Shawn Huckins: Yellow and Blue: Portrait of A Lady (after Hudson)

Shawn Huckins

Artwork’s Title: “Yellow and Blue: Portrait of A Lady (after Hudson)”

Material Used: Acrylic on canvas

Studio Based: New Hampshire, US

Shawn Huckins, Yellow and Blue: Portrait of A Lady (after Hudson), acrylic on canvas, 42 x 34 in (107 x 86 cm), 2022

Speaking about your new artworks is there any particular story behind the “‘Yellow and Blue: Portrait of A Lady (after Hudson)” (2022) that you could share with us?

Like most people, the global pandemic made me re-think my life goals and what I truly value. I was at a point in my career where I needed to be re-energized by painting again. During the first COVID lockdowns, we couldn’t leave the house and most businesses were closed. To pass the time, I started painting the patterns of my wardrobe, which consists of bold, plaid patterns, to create small, abstract paintings. This exercise was the complete opposite of what I was painting at the time and I found it to be fun, yet challenging. I wanted to combine these experimental paintings with my usual portraits, so I started combining the contemporary fabrics over top historical paintings. The fabrics I chose to use in the first paintings in the series were ones that I purchased at a fabric store, or on Amazon.  I was looking for bold, colorful patterns. The fabric in “Yellow and Blue: Portrait of A Lady” is my actual shirt from my own closet and is the first in the series to use my own clothes.

On June 2022 you are going to present your new solo exhibition, “Dirty Laundry”, at Duran Mashaal Gallery in Montréal; what is about your new paintings at that show?

‘Dirty Laundry’ is a series of paintings that employs contemporary fabrics painted over traditional American portraiture to explore questions surrounding what, how much, and how well we share and hide.  We use cloth to conceal, but also to express, selectively, based on how we see ourselves and how we want others to see us. Of course, we don’t express all facets of our identity, some things we hold near out of habit, nature, or fear of ridicule. We all have dirty laundry, literally and figuratively.

In your previous painting works, Erasure series, you managed to frame distinguished and renowned American ancestors on your canvases based on your personally unconventional way; are you still interested in depicting topics inspired by the history of the United States?

Absolutely. I grew up in New Hampshire, which has a rich history of colonial America. My favorite subject as a child was history and I loved learning about the early colonists. I was particularly drawn to the fashion of the time. There are no photographs from the day, so I learned a lot from 18th century American paintings and it was in college where I learned ‘how’ those paintings were created. My style and approach formed from those lessons.

In your recent works, there is an evident fascination in the depiction of a wide variety of fabrics as well as jewelry; what made you concentrate on these motifs? 

It’s all in the details. I like to compare painting with cooking and those extra details (ie, pearls, French manicured fingernails, lace) is like adding garnishes to a fine dish.

Would you be also interested in being artistically involved in different kind of painting techniques or motifs? For example, more abstract works?

I would love to explore abstract works in the near future and I dabbled in it with my COVID fabric pattern studies. I would like to take those smaller studies to larger formats.  It makes me nervous though because my brain is not tuned to think abstractly and it’s hard to know when to stop, or if it’s even good. I’ve been painting in a representational style for so long, that I’m programmed to work in that certain way. But with anything, I would need to practice and ‘re-learn’ how to paint coming from a new approach.

Do specific artworks have been created by random experiments in your studio or do you usually come up with a particular concept or narrative in the very beginning of your artistic process? 

My process is pretty regimented and my paintings are sketched (digitally and by hand) before moving to the canvas. I start by selecting a portrait I want to replicate, taking into consideration the level of detail and formality of the figure. I will then stage my studio mannequin in the exact position as the figure and ‘build’ up my layers of fabric over it. Sometimes, I get the stacked fabrics just right, but most of the time, it’s a long process to get the fabrics staged right and in a color order that works well with the original portrait and its surrounding fabrics. I want to be sure all the fabrics are in one harmonized flow. I then create the lighting source to match that of the figure in the painting and take dozens of images.  The process then moves onto the computer where I will select an image to best fit the portrait by creating ghost images, so I can see both the figure and the fabrics overtop. Here, I will correct the scale and distort the fabrics, so that it can be placed on the figure seamlessly. Finally, the final concept is drawn onto primed canvas where I employ traditional methods of painting. A warm underpainting is painted in to establish light and darks and create a luminous glow, followed by subsequent layers of finalized paint and glazes.

Which are your plans for the near future? 

I’ve created about 20 paintings within this series so far and I feel like I’m just scratching the surface. I’ll be continuing this work with some upcoming exhibitions in Tel Aviv, Hamburg, San Francisco, and Denver.

Additional Paintings

Shawn Huckins, Various Fabrics: Bashi-Bazouk (after Gérôme), oil + acrylic on canvas, 44 x 30 in (112 x 76 cm), 2021
Shawn Huckins, Red and Black: Mrs. Freeman Flower (after Highmore), acrylic on canvas, 44 x 36 in (112 x 91 cm), 2021
Shawn Huckins, Portrait of A Gentleman (Gold), oil + acrylic on canvas, 28 x 22 in (71 x 56 cm), 2021
Shawn Huckins, Pattern No. 3: Portrait of A Youth In An Embroidered Vest (after Lemoine), oil + acrylic on canvas, 36 x 30 in (91 x 76 cm), 2022


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.