Women Who Painted Project
I had wanted a phone with a stylus for some time so I could explore digital painting. Needing an upgrade, I purchased one in late 2016. It has been exciting to have the ability to draw on the screen. The immediacy it offers is appealing. Although the screen is small (4" x 2 ¾") I can make a finished drawing or try out ideas for future paintings. I was becoming absorbed in the process and set myself the task of drawing one female painter each month, and more if time allowed. The artists were going to be painted in order of birth month, so as to give structure to the series. I started with Berthe Morisot, then Alice Neel, and began researching more deceased artists to paint. I began learning about painters I had never heard of and soon had compiled a list of portraits to paint in 2017 and beyond. I thought of these small works (initially titled Birthday Series) as thumbnail sketches to work out ideas and become familiar with a face that would eventually be painted on canvas.
As this series has grown in number, it has taken on a life of its own and become more a focus to my current practice. I have renamed my project Women Who Painted (WWP) and created the https://womenwhopainted.com website. It features all of the smartphone drawings with links to each artist's Wikipedia page, as well as the oil paintings that have been completed.
Having painted for years, I have had the time and distance to reflect on my role as a painter in a larger framework and my appreciation for historical women painters has deepened. I feel a connection to them simply by having chosen the same profession, with all of its inherent struggles and rewards. Paying homage to the women who paved the way is a way of honoring and increasing awareness of who they are and their artwork. They were passionate for their craft but often their efforts were minimized or unrecognized. The National Museum of Women in the Arts has some facts pertaining to the representation of women in the arts, but to me, one of the most astonishing is that out of 318 artists represented in H.W. Jansen's Basic History of Western Art, only 27 women are mentioned in the 9th edition. This exhibition would perhaps be a way of rewriting history and underscoring these deserving artists’ contributions to the art world. It is my intention to exhibit this ongoing body of work one day. It would be ideal to expand the series and include women from all disciplines in the visual arts.