Wednesday, February 9, 2011

"New Day" and capturing expression

Number three in my "Moving Out" series, this painting features Kelly standing in the doorway of our old kitchen. I have painted her in this environment several times, and in the backyard behind her, creating a vague storyline throughout the series (see "In the Yard", "Blue Cup" and "Green Mug").

I paint Kelly more often than anyone else by a long shot, I think the number is around twenty canvases now. I feel that since we are so close and have spent the last twelve years together, I can communicate my ideas through her more easily than any other model. She knows exactly where I'm at with my work, and our paintings have influenced each others in incredible ways over the years.

I displayed several paintings at a large exhibition in the summer, two paintings of Kelly and one of our good friend Ebony. People would joke, "So, that's your'e wife, and that's your mistress?" Other people would simply point to a painting of Kelly and ask if she was my wife. It happened enough times that it solidified my belief in the incredible sensitivity humans have when viewing faces. People could somehow read the paintings on a deeper level, without knowing either myself or my models.

Capturing expression in a portrait is at once the most challenging and most delightful part about being a painter. One brush stroke can change a model's expression from elated to frustrated to nervous in a single swipe. When you nail it though, you can really touch people, more than any photograph, more than an encounter with the actual model. The time and patience taken to create that painting shows, like slow pulsing radiation.

That is what us figurative painters are after I think. Today artists have a huge variety of artistic expression available at their fingertips, and figurative painting still rides the line between being either significant or outdated in many circles. But in my mind, painting, and painting the figure especially, has the ability to affect viewers and relay emotion in ways other mediums can't. That's why we painters don't mind the long hours, the isolation and the stresses that come with being a representational artist. If you can get them, you can really get them.