Thanks to guest writer Cameron Hawkey for today’s post.
Today I interview artist Shannon Playford. She’s wearing a white smock/lab coat streaked with paint strokes from reflexively wiping her brushes clean against her shoulder. Printout sheets of tornado pictures and self-portrait references litter the base of the easel, and she is sweeping the canvas with a fat wide brush, smoothing the smoky tornado clouds into a strange pink sky, and blurring her face, which gives the painting a surreal effect. She stops, steps outside, scrutinizes her painting through the storefront window, frowns, and comes back inside. It’s the only way she can get a distant look at her painting, and she does it often. I talk to her while she’s indoors.
About this series of paintings: “I’ve been doing these portraits for about a year. I used to paint on panels, but now I paint on canvas – the texture grabs more, so you can paint over other layers more easily without blending them together. I also paint pretty thin, which helps. There’s only so much oil painting I can do in one session, though, so I’ll take it home for another session, and add the more intense lights and darks.”
Why so many self-portraits? “I usually do self portraits just because I know what pose I want for reference. It doesn’t matter if it looks like me or not in the end. I’m wondering how much longer I’m going to want to paint myself like this, though [laughs]. In general younger faces attract me because I feel they have more of an open-ness, or transparency, to them. Although when I used to ride the bus, all I would draw were the old people.”
On smocks: “Sometimes I just wear a smock to let myself know that I’m working. Back when I didn’t have a studio, I would have to leave my apartment and walk around the block before coming back in to let myself know it was time to work.”
On doing your best: “When I was a kid and competing in a race, I would quit when I realized that I wasn’t going to make first or second place.”
How’s the weather? “The weather is terrible here! So bland. It’s a gray soup.”
On being a traditional painter in a seemingly digital world: “As a friend of mine put it: You cannot hunt your nature. Which is to say painting is what I want to do.”
The last picture below shows Shanon’s painting at the end of the day Saturday. We’ll post an update with a picture of her finished work. UPDATE: The last picture shows Shanon’s finished painting.
Click on thumbnails for larger pictures