Adding past drawing works to the Portraiture Portfolio.
Life is cyclical. We revisit the same instances, the same questions in our paths, but from new perspectives. I came across these recently in my studio and portfolios from high school.
The first image was a book-report project from my summer reading one year. I read "Silas Marner," by George Eliot. For those who don't know, Eliot was a woman, who wrote under a male pen name in order to be taken seriously. In her novel, a child conceived out of wedlock is discarded and left on Marner's doorstep. A miser in the same tradition of Ebenezer Scrooge, he finds fulfillment in the golden haired child he is gifted to adopt and raise by Providence.
The second painting is one I did for a Pro-life student art and writing contest, conducted by the Tennessee Right to Life. Years later, I would be invited back as a judge for the same contest (again, noting how interestingly cyclical life can be). In my simpler high school minded creativity, the best I could muster to depict abortion was a potential baby lost, the absence, the shadow of a baby that was killed instead of allowed to be held in his or her parents hands. I won the contest for which I had entered. If I remember correctly, there weren't many participants that year, however by the time I was invited back as a judge, it had clearly gained in popularity due to the much larger submission size.
Why is this cyclical to me? Because the first image of Marner's adopted child, Eppie, is the spitting image of my first child. She has golden curls, and she has a personality that draws everyone to her, like the beautiful girl in Eliot's novel. As I write this, she is in nearly the same position asleep, as I depicted that fictional child over 15 years ago. Meanwhile, the second work, painted 2 years later, the same spacing we had intended for our first two children, is the spitting image of my miscarried child, Alex. While my husband and I never intended abortion, as we view it as a violation of everything sacred about human life, Alex died inside of me this past summer, at about 8.5 weeks growth and we faced what we never thought we would: the loss of a child during pregnancy. As a result we had to go through the process of my body clearing out the remains, and we grieved, realizing there was a child we would never, never, in any real way, get to hold. There is a palpable ache present, that is now so much more pronounced in that second painting.
These paintings, completed before I was really Pro-Life, when I was still a very young artist with no real direction, who mostly drew pictures of actors I crushed on in my sketchbooks, and cartoon characters like Jigglypuff decorated my doodles in my textbooks, somehow link to today, and the artist I am now. I am fully Pro-Life. I realize the baby-shadow in the image I painted in high school isn't just a potential child, but the representation of an actual lost child, having now lost one myself. I now understand juxtaposed against an image of abortion, why Eppie is so fortunate, why she is such a treasure, not only as the salvation of Silas Marner, but also for her own sake as a child spared from death, instead given the alternative of adoption. I have had a conversion stretching further back than 15 years. I have so many people and events responsible for that gradual transition, most especially my husband, and the experiences we have shared together. I am a better person, a more loving and compassionate person, because I can now understand what the Pro-Lifers from my high school and college years were so passionate about.
I painted the portrait of Eppie from Silas Marner for a grade. I painted the depiction of a lost baby through abortion for a prize. But here they are now, as portraits of my two children that I have had so far, one that made it to beautiful fruition, and the other we remember and for which we grieve. I have come across the same intersection in my life, but from a new path that has wound and doubled back, giving me a glimpse into how I have grown both as an artist, and as a person.
Adding a missing portrait from the last few months. This is our cat, Brigadier Pertwee Summers, measuring 16 x 20 inches, acrylic on canvas, painted in 3 hours at one of my public live portrait demonstrations at Hollywood Feed.
Completed and delivered this week: Pet portrait in acrylic on panel, measuring 11 x 14 inches.
This is a preview of a body of work I have been building for several months. My husband and I recently suffered a miscarriage, and I wrote poetry and began painting works that expressed my frustration and grief. I plan to do something that combines the two in the near future, but have only started brainstorming what I intend to do. I want to share my grief with others who have suffered from miscarriage, because that among other things has helped our family the most, and I want our society to grow past the stigma and taboo attitude we have surrounding the subject miscarriage. Finally, I intend for people to see the hypocrisy in mourning the death of a wanted unborn child, and recognizing his or her humanity, while we as a society still celebrate a person's "right" to purposefully end an unborn child's life. If we mourn for one, we should protect the other. They are the same. For now, since October is Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month, I am sharing a glimpse into my art about miscarriage.
"The Little Ones Along the Fence"
Depicting my husband digging the grave for our miscarried child
"Rainbow Baby No. 1" and "Rainbow Baby No. 2"
The worry and anxiousness of pregnancy following a miscarriage.
A baby born following a miscarriage is called a "rainbow baby."
Painted about a month ago with the other Cosplay Art series, this one was left still needing to be put together with a timelapse. This is my husband dressed as a Starfleet Captain.
UPDATED with Timelapse video of the "Sunset on Sunset Beach" painting. 8/19/16
Acrylic painting on canvas, measuring 18 x 24 inches based on images from our honeymoon in 2011, location: Sunset Beach, on the North Shore area of Oahu.
UPDATED with Timelapse video of the "Boats at Port Magee, Ireland" painting. 8/19/16
Acrylic painting on canvas of Boats at Port Magee, Ireland, 12 x 24 inches.
Acrylic painting of Cow, (also in Ireland). 9 x 12 inch wooden panel/board.
“Probably the purest exposition of what Impressionism is all about, in terms of the painter actually confronting his subject, is contained in Pissarro’s avice to a young painter, Le Bail, written about 1181: ‘Look for the kind of nature that suits your temperament. The motif should be observed more for shape an color than for drawing ... precise drawing is dry and hampers the impressions of the whole, it destroys all sensations.
‘Do not define too closely the outlines; it is the brushstroke of the right value and color which should produce the drawing ... Paint the essential character of things; try to convey it by any means whatever, without bothering about technique. When painting, make a choice of subject, see what is lying at the right and left, then work o everything simultaneously. Don’t work bit by bit, but paint everything at once by placing tones everywhere with brushstrokes of the right color and value, while noticing what is alongside. Use small strokes and try to put down your perceptions immediately. The eye should not be fixed on one point, but should take in everything, while observing the reflections which the colors produce on their surroundings. Work at the same time on sky, water, branches, ground, keeping everything going on an equal basis ad unceasingly rework until you have got it. Cover the canvas at the first go, then work at it until you have nothing more to add.
‘Observe the aerial perspective, from the foreground to the horizon, the reflections of the sky, of foliage. Don’t be afraid of putting on color, refine the work little by little. Don’t proceed according to the rules and principles, but paint what you observe ad feel. Paint generously and unhesitatingly, for it is best not to lose the first impression. Don’t be timid in front of nature; one must be bold, at the risk of being deceived and making mistakes. One must always have only one master-nature; she is the one always to be consulted.’ “
Painting Methods of the Impressionists, Bernard Dunstan, R.A., Watson-Guptill Publications, 1983
I write this reflection to narrow down what school of art I really fit into, what traditionally best describes both how I work and what results from my methods. Turns out, all along, I really have been an Impressionist all this time. I thought I was one, just one that likes to do alittle finer detail than the master Impressionists did. And sure I usually work from photos but occasionally I do work from life, but my approach is the same. I am impatient, and I work fast, and I go in sweeps across the canvas, working in stages that I deem are achieved each time I have added a new layer of paint or detail across the entirety of the art. This doesn't mean I have to make a new solid coat each time, but it does mean I have to give proper, even distribution of attention across the whole piece before I check off that stage as "done." Part of this is due to the type of formal instruction I've received over the years, but part of it comes from me. I've also long been in small-scale rebellion against art theory since high school, when I asserted to my art teachers that Impressionism was a form of Realism because, like a camera, it focuses on the image, as seen by the artist, as it is, unfiltered, and translated to page or canvas, literally "what is seen." How realistic can you be than to want to recreate something exactly as you see it? Of course the debate often went in circles, as teachers profess that traditional Realism by definition is about the details, details even that often don't make it into an Impressionistic work, but again, I refute that to being more about the artist's attention and intentions. If we can't recognize the reality of photographic type painting (I don't claim to be a photo-realist painter, because I simply don't have the patience, but some of my work comes close), then I think we have a problem defining Realism and defining what is really seen.
So long story short: If you're curious and want to be able to label me, and my work, as I did, I am more definitively what I have always been: an artist trying to depict what I see, with as much honesty as I can, and with as much patience as I can muster. The result is my merger of Realism and Impressionism.
Sonia J. Summers
Sonia Jackson Summers