Portrait of Malik el-Shabazz a.k.a. Malcolm X. Oil on wood panel, 16x20 inches, by Maria Jones-Phillips, 2023.

I’m in the process of creating a new website whereby I can begin selling my art online in a more professional manner. As some of you know, I was once a seasoned blogger and knew my way around the WordPress tools. I can’t make head nor tail of what I’m supposed to be doing with the new format, even though I’ve been using it on and off since they converted. I don’t know how I’m supposed to customise anything, like colours and fonts, and wot not. I’ll figure it out. Sigh. I’m feeling stressed over all of this. Suffice to say I’ve done zero painting today. I have three paintings I’m currently working on. Actually five in total, but two are currently in my art cupboard awaiting further inspiration. It does help if I know what I want to do. Starting a thing doesn’t mean you know how to finish that thing.

I’ve been painting pretty consistently since we made the move to Delaware just over a year ago. I finished my big Arkansas painting which I shall write a post on soon, and completed a number of portraits and other pieces in between. Most recently, I completed my painting of Malik el-Shabazz, a.k.a. Malcolm X. He will be part of a tryptic I have planned, entitled: Poet Revolutionaries. The portraits of Jamaican poet, Linton Kwesi Johnson and recording artist, Prince Rogers Nelson will form the remaining two parts of this tryptic.

My portrait of Malcolm X is slightly larger than life-sized. He was a big man, standing at 6’4″. I try to scale my portraits to life-sized, or thereabouts, however, this is quite a size difference between Malcolm and Prince, for example, who stood only at 5’2″. Originally I was going to paint Prince on the same sized board as Malcolm and Linton, but the scale of my reference image would have looked odd in between the other two, as it would have made him less than life-sized and thus ill matched with the other two. I’m painting from photographed purloined from the internet. These paintings will be for my own private collection and will serve only to showcase my talents to prospective clients, so no rights will be infringed upon.

My portrait of Malcolm X is based on a photograph by Eve Arnold, shot in 1962.

It was an odd scale to paint at, in that I had to rethink my usual painting technique so that I could convey a sense of presence and life without compromising painterliness. I decided then, to use a modification of the pointillism technique, and only smoothing areas that I thought looked a little too busy. I’m not sure how I will approach my other two candidates, however, they will also be in the hyperrealistic style. I’ll have to see. My aim as ever, is not to wow folk with my technique, but instead to convey a visual narrative in a way that evokes emotion and thus a personal connection. I want the viewer to feel slightly weirded-out, if I’m honest, because my subjects look alive. There is no point to a painted portrait otherwise.

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