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Inspiring Women Portrait Project: Fourth Progress Report, December 2018: Preparing the birch panels.

On  my teacher Ulan Moore’s advice, I began by preparing birch panels for all ten triptychs before beginning the portrait process.

The preparation began with cutting a large sheet of birch plywood into the central and side panels.

Next I gessoed all the panels, front and back, to prevent warping.

production line      production-line4-e1544661397289.jpg





Next, paint the arches and columns. The middle area of the central panel is left unpainted for the portrait. The middle area of the side panels is prepared with a background for the calligraphy.

Finished columns

As of December 5th, all 10 triptych panels are painted and ready for portraits and calligraphy. Whew!

all Panels

To visit the Fifth Progress Report, click here.






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Inspiring Women Portrait Project: Third Progress Report December 2018


The project will include ten portraits, each in triptych format. As in the painting of Pauli Murray, the portraits will be in a tromp l’oeil frame. Two smaller panels will be on each side of the central portrait, creating a triptych. The side panels will be calligraphed with pithy and/or revealing morsels by or about each woman.

I have not completed the calligraphy for the side panels of Pauli Murray’s portrait, but this mock-up of the triptych for Pauli with the side panel texts is the pattern I will follow for all of the portrait triptychs:

PauliPanel44-revPauli 4.18 copy Pauli-Panel2rev

The texts on Pauli’s side panels summarize two major contributions her thinking and law papers have made to legislation on human rights.  The panel from 1944 is a quote from her last year law paper at Howard University. At the time, Thurgood Marshall and other civil rights lawyers were unsuccessful in finding ways to overturn Plessey vs. Ferguson, the law that justified school segregation based on “separate but equal.” Her argument about arbitrary limits of personal rights in the public sphere made clear that the limitation of equal rights was due to singling out a category of persons, ie by race, instead of limitation due to unlawful behavior. The 1964 Civil Rights Act again built on Pauli’s argument and women were included in the protection of equal rights in the public sphere.

On the wall of my studio I have posted gallery of possible women to portray.

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Click here to go to the Fourth Progress Report


Inspiring Women Portrait Project: Second Progress Report

Here is an example of the classic portrait  process that I learned from Ulan Moore, using the stages of painting Pauli Murray’s portrait.


Click here to go to the Third Progress Report


Inspiring Women Portrait Project: First Report

Pauli 4.18 copy

Pauli Murray

My current project is oil Portraits of Ten Inspiring Women.  The idea started with an April 2017 New Yorker article by Kathryn Schulz about Pauli Murray, Saint Pauli: She advanced two movements for equality—and was at home in neither.  Pauli Murray straddled the identities of white/black, and male/female. Her work at Howard Law School was brilliant but she was refused admittance to the graduate program of Harvard Law. Her Howard senior seminar paper became a resource for Thurgood Marshall and his team’s successful overturning of Plessey versus Ferguson, thus ending the separate but equal justification for school segregration.  Later her continued law research and writing was credited by Ruth Bader Ginsberg as part of the basis for the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Her portrait is a trial and a template. Ulan Moore, a classically trained painter taught me the classical portrait technique I will use for this project.

They will be triptychs because the central panel of the woman’s portrait will be accompanied by two side panels with calligraphed quotes by or about her. 

They will resemble icons because I believe these inspiring women’s portraits tell holy stories, their lives devoted to peace, justice, and nourishing and lifting the spirit.

I am painting the portraits in a classical style:  the painting techniques favored by the painters of the Renaissance, and used even by Degas and his contemporaries. These techniques include :  

  • composition based on dimensions such as the golden ratio,
  • preparatory drawing,
  • underpainting in grisaille,
  • oil paint,
  • and gold leaf.

The process may be a lengthy one. I will document it in following reports on this blog. Click here for the The Second Progress Report that illustrates the stages of Pauli’s portrait.