DC Design House

This year I am privileged to say that I contributed to the fabulous room, "Chic Retreat" by  Barbara Brown Interiors at the DC Design House.

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"The 9th annual D.C. Design House opens to the public October 1, 2016. Each year, one local home has every single room redesigned by local interior designers and architects.

Located at 2509 Foxhall Road, NW, this year's house is a whopping 11,242 square feet, and most recently served as a temporary house for the French ambassador while his real home was under construction. The home has five floors, seven bedrooms, three kitchens, eight full bathrooms, an infinity pool, a wine cellar and sauna.

All furnishings and accessories in the house are for sale -- and so is the home itself, which is listed for a cool $10.8 million, according to the Design House website.

Proceeds from this month-long event benefit Children’s National Health System. The house closes Oct. 30." -NBC4

Barbara Brown Interiors designed the "Chic Retreat" which is on the top floor.  A lady's study/retreat/reading room has been expertly curated with chinoiserie inspired accessories, custom designed and built furniture, and features soothing colors and textures, but not without the occasional surprise.  I was asked to create chinoiserie monochromatic vignettes on the walls as well as verre eglomise surfaces for both the writing desk and built in cabinet top.

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Unveiling of Ellicott City Mural

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Earlier this month I was honored to unveil my painting of Ellicott City donated to the Howard County Government.  My dear friends from high school, Theo Schlossnagle and Lisa Marini Schlossnagle donated the funds to purchase the mural which went to the Ellicott City Partnership for their Flood Relief Fund.  Fatimah Waseem wrote an excellent article detailing the event.

With the sale of the prints and the original mural, Cunningham Studios was able to raise $6500.00 toward the Flood Relief fund! Thank you!!

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#ECStrong

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I wanted to update everyone about our situation in Ellicott City. My little town, where my studio is, experienced the worst flooding since hurricane Agnes in 1972. Two people lost their lives and the town in uninhabitable. Many folks lost not just businesses, but livelihoods, memories, keepsakes, and lifetimes of hard work and memories. But worst of all, two people were swept away that night.  Most of the buildings will have to be condemned.  The waters ripped away whole sidewalks, part of the street, cars were swept through culverts from a half mile up the road where they popped out at the other end of town.  6 inches fell within two hours.  One of the reading stations on the river went from 65 CFS (cubic feet per second of water) to over 21,000 CFS!!

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This video was taken by my friend Sara Arditti who owns a gallery on Main Street, Still Life Fine Arts and Custom Framing:

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For a bit of background, Ellicott City was built in a quaint and picturesque valley that some remark as reminding them of a little European town. It was founded back in the early 1700's by the Ellicott Brothers as a mill town, attracted by the Patapsco River. On a normal summer day the rivers are no bigger than creeks. Its simply in the background while folks enjoy shopping and dining, smelling honeysuckle growing over the rocks, watching live music in the courtyard or catching up with friends at the local watering hole. But when it rains, the floodplain drains into these branches which run through Main Street, under buildings and roadways, daylighting here and there, until it flows into the Patapsco. And when it pours, everyone who knows the town keeps eyes on the water. I am ever grateful for our community. We are a tight group and we look out for one another. We rally when someone is in need, we celebrate the good things, and commiserate the bad. But when things get epic, we are unstoppable.

Just the night before the flood we were carefree. My friends Josh, Brian, and Cecilia.

Just the night before the flood we were carefree. My friends Josh, Brian, and Cecilia.

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Many people have asked how to help. There are a few ways. One is to check with the Ellicott City Partnership at ecpartnership.org. There you will currently find what is needed and where to donate.

Here are some more links for help and donations:

Help Ellicott City

Food And Drink Fundraisers

Volunteer Sign Up

On a personal level, my studio suffered some major flooding. I first became aware of the situation because of the commUNITY facebook page where I started seeing friends' posts about the flash flood. I didnt think at first that my studio would be affected, but then I saw a post by a friend who is also a neighbor showing her front yard. The river that normally runs under her front yard WAS her front yard. I panicked thinking that my studio which is further upstream, and sits directly ABOVE the Tiber, may have sustained some damage. It did flood back in 2011 when Tropical Storm Isabelle came through but luckily I hadn't moved in yet. I drove over hand had to sneak in the back way because all of the medical and emergency personnel had the road blocked. I walked up and around behind the hill then down to my shop. I noticed the black top had shifted and buckled and my neighbor across the street's car was sitting nearly on her front porch. I said a prayer then opened my door.

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The smell of paint hit me first, then I put on my phone flashlight and my heart sank. Paintings were floating, chairs were upside down, and as I walked down and in further I saw papers were all over the place, cans, bottles, equipment; all floating in a sea of brown, muddy, smelly water.  I quickly began grabbing my paintings, the ones that were for my show "Still Standing" and placed them on tables, I then walked around surveying the rest of my space, I was dumbfounded. No one predicted this!! I could do nothing more than go home and try to sleep before returning in the morning to face the most awful clean up I could imagine.

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At the same time as I was discovering my studio, I found out later that friends were trapped in apartments by rising waters and cars blocking entrances. Howard County Fire and Rescue had to evacuate residents and visitors stranded by the torrent. I realized quickly that I was one of the relatively lucky ones. Two people were swept away and perished in the Patapsco, only to be found miles down the river.

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We have been washing out and sorting through the contents of my studio to see what I have left. My insurance does not cover flood so I will have to rebuild from my own pockets. I did start a Go Fund Me page to help with repurchasing materials and covering bills while I'm out of commission.

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And to top it off, yesterday I sliced my hand open carrying a flat file out to be sprayed off. I tripped on my own feet (not an uncommon thing) and I didn't want to drop and potentially dent the drawer so it slid off my hand and onto the ground. Thank goodness for the EMT that was driving up the road in a gator, he wrapped me up and then dad took me to All Care for 8 stitches. Thank goodness it missed the tendon, but it was still pretty deep. Almost to the bone.

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I am so thankful to live in such a loving and strong town. So many friends and neighbors came by to see if I was ok. Its devastating when something like this happens but its beautiful to witness how we rally around one another.

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Here are some more photos taken by my friend Joe Pulone and Chris Winslow. Others were taken by 1304 Photography

The first responders were amazing, they came in and began helping people stuck in buildings, high in trees, and trapped in cars. Friends were rescued through second floor windows, some even having to punch through walls, others crawling out from under cars that blocked their doors. The clean up will continue for months and my hope is that people will continue to offer help and support long after the mud and debris has been cleared.

#ecstrong

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Adventures in Portrait Painting

Taking classes to continue my personal artistic growth is something I always love doing but finding the time (and money) is difficult. Last month I took the third class offered in William Cochran's Trompe L'oeil Mastery Program- Portraiture. Each time I take a class with William I find that take away something that doesn't present itself until later. The immediate return is usually that I suck and I should hang up my brushes. However, after a few weeks the information absorbed at the time somehow begins to come together. Our first day was revisiting color theory. Elementary as it may seem, there are hundreds of pigments and we each chose a palette to work from. My colors were Hansa Yellow Opaque, Phthalo Blue Green Shade, and Pyrrole Red Dark. Adjusting for the intensity of the pigments, we each created a value scale moving through each color as well as across the wheel through neutral grey. Once complete, we began the portrait workshop in earnest.

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We worked from a live model as well as a photograph. This was extremely difficult. Ideally the model would be present the entire time, but that isn't practical. We began with setting up the backdrop and her attire, changing things based on how they reflected against her skin and hair. Once we settled on the look we shot a series of photos. This whole process took an entire day. The photography process could be a class in and of itself because there is so much to understand like lenses, lighting, distance, etc.

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The difficulty in this class was having to move from the photograph to the model when she was present. In the photograph the values and temperatures were completely different. In real life these things were much clearer and more vibrant if you really studied her. In starting out I did my usual thing of blending tiny brush strokes and by the end of the first day it had no dimension. Up close, yes, but when you stepped back everything collapsed. So I began round two and finally hit my stride. I stood back at arms length with a long handled paint brush and contemplated each stroke of color. This also made it easier to paint with the type of paints we were using; Golden's Heavy Bodied Acrylics. I'm used to using Golden's Proceed line of mural paints which have a much longer open time and are less opaque, thus requiring a different method of application- multiple translucent layers.

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Painting skin is a whole different ballgame than painting other surfaces. There is a luminosity and depth that is hard to achieve. The tricky part is capturing the subtle temperatures of the values; warm darks, clear and vibrant midtones, cool lights. And this can all change depending on the lighting. I spent more time looking and studying than I did putting paint on the canvas. I hope with practice I'll be able to identify these types of things more efficiently.

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I am usually a fast painter and I think that I should have stopped while I was ahead but having about a day and a half left I continued to tinker with it. Which is fine because no one is paying me for this! I switched over to Golden's Open Acrylics which are similar to the Proceeds but have a heavier body like their regular line. This allowed me to blend a bit more and smooth out some values. But stepping back again, things began to fall flat. I wasn't worried as much this time because I felt I had gotten what I wanted from the exercise.

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My dear friend Jeanne stayed with me during the week and we had amazing philosophical discussions about art and life. Jeanne and I met while working for William on his project, The Dreaming, in Downtown Frederick, MD in 2006.  She came up a few summers ago to help with the Extreme Makeover Project I was involved in. Jeanne is a free spirit, full of energy, extremely talented, and I wish she lived closer.

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On Saturday after the class, Jeanne and I headed down to DC to visit the National Portrait Gallery. Its a shame that I live so close to such amazing museums and I've never been to this one. We spent the day there, seeing as much as we could. With new eyes, I was able to really study the brush strokes and color. Some of my most favorite are below.

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Aaaaaaannnnnnd..........done.

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Studio Party Recap and Small Miracles Donation

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In case you missed it, a few weeks ago I made the decision that I needed a party. The reasons were numerous; winter needs to end, Cunningham Studios is officially up and running, and my Mom's birthday was on the 27th. In her honor I decided to donate 5% of any job or sale made during the month of March to her favorite charity, Small Miracles Cat and Dog Rescue in Ellicott City MD. Mom loved to volunteer at the shelter and often would foster kittens that needed extra care before being adopted. Two of those kittens became ours.

Mom with her boy, Leo.

Mom with her boy, Leo.

Our two furbabies, Ray Ray and Sancho Pancho.

Our two furbabies, Ray Ray and Sancho Pancho.

Despite the frigid temperatures, several friends, clients, colleagues, and family came out to party with me and I couldn't have been happier. I announced that as of the 28th I would be able to donate $1200 to Small Miracles. That may go up as there are a few more contributions in the mail. I'm sure mom would be thrilled.  A huge Thank You to everyone who came out to celebrate with me this past Saturday!

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Thank you to Paula and April for taking pictures, I completely forgot!!