Every since I started drawing the softly lined, sometimes rugged faces of senior citizens in a life drawing class 37 years ago, I have been driven by a desire to capture on paper (or canvas) not only a good likeness of the model, but the inner self or being as well. On a few occasions I have been asked to do a portrait from photographs of a child or baby that had died. Accepting the commission, I knew the drawings would become a memento the family would cherish forever. While feeling the family’s pain and the responsibility to create such a memento, I began to ‘up the ante’ of what I expected of myself. Of course I wanted to capture an image that closely resembled the child, but I also wanted the image to have a palpable sense of life or ‘liveliness’ about it. Looking back, the portraits were emotionally difficult to do, but they helped me fine-tune my observation skills as I strived to see/learn the nuances of what being alive actually looks like.
I think I have always been obsessed with color–perhaps a child’s defense against the bleak, gray skies of Wisconsin where I was raised? Although I left home for the bluer skies of California and then North Carolina years ago, I still fight off those gray skies and perhaps have evolved into a colorist because of it. I continuously explore color, and I embrace it every day of my life as a painter: from miniature abstracts, to portraits of street vendors, to the colors of my house, to the colors I wear. As I work with color, I love to create chaos with it; but I also love the battle of reining in that chaos–but not totally! For me, chaos not completely conquered creates an underlying tension—which, when manipulated right, brings life or a ‘hum’ to my work.
So now, here I am–a senior citizen, the wrinkled ‘elderly’ person that I loved to draw so long ago. And it pleases me to feel that the power in my work today may have had its roots way back then with those models.