Portraits immortalize community figures, challenge artists
First impressions are sometimes inaccurate, as Mary Ellen Andrews learned.
The artist of nearly 30 years recently completed a portrait of Palisade’s Melinda Eastham for the show “Art for Change: Traditional and non-Traditional Portraits of Locals Who Make a Difference” on display at The Blue Pig Gallery in Palisade.
Andrews planned to paint a “funky acrylic.” She was convinced that to have the entrepreneurial spirit to open Mumzel’s Crumpets, Cups and Cones, and Arts & Antiques in Palisade, Eastham must be spunky and edgy.
“My intention was to do a real funky piece,” Andrews said. “But after I spoke with her and got to know her, I didn’t want to. A portrait has to emit what the person is like, and she wasn’t funky.”
Andrews saw that Eastham’s essence rested in her gentle spirit and compassion for other people.
Andrews ended up painting a softer watercolor portrait. She rarely uses watercolor paints.
However, “her presence told me watercolor,” said Andrews, who learned that Eastham used to work with special needs children, loves to sew and raised two children as a single mother.
Eastham has seen the portrait at The Blue Pig and is pleased with how Andrews accentuated her gazing eyes and long hair in an almost angelic pose.
“It was absolutely incredible,” Andrews said, thinking back to the day she spent with Eastham near the large windows above the antique shop in an effort to catch perfect light. “The way the light shown on her face ... I was astounded by this woman. I’m honored to know her.”
The impetus for “Art for Change” was to challenge professional artists while capturing the portraits of 20 people who have contributed to the lives of Grand Valley residents, said Mickie Harshman, The Blue Pig Gallery director.
Very few of the 20 artists participating in the show are portrait artists.
“The idea was to stretch artists out of their comfort zone,” Harshman said. “Portraits are a huge responsibility because you don’t want to misrepresent (the subjects).”
Artist Diana Woods joked that she is fearful her subject, artist and former Mesa State College art professor Don Meyers, will grade her once he sees the portrait.
“You really put your reputation on the line,” said Woods, a self-proclaimed experimental artist who enjoys painting landscapes and horses. “It’s difficult to capture the essence of a person. Portraits aren’t just a person’s physical appearance, but they are a person’s spirit, their personality.”
“I really had fun doing it because it challenged me,” Woods said.
Like some of the other artists in the show, Woods selected her subject because of friendship. Woods and Meyers have known each other for nearly 15 years.
“He’s influenced a lot of artists in this community,” said Woods, who has been painting for roughly 30 years.
Meyers’ influence stems from the time he taught at Mesa State from 1962 to 1990, including 15 years as the head of the art department. After retiring from full-time teaching in 1990, Meyers continued part-time as a professor emeritus until 2001.
Woods wanted Meyers’ spirit and personality to show through in more ways than just how she painted his eyes, hands or clothes. Woods took a picture of one of Meyers’ actual paintings and added her interpretation of it into his portrait.
Her oil painting of the man and his art captures the essence of who he is, Meyers said.
For photographer John Anglim, an old farm tractor went to the essence of his subject, longtime Mesa County resident Dan Robinson.
Robinson, an attorney with Killian & Davis, has one of the more recognizable names and faces in the portrait show because of his public involvement in education, law and politics in Mesa County.
Many people may know Robinson from his 2008 run for a Mesa County Commission seat or from the years — 2000 to 2008 — he served on the School District 51 School Board or because he was the Grand Mesa Youth Services Center director from 1989 to 2009.
What people may not know, and what Anglim wanted to show in his portrait photograph of Robinson, is that the longtime lawyer perhaps is most comfortable on his small farm in the Redlands area.
In fact, Robinson has lived on his farm for 32 years, growing popcorn or alfalfa and raising goats and chickens, among other animals.
“I would love to farm full-time,” said Robinson, who was born in Trinidad. “There’s nothing, to me, more beautiful than a sunrise when you are irrigating in the spring or summer with the smell of fresh-cut alfalfa and to see babies, whether they are goats or horses.”
Anglim wanted his photograph to resonate with the emotion Robinson shows when talking about farming. So Anglim had Robinson pose with his 1958 Ford tractor and using Photoshop, Anglim turned the photo into what almost appears to be a painting.
“All’s fair in love and art,” Anglim said. “That’s what I say.”
In homage to the community contributions made by Robinson, Meyers, Eastham and the 17 other portrait subjects, the gallery wanted to give something back, as well. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of each portrait will go to the charity of the subject’s choice.
For example, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of Robinson’s portrait will be given to Marillac Clinic, a nonprofit organization.
“I was glad I did it,” Andrews said of the portrait project. “I enjoyed it very much.”