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Refining their craft at regular sessions with the Hawthorn Artist Society, artists Tony Ericson, Leanne Lowenstein and Eva Miller have come together in this special group portraiture exhibition.

Inspired by the endless subtlety and variation of human faces, these artists capture the unique combination of features and expressions found in each of the subjects who sit for them. Presenting a broad selection of portraits depicted in both acrylic and oils, Resemblance explores the countless interpretations offered by this subject.

We chatted to Tony, Leanne and Eva to learn more about their backgrounds and inspiration. The interview below gives insight into each artist’s unique approach to portraiture painting and the works featured in Resemblance. See the link below to view the exhibition online.

Tell us a little about your background and how this led to becoming an artist.

Eva: My background is in teaching English in secondary schools. However, art has always played a part in my life. For many years it took the form of drawing, mainly in pencil and charcoal, then pastel. I enrolled in illustration at RMIT (part-time, after work) and painting was a small component of the course. Later, I did many years of life drawing, culminating in joining the life drawing classes with Yvonne Audette (which is in abeyance due to the lockdown) at Hawthorn Artist Society (HAS). I was also introduced to pastel painting which in turn led me to painting in acrylic and oil. Melbourne Studio School was where I started painting in earnest. In developing my style and skills I find workshops very stimulating. I find each workshop and each teacher is valuable to make you realise which road you want to develop further.

Tony: As with many artists, I was the good drawer at school. It has always been part of how I spend my time. I studied graphic design and have spent decades as a designer. In recent years I have wanted to realise my ideas for their own sake. I now run a life drawing class on as Monday evening and my work in this exhibition stems from that practice.

Leanne: I completed a Bachelor of Fine Art in 1998. The years following have been largely devoted to raising a family and working in dentistry and education. For the past 7 to 8 years my artistic practice has been predominately associated with a portrait sitting at HAS. These two-hour sittings generally invite a new model every week. I thoroughly enjoy the challenge of portraying a likeness of these characters in my work, and hope to retain some of the initial innocence and intrigue associated with my early observations of the sitter.

Tell us more about the artworks in Resemblance.

Eva: The works in this show are all of the models from Life Models’ Society. Each Thursday we paint a portrait in a two hour session. This includes rest breaks. Although I paint still life, landscape and abstract paintings, portraits are always fascinating. I try to capture the personality as well as the likeness. I do not ‘finish’ the painting back in my studio as, to me, this takes away from the immediacy and vibrancy of the mark making.

Tony: Faces fascinate me. I enjoy that we are all experts at knowing what a face should look like. I hope my paintings in Resemblance will draw everyone to interpret the unique expressions and gesture within the faces in my work.

Leanne: The works I have offered for exhibition in Resemblance I hope illustrate the diversity of sitters who come to visit us at HAS. Physiognomy, the way that each individual poses and the attire that they choose, inform the painting and help me decide the colour and compositional outcomes in my completed works.

What is your creative process?

Eva: I am a fairly eclectic artist; I enjoy most genres, still life, landscape, portrait, but increasingly am drawn to contemporary art. Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic, I am fortunate to be able to enjoy being an artist in my studio, painting without a reference. Abstract art is now my preferred genre. 

Tony: My paintings are usually quick, completed in one session – alla prima. From models in the studio and lately from images on my screen, at home in lockdown. I put marks and globs of acrylic paint on a board. When these become a believable, engaging face, I have brought you along with me. Capturing that moment in the model’s time is my aim. Telling the viewer something about each model is part of that moment. 

Leanne: In the development of my portrait practice I have utilised different mediums over the years, beginning with pencil drawings, then working with acrylic paint and more recently progressing to oil paint. I have come to prefer oil paint as it offers greater capacity for transparency and better records the layers of observation. In the past my work was completed in one sitting. In preparation for exhibition and due constraints brought about by the pandemic, I have continued to work on my paintings without the sitter, using photographs.

What do you most enjoy about creating art?

Eva: Being an artist is not easy, but it is very satisfying. In painting abstract works, there is no reference to judge the painting by, so you have to rely on you own judgement. For example, does the composition work? Does it meet the requirements of abstract work? Do the colours harmonise? And the most difficult, when is it finished?

Tony: I like the basic illusion of figurative art; creating the image of a person that is really just marks arranged on a surface. The trick of engaging a viewer with my squiggles appeals a great deal.

Leanne: An interest in making art dates back as long as I can remember in my childhood. While in adult life the arts were not my early career choice, they have formed a constant and essential personal thread, meandering to suit my circumstances and forming part of my identity throughout the journey of life.

Resemblance is available to view as part of Town Hall Gallery’s online exhibitions.