written by Erica Lindsay Walker, vice president, education chair
Artist Christine Karron loves combining pencil with other media, and looking at this portrait, it is easy to see why. I was captivated by this little work the moment I saw it. The subject is quiet and pensive, but the work itself is so lively.
One of the noteworthy aspects of this work is the design. It’s unusual because of the direction of the girl’s glance – she is not looking at us but far to the side, out of the picture. This is a very risky choice for a portrait, because the eyes are such a powerful element. We can follow the subject’s glance and end up falling right out of the frame. But that’s not what happens here, for there are certain design elements that keep us grounded in the work. I think the hair is the strongest of these. Its gently-curving diagonals enclose the face and keep our eyes moving, circling around the work, always returning to the centre of interest.
The colour, though, is what really draws us in. Obviously Karron loves colour and loves putting complements together. She’s done it here and oh, how they glow! I especially love the lights in the hair, rich wonderful violet- and turquoise-blues against dark brown. The shadowed side of the face shimmers with umber and rose, the light with gold and cream. The muted, varied blues of the shirt and background work beautifully with these warm hues, enhancing them and making them sparkle. It is a simple contrast, but so effective! Even the darkest shadows vibrate with light.
Karron also uses another contrast, that of technique: we see that in the background she has kept the washy, abstract-y look of the watercolour, whereas the girl herself, and especially her face, is much smoother and finer. This creates a sense of hidden, incipient energy – an energy kept in the background, as it were. The “unfinished” quality is like an echo of the subject. She herself is “unfinished” – what does the future hold for her? What will she become? In any case, I am glad that the artist has so beautifully captured her as she is right here.