Amanda Read: Self-Taught Artist, Film-Maker, Writer

Amanda Read: Self-Taught Artist, Film-Maker, Writer

Amanda Read is a self-taught artist who developed her skills primarily through nature journaling. Now a freelance columnist and screenwriter, she is trying to re-hone her mastery of translating what she observes into words and images on paper, hence why she sometimes writes and draws with the same pen. The practice of nature sketching reveals how one can make a variety of accurate depictions of something true that might not seem that way at first, simply because of the angle at which the observation is made. One can also immediately see where one failed to notice something right in front of one’s eyes and then correct it. It was the skill of artists that preserved for us the faces and feelings of our Founders. Visual art is not something to take for granted!

The following is a fun little essay I wrote in college at Troy University (where I majored in History, minored in Political Science) for the first painting I’ve attached (“The Model Maid”):

I chose to do a hands-on project because I wanted a motive to get my paints out again, and I chose the pop art option because I wanted the piece to have a creative, vintage flair that could be used as decoration in my family’s guest house. Months ago my younger sister Rachel photo shopped a picture of herself holding a cup of coffee in our kitchen. She changed the color photo to a black/white/sepia rendition and inserted text that said “Good Morning. Welcome to the Read house. How may I help you?” (in fact, I’ve never seen the original). It looked like something that would make a splendid note card or greeting sign.

Acrylic was my medium of choice because I have an ample supply of it; it is fast drying and versatile. With a small copy of the photograph as my guide, I painted the portrait on a 16” x 20” stretched canvas. At the end I was only able to fit the word “WELCOME” across the top, which I stenciled in raw umber acrylic paint.

Instead of using bright colors, I chose neutral tones (I wonder if I should have made the background darker). Raw umber and buff titanium were the base colors – I occasionally mixed other tints into those colors in order to expand the shades. The goal was to get a sepia sort of look with the only spots of color being the crimson lips and the crimson hearts on the coffee cup (the actual cup has multicolored hearts, but I chose a single color for emphasis). Rachel wasn’t holding a coffee pot in the photo, but I placed one in her left hand (the hand that was originally resting on her hip) to complete the illusion of her being a maid at your beck and call.

I call this painting “The Model Maid”, which has a sort of irony about it. The svelte, lily-white goldilocked girl wearing a sundress in the painting isn’t really a bed-and-breakfast maid; she’s a dancer and musician posing as one. She might be offering to pour you a cup of coffee, but she could easily choose to fix it for herself instead. Her jutted jaw, wry mouth and ridiculously large eyes form an unimpressed, almost patronizing expression. She’s never taken by surprise, and she never lets people get in her way. (Symbolism can get even more fun if you let your imagination run with it.)

I pierce a man with my words; she pierces him with her eyes, and he never knows he’s been hit. She is the Rachel; I am the Leah. We share the credit while I do twice the work. If women are given a choice between the sisters, they probably still want to be the desirable Rachel rather than the fruitful Leah. People flatter artists and say they “wish they could paint” too. Nonsense – few want to be the painter. Everyone wants to be the painted. It’s more fun to be the model of the maid than to be the maid herself.

I haven’t seriously looked up to pop artists as role models in the art world before, although I do like what one of the essential aspects of pop art is: Finding artistic value in that which is common place. One artist that does interest me on the outskirts of this realm is Drew Struzan, known for painting the movie posters of Star Wars, among many other films. I love how he captures the essence of imaginary stories in very realistic paintings – and in some cases he did not even know the script. Describing how he got selected for the Star Wars job, Struzan said, “In an interview I had with George [Lucas] he had said that he uses illustration for real specific reasons. Not the least of which is that he knows it touches the heart and imagination so much more readily than photography.” I find it fascinating that even George Lucas, who was at the forefront of revolutionizing the quality of the film medium of art, recognized classic visual art as being an especially compelling medium.

 

TheModelMaid

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amanda Read
www.amandaread.com

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