The majority of my drawings and paintings have always been portraits. I don’t think there’s anything as interesting as a face looking back at you. Coming back to college from almost two years of COVID lockdown, I felt very isolated, so I painted fifteen portraits of Spock from Star Trek. They were almost self portraits, expressing things I was feeling through a veil of fiction. As I’ve gained confidence, I’ve been more comfortable making paintings of little scenes I see around campus, my boyfriend, and my friends.
Most of the time I paint in oils. I like that they stay fluid for longer, so you have time to move the paint around and mix colors on the canvas. I start with a large flat brush and try to work quickly. The less I fuss and nitpick, the better it ends up looking. I have been told I have an easy hand.
I use photos for reference, usually snapshots I took on my phone. A lot of the time these represent important memories but they aren’t very good photos on their own. If you’ve ever tried to take a picture of the moon then you know what I mean. Enormous important things can feel flattened in a snapshot. When I paint from a photo, I’m looking to bring back whatever I felt in that moment that the photo itself couldn’t quite hold. And I have complete power over the edit. If I want to paint a street with all the red brake lights shining on wet asphalt but omit the cars, I can do that.
When I get the chance, I love painting portraits from life. It makes my work into a social experience, which is very different. I invite friends and acquaintances to sit for me for about two hours and I get it all done in a rush. They pick the music and we talk the whole time, about everything, and I do the mouth last so we can keep talking. I keep going back to it because it feels great to make people happy. Most people have never been painted like that. I love being able to show people how beautiful they are to me.
I’ve also recently been interested in sculpture as a way to express more abstract ideas; there’s something about working clay with my hands that makes it easy to get at concepts like reserved strength or protection in a way that isn’t so illustrative.
When someone says to me that they relate to my art, it makes me happier than anything. As quaint as it may sound, I make art because I want to be understood by other people. What I want most of all is for someone to say: “I have lived in that moment, I have felt that way, but I didn’t know anyone else did until I saw what you made.” Ultimately I think that art is a way we can make each other feel less alone.