Rachael Rossman's Studio Blog

I'm a mom. I'm an artist. I clean up a lot of messes.

Flashback February 19, 2010

Filed under: Art,Horses,Painting on Yupo,Pet Portraits,Portraits,Watercolor — rachaelrossman @ 10:10 am

I got my first pony in third grade. His name was Sonny and he used to scrape me off on trees when I was riding him. Then there was Babe, the palomino, who was really my mom’s horse but a little bigger than Sonny so I graduated to riding her in 4-H. In 8th grade I started riding hunter-jumpers and had the most beautiful, magical, dressage-trained thoroghbred named Theo. In high school, I fulfilled my childhood dream of being rodeo queen with a bomb-proof dapple gray named Rowdy.

In my 20s I competed in hunters on Robin, the horse I was born to ride. But even at those big shows, despite the steely nerves and the $300 riding pants, I was just one of those girls who loves horses.

This painting was commissioned by the rider’s mom. Abigail is a member of a collegiate equestrian team, and her mom sent me this photo along with many other beautiful images of Abigail and Lynard in competition. The show photos are full of action, stylish gear and even a sequin or two; but Abigail’s mom was partial to this photo most of all.

I get it. And so does every girl who’s ever sat on her horse, in the sun and brisk air, and felt right with the world.

She even kind of looks like me.


Title: Abigail & Lynard

Completed: February 19, 2010

Soundtrack: Lady Gaga, The Fame Monster

Beverage: Covey Run 2006 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon


Survivor February 7, 2010

Filed under: Art,Painting on Yupo,Portraits,Watercolor — rachaelrossman @ 2:22 pm

I started this painting last week but life got in the way. The job. The kids. The laundry. I went back to finish it on Friday but it was gone. I leave all my painting taped to a drawing board until it’s signed and sealed, but this one was missing. The tape was still there, but no painting to be found.

I blamed the kids.

I blamed the cats.

I looked and looked.

I found it in the garbage.

Title: Anthony

Completed: January 7, 2010

Soundtrack: Johnny Cash, Live From San Quentin

Beverage: Dutch Bros Iced Mocha


Tiny Critic January 30, 2010

Filed under: Art,Painting on Yupo,Portraits,Watercolor — rachaelrossman @ 5:23 pm

My niece is diminutive. Miniature. Slight.

And feisty.

So I wasn’t too surprised when I heard her response to this portrait I just finished. My sister held the phone up so I could hear her squeals of delight when the image popped up in email. But she didn’t squeal. In fact, she hated it.

You see, she has lost a front tooth since the reference photo was taken and she was a little miffed that I had neglected that detail.

I feigned sadness. “You’re going to make Auntie cry,” I said. “I guess I’ll just throw this nasty old painting in the garbage.”

“Yay,” she said.

I guess you can’t please them all.


Title: Reagan

Completed: January 30, 2010

Soundtrack: Johnny Cash, Live at Folsom Prison

Beverage: Dutch Bros. Iced Mocha


Mowgli January 28, 2010

Filed under: Art,Painting on Yupo,Portraits,Watercolor — rachaelrossman @ 9:14 pm

Since I painted my sister’s portrait, I am following up with this one of my nephew for his birthday. I mean, what nine-year-old would want his auntie to buy him remote control car when he could have a hand-painted watercolor portrait instead of himself?

Well, this kid might.

He and my son are close in age and fast friends. I call him Mowgli because he is tall, and gangly, and walks around mostly in his underwear.


Title: Evan

Completed: January 29, 2010

Soundtrack: ABBA Gold

Beverage: 2008 Pepperwood Grove Pinot Noir


I thought I couldn’t. So I did. January 18, 2010

Filed under: Art,Painting on Yupo,Portraits,Watercolor — rachaelrossman @ 2:55 pm

Artistic license - or cop out?

Every artist is plagued with nagging doubts or ideas about what they’re good at or not good at. Sometimes the doubt is planted by others (a 2nd grade classmate who can’t tell your hand-drawn sheep from a giraffe, let’s say); and sometimes the suggestions are put there by our own self-doubting selves.

My problem? Faces.

If you were to sift back through my first pencil drawings, then to charcoals and paintings in high school, college and beyond, you would see that from the beginning I’ve had a problem with human faces. I’m sure it started with an off-hand comment from someone or maybe with a drawing that didn’t turn out the way I’d planned. But for years and years, I was convinced that I could not reproduce a human face on paper.

Here are some brilliant compositional shortcuts I took to avoid painting actual faces.

  • Hats with wide brims, big shadows;
  • Goggles and other dark eyewear;
  • Painting people that are walking away or turned demurely to the side; and my favorite,
  • Skipping it all together and calling it “artistic license.”

Some people actually thought the faceless paintings were cool. So did I actually, and still do. Most of them were scenes where a human face might have been distracting; the painting focused somewhere else.

I was fine with it.

But as I started painting more and more – like, everyday – I started seeing things differently. When I look at something – anything, really – I break it down by shape, line, contrast. I started seeing faces this way too – and realized that faces are really just riffs on the same formula, if you’ll allow me to mix metaphors. How hard could it be?

So I tentatively painted a few portraits – one of my son on vacation at Big Sky (I employed the goggle technique, here) and then another, bolder portrait of my daughter at Disneyland. They turned out okay, but it wasn’t until I painted this portrait of Amanda Palmer and then this one of Martha Stewart that I thought, “Hey, I can do this!”

This week I’ve painted three 5×7″ portraits and they’ve been well-received. In fact, I’ve had more comments on my little rinky-dink self-portrait than on most of my other pieces combined.

2010 will be the Year of the Face.



My sister’s keeper January 17, 2010

Filed under: Art,Painting on Yupo,Portraits,Watercolor — rachaelrossman @ 7:21 pm

Title: Amy

Completed: January 17, 2010

Soundtrack: The Pretenders, Isle of View

Beverage:  Dutch Bros. Mocha


Little Portrait On the Prairie

Filed under: Art,Painting on Yupo,Portraits,Watercolor — rachaelrossman @ 10:20 am

Title: Taya

Completed: January 16, 2010

Soundtrack: Tim McGraw’s Greatest Hits (I know, I KNOW!)

Beverage: Bay Bridge Cab