There’s something about painting the human face. It’s what we show the world, but it’s also where we try to hide our deepest emotions. It’s this inherent contradiction, the real and the pretend, the opened and the closed simultaneously, which makes figurative painting so compelling, and a subject that artists tackle in deeply personal styles.
Two contemporary Archival Oil artists, Judith Peck and David Padworny, paint these inner contradictions in a psychologically compelling way. While they do paint other subjects, they always return to the face. When asked why, Peck replied simply, “I feel I can say more when I paint the figure.” Padworny’s response was similar, “As I look back over my work, the pieces that really convey emotion for me and feel like accurate representations of what I was trying to convey, are the portraits.”
When viewing the work, the truth of these statements is apparent. Peck places her subject in a pictorially ambiguous space, as in Night
, making the lone figure the focus of the work. With texture, an old master’s palette, a painterly hand and hauntingly, evocative style, one can sense a narrative, but it is unclear. Likewise, Padworny’s figurative pieces imply narrative, with his expressionist, impasto style and color palette. The psychological intensity of his subject is immediate. As an example, the vitality in Untitled, m674
threatens to explode off the surface.
Peck likes to begin with a model, but will photograph him/her or create a composite. With countless hours at the easel, it’s more cost effective for her to work from these photos and bring the model in again when she has a more solid idea worked out. She doesn’t do preliminary sketches, finding they lose some of the power when transposed, but prefers to “jump right into the painting” and alter it as she goes along.
Padworny will use models for quick sketches, but thinks of these as meditations on the larger work. He’d rather paint from blurred or distorted photos to recall the composition and the mood. He also doesn’t do large preliminary work beforehand. “I want to keep that initial inspiration fresh,” he says, “so that when I step up to the easel I am able to maintain the creativity and energy.”
Both artists paint on canvas, typically toned and textured. Peck mixes on the palette, and utilizes some glazing. Colors echo artist Odd Nerdrum’s palette, with Mars Black, Mars Yellow, Titanium White and Chinese Vermilion, along with some blues and earth tones. Archival colors include Blue Black, French Ultramarine Blue and the occasional Naples Yellow Reddish. Peck declares, “I don’t think I could do without Chroma Incredible Brush Cleaner!”
Padworny uses 3 yellows, 3 reds, 3 blues, 2 greens, 2 browns and maybe 1 or 2 neutral colors and a black and white, premixed in industrial caulk tubes. He’ll let the colors merge on the canvas, letting the thick impasto paint make its own way. He’s been using Archival Oils and mediums since high school, and his favorite mediums are Smooth Gel, Fat Medium and Classic Medium.
When asked what tips they would give to someone starting out painting people, their answers compliment one another. Padworny encourages artists “to just roll with it…. don't force a particular outcome, and just allow yourself to be as you are. Things might look crazy and odd, but you might come up with something unique that people identify with. You never really know.” Peck quotes Nerdrum, “First I win the effect. Then I win the likeness, but lose the effect. After a long time I win something I can’t define. I think that is a worthy goal for myself and any artist.”
Peck’s paintings are currently on display at Gallery 65 in McLean, VA. She is preparing for an October Washington, DC, art fair called (e)merge,
represented by Alida Anderson Art Projects, and a November invitational show, called Interpretive, The Portrait Today
at Galeria Obra in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. In December, her work will be at Aqua in Miami during Art Basel, represented by Mayer Fine Art. Her website is www.judithpeck.net.
Padworny has been actively showing in the Baltimore, MD region and is preparing for a gallery show in 2014. He is also organizing a group show at a new creative space in Baltimore. His website is www.padworny.com. He can also be found at www.facebook.com/PADW0RNY or if interested in purchasing a work, please contact David directly at David@Padworny.com.