Lifework

The Artist’s Magazine: What was your inspiration for this painting?

Elaine Schechter: This particular painting was inspired by Tyrone himself. I’ve done quite a few pictures of him in the past and always find his features and gesture intriguing. His coloring suggests sienna combinations that never cease to be interesting and evocative.

TAM: Were there any surprises or difficulties along the way as you painted this work?


Tyrone (oil, 40×25)

ES: I had to make sure that the light patterns of the jacket were accurate enough in shape and value to describe the leather convincingly. My favorite part was trying to bring as much of Tyrone to the canvas as he had to offer.

TAM: Describe your process.

ES: My process is a distillation of traditional and academic painting methods; sometimes I work directly and more rapidly straight on the canvas. Most often, however?and especially for a portrait?I make a careful drawing before starting, noting the shapes, planes and values. At this point I also try to get some general idea of the color. The rest is a day-to-day layering process, which begins with a charcoal sketch on a toned canvas, and a simple underpainting of umber and raw sienna showing shadow and light. I try to keep the shadow shapes transparent as I begin to interpret the planes of the light. I like the edges to be soft for a while as I work from larger to smaller shapes.

Next, I add a variety of middle to darker values in the light masses to enhance the light and shadow effect. As the painting progresses, I blend edges when necessary and try to discern where they should stay soft or hard. I work from life most often and use a palette of earth colors: Naples yellow, cadmium orange, alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue, cobalt blue and viridian. I love color and try to use more as the subject changes.

TAM: What media do you work in?

ES: I prefer oil because it’s versatile and has a great range of expressive possibility. I’d like to use more pastel and watercolor in the future, possibly for projects that might be executed at a slightly more accelerated pace.

TAM: How did you get involved in art?

ES: Art for me evolved from child’s play. When I was six or seven, my father challenged me to copy the pictures in my coloring books. He was approving of the results and my artistic endeavors began. In high school, my best friend volunteered my services as an art editor of the yearbook and school newspaper cartoonist. I attended Queens College and received a bachelor’s degree in art education and later complimented that with a master’s degree in fine art.

After graduating I soaked up as much practical experience as possible from the Art Students League. I was privileged to witness the teaching of such greats as Daniel E. Greene, David Leffel, Robert Beverly Hale, Harvey Dinnerstein and others.

TAM: Any unusual anecdotes relating to your art in general?

ES:I have an image of the legendary Robert Beverly Hale standing next to a skeleton describing it. By this time he was quite old and resembled a gaunt, ghostlike apparition. As he lectured on this anatomical object, his long, bony index finger appeared to curl around the skull like some circuitous route on a revolving globe. For a few more years, he provided students with great anatomical drawings that began as naked bone and gradually evolved into the full regalia of human musculature.

TAM: Why do you create art?

ES: It’s a wonder to give life to a dead canvas. It’s a wonder to make something grow.

After studying at the American Academy of Art in Chicago, Kevin Beilfuss worked as an illustrator for 12 years before turning his full attention to fine art. He lives outside Chicago. His award-winning work is represented by Meyer Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Santa Fe, New Mexico; and Horizon Fine Art in Jackson, Wyoming.

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