More Writers Portrait Love: Nathaniel Hawthorne and Gertrude Stein

Here's a little catch up to what I am doing lately. I have been super busy getting ready for my my next SFEtsy art fair which is happening this Sunday, May 22nd at All Good Pizza in San Francisco.

Here are my latest Literary Portraits:

Say Hello to Ms. Gertrude Stein!

Gertrude has always been one of my literary heroes. Her writing about Paris is the early 1900's is incredible. It seems like you are right there in the thick of things. Who wouldn't want to live in that world filled with artists and writers? My favorite book is "The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas",  written in the point of view of her love, Alice.

To me she is a visionary, anactivist and a woman with a hell of a sense of humor.

Debra Styer, A Stein is a Stein is a Stein is a Stein, 2016

Gertrude Art Print

 “It takes a lot of time to be a genius. You have to sit around so much, doing nothing, really doing nothing.”

Gertrude Stein

Carl Van Vechten,

Portrait of Gertrude Stein,



Limited Edition Gertrude Stein art print available in the shop!

Here's a peek of the drawings of Gertrude and Nathaniel!

And now presenting...Mr. Nathaniel Hawthorne!

As a New Englander, Hawthorne is in my blood. I remember visiting the House of the Seven Gables in Salem Massachusetts as a kid and I was fascinated. Hawthorne is best know for writing the novel, "The Scarlett Letter",  a scathing look at life, love and religion in the Massachusetts. His work is known to be Dark Romantic. I am currently reading, "The Whole History of Grandfather's Chair" (written in 1840), which is a surprisingly funny and truly satisfies the history nerd in me.

Debra Styer,

The House of the Seven Hawthornes

, 2016

Nathaniel Hawthorn Portrait Framed

 “Happiness is like a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.”

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Nathaniel Hawthorn Art Print

Nathaniel Hawthorne by Brady c. 1860

Limited Edition Nathaniel Hawthorne Art Print available in my Shop!

Right now I am working on a portrait of the wonderful writer Dorothy Parker, I will post her as soon as I can.

After that, who should I paint next? 

Victorian Spirit Photography

It's that time of the year...

As you probably know by now, I'm into all things spooky, and old. So, finding these amazing Victorian Spirit Photos is a truly awesome thing. It gets me in the Halloween mood and I thought I would share some of the favorite photos I found.

I really love these things. There is something so sweet and innocent about them. Maybe it was just a trick done by the photographer on a naive sitter wanting to connect to their loved ones. Or maybe it is something else. Maybe something we want to believe. Everyone wants to believe that we have someone watching over us, someone protecting us. No one wants to be alone. These spirit photographs might just have given these Victorians a little bit of hope that they were indeed not alone.

Spirit Photo via
The Ghost in the Stereoscope, photographer Unknown, c. 1856
Lady Helena Newenham and the Spirit of Her Daughter via Photography Museum
Portrait of Prince Arthur, 1854, Roger Fenton, The Royal Photographic Society Collection, National Media Museum
Mrs. Bentley and the Spirit of her Deceased Sister via National Media Museum
Ghost Stories, via Blenders
Photographer Unknown, Woman with Daisies and Spirit, 1875 via American Museum of Photography

Want to see some more? Here's a wonderful post from the American Museum of Photography.

This also fascinates me....

Here's Medium Stanislawa with her Ectoplasm from 1913
 What's Ectoplasm? A lovely post from Cabinet Magazine.

Pretty amazing stuff, don't you think? Although I am way too cynical to believe 100% in any of this stuff. I do enjoy letting myself imagine myself in a time where anything spiritual was possible.

Do you believe in Ghosts?

Here's a post on Victorian Spirit Photography I did a few years ago.

New Work...Emily Dickinson

Here's the second painting for my series, The Writer's Project.

Miss Emily Dickinson is one of my favorite poets. Her work is so heartbreaking and sincere. I can help but feel such sadness and loneliness when I read her work. I tend to wonder, would her life have been any different if more of her poems were known before her death? Or was she happy to keep herself and everything else locked up in her little room?

 If I Can Stop

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
- Emily Dickinson

Much Madness

Much madness is divinest sense
To a discerning eye;
Much sense the starkest madness.
’T is the majority
In this, as all, prevails.
Assent, and you are sane;
Demur,—you ’re straightway dangerous,
And handled with a chain.

- Emily Dickinson


I hope you like her. And as always, this print is now available in my shop.

New Art Series...The Foundlings

I'm happy to announce a new illustration series that I'm working on. It called, "The Foundlings". Of course, you know I have been a bit obsessed with the Victorian era, well, I wanted to explore something new. This time I'll be doing portraits of orphaned children. I remember seeing the movie "Orphan Train" on TV
 as a little kid and it has always stuck with me.  Anyone else see that movie?

I love the dark stories that can come out of these kids too. I love creating little histories. It is so much fun. So much sadness and so much hope. Here are the first of "The Foundlings", portraits. I hope you like them.

I created Hattie a few months ago..she is sweet but very, very lonely.

 And now I'd like to introduce, Martin. He is 7 and a bit of a hellion. He has a mean streak and will do just about anything for attention.

And this is little Gertie. She is 3 and looking for anyone to love her. She carries around a dirty little rag doll, the last thing she ever got from her family.

I'll still working out the stories but am having fun creating all the new characters. I am going to include some illustrations of Victorian toys and other kid related drawings.

Here is a little history of the Foundling Hospital and Orphan Trains in New York City.

And of course, these new portraits are available in the shop.

Art Heroes - Southworth & Hawes Photography

Some of the most inspiring (and oldest) photography was done by the photography firm of Southworth & Hawes  ( Albert Sands Southworth (1811–1894) and Josiah Johnson Hawes (1808–1901).  They were primary active between from 1843-1863 in Boston.

These guys really amaze me. I love the way they arrange their subjects. The sitters seem a lot more real then most of the Victorian photography I've seen before. They photographed some of the most famous people of the time including Louisa May Alcott, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Daniel Webster. But the daguerreotypes that really stand out for me are the everyday people...the "unidentified" people.

Unidentified Child, circa 1850
The Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Family, 1849

"The artist, even in photography, must go beyond discovery and the knowlege of facts; he must create and invent truths and produce new developments of facts. "
--A.S. Southworth, 1870
Death of Pain (first public administered Ether anesthesia)1847

Rollin Heber Neal

Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1857

Alice Mary Hawes, 1852

"Learn to look and see the difference under different lights in the same faces. Learn to see the fine points in every face, for the plainest faces in the world are human faces, belonging to human beings... "
--A. S. Southworth, 1873
Unidentified Girl with Ringlets, circa 1850's
Unidentified Woman, circa 1850
Unidentified Dead Child, Circa 1855

"In the nice production of light and shade which is the perfection of modelling, the Daguerreotype will be found to surpass the Artist's best efforts, being capable of representing independently, action, expression, and character to a great extent; and in some instances approaches very nearly, if it does not equal these higher branches, thus developing beauty in grace of motion and in repose, which is the first object and the supreme law of all Art."
--A.S. Southworth, 1855

Two Women Posed with a Chair, ca. 1850 
Unidentified Woman, 1852
Laura Bridgman, 1855

Winchester Family Tomb, Mount Auburn Cemetery, circa 1853

Unidentified Girl, 1850
Winter Portrait with Fur Coat and Gloves

Unidentified Child, 1850

Of course this is only a tiny bit of work by Southwork & Hawes. You can find more in the book, "Young America: The Daguerreotypes of Southworth & Hawes. You can also see more Photographs in this flickr set from the George Eastman House.

I hope these daguerreotypes have inspired you as much as they inspire me. 

Now, I'm off to work on a custom portrait...

Introducing...New Victorian Portraits

I'm hoping you are all having a wonderful week. I have been very busy creating a bunch of new artwork. Here is the latest in my Ladies & Gents series...

So, without further ado, I'd like you to meet:

Garrett, age 32, map maker

Miss Eleanor, age 37, ghost story writer

Benedict, age 26,  footman

M. Lily, age 26, widow, laundry maid
I hope you like them. I have a few more to do in the series but I'm getting ready to write more in depth stories about each character. It is so fun. Honestly, I'm pretty proud of myself with this project. I haven't created so much artwork in years. There is so much truth in the fact that the more you do, the more want to do.

All prints are 7 x 10 and are available in the shop.

Spooky Victorian Spirit Photography...

I can't think of a better way to start off my Halloween Season than having a showcase of Victorian Spirit photography. I love these things. Generally, I think most of these photographs are pretty hilarious but there are a few are downright creepy...

I suppose the awful truth about these photographs is the fact there was so much death surrounding the lives of the Victorians. In some way, maybe these photographers helped the subjects cope with the loss of their loved ones. With the invention of this new technology and a little bit of trickery, the photographers were able to create things never seen before. Perhaps these photographers could now capture something that only existed in one's own mind. Maybe that is why I am so attracted to them.

Get ready for some spookiness...

Man Reading with Female Spirit Behind by Phillip Bros...via photographymuseum

Spirit photo by William Hope via moolf
"Woman with Two Boys"...and a ghost by Willian Hope via GuardianUK

Spirit and Medium by Frederick Hudson
A Medium and the Emission by Albert Von Schrenck-Notzing

"The Ghost of Bernadette Soubirous", by Anonymous via...dieselpunks
"11", by Reeves, 1872
Seance by John Beattie via Dark in the dark
Mrs. French of Boston with her Spirit Son, by William Mumler circa 1868 via Photography Museum
Eugene Thiebault, "Publicity Photograph: Henri Robin and a Specter" 1863
If you are interested, here is a wonderful post I found from the blog,  "The Haunted Museum".  It will give you a really  good history of Victorian Spirit Photography and some more wonderful photographs, as well. Enjoy!

Have  spooky evening, Everyone...

Making love happen...

Happy Couple? Via The George Eastman House
These Lovelies are here via Lisby. 
BTW, Don't you think this is guy is the spitting image of actor, John Hawkes?

This couple via the George Eastman House

Just a little update...I am working on the little dating cards that will come with each "Ladies & sGents" portraits today. It is really fun to figure out what each character is looking for in their future love. As an inspiration...check out more of these wonderful husband and wife photo's from the lovely "How to Be a Retronaut" blog.. Some of these couples look made for each other, these others...not so much.

On a side note, this is really fun to make these husband and I met online. I do believe love can be found in alternative ways...

Ladies & Gents, Part 2

I just finished the second 10 illustrations for my "Ladies & Gents" series. Each character will be taking part in a little bit of a Victorian Dating Service. I have to wonder, who will be right for each other, who will be wrong? All of the possibilities are floating around in my head. Here are all the new Victorians...I hope you like them.
Abiel, Age 28, Soldier

Albert, Age 38, Store Manager

Becky, Age 19, Student

Harland, Age 36, Scientist

Hortence, Age 41, Mother of 8, Widower

James, Age 27, Gambler

Lydia, Age 32, Performer

Mordecai, Age 41, Magician

Natalie, Age 20, Cook

Theodosia, Age 42, Widow & Caregiver
I'm really excited about creating stories for each of these drawings. I'n the end there will be 20 different characters. I may do more but I would love to get these turned into prints ASAP. I can imagine people creating their own couples and putting their lost relatives on their walls. Here's to giving new couples a  chance at love...

Anyone have a favorite?

In Progress...

What have I been up to lately, you ask? Well, I have been work on some new portraits for my "Ladies & Gents" series. I am trying to get all 20 illustrations done by the end of the week. And get them made available for prints ASAP. Wish me luck!

Here is a sneak peek at the lonely and loveless crew...

First, the Gentlemen:

Albert, James & Abiel
 and, The Ladies:
Natalie, Lydia, Hortence
Next, I'll finish the drawings of the last 4. After that, I will add the watercolor and gouache.

I better get back to work!

The Art of the Autochrome

As you all know, I have a deep love for vintage photography. It transports me through time. I truly love the surreal darkened colors of a Autochrome.  Although the early color technique invented by the Lumiere Bros. was only around for about 20 years, I love what has survived. Each photo looks like a strange dusty painting. A place lost somewhere between color and black & white.

I would love to study more of these autochrome colors. The pinks and blues are incredible. Don't you think they would make a lovely painting palette.

Sitting with mom in brilliant blue...via the George Eastman House
Girls with a pink umbrella via Lisby

Stuffed Birds, 1915 via How to be a Retronaut
Pretty lady in satin holding mirror via George Eastman House
These two gentleman via Lisby
Another gorgeous one via The George Eastman House
Listening to Music by Jean-Baptiste Tournassoud? via cinemalane
Ballerina by Gervais Courtellemont
Modesty by Alfonse Van Besten 1912
Skulls by Paul Sano 1912
Not enough? Want to see more?

Click on this link to the awesome site of Autochrome collector Florent Van Hoot.

I'm may be a weirdo...

But I love finding random stuff like this. Thank you Tumbler...Strangely enough, here is a photo of a  dead guy's grave from my small town of Dudley, MA. Kind of gives you shivers doesn't it. The photo is from about 1855.  I wonder who Cha' (Charles?) Carpenter was and why he died so young...

Gravediggers via Fuckyeahvictorians

Virginia City!!!!

Just came back from and amazing trip to Virginia City, Nevada. I've been celebrating Halloween there for the last 5 years or so and it has become and annual event. It is such an amazing place. It is full of history and hauntings and such beauty and decay. By Halloween most of the tourists are gone and the town becomes yours.
I feel it is a spiritual place where you can stop the whirlwind of your life for a while. Here are a few pics from my can see the flickr set here.

this is the decay of which I speak...

little baby rest in peace...

As seen between the gate...

holding hands with death...

My hubby doing the robot...

Me in my fox mask...
Devil in Red...
To a lovely weekend, full of spooky things...and coming home to San Francisco to the SF Giants winning the world series and people partying in the streets. Tonight a Day of the Dead celebration in my neighborhood and a very needed nights rest. Can you say sensory overload?

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend full of fun. What did you do for Halloween?