Anne Shams Soulfire Art

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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





Then the preparatory sketches for the arches and columns that surround the portraits and the calligraphy in the side panels.

production line first draw

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







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Inspiring Women Portrait Project: Third Progress Report December 2018

The project will include ten portraits, each in triptych format.

  • I have been collecting ideas for which ten inspiring women I want to portray.
  • I  study their work and lives, and look for pithy and revealing morsels by or about them that will be on the side panels.
  • I search for photos of the chosen women that will be optimal as painting resources.

The photo needs to be inspiring, too!

Perhaps a photo of a well-known woman that is not well known, such as the young Ruth Bader Ginsberg….


Ruth Bader Ginsberg


2.Rachel Carson

Rachel Carson

Or a compelling photo that reveals the woman’s personality, such as this photo of Rachel Carson, the environmentalist, who continued to campaign for the earth’s health even in the face of the cancer that took her life.




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

production line2




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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.



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 posts on this blog. The first post will illustrate the stages of Pauli’s portrait.