Linda Harris Reynolds was always fascinated with people and their faces, so much so that she made painting them her life’s work.
Linda is a portraitist and for the last 30 years she’s been doing either commission portrait work, or figurative work. “I love working with people. It’s really what interests me.”
That interest has been there since preschool. “There’s this picture of me with these huge crayons in my hand at 3 years old,” she said. That says a lot about how she grew up. “I always loved drawing, and I always loved drawing people.”
She still draws, in fact, all of her paintings start with sketches. “Very small sketches and than I do a sketch to the exact size that I want the final piece to be.” From those sketches she can play with the composition of the piece and details before moving on to working out the colors to be used in the final piece. Once all that work is done she transfers the sketch to the full size canvas and begins to paint.
Whether working from pictures or from a live model, she tries “to break down the image the way I see it.” Beyond just painting a face on a canvas, she tries to bring it to life, in a sense. “Imbue it with a certain sense of motion and life and I want it to have its own heartbeat.”
To some the thought of posing for a portrait of themselves may seem like the stuff of presidents and potentates, perhaps “it seems a little archaic.” Linda doesn’t see it that way. “It’s the experience of having an image created from nothing.”
For Linda who uses photography and some digital work to figure out how the finished painting will look, the true value of this work is the creation of it. “Does it have value to actually just be expressing yourself in a direct way? I’m hoping so.”
I asked Linda about sending her paintings out into the world, I usually ask all the artists I interview this question, and I get some interesting responses.
For Linda I think it’s a bit like visiting with a relative you haven’t seen for a while. In preparation of our coming to Linda’s studio to record our story, she went and gathered up some of her work so we had enough video for the television story. When she views works she hasn’t seen in a while, “I get this amazing sense of completion.”
There are three children whose paintings are featured together in the video above, Linda had gone to collect the paintings from the family. “I can’t really explain to you the joy of having those children together on the wall. I felt like I was seeing the whole group of them and it was accurate, it was the way I felt about them.” She cried a bit as she told me this, you can see just how much her work means to her. “I’m very emotional about my work. I give it everything I’ve got for better or worse. That is my life’s work.”
I asked Linda if it’s been a good life, she laughed and said, “I wouldn’t have changed it at all, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something.”
Painting relaxes Linda, it helps her understand the world better, “when I’m observing it and trying to recreate it.”
You can see the joy Linda takes from her work, not just in the act of creating it, but in talking about it as well.
“Its my favorite thing in the whole wide world. There’s nothing id rather be doing than painting.”