Inside the Art Studio of Amy Sherald

A photo of artist Amy Sherald at work in her studio


Amy Sherald is a painter based in Baltimore, Maryland. The artist specializes in portraiture, and has become well-known in recent years for her official portrait of Michelle Obama. The artist tends to work from photographs, often photos that she has taken herself, of various people including friends, strangers, and, in the case of the former First Lady, public figures. 


Sherald’s studio looks very spacious in this photo, and there’s not a whole lot going on in this image. The artist’s paintings are massive, perhaps larger than one might expect having seen images of them online. 


I’m intrigued to see a photo of the subject of the painting on the left, apparently taped to that painted surface to be used as a reference. Sherlad is known for her paintings of real figures, and it’s always interesting to see just what methods an artist uses to translate a real person into their chosen visual medium and language. In this case, Sherald shows that she’s talented at painting from observation, following the contours of her subject’s face with a brush, and filling in the backgrounds and details from imagination. 


It’s neat to see all of the painter’s tape in this image -- the geometric lines on the left painting, as well as the tape delineating the stripes on the umbrella in the painting on the right. Sherald’s works often seem to feature these very clean, almost geometric edges, and seeing them with the tape still on feels very “behind-the-scenes.”


Sheralds works are striking not just in terms of their scale, but in the way that the artist balances massive planes of vivid colour with the subdued, almost grey hues of her subject’s skin tones. The artist primarily works with black subjects, and the balance of colour and composition in her works is as much a commentary on the values of Western art as it is a celebration of its own subjects.

[image source]

Written by: Dallas Jeffs
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