My Journey Creating the “Protector” Painting

I am so excited to finish this new painting, “Protector.” It is the largest canvas I’ve painted to date.

And it was quite a journey, so I thought I would share my process with you.

I purchased the large canvas, 3′ x 5′ on Mother’s Day, 2017.  My mom and daughter both lived out of state, so this was going to be a quiet day and I decided I would go to Blick Art Store as my Mother’s Day treat.  I’m pretty much like a kid in a candy store at an art supply store. Who isn’t?!

I was thinking I would get a mid-sized canvas for a landscape with trees and deer that I had been working on in my sketchbook, so I decided to just drive our little compact car instead of our van.  When I was in the store browsing, they had just gotten in a group of larger canvases and I really liked the configuration of this 36″ x 60″ canvas.  I had a wonderful sales person who helped me get the canvas in my little car, with not an inch to spare. 🙂

I started thinking about the winter storms and the forest, and started sketching one of my protective “Wildish Spirit” characters sheltering young fae children and animals under her cape. So many of my pieces are feminine figures sheltering young animals from harm, so this piece evolved from that feeling of compassion and maternal love, too.

From that Idea, I started sketching child fae characters in my sketchbooks and once I had a few drawn, I started building them into the large sketch.  I shot a picture of the sketch with my camera and resized it to fit the canvas.  I finally printed it out on my 8 1/2 x 11 printer in about a dozen sheets of paper then spent about an hour taping them all together…

Once I had the sketch together, I started painting the background. (January of 2018.)  I hung the canvas on the wall in my studio as it was too big to fit on my easel.

I taped white paper behind the painting to protect the wall, but the tape didn’t want to stay, and after re-taping it about 50 times, I gave up and pulled it down.  And yes, I got paint all over the wall…I am NOT a neat painter. I think it’s the Scorpio in me. 🙂

As I painted the piece, I actually added in even more little sweet fae children and animals in spots that seemed to just need them.

I blocked in everything and then started in painting all the little details… and there were quite a few!

At last, they started to get some personality.  I added woodland animals in and around the children. I used pictures of my grandnephews, friends, and my daughter when she was a child, as loose reference as well as sketches that came from my imagination.   I wanted all kinds of shapes, sizes, and colors for the children.

I worked on the protective fairy figure’s face last. Like many of my characters, she came out with reddish locks like me. 🙂

Through the course of painting this, I thought of many things that were going on in our world and in my life.  I live in Southern California, so the children who were were being separated from their parents at the border was something I thought about a lot while I was painting. Just the thought of being separated from my daughter and not knowing where she was terrified me.  Being in a foreign country would have really increased that terror.

I worked on smaller paintings in between this painting and spent a bit of time traveling and visiting my parents and sister as we were getting their house ready, putting it on the market, and then moving them in with my sister.

Throughout my painting process, I texted my mom updates.  She lived far away from me, so we would text back and forth as she really enjoyed seeing my art process.  She would always be so encouraging as I texted her updates and this painting had lots of updates.  In the spring of 2019, I had painted all of the purple haired little ones (her favorite color) when she got sick and went into the hospital.  The picture above was the last picture I texted to her.  She passed away on May 8th, 2019.  I was very fortunate to get to spend a lot of time with her in March and April along with my sister and dad,  When I came home after her memorial service, I had a pretty hard time getting back to painting, the studio was just too quiet for me. I didn’t paint for about three months.

I subscribe to (I highly recommend subscribing) and in July, I was getting caught up on my emails that I had ignored for months and I read an article by Karen Chernick about an Italian painting, “Mother of the Innocents” by Domenico di Michelino from 1446.  Here is a link to the article.

The article was about a film about the conservation and history of the painting.  The painting was commissioned by the Institute of the Innocents, and had been found in their archives.  It was being restored in Florence, Italy by two women conservators, Elizabeth Wicks and Nicoletti Fontana.  David Battistella created a documentary film The Innocents of Florence, the quest to save 600,000 Children about the conservation of the painting and the history of the orphanage that commissioned the painting. It was shown in Florence and I hope it makes it’s way here to Los Angeles as I would love to see it.

This article really spoke to me. As I looked at the pictures of the painting, googled even more pictures of it, read about it’s history, and the history of the orphanage… I knew I needed to finish my painting.  It was like this huge voice in my head was saying to me, it’s time to get back to your art.

While searching the web about the painting, I also read this article on by Shauna McGinn. A beautifully written article with many thoughts I shared while researching and learning about the history of this painting.

Here is another picture of my finished painting.

As soon as I finished my painting, I was asked to share it at a district meeting for Business and Professional Women in Burbank, CA. It was set by the main stage of the event and lots of attendees took their pictures with it.  (Which I totally loved!) I got such great feedback about the painting and many attendees asked if I was going to make prints of it… Hmmm…something I am thinking about.  I am also looking into other venues to share my painting, so if you have any ideas, please let me know.

I encourage you to link to these two articles that I mentioned above and view the historic painting that inspired me to finish my painting.   And, as always, I would love to hear your thoughts.

I wish you a wonderful, creative, day,  Janell