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Authoress–Mini Oil Portraits

November 13, 2013

Back when I was a semi-professional oil painter, I used to paint very small portraits of authors. It was always a great joy to me to have a painting on my easel, en plein air, and to have a fellow lover of literature walk up to eagerly identify the writer. I painted them as commercially viable studies, since I still needed my share of the rent at the end of the month and I was fortunate enough to be able to fund all of my needs and bills at the time, such as they were, through painting.

Many of the finest works sold. Some, however, which were near and dear to my heart, or which simply never found their ‘love at first sight’ buyer along the road of life, continue to haunt my walls. Some of my favorites are these novelist portraits.


I should think that this woman needs no introduction. I love the cloudy, dissonant look to those droopy eyes. Like many of these pieces, this one isn’t finished. There was to be a whole other treatment of darks added onto the planes of the face. But I stopped in mid process many years ago–the reason for it now lost to me. And though unfinished, this one has held a special place along my book shelf, keeping company with thirty year old paperbacks.

katherine ann porter

The impasto on the background of this one of Katherine Anne Porter quickly became a ‘ship of fools.’ But, again, I’ve grown to love the tension in the shadows, weirdly thickening to the point of becoming a solid, and competing for the third dimension against the angularity of that alabaster face.


I’m such a fan of Cather’s novels. I love her skillful use of tone and the gravity of her characters–some of them really people and not characters at all, others the finest glimmers of interiority and consciousness rooted in places that literature has to offer. Okay, so why the Vulcan stripe on her hair? Frankly, I don’t know. I suppose I would have removed it eventually, but this one struck me as a happy balance, more or less, between likeness and that vivid sort of pop and fizz that I was after stylistically. By the way, this one of Cather is only 3 inches by 4 inches. It’s about the same size as the others.

  1. Painting stops the words for an hour or two. When the writing becomes a trickle, build a dam.

  2. Michael Andreoni permalink

    What . . . no Sylvia Plath? Or did she get bought?

  3. Amazing stuff! I hope you keep going with this. There are so many others you could do, the possibilities are mind boggling. Lillian Hellman? Dorothy Parker? Jane Austen? Have you thought of putting a collection of these together in a book?

  4. Reblogged this on Capitare a Fagiolo and commented:
    Take a look at these authoress mini oil portraits:

  5. Reblogged this on heatherzhutchinswrites and commented:
    Gotta love a guy who writes AND paints. Give it up for the beautiful oil painted stylings of Michael Alexander Chaney!

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