|The Beaneater, 1580-1590, oil on canvas|
|Don's Noodles, acrylic, 24"h x 24"w, ©Chris Willey|
When I got accepted into Boston's program, they sent information about how to go about choosing a mentor. Well, of course, there are the obvious standards: can this person paint well? Is this person exhibiting? Is this person a master of his or her media? The paperwork also said that I should find someone whose work I admire. Well, I admire a lot of people and I happen to love a lot of people's work, but I remembered someone who was painting everyday genres and that is something I have never done, and yet, it is something I am very interested in. I remembered Chris Willey. I remembered her figures and portraits and her scenes of people in cafes just chatting. Those are the images that I enjoy the most.
During my residency in Boston, several faculty and students proposed this very idea of everyday genre as it relates to Neurofibromatosis. Instead of doing just merely head shots of people with NF and making the disorder the dominant theme, why not paint people with NF, just simply .....being people? Rather than isolating them from their environments, placing them in very comfortable surroundings gives the paintings a sense of time and place. Showing people with NF doing everyday things integrated in society shows the viewer that these are just everyday people, not people to be gawked at or discriminated against. By painting everyday scenes, the focus is removed from the disorder and the viewer of the painting simply sees a person...who happens to have NF.
So, this is what I am going to try next. I have painted Reggie Bibb's portrait numerous times, but this will be the first time I incorporate a painting of him doing what he loves to do: drink coffee!
Here are three different compositions: little dainty coffee cup, sipping coffee, in the midst of a gesture while talking to a friend.
My next idea is to have a scene of us, the viewer, just watching Reggie as he looks out of a window. Whenever I go on a trip, I always go to those viewing areas, whether it's the Hancock tower in Chicago, or the Space Needle in Seattle or the London Eye. Anytime I'm up there at one of those lookouts, I tend to watch other people looking at the panoramic horizons. Maybe it's my curiosity to see if they will ooh and ahh or if they will just glance and then leave, but I always think it makes for good people watching and it's also a good time to just contemplate without being disturbed. Here's an idea of Reggie just looking out the window over the Thames in London. I think if I do this one, I will have to get my friend to pose and London may turn into Kansas City or a very vague cityscape.