts Bonnie. You will finish off beautifully. Have a great visit!!

  30. bonnieluria Says:

    Paz, I love buying and eating locally grown food. Used to be able to buy anything I wanted at the Union Square Farmers’ Market so I can really appreciate what goes into growing and selling fresh food.

    Theresa, Thanks so much for the cheerleading!. Now that the powers’ back on and I’m home again, I should be getting to post the finished one very soon.
    I appreciate as always, your comments.

  31. S. Le Says:

    Waiting to see the finished work. Looks fab so far!

  32. Bill Sharp Says:

    I like this painting a lot, Bonnie. You retained the vitality of the orignal drawing thoroughout. That’s easy to lose.

    I find it hard using friends and family as models because I get too caught up in wanting to get a likeness. I agree with Frank, it looks good as it is.

    I’m glad to hear you survived the storm. I thought of you when I heard St Croix was in for a storm.

  33. bonnieluria Says:

    S.Le- thanks for the vote of fabulousness. I’ll get it up on here in a few days. Glad you stopped by.

    Bill- Your comment is taken to heart and very much appreciated, as I’m a big fan of your work.
    The drawing seems to help me ” see ” the subject and the composition.

    I share your desire to not paint portraits and look-alikes – it kills the process for me and isn’t my interest.
    I added some vague features and finished up the background. He’ll be ready soon as the shine dries.

    And thanks for the concern- we’re literally out of the woods now.

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