Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Chocolate and Ginger Ale

Celebrating a commission

I've just finished a project, a commission, that's taken me longer than I'd expected and has turned out better than I could have imagined. I'd love to post an image of it here but won't be able to do so until it's delivered, which will be a while. For now I'll just need to be content to celebrate with a few pieces of dark chocolate and ginger ale since it's a little too early for a glass of wine!

Working on commission is a different bird from working on my own. The times I've been so honored to perform such a task I've had to work from a photo that was taken by someone else. This presents a few problems. 

First, not being behind the lens removes me from the emotion of the moment. I must rely on others to explain to me their connection to the event if it's not immediately evident. In the case of the image that inspired the painting below, I was fortunate to know one of the subjects. It made it easier to grasp the melancholy that the patron was hoping I'd capture.

Ruth Mary & Callum  © 2014 Lissa Banks
 Second, sometimes the image is of a lower resolution or is a scan from an old snapshot. Lots of data gets lost in smaller images. To achieve the kind of realism that is often a part of my work small details can be lost or the speckles and "noise" can interfere with understanding object boundaries.

And finally, not all images are optimum. A good composition isn't just about where objects are, it's also about color, contrast, line and balance, for a start. A lack of contrast, for example, makes it difficult to represent depth and keep the painting from being too flat or boring. My most recent endeavor presented that challenge. You'll have to trust me for now that I believe I solved the problem.

Fishing © 2014 Lissa Banks
And sometimes I have the good fortune to be presented with an extraordinary image with beautiful light, color, contrast, composition and clarity, like the inspiration of the painting above, and all is well.

Possibly the hardest thing to do, however, is to try and imagine myself as the commissioner who has in their own head a vision of what they want to see. When I'm able to tap into that place and also work true to my own style the stars align and we have a success. I say "we" because it really is a collaboration. After all, the painting would never have come to light without the patron's desire.

  For more about my work follow me on Facebook or visit my website Lissa Banks Paintings.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Thoughts on Painting

...or the lack thereof.

Since this little tack I've taken in my life has been largely motivated by a desire to follow my bliss and paint, it seemed logical to me to also turn this blog around into something that focused more about my work.  It's morphed before and it can again.

Problem is, I'm not terribly adept at talking about my work. I'm great at talking about paintings, just not mine so much. So I'll just rip off the bandaid and tell the tale of my most recent work, Panhandle TX. Maybe I'll get better at this as I go along.

If you were along for the ride when I blogged about our cross country drive you might remember my July 31, 2013 post that featured the inspiration for this painting along with the only mention of the great state of Texas, with apologies to all Texans. We'd only crossed over a very tiny bit of the panhandle, after leaving spectacular New Mexico, and we found the place desolate and dusty. Believe me when I say that my painting is a verdant Eden compared to the drought stricken landscape we encountered.

But as is often the case, when I really dive into an inspiration image, I find so much more there than "meets the eye" to make a shameless pun. In my little iPhone snapshot I found life clinging tenaciously to the roadside, turned earth teeming with dried seed heads just waiting for rain to give them life, and a battered highway exit sign seemingly pointing the way the last truck took across an arid field. What at first glance seemed so bleak, became rich in meaning.

It is also worth saying that after witnessing the devastation of Texas, entering Oklahoma truly felt like entering the land of Oz. Like an instantaneous miracle, gray yielded to green and all seemed right with the world. So much so that I celebrated the experience with another painting earlier this year, Oklahoma.

You can see these and all of my paintings on my website: or on my Facebook page