A contemporary take on the portrait
This story was featured in the April 2014 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art April 2014 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!
At the recent International Guild of Realism show in Phoenix, AZ, Tanja Gant took home the first-place award in the drawing category for a piece called GIRL WITHOUT AN EARRING. An obvious play on Vermeer’s legendary masterpiece, Gant’s colored-pencil drawing spotlights a young woman with bright blue hair—a subject that personifies the fearless spirit of youth today. “It transported me back to the 1980s, when the whole world seemed to have been neon-colored,” Gant says.
The piece is a good example of the artist’s style. Gant often strips down compositions, eliminating extraneous details and focusing attention instead on the expressions of her subjects. “I prefer the quiet drama that slowly reveals the sitter’s inner discourse—and, ultimately, my own,” she says.
Gant was born and grew up in Bosnia and Herzegovina. She loved drawing throughout her childhood and teen years and considered enrolling in art school after high school. But instead she chose to study the English language, putting her artistic interests on the back burner. Later, while working as an interpreter in the Human Rights Division for the International Police Task Force, she met her future husband, an American. The couple moved to the United States in 1999, eventually settling in Texas.
About four years ago Gant returned to drawing, and it wasn’t long before she began chalking up awards and invitations to shows—a validation that she was on the right path. Today she is known for bringing a fresh, original vision to traditional portraiture. Gant aims to convey a sense of spontaneity and often uses unique compositions and angles.
The artist prefers working with colored pencil over other mediums because it is tactile and convenient while offering the chance to experiment in different styles, ranging from photo-realism to abstraction. In 2013 Gant became a signature member of the Colored Pencil Society of America after being juried into three consecutive CPSA international shows. —Bonnie Gangelhoff
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