When I started my Senior Portfolio for painting my senior year I was all, “I’m going to paint emotions and there are going to be these vague figures in them that people can identify with.”
That’s actually not true. I started with these weird drawings of these flower type things that had orbs of light instead of petals. I really liked them a lot but my teacher thought they were just a warm up for what was to come. So I had to scrap what I thought was part of my portfolio. I was sad about it, but I got over it I guess.
I started doing more brainstorming and then one day I made this really weird drawing of these shadowy figures. There was one that was different than the rest and I made up this story in my head that the rest of them were trying to get the different one to conform to their ways but he refused.
And then after that I made my first figure painting (shown above as the featured image).
I titled it How Does It Feel? because I wanted to stick with my overall theme of emotions, and because I really get an odd sense from it. It just feels ominous.
My figures evolved a lot over the semester. They went from close ups with bare backgrounds like these to zoomed out body shots of dancing figures in wild environments. All of my first figure paintings had two figures in them, one based on a male and one a female. They had different interacting positions.
I started to create a story in my head about the two figures. They started having problems (as noticed but not explained in How Does It Feel?) that just continued to get worse until the female couldn’t handle it anymore so she left him. She was super upset and had lots of her own issues but then she came to terms with it all and she was super happy and carefree. Then the male tried to get her back and at first she was mad at him, but then she realized he was worth working things out.
I never wrote any of that down, but I guess the writer in me came out with this set of paintings. I expressed the happiness and self-acceptance in dancing figures. I’m no good at dancing, but dancers always seem so free to me. Thus I used their poses to express freedom in my paintings.
This was my first dancer. I had a completely different vision in my sketchbook, but somehow this felt right when it came down to it. She’s kind of pointy and disproportionate, but I like her. I titled it No Longer Afraid based off one of my favorite quotes from a book called The Book of Everything by Guus Kuijer. To me, she just fully expresses someone who has no fear because she has accepted herself and her life, even if she can’t control them.
This was my second dancer. My teacher had given me the idea to include my figures in less typical settings, so this is what I came up with. I titled it Blending In because although she is separate from her environment, she is involved in it and at some points begins to get lost in it, much like we all do with the things in our lives. This is one of my favorite paintings ever, and still is. I sold it (and No Longer Afraid) to a teacher at my school who like them because she used to be a dancer. I’m happy I made the sale and validated my choices, but sometimes I still miss this painting.
Although the figures change colors throughout my paintings, in my mind they were always the same two figures, working out their problems and figuring out their lives. Sometimes I pretended they were my boyfriend and I, other times not. A lot of the time it was just really good for me to get the figures and ideas out of my head and into something constructive.
They may be simple shapes and lines, but these figures communicate a lot about life, and I hope other people can see that as well.