BFA Exhibition 2021

Mitchell Hughes


My paintings are about emotion, they touch on what it means to be alive. My goal as an artist is to accurately assess and manifest the inner states of the sitter. Painting allows me to express my interpretations and push the boundaries of portraiture. These paintings are a visual representation of my connection with someone or something in my life. I use composition, color, and mark making to tell their stories. Composition is incredibly important in portraiture. As with photography, I rely heavily on the rule of thirds. You will find in my portraiture an alignment along the thirds with one of the pupils of the sitter. This allows me to produce portraits which can vary significantly but be read in a similar manner. By placing the eyes along the top third the viewer connects to the subject more than if the portrait was otherwise placed.  The resulting compositions are engaging and tell a story based on how the people fill the canvas. For instance, in my self-portrait I am looking down and my eyes are placed along the bottom third. This gives the impression that the viewer is looking down at me. This emphasizes the targeted emotion of despondency. Color is the second tool I use to express my sitters. The color in my paintings goes beyond realistic parameters because it better allows me to tell their story. For instance, the flesh tones carry more energy than real flesh tones. This allows me to make paintings which feel more alive than the people themselves. I use warm flesh tones to reinforce their vitality. I strategically place warm and cool colors to help create visual depth. Mark making is the last tool I use to depict my sitters. Whereas the mark making of the face can suggest underlying anatomy, the mark making of the background places them in abstract environments. The backgrounds, while simple, serve to accentuate the subject while not taking away focus from the subjects. The thickness of the paint and the manner in which it is applied help add life to the portraits. This is evident in the beard of Ram Dass, or in the competing greens behind Anna. All these tools together create paintings which delve deep inside what it means to be alive.

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