Monday, February 27, 2017

A Collaborative Portrait Project and Interview with Artist Dana Payne Saunders

Last Friday I visited "Grabados de Rembrandt" exhibition at Casa de Colon in Las Palmas City. It was absolutely marvelous! There were 16 pieces of engravings of Rembrandt which belong to the museum collection. Since I knew they were very tiny pieces, I brought my magnifier to see in more detail (see pic below). If you would like to see some master pieces of artworks, I`d say don't miss this one. The exhibition can be seen til the 5th of March. (Mon-Fri 10:00-21:00, Saturday 10:00-18:00, Sunday and Holidays 10:00-15:00)

Enjoying the details

Adam and Eve by Rembrandt, 1638, etching on paper

About a month ago on a social network group related to oil pastels, I posted a picture of my oil pastel materials asking to learn more about what other brands were popular. This was a good chance to meet with other oil pastel artists and learn new things from their experiences. During the conversations, I met an LA-based artist, Dana Payne Saunders (see pic below). Her oil pastel artworks are beautifully created with black contours and bright colors which reminded me style of “Die Brücke” (The Bridge), a group of German expressionist artists. Well, after seeing each other's works, we found out that we have a lot in common. It was quite spontaneous. Later I offered her if she would like to collaborate with me for an oil pastel project, which was the idea of painting each other's portraits. I have a great time working on her portrait artwork and also it was a pleasure to meet with a wonderful and talented artist. Let me introduce her to you with this charming interview.

Dana Payne Saunders at her studio

Birsen Ozbilge: Welcome Dana, thank you very much for taking the time for the interview. Tell us about yourself, how long have you been painting for?

Dana Payne Saunders: Hi Birsen. Thanks for talking to me and especially for our recent collaboration.  I’ve been painting since around 2010.  I doodled and enjoyed art when I was young, but it wasn’t until after my son left for college that I felt I had the time to explore art on a more intimate and personal basis.

BO: I know you work with oil pastels, do you use other mediums as well?

DPS: I started out with acrylic paint and it remains my current medium of choice because it’s so easy to paint something and then immediately put it on a wall to enjoy. I really love using oil pastels as well because of the vibrant colours, which I think speaks to my style of work. I also use pastel pencils. 

BO: What is your daily ritual for painting? Do you listen to music or radio while you work?

DPS: My daily ritual for painting revolves around another full-time job I have.  I’m fortunate to work in the vibrant downtown Los Angeles area and I spend my lunch hours with my sketchbook and camera at museums and outdoor areas. When I get home I usually spend a couple of hours in the evening executing the ideas I have drawn or photographed during the day.

Sometimes I listen to music while I create. I go through phases. I like to listen to 60’s and 70’s rock. I often sing along and dance while I paint.

BO: Do you share your artwork in social networks? Any awkward comments on your posts? For instance, I got the other day; Why Adam and Eve have belly buttons?”.

DPS: I share my artwork on my website, FaceBook and Instagram. FaceBook and Instagram are immensely inspirational as I have met so many artists from around the world, such as yourself.

I have found that if I paint flowers and puppies people love my work and endlessly comment with hearts. But it took me these years to learn how to stop seeing representationally and to create from my own inner vision. Many people don’t know how to respond to these works of art. One day, when I was feeling that my art didn’t compare to “real artists” works I painted an arm with a razor blade cutting the words “My Art Sucks” into the bloody arm (see here). That piece was censored and I was ultimately banned from a group because people said I was an artist who “promoted” cutting and that I was urging sensitive people to kill themselves. I heard so many hateful things from people who misunderstood my visual message of pain. But I also heard from many more people who understood the message and loved the work.

BO: I love the work you’ve done with my portrait painting (see pic below). It’s a memorable piece with your lovely way of expressing your work, thanks again. What was the most challenging part of the process?

DPS: I absolutely LOVE to paint portraits and many of my fans identify my work as portrait art.  I often hear “I knew it was your work before I saw the name” because of the colour. I dove right into painting your portrait because your photo spoke to me. Your image called me to paint. So, in that respect it wasn’t challenging at all, it was natural for me to paint you. Many people ask me to paint their portrait but unless the photo calls me, I just can’t physically do it.

"Portrait of the artist Birsen" by Dana Payne Saunders
16" x 20", oil pastel on paper

BO: If I was asking you to instead of painting our portraits, to paint someone famous, who would it be? 

DPS: I become fascinated with faces. My current obsession is with Serge Gainsbourg’s face. I recently wandered by his home in the 7th arr. in Paris where he lived when he died. And because I love colour and graffiti and street art, I instantly took to looking up images of him on the internet and painting him (see here). I love to paint other artists and writers and musicians. I love my painting of Edgar Allen Poe (see pic below).

"Portrait of Poe" by Dana Payne Saunders
16" x 20", Acrylic on canvas

BO: Tell us about your upcoming projects, do you have any exhibitions or collaborations with other artists?

DPS: I’m currently working on multiple pieces of what I like to refer to as my Neo-Cobra collection, and I hope to get the collection shown in a local gallery in Los Angeles. I’ve also been photographing ghosts I see in the cement walls of the metro station and have started translating those images into paint.

BO: And the last question... What advice would you give to a late bloomer artist that is just starting out? 

DPS: Is there such a thing as a late bloomer artist? I would say it’s never too late to start a new chapter in your life. Our books are made up of many different chapters. If you start creating later in life, then let it take you where you want to be instead of trying to force it to take you to success or fame or fortune.  Because the journey is always more satisfying than the end.

BO: Thanks a lot again, it was so lovely talking to you, I give my best wishes on your art journey. Have a great day!

DPS: Thank YOU Birsen! It was a joy collaborating with you and getting to know you through this process.
**To see more artworks from Artist Dana Payne Saunder visit her website here.

work in progress

Last week I was working on Dana's portrait (see pic above). She sent me several reference pictures to use. I didn't choose just one but combined them together with a landscape view to the background of the famous Hollywood sign, because she is an LA-based artist. I decided to use a heavy-weight acid-free craft paper. After sketching the basic features of the composition, I started to paint with oil pastels (Sakura Cray Pass Expressionist 50 color set). First I laid the cloud, the sky colors and later on the face and the hair colors. I worked on the details in several sessions. This way my eye didn't get fooled and I was able to catch the details easily. Dana has a beautiful and very sincere looking face, her blue eyes are full of light with sparkles. It was not easy to reflect that expression, but when the painting started to take form, I think I achieved my goal and at the end I was very happy that she liked her portrait (see pic below). Enjoy it!

"Portrait of Artist Dana Payne" by Birsen Ozbilge
8" x 11", oil pastel on heavy-weight acid-free craft paper

* Click on the images to see them larger.

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