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





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.


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Solo Exhibit at the Jerusalem Fund Gallery of the Palestine Center, Washington D.C.

October 2012 The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Pomegranate Tree of Life

Washington, D.C.

The Jerusalem Fund Gallery hosts its first exhibit by Oregon artist Anne Barber-Shams, Mihrab:  Metaphorical Portal, opening on September 14, 2012 and running through October 26.

Barber-Shams explores the depths of the mihrab, which she translates as meaning refuge, and its significance in the three monotheistic traditions of Andalusian Spain.

Eleven acrylic paintings on paper, embellished with gold leaf, study the evocative shapes of doorway, gate, arch and niche—literal architectural and metaphorical portals from one place to another. The artist sees themihrab as a portal uniting the ancient common ground found during the Andalusian period, where for 700 years the three monotheistic cultures of Muslims, Christians and Jews intermingled and flourished, bringing forth architectural, artistic, scientific and scholarly riches. Barber-Shams pairs these paintings with nine odes by Muslim, Christian and Jewish poets of the period, calligraphed in metal leaf on marbelized Mylar (strong polyester film). She sees the odes as seeds of peace created during a turbulent time, the Dark Ages of Northern Europe contemporaneous with the liberal cultural understanding of the Golden Age in the south.

Anne Barber-Shams studied painting and glass in Venice and Padua, Italy, as well as earning degrees in art in California and Oregon. She first became involved with the situation in Palestine in 2001, and has since participated in numerous solo and group shows, concentrating on the subjects of building bridges to peace through art.

For more information please visit www. the —Dagmar Painter