Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Charlotte's birthday

Today is Charlotte Harwell's birthday, 29 October. It would not be gentlemanly of me to say how old she would have been, but it was 29 years ago today that I did my first drawing of her. I was very young and the drawing is almost crude compared to what I wanted it to be. Actually, I still have that problem. In the images above, the pencil drawing is the first image from 1979. The painting below I painted 25 years later.

I really should rephotograph the painting as I've reworked some more and the likeness is spot on. The bottom image is a close up of perhaps one of the best paintings I perhaps will ever do of her, Charlotte and the Red Umbrella II. That picture captures Charlotte at her best.

In the late 1970's as a young artist to be, I was doing mostly science fiction illustration thinking of that as a career choice. When Charlotte entered my life, her Victorian ways resonated with me in a way that forever changed the course of my art moving me from illustration that I enjoyed to painting that I loved more. I became interested in the English Pre-Raphaelites because of her and she awakened my sense of belonging more to the past than to a science fiction future.

Charlotte was never featured directly in any of the neo Pre-Raphaelite drawings and paintings I did over the years. Instead, I drew and painted Charlotte in her own world even as she inspired me in everything else I painted for years. While she was not an artist herself, Charlotte taught me a lot about painting and drawing and the pictures of her were often the experiments through which I learned. Perhaps the most important thing Charlotte taught me was to not give up when subjected to withering rejection of my paintings and there were times that had it not been for her...

Charlotte was an extraordinary person and yet she was like everyone else. She had joys and sorrows, her moments of clarity and confusion. Charlotte was dearly loved and she loved dearly. I do not want to portray her as a perfect person because she was not. Charlotte had her human frailties. She loved her family, her cat, her horse, her friends, me. Her life took turns that I do not yet know how to write about yet though I try. She often appears to be alone in paintings and drawings, but she isn't really, I was there too. This year my over scheduled life did not allow me time to commemorate her in a drawing or painting so my inadequate words will have to suffice.

Happy birthday, my dear Charlotte wherever you are.