Community Arts Center Exhibition and Collaborative Fellowship 2018

Two years ago I set out to paint realistically. I knew I had to create many, many paintings to build my skill, so I decided to choose a subject that was meaningful to me. So I chose my family.


Tree portrait is the third portrait I painted but it was the first I thought had accurate proportions and believable facial coloration representing both the five o’clock shadow and cheek skin-tone.

Within the fellowship exhibit titled Imaginarium, my aim of many of the portraits was to focus on accuracy of line, proportion and colors. In the process I started to experiment with introducing emotions in the sitter [blog discussing my choice to favor one emotion over another], such as Mom (8x10 inch), my toddler son in Cautious Curiosity (10x8 inch), Michelle Love (16x12 inch) and most of the charcoal portrait drawings, such as My Love (18x12 inch), Grandmom in Kitchen With Flowers (24x20 inch) and Mom (8x10 inch).

I needed more photos, especially photos to use as reference. I went to my parents house to look through the physical family albums. I started taking pictures with my phone of the photos that I thought were interesting. World’s Dad (10x10 inch) is one example. The dotted design on the side edge of the album page is in the painting as is the light reflecting off the plastic. I liked how this reflection created a distance between the person in the portrait and the viewer.

Cabbage Patch Smile (20x16 inch) has the same feel. It is a painting of my brother one Christmas morning. The reflection of the light off the plastic left me with a dream-like impression. That works because I don’t remember that specific Christmas morning but it still seems to bring back memories.

Some of the other portraits in this exhibit are less about the person and more about an idea, such as Bam Bib Baby (10x10 inch). This is a portrait of my niece but I added a message on her bib which is a reflection on the current administration’s aim to bring coal production back in the US.

In addition, I am. I am. An Artifact of Prior Races (14x11 inch) is the title of a painting with two photographs of my family. The black and white photograph is of my great grandmother and her children and the other is of my son as a baby lying on a blanket. The title is a reference to a passage in Cormac McCarthy’s novel Suttree I was reading towards the end of painting this series. The passage, which ends with this phrase, reminded me a lot of what I am doing in painting this family album.

I am. I am. An Artifact of Prior Races painting on the left.

High Seas Navigator (24x36 inch) also tells a story. The painting includes my son dressed up as a ship captain holding a Fisher Price telescope in one hand and world map in the other. He’s standing in front of a window with a coastal scene on one side and a wall with a drawing he actually created of Battleship NJ above a house. This painting acknowledges my fear of being a parent in an age of sea level rise.

The last portrait drawing in this series was created from a grainy black and white photograph of my grandmother holding my mom in front of their Westville house in the 1950s. I kept the simple value structure for the composition but switched the faces to mine and my son Eli as a baby. I did feel a bit like a 50s wife while my son was young. I did all the housework, cooking, babycare. It was the absolute best and most challenging experience of my life.

Self-Portrait with Eli (via 50s photograph of grandmom and mom)

The last portrait that I painted for the Imaginarium exhibit was Dadda Sleepin (12x16 inch), which shows my husband in the first years of fatherhood and law school. It is painted in oil instead of acrylic. Acrylic paint is fantastic, but this upcoming year I’ll be working more in oil paint. I’ll also work less from photographic reference and more from life.


The second part of the Fellowship is a collaborative project which I ran with the Spree campers. It’s based on the idea that people in portrait paintings are in a space or an environment, and the objects included in that space helps to tell a story. Spree campers, pre-k through 6th grade worked together to create a diorama of the CAC. They set the scene, created the characters, in the form of self-portrait mobiles, and included objects that help to tell a story about their experience and feelings of the Community Arts Center.

Each class, seven in total, were introduced to the the project by meeting in the Duke Gallery to discuss the exhibit of my portrait paintings. We silently walked around as a group to view the exhibit. Each camper was asked to stand in front of the painting they wanted to talk about and whichever painting had the most campers in front of it, I used Visual Thinking Strategies to help the campers tell the story.

Just as the portraits in the exhibit tell a story, each Spree camper added to the diorama to tell their story of the Community Arts Center. Campers were introduced to a variety of open-ended materials that created the space and objects of the CAC. The result is a testament to the camper’s active involvement in the many treasures in the gallery and garden to which the campers feel a connection.

I’m very grateful to have been selected for this fellowship. Thank you to Paul Downie and Tracy Buchanan and everyone at CAC for offering this interesting fellowship and for selecting me. I want to thank my wonderful husband and critique-helper son who have supported me through the process.

Imaginarium and “You and Me at the CAC” diorama will be on view in the Duke Gallery at the Community Arts Center until Friday, July 20, 2018. Gallery hours are 9am-7:30pm Monday through Friday and 10am to 2pm Saturday. 414 Plush Mill Road Wallingford, PA 19086.

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