Great Artists Series: Edwin Austen Abbey

So, I found out yesterday that my art history education was sorely lacking. i walked into a friend’s house and saw this huge, gorgeous print of a painting I had never seen. I knew instantly it was by Edwin Austen Abbey as I love his work and know his style. BUT I was not familiar with this piece. Come to find out it was one if the murals depicting the legend of the Holy Grail. Wikipedia says that these are his most famous works but I am much more familiar with his Shakspeare paintings. Anyway, I thought I would share a but about this spectacular artist who excels at making large, multi-figurative works particularly beautiful (which if I am completely honest is exactly the thing I want to paint).

One thing I love about Abbey is that he was born and raised in America and studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Art– He is one of the few great artists at this time who did not study in Paris! He figured out how to get the education and skill he needed even if Paris was not an option.

He completed murals for the Boston Public Library in the 1890s. The frieze for the Library was titled “The Quest for the Holy Grail.” It took Abbey eleven years to complete this series of murals in his England studio.

He passed away due to cancer during the middle of a large mural project.  His dear friend, and great artist, John Singer Sargent finished it for him along with Abbey’s assistant.

I love how he has parts of the painting very detailed and other parts (the angel’s faces) are very lose and hardly even painted!  I also admire the way he was very imaginative and daring to describe a difficult story.





Sketch Group

I finally got out of the house to go paint with some friends and great artists. It was at Richard Luschek’s studio and we had a great model to work from.  Carl Samson, who is an aritst I admire, was also there.  Check out Richard’s blog and work here

Having a community of artist friends seems to be super important all throughout history to each great master artist.  It’s pretty much unheard of that one random artist rose up on their own and made amazing art that withstood history.  This is something I struggle with as I am completely content being an overly introverted artist who stays hulled up in her studio day in and day out.  BUT I’ve resolved to do better this year about being more involved with artists and creative types in my community both here in Cincinnati and the online community.  I mean, look how fun this little 2 hour sketch is!  I would never have done this if I hadn’t gotten out with my fellow Cincinnati artists.


Back From the Holiday Break

LydiaDrawing1 copy

Being an artist, a mom, and a wife sometimes I need a break from somethings.  I needed a break from the online world for a few weeks after the holidays due to a huge amount of commissions and work.  I have had a lot of fun doing commissions but am ready for getting back to my own work.  I still have 3 more commissions to finish!  So it will still be awhile before I start on my own projects but I have some really great ideas.

In between some crazy feeding times with my baby and working on those commissions I found time to do a drawing of my baby girl.  She is the most fun model I have ever used!  Can’t wait to paint more of her. Sometimes getting reinvigorated about my art is about finding an inspiring model.   So glad to have one in my house all the time now.

Holiday Portrait Promotion


Commission a custom drawing by a classically trained, award-winning artist. My full price for a custom portrait is $500.00 but you can order yours for the next two weeks for only $250.00.

This is the perfect heirloom original art piece of your loved one–child, pet, spouse, or other special person in your life.  This promotion only goes through December 10th to ensure delivery for Christmas.  *There are currently only FOUR more slots available

Please read details before purchasing

How much are the portraits?

Portraits START at $250.

This includes shipping, one initial email consultation, and one thumbnail image for review.

Additional people/animals will be $50 per add on.  

The final price for any add-ons will be invoiced to you via PAYPAL following your initial consultation. 

Any additional revisions or consultations will be charged by the hour ($50 an hour)

How will the consultation about the portrait go?

After your purchase, you will be contacted by email within 2 business days.

In that email, I will ask you a series of questions, and ask you to let me know about the commission.

You will choose how many objects/people you want illustrated, and I will invoice you for any additional amounts.

 How big will my drawing be?

8×10 size, painted on a 8.5 x 11 on high quality drawing paper, so you have ample room for framing.

 What is it drawn on?

Archival drawing paper

What medium is used?

You have the choice of either graphite on white paper, or graphite and chalk on toned (grey) paper.  Both examples are shown below.

What style will the drawing be done in?

The commissions are done in a realistic manner, meant to catch a very close likeness to subject.  The drawings are detailed and “tight” rather then loose in the handling.  There will be NO background ie landscapes, objects, etc in any of these portraits.

You can view a step by step process HERE

Will my image be shared online?

Yes.  I reserve the right to scan your original to be used in my online portfolio, blog posts, and other press. I WILL NOT share your information or identity of any kind unless you consent.

 Can I have the drawing shipped directly to someone else?

Yes. Just be sure that the shipping address you give me upon ordering is where you want it shipped.

 Do you ship internationally?

Not currently.

How are the drawings shipped?

They are all shipped UPS or United States Postal Service (USPS) with Delivery Confirmation in a stay flat mailer for protection.

When will the drawings be shipped?

It will be shipped to arrive before Christmas.

Can I see the drawing before you ship it?

Yes. The price includes one thumbnail image sent upon completion.  Any revisions, added email conversations, etc. will be charged by the hour ($50 an hour).

Are there refunds?

No, all sales are final. If you are dissatisfied with the results, I will do my best to make you happy…(additional fees will be applied) The style will be very similar to the examples shown

Photo Submission Guidelines

Please only email photos after we have our initial email consultation.

-Please send high quality photos that are as crisp and clear as possible. High Resolution.

– Candid shots are best, with profile, ¾ view, and frontal view, but please no big smiles or funny faces or grins.

-Pictures without a flash used are best–photos in natural light–if possible

Please email to commission a portrait.

On the Nightstand

Here are some interesting books currently on my nightstand. My reading time is almost nonexistent but I do love to get some new thoughts in my head now and then. I am midway through ( or just starting) most of these so a full book review would not be fair.


Right now I have “The Art Instinct ; Beauty, Pleasure, and Human Evolution” by Denis Dutton. This is the most interesting read out of them all for me. Having spent much time in the technical aspect of picture making, I am now very interested in what ideas I want behind my pictures. So this book fits right along with my current interest. Dutton basically argues that there are rational reasons humans developed a sense or instinct for art and not only art but for beautiful art. Loving this book and its ideas so far.

The next book is a gratitude journal I found at a thrift store ( I am grateful for good deals at Goodwill). Marcus Tullius Cicero said“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” A very classical virtue to develop if I ever heard of one.

The third book is Victor Hugo’s classic Les Miserables. I am very excited about the Hollywood version of the great musical interpretation of the story coming out this winter and wanted to read the real story first. Alas, everyone else in Cincinnati has this idea and have placed holds on all the copies do I have to return the book to the library after just three weeks of trying to finish the giant. Not going to happen. But I like the first few chapters so far!

The last book is very much needed for a landscape commission I am working in that basically is a big portrait of a bunch of trees. It is “The Artistic Anatomy of Trees” by a Mr. Cole. So far it has been kind of a pain to read. I have always struggled reading about how to make art. Being a visual person I usually get antsy and just want to look at the pictures. So I have been copying Mr. Cole’s helpful illustrations of trees and am trying my best to learn from his words.

Well, there you have it! A couple great art books and a few classics as well. Wish me luck on finishing these someday with my new baby in one arm and my paintbrush in the other.

Equine Portrait Process

God forbid that I should go to any heaven in which there are no horses.

                                                                                   – Robert Browning



I just finished this equine portrait commission of a Connemara pony.  She is a beautiful gray color which works so well with this two toned drawing technique.   I love when artists post their process so I thought I could share mine.  The entire process took me about 8-10 hours.



In this first step,  I’m blocking in the horse.  I’m doing this drawing from a photo (and wait, before you call me a sell-out artist, or lame, or not awesome for doing a detailed horse drawing from life, think about how you would draw an accurate portrait of a horse that lives 1500 miles away that won’t cost more then this commission…. yeah, that’s what I thought) so in order to make it look three dimensional and accurate anatomically I had to continually look at and think about my knowledge of horse anatomy.  This step is all about getting the proportions right so my thoughts are “measure, measure, measure”.



The next step I start turning the form and establishing the value range.  I like to put in my darkest dark and brightest bright right away.  The darkest dark here was the inner ear, and the brightest area was the poll area (top of the neck).  Then I started modeling the form from there and thinking about what direction each plane is going while also trying to keep things unified.



This step is a continuation of the last step.  Continuing to model the form and turn the edges away from me.  I also laid in the eye which on a horse is basically the coolest thing to draw ever.  Horses have the biggest eyes in comparison to their bodies of any mammal.   Maybe that’s why equine portraiture is so fun!



Here I am finishing up modeling the horse’s forms and am laying in the tone in the leather. This takes forever because you have to keep going over the area to get it dark enough, but also picking up the spots that get too dark.

Using chalk and graphite is really fun and much faster then just plain graphite on white paper.  This method gives me a clear dark value (anywhere I use the graphite),  midtone (anywhere I leave the toned paper showing) and light values (anywhere I use the chalk). 





More detail


And here is the finished product.  The hardest part about equine portraits is getting the likeness or the essence of the horse.  The subtle differences in the equine visage are hard to detect but can be obviously wrong to the owner who knows the particular horse very well.   Being around horses my whole life has helped me be able to see the differences and be able to catch them.  (hopefully!)

Baby Paintings

So,  I just had a baby!  That is why not much has happened here on A Classical Life.  She is pretty amazing and so beautiful.  I am already itching to sketch/paint her.  But I’m a little busy being a mom to a two week old to start a new painting project.  So I was looking at some of my favorite paintings of babies by some master artists and wanted to share them here.  How many artists now can capture the feeling, gesture, and likeness of babies?  Has to be pretty hard. Image

Bouguereau– Supposedly, he invited local toddlers over to his studio and let them crawl around while he sketched them.  That is how he got the gestures for all his cherub paintings.  Sounds hard.


Amerling–I’m betting this was done completely from life.  I absolutely love this painting.


Sargent– This is a good starting point for me– I can sketch a sleeping baby with this amount of detail!
Love the feeling and gesture here.


Cassatt–  Of course when looking at for great paintings of infants, one must look at Mary Cassatt’s work. Such a great gesture and pose for the baby.  So real.


William Merritt Chase– I like this painting because of the loose quality of the portrait.  I think when sketching an infant from life this is about as detailed as I will be able to get before going back to the studio to finish more detail.