In Appreciation of Art, Meet my Friend, Annie and Artist, May Cao…

Recently, when I was chatting with Annie, a dear friend of mine, she mentioned she had done a “sitting” that day. I asked what a sitting was and Annie told me she occasionally sits or models for artists here in the Atlanta area.

How interesting, I thought! I asked a lot of questions and Annie patiently answered. Annie told me, “Modeling for an artists is generally called “modeling” and the real title of my job (I do get paid to model) is ‘Artist’s Model’. Annie also said that modeling is sometimes referred to as “doing a ‘sitting’ and frequently artists will take a photograph of their model so they can continue working on the piece after the session is over.

This photograph of Annie was taken during a sitting by a very talented artist, May Cao, for whom Annie models frequently.

Annie told me, “I have met this very fine artist named May Cao, who simply inspires me. She is a beautiful person and her core being is that of true kindness and graciousness.”

Annie continued, “It all began for me when my good friend, Ray, was asked to model for another very skilled artist named, Sandra Anderson. He told me about his new venture. I made contact with Sandra after seeing her work and the rest is history. Rather new history, as I just started modeling for artists in early July. I met May Cao on July 7th at her home and the result of that very first sitting was the pastel called “Girl In Straw Hat”.

‘Girl in Straw Hat’ is the piece May is working on here:
Annie said, “I became an artist’s model because I love art and I love to be around artists. I am inspired when I am in the presence of artists. I am in complete awe of people who can paint figures and do portraits, and the like. It just fascinates me. Bottom line for me, it’s an honor to be an artist’s model. I don’t mind the time and sometimes the pain of an uncomfortable pose.”

‘Girl in Straw Hat’. was still not complete in the photo below. I find it just fascinating watching this beautiful piece unfold. I, too, am completely in awe of the talent it takes to create such a lovely and enchanting piece.

Annie described her first meeting/sitting with May saying, “Ah….the first time was a joy, and it is still a joy to sit for her and for other local artists.” The sitting for ‘Girl in Straw Hat’ actually took place in the home of May, which Annie describes as being “like a sanctuary…a vacation getaway.” Annie said, May “has a lovely home for an artist’s painting session” and “it reminded me of Hawaii…very lush with lots of flora and fauna, too!”

That day, a group of five artists, who are all part of The Mable House Art Group, joined May in painting Annie as she posed on a wicker settee in May’s home. Annie said, “We met at May’s home because the art center was closed for a period of time over the summer, so May opened up her home to host two sessions: July 7th and July 14th.”

In the picture below, Annie is holding May’s piece and she is surrounded by the paintings of the other artists who were there that day. I just love this pic and Annie is such a lovely model.

I’ve learned so much talking and exchanging e-mails with Annie over the last few days. Annie told me, “Artists of all levels employ artist’s models and most often we attend art sessions in studios where there is proper lighting. All artists need are two things, and that is to paint and to paint often! Many artists prefer to use live models. It seems to help because we’re in 3-D, vs. a flat photo.”

Annie continued, “I do allow artists to take many photos so that after the sitting they can work on their pieces until we meet again. May, is highly skilled at painting from photographs. I just love to pose for her when time allows because I enjoy her company and I love to see what she is going to make come alive on her canvas.”

Annie ended by saying, “In addition to painting consistently, the works that are created in the sessions are often used for artist’s portfolios and possibly used for gallery shows that they might be doing, or for juried exhibitions. It all depends on the artist. But all in all, artists need to paint and paint often.”

This is the completed pastel of Annie, titled, Girl in Straw Hat. Isn’t it gorgeous?!!


Annie also modeled for an oil painting May created titled, ‘Kimono’. Below you will see two photos taken during the sitting, followed by a Black and White painting.

Here the painting is almost finished. Annie said May still wants to do a little more work on her hair and then it will be complete.

May is wonderfully talented and can paint any subject, as shown below in this painting of a cute little white dog.

This one is titled, ‘Wolves’. I can feel the cold…stunning!

Here are some additional pieces which show May’s unlimited talent and expertise:

‘African Beauty’

Beauty and Strength’

A model was not used for this piece titled, ‘Butterfly’. Annie said, “this is an image that May had in her mind.” Wow, wouldn’t you love to be inside May’s head for just a day. Just gorgeous!

Portrait of J.S. Bach…
I especially love this piece simply titled, ‘Waiting

A beautiful pastel of Annie titled ‘Annie’. May was still working on this piece, at this point.

Can you see the changes being made?

The finished piece…

This lovely pastel caught Annie by surprise. She didn’t realize May was working on it until very recently because May created it by using only a photograph she had taken weeks before. May really knows how to capture Annie’s soft feminine features…just beautiful!

I thought after seeing all of these lovely pieces of art, you might be interested in learning more about the artist, May Cao. Annie forwarded the following biographical information, and I am in awe of the journey May has taken to reach this level of talent.

May Cao, professional portrait artist, received her degree and early training from The Art Degree Institute of Liaoning, Shenyang, near Beijing in the Peoples Republic of China. After winning four major awards and working her way through various government levels in the port city of Dalian, where May was born, she moved to New York City and worked as a textile designer and portrait artist and subsequently opened up her own studio in Syracuse specializing in her ability to capture the personalities of famous subjects and local professionals on canvas.

May expresses her gifts in oil painting and in pastels, as well as charcoal drawings. Her work is in the Classical style. She has such a perception for fine detail, her pastels look as if they had been painted in oil. May brings great empathy and compassion to the subject at hand. Her art career of more than 30 years painting and teaching has culminated in a specialty. She is also able to use severely damaged and almost unusable photographs of deceased loved ones to recreate a likeness in portrait form for families to cherish for generations.

May opened up her studio at the Galleria Mall in early 1996. Her deft touch in pastels, as well as oil, can be appreciated in portraits as rich and famous as Marilyn Monroe and football’s Jimmy Brown, to those of the average and unknown, including paintings of lively and beloved pets. May has no pets of her own right now, but loves dogs and cats whose companionship she has enjoyed most of her life since early childhood. May came to the United States in 1989, and loves the liberty of expressing herself here without repression and restraint. She resides in Marietta, Georgia with her husband, Ron. May has two grown daughters who reside in Texas and Massachusetts.

When not painting, May relaxes by reading mostly history and biographies of famous artists, writers and musicians. Her second love after painting is taking care of her house plants. May welcomes you to contact her if a portrait or other specialty piece is desired. May Cao can be e-mailed at [email protected]. Or you may contact, Annie, who acts as an assistant to May, at [email protected].

I would like to thank both Annie and May, for giving all of us a glimpse into their world, a world that leads to the creation of beautiful and timeless pieces of art.

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  1. decorator101 says

    This was such a fascinating journey today… Annie you are absolutely gorgeous.. I can see why May enjoys painting you..and must easily capture your beauty and softness…I especially liked being able to watch the art unfold. Like a beautiful picture book, you want to turn each page to see how it ends..I can’t imagine sitting for hours on end ..I’m wondering how long is a “sitting” usually? Susan thanks so much for opening our eyes into yet another area of beauty…and for sharing your dear friend Annie with us..this was certainly a treat…one I’ll enjoy reading about again and again..
    hugs ~lynne~

  2. I really enjoyed this post, Susan. You covered a fascinating topic and one I find especially intersting since I paint and love art. What a great post!

  3. RetiredAtLast says

    I am continually amazed with the things you bring to our attention. This just takes my breath away. I have tried the quick landscapes a few times, but am in awe of this talent. Bless you Annie for having the patience to sit while these paintings came to fruition. There really nothing else to say except GREAT JOB by both the model and the artist.

  4. What an interesting post! I love seeing the “work in progress”. Your friend is a beautiful person and I can see why it would be easy to capture her beauty.

  5. This was very interesting, Susan! Very complex, being a portrait artist as well as an artist’s model. My soon to be 91 yr old Mother always loved art and started in a painting class at 72,after my Father passed. She now heads it up weekly, and they hold a show every fall. Creativity has no age barriers, we can enjoy it, pursue until the end of our days. I’m happiest when I am creative, and frustrated when I can’t be. Thanks for the lovely story of Annie and May.

  6. I really enjoyed reading this post. Learning about both artist and model is wonderful with the insignt into the process of creating her beautiful art.

  7. Susan,

    What a fascinating post!! May’s artwork is absolutely beautiful. I loved that you put her bio in also~~what an interesting life she has led! I can see why May likes to have Annie model! She has such a classic beauty!
    Truly an enlightening and educational post Susan!


  8. Hi Susan…Thanks for putting forth all the effort it must have taken to share these beautiful paintings on your blog. Your friend, Annie, has that timeless, classic beauty that I am sure artist everywhere would love to capture. I so enjoyed this subject matter today. 😉 Bo

  9. Pat@Back Porch Musings says

    Wonderful post. I enjoyed seeing the process and learning about artists’ models. Very informative, as well as beautiful entry!

    Thank you!

  10. Oh Susan!

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful post. My mom was an artist and I remember her telling me, as a child, about the models that she painted when she was a student at the Art Institute of Chicago. I just assumed that artists worked from photos these days. I’m so glad to know that the computer graphics age has not taken away this wonderful tradition!


  11. This was one of your finest,Susan.How beautifully written and about a fabulous model and artist.Thank you for doing this piece.I totally enjoyed it.Ann

  12. Christine aka xinex says

    Hi Susan, I enjoy reading your blog regularly but I truly enjoyed this the most. May is such a good artist and what a perfect subject she has found in Annie. It is so nice to see the painting unfold in stages. As you know, I love to do oil painting too and this artist inspired me even more. Now, I will have to take out my easel, brushes and paints and start another one. Thank you for sharing this.

  13. Susan,
    Thanks for sharing your wonderful post today! Your friend is a beautiful lady……what a great post…thanks for sharing….
    Pat H aka 9405018

  14. Terrie's Lil' Piece of Serenity says

    What a beautiful and interesting posting. I really enjoyed it!!

  15. Susan, What an amazing journey you have taken us on today. May’s work is extraordinary. I can almost see Annie breathing in those paintings. I don’t know when I’ve seen such a talent that is still walking this earth. I loved hearing about the process through the eyes of Annie. She is just beautiful and it’s so nice that she and May were able to find one another. They are the complete package. Thanks, Susan, for the time that you put into this post. I feel as if I’ve been to art class! Carol

  16. Morning, Susan! Oh May is a fantastic artist ~ her work is so lifelike and just stunning! Annie is a very beautiful lady and she certainly has the look, doesn’t she?
    Susan, are you still doing the Tablescape Tuesdays? I don’t see a sign up on your post? If you are, I want to participate. If you’re not going to host it any more it was fun. Let me know.
    Be a sweetie,
    Shelia 😉

  17. Goodmorning my friend, Thankyou for opening the world of Art to all of us. I so enjoyed how beautiiful the pieces were and how you wrote so lyrically about Annie and May. Fine art can make any room look amazing. I always love to go to Carmel, Calif and sonder through the art galleries there. I got to see fine art today, thanks to you, sitting in the comfort of my own home. You keep us coming back for more each day, your blog always brings a smile to my face. your friend Kathysue

  18. Absolutely fantastic Susan. What a talented artist May is. Wow. I’m blown away – and speechless.

  19. Hello Susan…

    Oh my, oh my, oh my!!! Thank you Susan, for sharing your beautiful friend Annie with us…and this fabulous piece on Art and Portrait! It was so very interesting seeing the Art of Portrait from the subject's vantage point!!! Annie is such a beautiful woman…it's easy to see why she is the "perfect" model!!! I also loved learning about the process that a portrait artist such as May uses! May is incredibly talented…it is absolutely amazing to me how she can so beautifully transfer the body, heart & soul of her subject onto a two dimensional canvas!!! That is a very special gifting!!! I love art…so my heart just sang as I read this article!!! It gave me an even deeper apprciation for the beauty and enrichment that art sows into our lives!!!

    Warmest wishes…Chari (Happytodesign)

  20. WOW!! This was a wonderful post Susan I loved reading about your very Beautiful Friend Annie and am so glad you also told us about May..both are just beautiful women..I could not imazine sitting like Annie did with her leg bend like that for any lenght of time Annie Kudos to you Girl!! I would be having those sharp needles running through my leg sitting like that.. May’s art work is just amazing Susan..Do you have any of her great work in your home?? I love the one titled “Waiting” Just a wonderful post and Thanks you Susan for sharing this with all of us..Hugs and smiles p.s I love your blog girl

  21. Debbie @ says

    That was a lovely post and very informative. I always learn something or get something new when I visit your blog. Thank you for the interesting pieces that you do. You must be a very lovely person on the inside to fill us up every time with your writings!
    OH please add me again to the Tablescape Tuesday. I really enjoyed everyone’s post last week.

  22. What a truly delightful and inspiring post Susan, I to love and appreciate just being amongst such creative people and works of art, both Annie and May together create such beautiful pieces. I also thank Annie and May for the glimpse into their world and I thank you for letting us all share your wonderfully talented friends through your delightful posts.. Kathy

  23. Poor Susan and her little eyes. That’s a strange feeling isn’t it? Well, I’m so glad you’re going to continue with Tablescape Tuesday. You might want to contact Beverly who does Pink Saturday ~ she has an email set up that contacts everytone and I think it automatically signs you up. I hope that will help.
    Be a sweetie,
    Shelia 😉

  24. Hello Susan…

    Well my friend…I’ve come back for a second look…I just love this Art and Portrait post!!! I am so blown away with the beauty of May’s work!!! However, the reason I stopped back by was to say…that the idea just came to me…about you my friend!!! Susan, you are such a beautiful, warm, graceful woman and I think that May could really use you as a subject for some of her art!!! Girlfriend, I think you would be fabulous!!! I hope that this may put a thought in your heart…and that you’ll consider sitting for May and have your portrait done!!!

    Warmest wishes…Chari (Happytodesign)

  25. What a wonderful post. I enjoy art and at one point in my life, used to actual paint myself. I have never had the experience of using a live model though. It was interesting to read how that happens. Also, loved seeing the different artists renderings of her that one day in july. Great work!

  26. lvroftiques says

    What a wonderful and interesting journey, from Annie posing, to the amazing finished project! Annie is simply lovely! No wonder May loves to use her as a model. And Mays talent boggles my brain! What a gift! Thank you Susan for sharing this! I enjoyed myself immensely! Vanna

  27. This post was spellbinding! May’s talent is inspiring and her paintings are just magical! I love the fact that Annie’s beauty gives the inspiration to May and other artists~what a wonderful gift to have! Beautiful post!

  28. Susan, what an interesting and beautiful post. What an amazing talent May has! I have looked at her paintings posted here several times, and I notice some new small detail each time I look. I too love the painting “Waiting”. Iam so happy to see such beautiful art being done in our part of the world. I truly believe that May will be very famous one day, and I can say I saw her on Susan’s blog long ago! Thank you May, Annie, and Susan for sharing such beauty with us. laurie (bargainhunr)

  29. nikkicrumpet says

    This post was marvelous…it was like sitting in a lecture hall and listening to a passionate speaker who enthralls his audience. Your friend Annie is so beautiful and the painting in the straw hat is remarkable. What a pleasure it must be for her. I so enjoyed getting an insight into art modeling…and into this wonderful artist.

  30. Dear Friends on the Porch..,
    I have no words to properly thank you for your kind comments and encouraging words. What you shared touched my heart and, I admit, I cried. I sincerely thank you for your time in visiting this posting today. I thank you on behalf of friend and arist,May Cao. Special gratitude to a dear lady, a true friend, Susan, who created Between Naps on the Porch. Susan has got a heart o’ gold and she is a woman of integrity.
    From my heart to yours, Annie J.
    p.s. To all of you who used to paint, get out those brushes/pastels/pencils. To those who do paint…keep painting and sharing your gifts. And to all of you…paint often! The world needs your beauty.

  31. Susan, Thank you for the wonderful post. May is amazingly talented. I loved seeing her paintings progress from start to finish. Annie is a beautiful woman & the perfect subject. Diane

  32. DishDiva aka Kay says

    That was a really eye opening read.Enjoyed it. The artist captured your friend very well.

    Count me in for tomorrow!

  33. Isn’t that amazing that someone could be so talented (and your friend so beautiful). ~ Robyn

  34. My goodness what an incredible post! I’m in awe over what I’ve learned and to see these amazing works. What a gift from God! I would love to have such talents. Thank you so much for telling this story and sharing these photos and all the information.

  35. Hi Susan. I enjoyed your story and pictures about that fantastic art. Very beautiful. My tablescape Tuesday is ready when you are!! Have a great week!

  36. sarah @ a beach cottage says

    oh I really enjoyed this post, the pictures and learning what it’s all about, very interesting and very informative

    I’ve just scheduled a Tablescape Tuesday, I hope I can join in the fun, I missed it in the end last week

    happy days


  37. What a lovely tribute to your friend’s talent. Your tablescape is scheduled for Tuesday–count me in!

  38. Susan, It does not surprise me one bit that these amazingly talented and beautiful people are your friends! What a treat to see this posting. May is an incredible artist and Annie is a beautiful subject. I love “Girl in a Straw Hat.” Thank you so much for sharing. Pam (pc25)

  39. I enjoyed the table scapes you displayed today. The bug bites were so cute. It would never do for me to live close to a Pier I!

  40. Life on Bonnie Lane says

    This was an incredible post and I enjoyed it immensely! I love art and paintings, and it was so fun to see the artists’ different interpretations of Annie. She is a lovely model. How lucky to be immortalized like that!

    May’s work is simply stunning, and has such feeling to it. Thank you so very much for sharing it!


  41. Such beautiful work! I especially like African Beauty and Waiting.

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