Helen Rataj worked at Munson and I met her years ago her when she was a Star Coordinator. She was a good one. A real “go to” kind of person.
Helen encouraged me as an artist quite a bit. She bought many, many portraits and suggested I raise my prices. In a lot of ways she got me started.
Helen decided to go to England with her daughter. She took a camera she had just bought that I had recommended like the one I used to capture references for painting. When she came back one of the things she was excited about was an image she had captured that she felt would make a good painting.
It was of a dog walker in London. I agreed it would make a nice painting and she gave me the rights to paint it. I added it to my “want to do” list.
Helen died of cancer in 2010. She was always one of these great, great women you meet in life. In 2017 I decided to do a painting using the dog walker as the reference. I have called the painting “Helen’s England: Dog Walker”. I contacted her daughter, Mere, and gave her a full size print
She was going to hang it in her twin brother’s vet’s office in Oregon.
Steering the eyes:
As always, this painting contained some lessons for me. It was the first time I had been aware that I could steer the eyes. Sharp edges and strong contrast will draw the eyes and soft edges and low contrast will cause the eyes to skim past the moment.
I placed a strong contrast area just below the right hand. Down below is a high contrast area, to the left of that and then straight up to the black dog’s collar.
Helen was a great woman and I'm glad I did this painting in her memory.