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Project Commentaries: There Is Help For You (Patience Loader) by Elspeth Young

By
There Is Help For You (Patience Loader) was painted by the artist in the studios at BenHaven.

Dimensions (unframed width x height)
40 in. x 58 in.

Support
Panel

Milestones
Research commences - December 2013
Painting commences - March 2014
Painting completed - March 2016

Equipment
Creating a painting often involves creating or modifying tools or making improvements to the studio itself.  This painting project necessitated the following activities in terms of tools, supplies, and operations.

None

Costumes, miniatures, and props
Sometimes these items must be created at the Studios, sometimes they are purchased for the project, and sometimes items created or purchased for other projects are re-used or modified.  This section does not list every costume element, miniature, or prop that may have been involved in the project.  Instead, we include items whose story might prove interesting or useful.

Elspeth created the following costume elements for this painting, in addition to the items already included in the Studios' costume storage:
A-line Victorian day apron
Quilted petticoat
Based upon an initial concept for the composition of the painting, considerable time was invested in researching and recreating a facsimile of the missionary tract Patience Loader talked about having studied.  Another significant investment of time focused on preparing items that would represent her work at the Burlington Hotel before she embarked for America; nevertheless, the approach that was eventually adopted in approaching the subject of the painting precluded the use of any of these accessories.

Methodology
This section presents only one or two items that may be of interest to professional artists, amateurs, and others interested in the work of the Studios.

These excerpts from Elspeth's Painting Diary during the creation of this painting provide a glimpse of the scale of the project, not only in terms of time, but concentration and emotional stamina:

December 2013
I’d like to paint Patience Loader, a 29-year-old heroine who made copious notes about her miraculous experience in the Martin handcart company.  I have wept over accounts of sacrifice, challenge, and miracles of hope.  I want to celebrate that hope and the tender mercies experienced by these noble souls, rather than merely artistically cataloging their suffering.  I believe there is more to learn from their moments of joy, than of pain.  I want to express what will help those in our day, to pick up their own burdens and journey to Zion with a song in their hearts.  Even amidst death, sorrow, starvation, and sickness, Patience’s brother-in-law, John Jacques wrote: This was a time of joy.

I have been reading accounts of the Willie-Martin handcart crossing, and am impressed at how blessed a crossing it was.  It would be most ungrateful not to recognize the agonizing suffering experienced by all those in these incredible camps; however, I am equally impressed by the tender mercies experienced by all—They were spare massacre and murder by Indian tribes who did not spare other western-bound pioneers traveling at the same time; because of inspired cut-backs on rations )instituted by the company captains), the pioneers’ food lasted until relief wagons arrived—almost tot he day; the words of priesthood leaders, Heavenly manifestations, and dreams and visions accompanied those who needed succor; courage never failed. Captain Willie’s attitude in his writings, reminds me of 1 Nephi 17:1-7, and admirable achievement—to accentuate the positive amidst afflictions so great that we cannot write them all (vs 6).

March 2014
I have been a seamstress-artist for weeks now.  I have thrown myself into myriad sewing projects.  Some dresses and accessories I make from scratch; others are alternations.  The number of costume pieces I have constructed is moving me out of my studio!  But oh, it’s fun.  I have no patterns—I simply study old paintings from the right era, and then whip up pieces which are highly adjustable, so that they can pass from one model (and or one purpose) to another.

Friday, Dana Oldroyd Cusick came for the photo shoot for Patience Loader.  I’ve been weeks sewing costuming and making and collecting props.

December 2014
And now, a word about Patience Loader.  I began research for that painting a little over a year ago.  I made costuming, props, and all sorts of preparations, and work with the model twenty months ago.  Then I tried to conceive a painting composition over a year ago.  It was as if, at every step, I have nine out of ten puzzle pieces—just enough to begin, but not to finish at each stage: I photographed snow.  I wasn’t satisfied.  I tried getting precisely the right handcart image.  Wasn’t satisfied.  Etc.

About six weeks ago, Mom and I happened on a delicious little wildlife reserve on Hobble Creek Canyon and went for an exploratory stroll.  I was bewitched by the setting immediately, and we both agreed it would make a wonderful background in the painting of Patience.  (At least I felt like I was getting somewhere!)  Accordingly, I returned after new snowfall in mid-December—this time with Tanner and his camera in tow.  We walked along the trail until I found an ideal spot—complete with my favorite specimen of big-tooth maple nestled in a little clearing along the path.  I then removed me coat, my socks, and my shoes, and sat barefoot in the snow for about thirty minutes while Tanner photographed.  I wanted to sense the verisimilitude of method painting--really feeling what an icy snow and bare skin feels like (however briefly).

And now, at last, I have all ten puzzle pieces and can shortly begin work.  I’ve now experienced the body language of COLD enough to make the alterations needed with my original model shoot, and I have a ground that, while being very snowy, is still an autumnal symphony in whites, browns, rusts, reds, and blacks.  (Important since it was an October blizzard and not deep winter, which stranded the handcart companies...

2014 December 28
2014 December 28
January 2015
Today I awoke to a flock of robins outside my studio window.  The rich hues of these adolescent thrushes are notated in my sketch journal.  Later in the day, Mom and I took an hour-long stroll alone the base of Mahogany Mountain, and I saw startlingly similar colors in the rocks, wild rose-hips, and sagebrush of the scene.  I believe such a color scheme would be excellently employed in my painting of Patience Loader.

2015 January 5
2015 January 5
2015 January 25
2015 January 25
December 2015
Work continues in earnest  on my painting of Patience Loader, with bits and pieces of my left-over palette paint devoted to a background for Angeline Manning.  Meantime, I stole (yes STOLE) some gambrel oak branches from the outskirts of a property at the top of Lindon’s Acorn Hill (beneath Mahogany Mountain).  They had snapped off in a storm and were littering the sidewalk and frozen into the planted beds.  At Dad’s suggestion, we loaded terra cotta containers with sand and gravel and I arranged my loot within the mixtures, easy to shift and move as I paint from life.  (These are for the background of Patience Loader.)  Early and distant background elements I blocked-in using my two-layer relief technique (a personal discover made while I painted Drusilla Hendricks).  It consists of a multicolored painted underlayer allowed to dry; followed by a second semi-thick paint layer which I selectively rag away to "draw" limbs, branches, etc. by using the sharp end of my thumbnail beneath the rag.  (A rather uncomfortable proceeding for my thumbs, as it embeds paint in the nail and wears it away as I scrape lines on my painting.)  But the effect is an elegant one.  Painting the surrounding snow (my very first snow painting in oils!) reveal s a natural affinity for that subject.  It’s like painting white fabric in all its color variations, something I had had plenty of practice in.

If the next page in my sketchbook is a bit soggy, I made these sketch notes during a snowstorm, hoping to imbibe the habits of snow (preparatory to infusing snowy reality into my painting of Patience Loader).

2015 December 8
2015 December 8
2015 December 14
2015 December 14
January 2016
I’ve been taking hours and hours on end to paint what I really want to paint: Patience Loader.  This handcart heroine is magically appearing at the end of my brush, surrounded by warm earth tones mingled with cold grays constituting the scene of scrub oak, big-tooth maple, and frozen snow.  I’ve never had to capture a model’s likeness and expression by relying almost exclusively on her neck.  It’s highly unusual, but true, nonetheless—rather a unique challenge.

I needed to sit in the snow again.  I donned costuming and sat on frozen ground, so that I could gather more understanding in order to communicate costuming and appropriate grime, etc.  Exciting and cold.

Meantime, it took my three whole days just in begin painting Patience’s right hand, but it was worth the effort.  Most of it will probably be covered by some shabby Victorian muffetees, but verisimilitude must be observed.

We had one of those picture-postcard snows all day today.  I sat outside almost an hour, studying the patterns and nuances of snow.

2016 January 9
2016 January 9
February 2016
I had a brain wave this morning.  I have been a bit stumped by the color scheme and wear and tear needing to be displayed in Patience Loader’s costume.  It needed livening, and some verisimilitude for a long wilderness trek.  The answer has been in my studio all along.  A doll (whose saw-dust filled body and hand-painted head, I believe to date back to about 1860) that has been in my family for generations, has been in my studio for some time.  Today I took a clear look at the tears and holes, stains and scuffs in the linen dress and under-frock of the doll’s turn-of-the-century home-sewn outfit.  It has all the answers—I will mimic with paint the wear and tear I see, occasioned by child-play and hedge tears, and having seen better days.  Family lore has it this little doll was last in the hands of little Opal Henson, killed in a tragic accident in 1918.

I seriously believe Patience Loader is sabotaging all my other paintings until I finish immortalizing her!  I get one or two steps forward in the direction of other painting projects, and then something goes wrong—a gessoed panel is too small, a painted background is inaccurate history; paint refuses to dry, etc.  So I keep plugging away, hour after hour, on Patience.  Every day I continue to spend all the extra time I can imbibing snow and cold and Winter’s visual texture.  I stole bull thistles from the Bonneville Shoreline Trail the other day, and brought them home (allergens and all) to paint from life.  Today at my easel happens to have been more and more detailed limbs and dead leaves.  I clamp specimens to my easel and paint from life.  Ironically dry-brushing colors over dry white is achieving the visual effect of mild watercolor painting—a very pleasing effect, particularly fort he subject matter.  I’ve painted in a cream shawl (shaul in Patience Loader-ease), but a deep maroon is called for.  Changes await.

March 2016
I’m very indebted to the Russian artists for what I’ve need to do with snow the last two weeks while working on Patience Loader.  The reckless abandon with which the Russians paint snow unconsciously influenced my techniques.  Out came the palette knife, and there I was scarping on white, dry over other layers and letting shadows fall here and there; most of the snow has been finished with a palette knife.

It’s been a busy time.  Patience is going much better than anticipated.  I’ve been gulping down the painting itself, trying to utilize every hour as I try to finish it.  It’s been a blessed experience.  I’ve discovered that by really layering lines, tones, and hues layer on layer on layer to try to communicate branches and then to allow it to dry, for several weeks and come back over it with some warm, light scumble glazes that then have more detailed branches painted into the scumble seems to work really well to communicate a beautiful sense of atmospherics, and also an appropriate sense of negative space avoiding horror vaccuui—a nice technique discovery.  What is close to the figure is highly wrought and detail and then anything in the mid or background is much more ephemeral and ethereal, which lends a loveliness to the whole.  I’ve been working hard to analyze life—I’ve still got these gambrel oak branches set up in my studio, and have been painstakingly painting techniques and color saturation in every branch seen in the painting as a whole.

These end-of-painting sessions are like giving birth to the painting and it can be pretty cinchy.  Strenuous, but rewarding.  I’ve been adding chickadees, adding life to the background, and the symbol of hope.  I continue to work on the mid-ground, making sure it is the proper visual illusion connecting the foreground to the background; and also been doing just a bit to work the face and ensure that we have a lovely sense of real human skin.

I’m very pleased and excited at the result of the painting.  I can truly say that every brush-stoke in this painting has been an emotional expression rather than merely an effort to be photographic in texture.  Every brushstroke has been emotionally and strategically placed in the hopes of inspiring similar emotional experience to the painting’s audience.

I finally passed the finish line of Patience Loader—it’s been quite an amazing experience.  There has still been a great deal of glazing, more branches needing refining, tree trucks that weren’t glazed enough, skin that needed extra painting to appropriately glow and glisten, background elements that needed more scumbling and palette knife work—just a little bit of everything.  I also realized that, to my surprise and chagrin, I needed to repaint her right hand and arm one more time, to make it exactly what it needed to be—to deemphasize her arm so that it receded from the viewer’s view, and that the hand needed every refinement and detail that it deserved to have and that would unify it with the rest of the figure.  Ashton is making an exquisite frame by hand, which is meant to symbolize Patience’s handcart.

Tags: There Is Help For You, 2016, Project commentaries, Tips and techniques

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