Figurative Art by Sharon Knettell from New England.

Figurative Art by Sharon Knettell from New England.
Alica Blue
An Interview with Sharon Knettell.

Who and where are you from?

I am originally from Windsor Connecticut USA, I went to art school in Boston at the Boston Museum School of  Fine Art. I moved to Rhode Island after school and have been here ever since. I am a New Englander through and through.

How you got into this?

I have never been out. I started drawing as soon as I could hold a pencil. My first important work was a drawing of a soda bottle with a straw called "Pepsi, not being Drunk" - I was four.

What is your driving force?

Painting is one of the most difficult things to do with even marginal competence.  It is completely challenging and frustrating simultaneously. I have not found anything else as absorbing.

What kind of work you do and why?

It is totally figurative. I really am not interested in anything else other than color. It is the most difficult to make a figure breath and talk back to you. I have done two still-lifes in my life and no landscapes.Color is a co-equal element, I see the painting in my mind's eyes as an exploration of a color idea, will it be monochromatic, or complementary or a painting exploring double complementaries?  Klimt and Degas could pull off the most complicated color harmonies,. Other than general idea scribbles, I generally start out with color, a bit of fabric, color-aid paper and scraps of ribbon or other colored bits of stuff and pin them on things. The picture then as a whole comes into my head and I try to recreate it. My paintings are close to life sized- there is a really visceral feel to painting something, say, an arm in that scale.

My pictures are not psychological portraits of the sitters, I look at the way they sit, the way the light hits them, the angle of the head and how the pose is arranged within the framework of the picture plane, the design. I move them around until I get what I want. Jung I am not! . It takes me quite a bit of time to plan a painting right down to the chair or flowers etc. I love costumes, I have them made for my paintings, including wigs and dyed shoes if necessary. I taught fashion illustration in the apparel design department of the Rhode Island School of design. One of my students was into corsets- I fell in love with them as well, I love the shape they make and they help keep a sitter upright! I am drawn to beautiful, well crafted, thoughtful and sometimes irreverent work. I like to take traditional atelier techniques like sight-size and trois crayons on handmade tinted paper to make drawings of models in anime costumes. They are from life, but the costumes are not traditional. It is more fun for me. 

Manet is my favorite painter, using inspiration from Japanese prints he turned the figures toward the light (eg Olympia) and flattened the picture plane. This freed the picture plane from the heavy chiaroscuro of the French academic painting and allowed for more play in color, pattern  and design. That alone was genius.

From the Brush of Artist.

Painting, especially from life, unlike photography compels you to look at something for a longer time, uncovering hidden layers beneath surface appearances. I wish I had learned other art forms other than western, but I am firmly fixed in these forms- too firmly.  I think the advent of photography has ruined the singular, lyrical  vision of the artists eye. Before photography there was a greater variety in an artists approach to the figure in representational art. Artists were more inventive and freer in their approaches. Think of the differences for instance from Botticelli to Velasquez, to Boucher. Nowadays  if you are considered a contemporary realist, you are often judged on the accuracy that most reflects the cameras point of view. The nascent Atelier schools are are having both a positive and somewhat negative effect, while teaching the necessary craftsmanship and drawing skills. many of the painters are hard to distinguish from another. Many of them reflect the point of view of the often leaden paintings of the French Academy. Gerome's angels can't fly, Veronese's can. However as the atelier experience matures I see more and more explorative and beautiful work from some of these painters. It is an encouraging development. I love the sometimes, especially in my case, awkwardness and somewhat naivete of a figure drawn from life.  There is an expressiveness that is hard to come by from working from photographs. You won't get an Egon Schiele or a Botticelli  drawing from one. I know this because I worked as an illustrator and used photography extensively. When I decided well into middle age to go back into painting, I used photographs, It was and is a common practice. I would photograph and copy. I thought I was hot stuff until many subsequent trips to the nearby Boston Museum of Fine Arts painfully enlightened me. I saw that the John Singer Sargent's brushstrokes shimmered with life- his skin-tones were fresh and varied, not the dull greys and pinks of my stiff  paintings. It was excruciatingly painful, and although several portrait companies were interested in my work, I decided to teach myself how to draw and paint from life- and this was pre-internet, There were few ateliers, and I did not know that  they existed. My art schooling was of the express yourself variety with very little on just how. The Providence Public Library became my art school where I ransacked their collection of books on' (literally) how to paint. I hired models and I got a tape by Daniel Greene- it was a real lifesaver. I made some god-awful paintings. If I knew how embarrassingly bad they were, I probably would have not continued. I still wince when I see a good deal of my work.

I have also experimented with large scale pastels, Dakini is over 6 feet tall and  Alicia Blue is about five feet square, Both of course were inspired by Degas.

I try to use when I can, handmade paper. It is a dying art. The cornflower blue paper I use is from my stock of Twinrocker Handmade Paper paper. I just had some Simon's Green made in a 30" x 40" size. It is an exquisite celadon color,  Much of the popular colored paper used for drawing today  is not lightfast. Twinrocker's paper is pigmented not dyed. 

I hope we have not given up on beauty.The aesthetic experience is far more powerful that it is given credit for and something that the planet is more in need today than ever before,Think of the exquisite music of Mozart- his times were far more difficult for humanity than they are now, for many of us.

Sharon Knettell
Figurative Art by Sharon Knettell from New England.
Figurative Art by Sharon Knettell from New England.
The Age of Mallory
Figurative Art by Sharon Knettell from New England.
Blue Nana
Figurative Art by Sharon Knettell from New England.
Emily Anne
Figurative Art by Sharon Knettell from New England.
Figurative Art by Sharon Knettell from New England.
Wild Garden
Figurative Art by Sharon Knettell from New England.
The Dancer
Figurative Art by Sharon Knettell from New England.
Figurative Art by Sharon Knettell from New England.
Alicia Rose
Figurative Art by Sharon Knettell from New England.
Mozarts Mistress
Figurative Art by Sharon Knettell from New England.
Red Dakini
For more of Sharon Knettell Check the links below:

All Images are copyright by: Sharon Knettell

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