Suburban Pioneers

Suburban Pioneers

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Suburban Pioneers – oil on canvas, 18” x 14”

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When I was a small child, I drew constantly, and it was people I drew more than any other subject. But by the time I reached middle school years, I had stopped looking at my fellow man as a subject. I escaped into the quiet and peace of painting landscapes and still life almost exclusively. Aside from four years of foundational figure drawing in college, I dropped people and the human figure in my paintings for almost forty years.

Then as I entered my fourth decade of life, I became engaged in community projects. And when I returned to painting, I found, to my complete surprise, that I was interested in people once again as a subject in my art.

These are the questions that fly in at me when I engage in painting a person’s portrait:

What makes the person tick? What gets them up in the morning and guides their life actions? How much of that can be “read” in their face? How do I best show that in the painting?

Part of the portrait process is discerning the essence of the person you are painting. It really is a spiritual process as much as a physical one. Any time you seek to bring out the particular beauty that is inherent in a person, you are engaged in a kind of truth-seeking that goes beyond just the physical appearance. Instinctively we all know that beauty is about more than physical features. It’s why we can perceive a physically beautiful person as “ugly”after we became acquainted with them. And why the homeliest person who has shown us love and kindness somehow takes on the look of beauty in our eyes.

This double portrait of Brian and Jennifer accompanied an article I wrote about their shared efforts in a community project, a bike and pedestrian trail they helped establish. For the published painting, I chose to pose them in front of the wooded trail, with the sunlight casting a kind of glow around them. The dynamic brushstrokes create an informal and contemporary style suited to their authentic and low-key personalities. The focus and detail are concentrated in their faces, for this happy and informal double portrait, alight with the couple’s shared joy in their efforts.

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