Three Portrait Artists

Every Picture Tells a Story

Janet Enfield

Wisdom of the Ages, Janet Enfield

There is a lot more to a Janet Enfield portrait than a face represented in two dimensions. Through her series, Wisdom of the Ages, Enfield is painting to express a legacy.

No one under age 80 is included in the series, which will show at the Prairie Gallery in April. The Wembley artist started with portraits of her grandmother and grandmother’s sisters and since has expanded it to include a total of thirty portraits.

In order to create a context for the paintings, which include the person and some images and colours that relate to their life story, Enfield visited her subjects, photographed them and asked them to fill out a questionnaire.

“I wanted to find out their favourite colour, favourite fruit, favourite animal,” she says. “Even a saying they always say.” She also asked them what they miss about the past and what they like about now and tried to put those feelings into her 24”x36” portraits.

Enfield admits that painting some portraits felt like a fight. “But when I’d be painting along and get lost, sometimes I’d look up and I could feel the person looking back at me,” she says, “that’s what really hooked me.”

Edward Bader

Mediate/Meditate, Edward Bader

“I finally found a way to integrate drawing and love of colour,” says Grande Prairie artist Ed Bader of his recent series Mediate/Meditate.

Based mainly on subjects Bader sketched on the bus or in public spaces, Mediate/Meditate shows us people going about their daily business while using cell phones, ipods or games.

“I looked at their whole body language,” Bader explains. “They are communicating but oblivious to their surroundings.”

Bader’s goal was to use a flat ground with patches of high key colour and add the linear elements last. “This is very much the reverse of most painting, “ he says. “As the consequence of thirty years of ink on paper, it was do or die by the drawing.”

The greatest challenge of painting the series, which Bader spent a year or so creating, was to be accurate in terms of proportion and gesture. The ultimate reward was his sense that the colour and harmony worked.

Mediate/Meditate, which was on display during November and December, 2009 in the Courtyard Gallery at QE II Hospital, Grande Prairie, consists of 4×5 foot acrylic canvasses and some small works, including watercolours built into multi-subject collages.

Darcy Jackson

Copperlily, Darcy Jackson

Usually, Darcy Jackson has a lot of information about the subjects of her portraits, but her Copperlily series, which she has returned to again and again over the last 15 years, is based solely on visual impressions of a person she’s never met.

“For a commission I talk to the person and find out their loves and passions,” she explains, “I want to know their philosophy of life and then show them their story illustrated.”

Jackson, who now lives in Tumbler Ridge and is self-taught, began by painting portraits of young children. “At that time I lived on the West coast among families from different nationalities and I began to enhance the portraits with animals and imaginative images,” she says.

The chance gift of a photo collection depicting Yukon natives connected Jackson to one subject in a very unexpected way. Over the years of painting Copperlily, Jackson began to notice that she was filling in the woman’s story without intending to.

“I noticed that in my first painting the eyes have such pain. Seven years later there’s wisdom and acceptance,” Jackson says. “The third has such a sense of peace. Surely this is just a reflection of my own journey.”

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