Diana Reading

diana-72dpi© Durga Yael Bernhard

This painting is my first figure painting in oils.  The subject is my friend Diana, a sister dancer from my African dance class of many years here in upstate New York.  A long time ago, I modeled for Diana’s college photography project – I was pregnant with my third child, and birth was the theme of her work.  Now fourteen years later, I wanted to try my hand at figure painting for the first time since my own college years – so I asked Diana to return the favor.  She was the perfect model for what I had in mind.

On a hot July day, Diana arrived wearing a soft, printed wrap skirt.  I picked some bee balm and lilies from my garden, and Diana settled into my wicker chair with a book.  The day was lush and verdant – especially compared to now, as I write this post on a frigid winter night.  I began with a quick brush drawing, and blocked in some basic colors.  Then I took photos to finish the painting later – and we set out to hike to Diamond Notch Falls.  It was a great day, with good conversation.

I undertook this painting purely for my own personal challenge and satisfaction, so it could not take priority over my paying work.  Thus it was put aside for one project after another until one hot day the following July, I realized it was just the same kind of weather and light as the day I had painted Diana a year ago.  I looked back at my calendar, and sure enough, it was the exact same date.  I dropped everything, took out the canvas, and set up my oil paints.  (“If not now, when . . . ?”, I thought.)

Two weeks later the painting was done.  The photos I had taken of Diana were poor quality, so I struggled a bit, and tried to work from memory.  More than anything, I wanted to capture the light . . . but my camera had not caught the light and shadows at all, so the best I could do was suggest the light coming from the window.

I hope I’ll find the time and the means to practice figure painting again soon.  In the meantime, thanks again Diana!  It was a pleasure.  What do you think – does this look like you?

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