Abstract Realism Portrait Painter
About The Artist
New Jersey-based, award-winning painter Chanelle René uses bold color and painterly brush strokes to create soulful portraits in oils and mixed media. Her work centers on women of color as she explores themes of diverse beauty, freedom and self-discovery. Chanelle is a self-taught artist who, at age 43, transitioned from a career in digital marketing to full-time painter. Awarded 2021 Best of Show at Ocean City Arts Center Annual Juried Art Show, Chanelle has exhibited widely throughout Southern New Jersey and in global virtual exhibitions. Select media features include The Curator’s Salon, Cape May Magazine, and Soup Can Magazine.
If you have any questions, please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Painting portraits allows me to explore the complexity and nuance of the human spirit. I seek a visual representation of our truest self and deepest emotions and an engagement with the full spectrum of modern beauty and feminine strength. As a black woman, diversity and positively representing women of color are central to my work. Primarily painting women of color, I work from photographs to synthesize realism and abstraction.
My painting process is a mix of bold color and expressive marks applied with intention. I layer a variety of media to create depth, contrast and surface texture in my works, including spray paint, metal leaf, natural crystals, and oil paint. These materials combine to create interest, inviting the viewer to take a closer look and discover something new.
I begin each painting by preparing the support, which is then covered by a spontaneous underpainting made with spray paint or acrylic washes in a bold, vibrant color like magenta. Gold metal leaf is applied strategically in areas of the composition where I want portions to remain visible in the completed painting.
When using wood board, I’ll adhere natural crystal quartz to the edges of the cradled board creating a live edge of crystal points and letting them cascade onto the flat surface, making these works more sculptural. The crystals complement the strength and purpose of the women I paint.
Next, I move into oils. I start with a dark, cool transparent glaze over the entire piece, then wipe away areas with lighter values and build up darks with more glaze in order to create form. Throughout this process of layering, I discover the essence of the figure I’m representing, capturing the energy and strength in her face, body, and eyes.
It’s often the glance that decides whether a woman will be a subject of my portraits. The direct female gaze was considered taboo throughout art history. With a passive gaze or eyes closed, she was simply an object of pleasure--without power, without agency. Black women were generally excluded as the main subjects in historical works. In many of my paintings, I give the direct gaze to black women; giving back her power and agency. My work contributes to the narrative of empowering black women – igniting hope and endless possibilities.