Friday, March 27, 2015

New Commissioned Paintings recently added to my website

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Stepping Outside the Box: An Interview with Wedding and Portrait Photographer, Elizabeth Dondis, of New Orleans!

It is always a pleasure to meet fellow creatives around the country. This has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my work. Wedding and Portrait Photographer, Elizabeth Dondis, of New Orleans recently supplied an image for a painting that I worked on earlier this year and took a moment to share her creative journey with me. You can find her work here: (

Elizabeth, what was it that made you choose Photography to be your medium for capturing your vision?
I picked up a book by the photographer Peter Beard. I was fascinated by his obsessive journaling and how he used photographs to expand and deepen the story beyond just words alone.  I could not ignore the rawness, honesty and purity of his work.  I saw the power with which photographs can communicate.  The beauty of his subjects combined with the texture of his writing and how he used every inch of the page to document his story inspired me to become a photographer.  Little did I know it would inspire me to be a New Orleans wedding & portrait photographer.  

When did you first start to be attracted to photography?

I have always liked photographs and been fascinated by the way they represent just one moment while at the same time they are part of a bigger story.  From a very young age I have enjoyed spending time with my family laughing and talking about the memories we shared, many of which we remember because of the photographs we have.   Most people don’t realize that family photos are where there memories come from.  I love being able to being able to create memories like those for someone every time I take pictures.

When did you get your first camera?
When I was in the 7th grade my parents bought me a Kodak Instamatic X-15.  I was so excited.  It used Kodak 126 cartridge film and had “Magicube technology” that rotated through four bulbs without the need for batteries. That’s what the X- meant.  I learned quickly that the Magicube could also be the very hot Magicube if you touched it too soon.  I shot a lot of pictures with that little plastic box.  It was a great first camera for me.  

What compels you to get out of bed in the morning?
Each day is an opportunity for creativity, learning and connecting.  I wake up finding my precious, eight-pound dog Roux, cuddled next to me.  That, and my French Market Chicory coffee inspire me to take pictures every day.  I rarely miss one.  I like watching as each day evolves.  Taking pictures is inseparable from that for me.

What are you looking to capture with your camera?
I think of the camera as a tool that has taught me to visually break things down where I can see beyond the obvious.   I am looking to capture the essence of my subject matter and the subtle nuances of moments in time.  Each special moment is here just once so unless it is captured, it is gone.  I’m looking to capture those special moments that would have otherwise gotten away.  That way, they can become a life-long part of someone’s memories.

What are some of your most prized photographs, where you felt you’d worked at your highest level?
My most prized photographs would be those where I was able to use light and composition to create a deep connection to the subject matter.  My list of favorites only seems to grow over time as it is hard to retire old ones – I guess that’s why they are my favorites!  Of course I am happy to share a few images.

Do you have any special anecdotes you'd like to share?
Because I am a wedding photographer I see families interact, and sometimes there can be issues, especially if there are ex-spouses and children involved.  Such situations can make it more difficult to shoot the event as people wear their emotions, and my job is to capture their joy.  

Recently, however, I had a situation that warmed my heart.  I did a wedding of two beautiful people who are in that time of life when work is mostly over, retirement is comfortably secured and love brightens every day.  Despite all that, I was concerned - there were ex-spouses, children of a deceased spouse, other children and grandchildren.  It was a situation ripe for problems.  I’d seen it before.

What I experienced was a pleasant surprise.  From day one, the couple-to-be were warm and gracious people.  They spoke well of each other’s families and friends, as if to do anything else wasn’t even a possibility.  When it came time to shoot the rehearsal dinner – an intimate gathering of family and good, old friends – I sensed that the entire group had the same joyous attitude about this marriage.  The wedding itself sealed the deal – it was real – and I will forever remember how warm and wonderful that felt.  I will also remember how easy that made it to shoot, as everyone was happy and engaged.  

In the end, my clients were ecstatic with their images and I felt good about the work I did.  I can’t ask for anything more than that.

What recommendations do you have for those who will be photographed? How can a bride and groom most be ready for the photography for her day and achieve the most out of your abilities?
I tell my clients to be comfortable – they are not there for me.   I’m there to capture their coming together on a very special day.  Before the event, I encourage them to wear whatever is comfortable and looks good sitting, standing or moving around.  Up front I ask them what they like and don’t like so that I understand how best to deliver images that will move them.  Once the big event starts I tell them to forget I’m there and have fun – I know they’re not going to relax!

How does your environment factor into your photography?
I am so fortunate to be a New Orleans wedding photographer.  The quality of New Orleans light, uniqueness of its architecture and overall eclectic nature is what makes this city such a great place to have a wedding.  The opportunity to use this city as my larger studio, indoors and out, enables me to create images that connect people, places and emotions.  This is at the heart of what I do for my clients.  

I am also fortunate to be a New Orleans wedding photographer because I love the great food, music and the diversity of people here.  They add color, contrast and exposure to an already rich tapestry woven from the fabric of life in this city and the Delta.  It is like no other place in the world.    

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Getting ready for the Portrait Commission: Clothing

This is one of the most difficult aspects to the portrait. I have read about how John Singer Sargent used to spend a frantic hour rummaging through women's wardrobes and in a make-shift way put together the outfit for a painting...and request no opinions from the client! This is because for a painting to really sing, the clothes take a major role on the stage. They speak in so many ways and embellish and empower the artist to push the painting to where they wish it to go.

So what to do? I recommend the standard of having 3 outfits on hand. I have also gone through wardrobes, closets, drawers etc to find the treasured garment for a portrait. It feels brash, but that is how important it is...It is very difficult for the non-artist to understand what makes clothing work in a painting and it's hard to communicate, but I'll try:

1. Neckline: V-necks are very flattering to the face. Scarfs can be appealing, but watch they will not become dated.

2. Pattern: less is more

3. Fabric: something that has some shine will be nice for a formal painting

4. Color: this will greatly affect the mood of the painting.

Sonia Hale is an award-winning, nationally-collected artist in Boston. She paints commissioned portraits for families and institutions nationwide. Her original landscape and still life oil paintings can be purchased at For more information, go to You can reach her by email at

Getting Ready for the Portrait Commission: Indoors or Outdoors Setting

This question tends to take a bit more thought. For example, one recent client originally was thinking outdoors, but chose indoors so the focal point would be on her children. Another one wanted the classic outdoor painting for their child outdoor with a pet.

One possibility is to start both as options and see which you prefer. I work from photographs, so if there is any consideration of both options, I take photographs both indoors and outdoors (whether permitting). This allows for the parent to see the difference and for me to discuss how the photos will translate to a painting.

Sonia Hale is an award-winning, nationally-collected artist in Boston. She paints commissioned portraits for families and institutions nationwide. Her original landscape and still life oil paintings can be purchased at For more information, go to You can reach her by email at