Out of so many artists whose work I find so compelling and inspiring, the watercolours of Ali Cavanaugh are one of my favourites.
One particular subject will always remain on my agenda because of what it means to get that subject right. This is figurative and portraiture. As humans we connect easily with a face, much like facial recognition technology, our brains similarly make connections and readings when we see a face. Faces are something we are almost too familiar with and in art if there is a mistake proportionately then it is clear to an onlooker in an instant. Proportion isn’t always the aim, abstraction artists often paint portraiture, there is so much to read that doesn’t always have to transfer immaculately across as clear as a photograph. Abstraction in portraiture can still capture other things, we can gauge moods and emotions from slight turns in the many muscles that support the face. Whatever the style of work or agenda, with faces, something has to be ‘right’ for us to be able to relate. Portraits can be risky or rewarding.
This is where Cavanaugh’s serene and expertly applied paintings hit that exact spot for me.
As an artist who does not use colour in its traditional sense, I applaud her ethereal use of cool blue and green tones in her studies. The way the tones she chose are bold, yet so calming and soothing in tone is such a clever choice. Especially considering that within these overpowering cool tones, the subject and image itself has such a warm overtone in nature. The expressions that she captured are almost as powerful as the wonderful correctness of the features and proportions which stay so neat even with a style of brushwork that allows paint to run and overlap, using this as a contour for the features.
Ali Cavanaugh is an American painter with numerous fine art qualifications and acclaim under her belt internationally. Her previous works are just as beautiful, with a very sincere and realistic approach to her style. On her website, her personal statement reads
“My dependence on the visual world began when I lost much of my hearing through spinal meningitis at 2 years of age. This loss was a blessing in disguise as I learned to depend on body language and reading lips to communicate. So, from my youngest days, I became sensitive to the people around me and the unspoken language revealed through compositions of the human body.”
Her sensitivity to likeness and expression is highlighted in such a magnificent way in her paintings, I wonder myself if this comes from a place of having concentrated largely on body language and the visuals involved in communicating with others after losing her hearing. Such an acute eye for the small things in another persons expressions is a craft that cannot be taught and comes through so strongly, yet subtly in the fluid and calm watercolours. Not only this but her story is exceptionally inspirational, in describing this event as a ‘blessing in disguise’ she has honed in on what she can do, over what she may have lost, and expresses herself in a further reach for this.
I find this artist very inspiration for so many reasons, not only for her story but for all aspects of her work, from application to the clever choices she makes with colour and tones. She has captured a moment rather than created one.
To see more of her work, the website is linked HERE, or find her on Instagram (@alicavanaugh) which is where I originally found her!