“Fairlight and Caledonia”


“Fairlight and Caledonia”  Acrylic, collage on canvas 24×36 inches

I’ve been working on this painting for the last couple of months.  I had a very difficult time trying to photograph this painting – so what you see is either over exposed or underexposed.

The camera seemed confused by the brown tones.


I tried to make it look like a sepia tint photograph – but I had some trouble with the skin tones.  Every time I tried to gray them or sepia them, they ended up looking like they had dirty faces – which may have added some authenticity, but it just didn’t look right in the painting.  I’m sharing several details of the subject matter because of the difficulty in getting a good photograph of the painting.  Also I thought it might be fun to see the very beginning of the painting and how it evolved.


This is the first sketch after I glued some pieces of paper to the canvas.

 This canvas was very rough – I really didn’t like it but it was all I had and I wanted to begin the painting.  I bought this canvas at “Cheap Joes” online.  It was a good price, and if you like that rough texture it would be fine.  I had some trouble getting the skin tones because of the pieces of paper I collaged, and the roughness of the canvas, all in the same face.  The photo above shows the canvas after a few coats of gesso.

Laying out the underpainting with gouache.  You can see some of the papers I used for collage.  I think most of them were completely covered with paint.  There is a mocking bird between the two girls at the top of the painting, an old book page on the left top, and some kind of railroad ticket at the hemline of the girl on the right.

Painting hands is really hard for me – no matter how much I practice I really never get it quite right.

“Fairlight and Caledonia”  Two little mountain girls c 1890 – 1900


7 responses »

  1. okay, olivia… this is wonderful beyond words… their expressions! oh my! and their dresses and shoes! i love the way you painted the wall behind them – and that piece of wood running a few inches above the floor adds *so much*. wow, this is just fabulous.


  2. Thanks,Lynne. This painting really meant a lot to me, and I love old sepia tinted photographs – and that’s what I wanted to create. I’m thinking I’ll do more with this theme. I named them Fairlight and Caledonia because I thought of them as mountain children with very old fashioned names. My ancesters came to this country at the very beginning of the colonies and settled in virginia, and tenneesee. I hope I can go there someday and see it for myself! Anyway it was a very fun project, and I did struggle to keep that look of innocence in their eyes. Caledonia was just so sweet, but Fairlight kept wanting to be more sassy and raise an eyebrow, or pout some. I had one of those “Did I do that?” after I finished their boots!

  3. Thank you Olivia, for including the steps you took in this process. I am always amazed by your work, the final product, but seeing how it is done is also so very interesting. These girls, the sepia tones, it literally took me back in time to when I was a young girl visiting my grandparents and looking through old photo albums, the sense of wonder and curiosity about the people from so long ago. You have captured that feeling in this panting. And how portraits back then were never smiling – yet you can see/feel the personalities of both girls in here. And as much as I love the spirit and character that comes through in your characters, I also love the detaiils you put in to bring them and the painting alive. Thanks you for including the closeups.

    I know, I say “thank you” a lot to you, but it’s because I so appreciate your work, and the awe it inspires in me. 🙂

  4. Thank you, Judee. What greater compliment for an artist than to hear that a painting has created a resonance with someone who viewed and understood it? Yay! Thank you!!

  5. Wow! This is amazing! I love that you included images of your process. I wonder what the purpose of the collage layer is. It’s wonderful! Does it add texture and inspire color?

  6. Yes, Lorna – it adds texture, and sometimes it helps me see something in the canvas to add to. There was a collaged tree sketch in the upper right corner, and from that I thought of adding leaves to the background – but I don’t think you can see the original tree sketch anymore. Thanks for your compliments!

  7. That makes sense! I like that parts of the process disappear, but are also integral to what the final image becomes! I look forward to more!

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