Um, Are Those Angel Wings??

The style of artwork I make often falls under the general heading of realism, and this oil painting is a case-in-point of why I struggle with the term. First, here's a bit of background on the source of my angst. In the atelier system, students are devoted disciples of observation and "truth in nature." The approach models other empirical disciplines in that you look at nature, study and learn to transcribe it on your canvas, correct it where it is "wrong," base your judgments in the solid ground of careful observation, personal perception, and the body of knowledge of anatomy and traditional oilnpainting techniques. 

Fallen Angel by Patricia Watwood, 2012, oil painting on linen, 30 x 30.

Fallen Angel by Patricia Watwood, 2012, oil painting on linen, 30 x 30.

So, where does painting a person with wings on her back fit into this empirical model? Where exactly would the origin of the wing structure be, when emanating from the shoulder? What other six-limbed or winged creatures can I study in my attempt to construct my chimera? What color are angel wings anyway? You see my problem. I've been way too well educated to paint an angel…wings and all. 

But, I did it anyway. All comments on the absurdity of the anatomy, the color choice of feathers, and the problems of proportion of wing to weight of flight body can be logged below in the comment section, and any objections will be politely ignored because, yes, I understand that the whole endeavor is ridiculous. 

This is one of the problematic cul-de-sacs of image construction that our 19th-century realist forefathers, the "painters of modern life," drove us into. I haven't even started to break down the problems with our secular world view and theology. Let's save that for another time. But, clearly, there ain't no angels in "modern life."

Study for Fallen Angel by Patricia Watwood, 2012, red and white chalk drawing on watercolor-toned paper, 15 x 22.

Study for Fallen Angel by Patricia Watwood, 2012, red and
white chalk drawing on watercolor-toned paper, 15 x 22.

However, as we all know, these days in art, anything goes. I'm free to do just exactly what my little heart desires, and so one my explorations has been symbols and metaphors as a means of visual communication. Angels are not part of "real modern life," but they are perennially a part of the life of the imagination of our human culture and an incredibly compelling fantasy image that is centuries old.

Using symbols lets you play upon emotional chords that are not so readily accessed through the strictures of the literal visual world. Realism boxes you in pretty tightly, especially if you wish to make the nude figure your primary subject. Symbol and allegory allow you to explore a broader range of feeling and meaning-like hope, despair, and aspiration. When using symbols one can layer meaning and image.

My angel represents loss and bereavement–loss of spiritual belief, loss of promise, loss of meaning and beauty, and the loss of a message that is unheard or unheeded. So many of us have lived through great loss and tragedy in the past decade, and in the modern world we're all supposed to patch together our own philosophic structures that give meaning and consolation to these tragedies. This oil painting is about our inability to believe in angels in our secular and destructive age, and how I think we need angels now more than ever.

–Patricia

 

 

 

 

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Patricia Watwood

About Patricia Watwood

Patricia Watwood has studied painting with Jacob Collins at the Water Street Atelier, and also with Ted Seth Jacobs at Ecole Albert Defois. She earned her MFA with honors from New York Academy of Art.

Watwood paints nudes, figures, portraits and still lifes in the classical tradition. Her paintings draw on allegorical, mythological, and narrative themes. She continues the classical pursuits of representational painting, with an eye on the contemporary world. The recurring theme in her paintings is the spiritual human presence. Watwood states, “Formal training is the indispensable underpinning of my practice. I seek to follow and build upon the artistic intelligence and traditions of the past, and bring them anew to my own generation.”

Watwood has exhibited in group and solo shows in New York, Paris, Houston, San Francisco and Long Island.  Her work is represented by John Pence Gallery in San Francisco. Her figurative paintings have been included in several museum shows, including “Enchantment” at the Hartford Art School, “Slow Painting,” at the Oglethorpe Museum; “The Great American Nude,” at the Bruce Museum of Arts and Sciences; and in “Representing Representation VI,” at the Arnot Museum. Her work has been featured in numerous art publications including International Artist, and a recent cover article in American Artist magazine.
 
Watwood also does portrait commissions, and is represented by Portraits, Inc.  Her recent projects include a portraits for Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government, and the former Mayor of St. Louis, for St. Louis City Hall.  Watwood is currently teaching at the New York Academy of Art, and at the Teaching Studios of Art in Brooklyn. 

Watwood and her husband and two daughters live in Brooklyn, New York.

5 thoughts on “Um, Are Those Angel Wings??

  1. I love your angel. I love Classical Realism and aspire to one day be as skilled as you have demonstrated. I do not feel “boxed in” by realism and I am surprised that you say that.
    For me learning the Classical Realist process is freeing me to connect deeply with the subject matter and with myself. I feel I am a vessel through which beauty is dying to flow through as is witnessed in your angel painting.
    i spent two years at the San Francisco Art Institute prior to my classical studies and learned about the creative process and conceptual thinking as relates to art.
    Both learning styles have great value in my opinion however i am drawn to Classical realism beyond measure.
    Celebrate that your skills are such you can imagine an angel’s wing!
    I did not see your angel as a symbol of loss. i thought it was sleeping and hidden. The blue in the feathers is divine and earthly at the same time. Like a bird of paradise. The fact it is laying near a pool of water makes it mystical as water has spiritual elements to it.
    I wish you much success in your career and admire your talent.

    Kristin

  2. I love your angel. I love Classical Realism and aspire to one day be as skilled as you have demonstrated. I do not feel “boxed in” by realism and I am surprised that you say that.
    For me learning the Classical Realist process is freeing me to connect deeply with the subject matter and with myself. I feel I am a vessel through which beauty is dying to flow through as is witnessed in your angel painting.
    i spent two years at the San Francisco Art Institute prior to my classical studies and learned about the creative process and conceptual thinking as relates to art.
    Both learning styles have great value in my opinion however i am drawn to Classical realism beyond measure.
    Celebrate that your skills are such you can imagine an angel’s wing!
    I did not see your angel as a symbol of loss. i thought it was sleeping and hidden. The blue in the feathers is divine and earthly at the same time. Like a bird of paradise. The fact it is laying near a pool of water makes it mystical as water has spiritual elements to it.
    I wish you much success in your career and admire your talent.

    Kristin

  3. I love all these great comments– thanks so much for posting your thoughts. I’m glad the blue touches in the wings made you happy– I always enjoying throwing in some saturated colors, and I thought, “Surely, an angel would have a little special color sparkle– like an exotic bird.”

    I liked Kristin’s comment about the angel not feeling so much like loss, but something hidden or sleeping. Certainly, that reflects my internal sentiment that this is not the end, but hopefully, the angel will be reawakened. I feel, culturally, many of us are feeling called to spiritual reconnection, and being open to the mysterious. At heart, I am optimistic.

    And– any purchase inquiries are always welcome. I can be contacted via direct email through my website: patriciawatwood.com. Take care, everyone!

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