ReadingWoman.org / Essays / 2004 / No.5: Vein of Gold

Friederun Hardt-FriederichsEssay No.5July, 25 2004

Vein of Gold

Does the book represent a certain task within the artwork at all? Or does it serve the resting position of the model only?

Vein of Gold
Figure 1:
Vein of Gold
Michael Downs
Oil on Panel - 25.5 in. x 30 in.

With friendly permission of Michael Downs
Somewhat disappointed I had learned by the German artist Sigi Oberlaender that he has been used the attribute of the book to get the model be seated in a resting position only and remaining her seated he could paint her with less stress what made the work much easier for both too. Yet in his given report on the topic it's clearly to be seen that the portrayed women were insisting of finishing reading their started book. Therefore these two painted women make us aware of their reading habit and tell us that they are by no means daydreaming persons.

So I was delighted perusing an American Art Journal discovering an interview with the Canadian artist Michael Downs which reveals us something different.

In this article an artwork by Michael Downs was shown with a reading woman depicted. The painting was titled "Vein of Gold" after the so named book by Julia Cameron.

Curiously I tried to get in touch with this artist whom I finally could ask all about his artwork. In fact he had painted quite a few paintings about the subject of a reading woman. But always he had intended to capture a contemplative and tranquil mood. As Michael Downs noticed this idyllic situation will be created easily by itself during the reading of a book. The content of the book will be mirrored as an expression of a certain mood on the face of the reader. The artist does less emphasize the portray of his models but the reading situation and the atmosphere the woman is to be found in. The goal of his art seems to be the realistic reproduction in high fidelity of persons in a contemplative mood in a quiet surrounding background as well.

We meet his reading woman always young and pretty deeply absorbed in her reading matter, whether book or newspaper. In fact the girl is reading without doubt. The book is no optional attribute. The girls are always alone and kept away from their environment even if they are sitting at a window in a cafe at a busy street. Reading is asking for retreat, loneliness. Therefore his models are reading concentrating being on their own, in the dining room on a chair with crossed one's legs, slipped in a corner of a sofa, or cuddled on the bed or even stretched out naked. Their composure whilst reading varies and never looks stiff or arranged. We are observers of a calm intensity related to what we can not see but is to be found in the reading matter.
Reflections
Figure 2:
Reflections
Michael Downs
Oil on Panel - 30 in. x 40 in.

With friendly permission of Michael Downs
The painting "Vein of gold" seems to be a good example fusing the atmosphere of reading with the content of the book.

Michael Downs is portraying his reading women with great empathy as well as taking a lot of care over creating a picturesque room of interest.

Michael Downs answered some questions of mine.

FHF
Mr.Downs, did you paint more works with the theme of a reading or writing girl or woman? If, then why?

MD
Obviously the answer to this is yes. My subject matter in general is figurative and very "contemplative" in nature. I have found that the act of reading lends itself well to capturing a person in a rather contemplative mode.

FHF
Did you follow any examples in art?

MD
Regarding subject I don't really "follow" examples, but as far as style goes I am very enraptured by the representational and impressionistic styles of many old masters, my favourite being John Singer Sargent. He was able to capture his subjects in depth but simply. A true master, and this is what I strive for.

FHF
What was your intention or motivation painting your wife with the book in hand? You mentioned the title of the book and the title of the painting being the same. Is there any connection? And which?

MD
All the Time in the World
Figure 3:
All the Time in the World
Michael Downs
Oil on Panel - 39 in. x 27 in.

With friendly permission of Michael Downs
The light and atmosphere of the room captivated me and I wanted a figure in it. I asked her if she would mind picking up a book to read and her choice was "Vein of Gold" by Julia Cameron. While we did not specifically "set it up" that way, the book seemed to suggest the title of the work upon completion. I also think that her expression is given to the fact that the book is about creativity and in reading it I did capture her reflection upon Julia's words, which as I said is what I try and capture when painting a figure.

FHF
What kind of thoughts did you have about painting such a theme? Was it a subject by purpose or chance?

MD
This did not happen to be a theme unto itself, rather more general in nature as I have suggested - painting figures in a contemplative way and I find that interest in reading of a book easily puts a model into this realm.

Some of my other images were developed in much the same way, however I never did record the book titles. I know both "Emily" and "Poetic Read" were the same model reading a book on poetry, but not sure which, and "Reflections", "A Mornings Break" and "Morning at the Cabin" are simply casual readings of a newspapers. This certainly is something I would pay more attention to in future!

FHF
Mister Downs, I thank you very much for your opinion.

Links & further information:

[1] Whistler Art Galleries showing more pictures by Michael Downs showing reading and writing women.



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