I was pleasantly surprised when this gentleman contacted me to do his portrait after he moved away from Morelia. We picked this photo together. 14x14 in. oil on gallery wrapped canvas which means it doesn't have to be framed because the sides are painted -- no staples show, etc. 


Rose Calderone (oil on wood panel)
This is Rose Calderone, proprietor of  Casona Rosa in Morelia, Michoacan. Rose, a gregarious and busy woman, never sits still, so even when I painted on site, I had to use photos. The painting, which is quite large (oil on wood panel) hangs in the entrance of her popular boutique inn.

Rose's portrait standing in the
dining room of Casona Rosa.


This painting, made by combining the three reference photos below. I altered the wall color  to make it match the room where it was to be hung.

Note: The dogs were part of a liter found under a truck in Mexico. All the dogs found homes except these two which now live with this woman and her husband in Canada.


Trenton (9X12" oil)
When someone asks how long a portrait takes me to paint, it's hard for me to answer. I generally paint in my kitchen and I don't distinguish between painting time and cooking time and living time. I may work compulsively for a couple of days, never get a meal on the table and let the house fall to pieces around us.  Other days I'll cook and clean and tend to a million non-painting tasks and only add a few strokes here and there. But for this painting I was on a time schedule.

Trenton is my nephew and we stayed with his family over Christmas. We arrived the 19th and left the 31st. I brought paints, brushes, and raw canvas which I prepped and tacked to a board I found in the garage. I worked primarily from photos I took since it's hard to get a sixteen year old to sit through dinner much less a portrait.

If I'd had more time I would've used it, but I left the painting stretched and wet on the kitchen wall. So now I can say an oil portrait of a head, from conception to completion, takes about two weeks.

Note: There's only so much that can be done each day on an oil painting because it needs to dry for at least a day before it can be worked on again. I painted the face and neck one day, the hair and cap and shirt the next. Back to the face the third day, the fifth day, etc. Each time I go back more details get added, changed, sometimes subtracted. (The funny gray on the cap is the reflection from the wet paint.)

Trent's a totally cool kid. He's a film maker (PeachyDan Productions), a drummer in a rock band, and a great pianist. I loved seeing him walk through the door, lean his skateboard against the wall, walk over to the piano and bang out an excellent version of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah before moving on to the kitchen for a snack. It's fun to paint a kid like that. It just is.


Just finished this portrait of Ethan, a funny guy living in Boston who I don't really know. However, along with the photos his mother emailed me, was a link to a video he made of himself while studying abroad.  Watching Ethan talk and make expressions was super helpful.  Plus once I realized how entertaining Ethan was, the whole project was a lot more fun.

I believe in taking advantage of every modern technique possible to get a good likeness.

Here's an excerpt from Ethan's mother's email:

Dear Cyndie,
 It's wonderful! We love it, so do Ethan and Bevin (who declared it "amazing.") We expect that the portrait will be passed through the generations, so if Ethan has children they'll look at it and say "there's old Pop when he was a young man!"

Comments like that are really the best part of this business! 


This is Jenny who died very unexpectedly at age 8 leaving her owner devastated. I worked from a photo her daughter had on her iphone. (10X10, acrylic)


Sam Blowing Bubbles
This commission was done from a photo that had a lot of miscellanous stuff in it and no grass.

Sam liked the idea that he was important enough to have a portrait of himself.

Acrylic, almost life size.


7X7" acrylic on canvas

I'm happy with this format -- a very close-up almost life sized view of just the face.  The parents ordered it as a gift to Amelia when she's an adult.  I love that idea!

10 Months of Portraits

These are many of the portraits I painted from Sept 2009 - June, 2010.  Most of these I did from photos, some I did looking in the mirror.

To get them all in I laid them out on our flat roof, climbed a ladder, held the camera over my head, clicked, and remarkably didn't kill myself.

Olga and Bernie

Painted this small (7x7")  study for my friend Olga's birthday.  I'd been thinking about making a painting of her and her dog because I like the way their hair coloring and her rebozo  compliment each other.  

The day I went to photograph them I found out her birthday was coming up, so I quickly did this study without enough time to overwork it -- one of my painterly problems I'm trying to overcome.  She really likes it, so I couldn't be more pleased.   
(Bernie is not so sure, but it's not my fault he has an underbite.)  

Revelers 2010

Did I mention that I'm trying to introduce more levity into my paintings?  This happens to be my daughter, Anna, and some friends, but I think it has some appeal whether you know the models or not.    I'm mostly pleased with it because it's nothing like the photo.  I was able to change the lighting, the positions of the people, add the balloons, etc. It's taken awhile to be able to visualize what kind of changes might work and to trust my imagination instead of relying heavily on photo references.  
(30X40, acrylic)


\  This is Jane done from a photo I snapped of her at dinner in San Miguel.    (10X15, acrylic)

Occupational Hazard for the Self-Portrait Painter

When I got this idea for a painting it just cracked me up.  Not sure anyone else thinks it's quite as funny.  Mostly I worked on it at school and it was a little awkward to be making this funny face at myself in "public."  But that's part of the fun of being an older student -- I know any self-consciousness I feel is but a drop in the bucket to what twenty somethings feel.  Luckily I had my camera with me and was able to take so photos of the work at various stages.  I actually kind of like the painting best near the beginning where lots of the gray ground shows through.  I want to try to keep more of this rawness in my next work.  We'll see.

Self-Portrait with Alergies

My nose has been stopped up for two weeks now, hence the open mouth.  I cough so much every night I'm pretty tired during the days. After a number of days not painting and feeling frustrated, I finally mounted a mirror between the windows of my bedroom and taped a canvas to the window right next to it.  I painted this self-portrait over the last three days.  I could lie down when I felt like it and still study my progress.

This set-up with the mirror on the window was good for putting light into my face, but when the light was best, it was hard to see the colors on the canvas even with the bedroom ceiling light on.    So a lot of the time I untaped the canvas and held it while I painted.  Sometimes I'd put it on my shoulder and look at it and my face together in the mirror to see how it was going.

After 3 days, the painting got the thumbs up from both Geoff and Alice.

(10X15", acrylic)

Happy Birthday Lisa

My friend Lisa Teague has a lot of presence.  She's great to look at and has an air of confidence so she stands out in any group.    It's hard to do her justice in a painting.  On the other hand, it was a lot of fun to try.

Happy Birthday, Lisa!  I only wish we could've done this in person.  Miss you.

(20X30, acrylic)

Self Portrait, March 2010

This is the third in a series of self-portraits using the sight-size method.

I hung the mirror and the canvas on the wall side by side, but then realized the canvas should be lower.   I was out of wall nails, so I left it.  I think the low head placement works though.  That's called a happy accident.  

 I tried my best to smile.

Sight Size Self-Portrait

Self portrait.
(11X13, acrylic)

Alice and LuLu

Alice wanted a portrait to match her newly decorated bedroom.  I painted her portrait with our cat a few years ago, so we thought it would be nice to have one with the dog.  And all I have to say is, Poodles are REALLY HARD to paint.

 I liked this pose with Alice's head tipped, but I got a stiff neck, because I had to work with my head also tipped a lot of the time.

I may make a couple of changes still (don't like those stars on the left side of the spread), but there's something about posting that helps me move onto the Next portrait.

(24X28, Acrylic)

Keagan Rae Sohl

When the mother says the painting gives her goosebumps, you know you're done.

The shaddow on the top of her head isn't really there... I can't find the better photo.... damn.

(16X24, acrylic)

Happy Birthday to a Good Guy

I painted this for my son Ben for his birthday.  A  Ben quote needs to be written in the blue part, but I'm waiting for him to provide it.  A funny, generous, and thoughtful guy. Happy Birthday, Ben!

Florence and Walter

My mother died when she was 60, that was over 20 years ago.  My dad died three years ago.  I made this painting from an old photograph taken at some business dinner of my Dad's.  It's for a Day of the Dead altar.  (I'll explain the altar in my Mexico blog after I set it up .)  

The cool thing about painting realistic portraits is that there's a point at which the subject seems to "appear."   This can be kind of emotional when you haven't seen the person for a long time.  

Particularly when they start questioning you why you're only painting them on a piece of corrugated cardboard!  (15X15" acrylic)

Young Tibetan Woman with baby

My daughter Anna was raising money for Tibetan women this week with her Dining for Women group.  She pointed me to a website of photos of Tibetan women and I couldn't resist taking some time out from my Mexico paintings to paint this young woman with her baby.  

As far as I can tell, one thing that unites poor people all over the world is their extraordinary use of color, making them irresistable to me as subjects.  Now I'm thinking of doing a series of women with babies on their backs...  

16X18" acrylic on cardboard.


This is my friend Bunny at home on her patio in Morelia.  She just turned 70 and this is a birthday gift.   I worked a lot on this portrait on-site (I think we had four sittings, maybe 5)  and had so much fun sharing life stories.  I ended up finishing the portrait from photos I took.  I think the best part is all the colors.  (oil, approx. 12X20")


My husband has been posing for this small (20X25cm) oil portrait every morning for over a week. It turns out he's a good model as long as he can talk most of the time and glance down at his laptop occasionally.   He brought me up to date on various economist's views of the failing economy as I painted.  Even hearing all the bleak news, painting him was a nice way to start the day.

Jack is 22

This is my son Jack whose birthday was yesterrday.  It's my second try with my new technique and there's a lot of paint on this little canvas (4x6").  If you scroll down through the blog there's another larger painting of him I made four years ago.