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The Long Look Back

January 14, 2013
The Long Look Back, Gouache, 8x10

The Long Look Back, Gouache, 8×10

hair-hanging-down-detail-at-200Before I started painting, I spent many, many years doing pencil and pen & ink work.  For a number of those years, my focus was on Native American and western subjects.  We showed up at pioneer reenactments and Indian powwows with camera in hand.   Visiting with the participants and getting photographs of them was always a treat.  I carried a little photo album with images of my work, which opened the door for the photo opportunities.

I also discovered Edward S. Curtis’ photographs, entire volumes of which are available at the Library of Congress.  These photos are in the public domain, and I’ve returned to the website to explore the possibilities.

“The Long Look Back” was done from a Curtis photograph.  While I’m trying to capture likenesses, I’m also trying to make good paintings, so there’s a bit of artist license involved.  And the fact that all the photos are sepia tones means there is a lot of exploration of skin tones and other color, based on intuition and guesswork.  With my current focus on portraits (and possibly figures eventually), these old wrinkled dignified faces are perfect for me.

It may not be the most “modern” subject matter, but at this point in my life, that’s not a major concern.  I’m about to hit my 69th birthday, and what’s most important now is that I’m doing work I love.

Artistically, I seem to be coming full circle, returning to the dignified faces that I once took such great pleasure in portraying.  I’m just learning to do it with paint these days.

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