Meet 5 artists for whom the human figure comes first
This story was featured in the November 2012 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Order the Southwest Art November 2012 print edition here, or purchase the Southwest Art November 2012 digital download here. Or simply subscribe to Southwest Art magazine and never miss a story!
There are countless ways to paint the figure. Some artists pose a single model in the studio, intent on capturing a particular gesture or expression that holds personal meaning or universal beauty. For other artists, the figure is a means to a separate end—a way of exploring artistic elements such as pattern, light, or edges. For still others the figure is not meant to be posed but rather captured while going about his or her daily life, unaware of the important role he or she is playing in creating a work of art. On the following pages we present a small sampling of the endless opportunities that exist within the genre of figurative painting, and we hear from the artists about the inspirations and circumstances behind the paintings.
“THE MUSE (REVISITED) is the second, much larger, version of this painting of Sarah. Though my paintings are based on the human figure, my process comes from an abstract point of view: I am more concerned with creating a sense of rhythm in the painting. I wanted the viewer to be drawn to Sarah and her daring gaze, but I also wanted to lead the viewer’s eye around the painting and eventually back to her. I love painting the model in a relatively refined way, yet having the rest of the painting handled abstractly.”
Gallery Russia, Scottsdale, AZ; M Gallery of Fine Art, Charleston, SC; Palm Avenue Fine Art, Sarasota, FL; RS Hanna Gallery, Fredericksburg, TX; Sage Creek Gallery, Santa Fe, NM; Total Arts Gallery, Taos, NM; Waterhouse Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA; kevinbeilfuss.com.
“I find that people, as painting subjects, are most attractive when they are most unconscious of being so. When I saw this gentleman sipping on his soda and relaxing in a Greenwich Village park one day, I thought it was a perfect moment to capture on canvas. The benches and city beyond him buzz with activity, but he’s found his own private solitude. In order to make him the center of interest, I left the other figures sketchy and made the man’s edges a little more defined. Then I used the benches to guide the eye to him.”
Edward Montgomery Fine Art, Carmel, CA; Russell Collection Fine Art Gallery, Austin, TX; Tidewater Gallery, Swansboro, NC; Castle Gallery, Fort Wayne, IN; Gardner Colby Gallery, Naples, FL; Fine Art Firm, Louisville, KY; robincheers.com.
E. Melinda Morrison
“On a trip to Little Washington, VA, my friends who were hosting me for the week got me into the kitchen of one of the top restaurants in the country. When I walked into the Inn at Little Washington, I was in awe of the floor-to-ceiling paned window reaching 20 feet high. It flooded the entire kitchen with light, which bounced everywhere. The hustle and bustle of the chefs, working frantically on their food items for the evening dinner, was my inspiration for ROLLIN’ IN THE DOUGH. Abstracting the shapes and pushing the edges with a high-key palette were the techniques I used to capture the scene of a chef working at his craft while bathed in light.”
“I bought a book about the painter Pierre Bonnard, and I loved his paintings with the patterns. SOFT REPOSE is one of a series of paintings exploring that element. Patterns are exciting because they give you the opportunity to also work with color. In SOFT REPOSE, I was working with the idea of how to lead the eye back to the figure, past my dog, Gweny, and my cat, Willow. I’ve painted this model for years. She has a dance background, and dancers are excellent models because they are very elegant. In this case, she conveys the relaxed, serene sense that I was looking for. Although I paint other things, when I finish a really nice figurative painting, I always feel proudest of it.”
“In 2004 when my mother was dying of cancer, the young woman who was helping to provide her home care inspired this painting. When I asked her to model for me in the sunlight of my mother’s bedroom window, it was her gentle hands and the dignity, strength of presence, and quiet peace in her face that I found so affecting and compelling. All of the emotions I felt being with my mother at this profound moment, and my deepest thoughts inexpressible with words, seemed somehow to find voice in this painting. A heliotrope is any plant that turns toward the light, and a garden flower with fragrant purple flowers. It was my mother’s time, too, for turning toward the light.”
Featured in the November 2012 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
Southwest Art magazine November 2012 digital download
Southwest Art magazine November 2012 print edition
Or subscribe to Southwest Art magazine and never miss a story!
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