I like to name my paintings…to give them titles that convey at least some of what I’m feeling and thinking about them as they come together from drawing to finished piece. This beast of a 40” X 40” canvas took a couple of weeks to paint, giving me more than enough time to think of a name for it. The dancer is so powerful, so focused, so aspirational in this moment frozen in time that I chose to call it Reach. I see him on the prow of a ship, on top of a mountain, on a stage in a theater, on top of the world, calling to mind Robert Browning’s poem, Andrea del Sarto, “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?” In what I now call my first life, I was a high school English teacher and taught creative writing; now I’m a painter, who continues to write and just quoted a poet who used a painter for his subject…now that’s the circle of life.
Thanks again to Whitney Browne, a most painterly photographer who allows me to use her images for inspiration. See what she does, especially Dance for the Photographic Eye, at http://www.whitneybrowne.com.
Once again, I’ve been inspired by Whitney Browne and her painterly photographs. The dancer in Double Exposure and Closeup appears once more in On Fire, completing the triptych called Triple Play. Wonderful fun to paint (I do love red), I always enjoy capturing the suggestion of movement on a static field. That most of her face is missing is reminiscent of the tangos I paint from the chest or waist down (I do love cropping an image). Thanks to Alicia Keyes for providing inspiration for the title.
I love to paint hair, strange as that may seem. Straight, wavy, curly, wispy—all are challenging and fun for a portrait artist. My first most successful paintings of my oldest granddaughters were views of the backs of their heads, with them looking at themselves in a playground mirror: Izzy with her straight hair and Maddie with the curls.
It’s no wonder that I was immediately attracted to Whitney Browne’s portrait of a striking African-American woman with a magnificent head of hair. I worked hard to do justice to her spectacular do and, though she may not be one at all, to be able to call her Diva…
Mirror, Mirror | Izzy
Mirror, Mirror | Maddie
When I finished painting Double Exposure, I went back to Whitney Browne to find a different view of the same woman, also a ghost image. She’s still in motion, starting to turn away from herself, and so bathed in color that I had to paint her again. Different from any portrait I’ve ever painted, the only colors I used for her flesh were violet, rose and white for her face, with the addition of red, orange and yellow for her arms, yet I still see “flesh” in her image. It occurs to me that using a palette of few colors is not so different from my work in black and white. Discovering things in each painting I do, I go to school on my own work and use what I learn on the next piece. Stay tuned…
It’s almost two years since I first worked with Whitney Browne, and her photographs continue to move me. I’m particularly fascinated with her double exposures, allowing her subjects to be in two places at once. Since I love to paint movement, whether smoke in the air, jellyfish in the sea, or dancers on land, these images of hers speak to me. It’s a great challenge to suggest motion on a flat canvas and makes for many hours of both enjoyable and excruciating painting. Because the photos are not exactly realistic, I can paint the shapes and colors without allowing my brain to name them and miraculously end up with what I think is an interesting and unusual painting.