When I was growing up we had a living room that no one was really allowed in. Tucked away hid a small, vintage wooden box filled with antique tin types and cabinet photos of my father’s ancestors. I was obsessed with those portraits, and all the stories they seemed to reveal to me: the love and heartache, hard work and determination. It was a treat I was only allowed a dozen or so times as a child and only with supervision, as I had the tendency to draw on everything when I was little. Now that box and the photos it contains are in my own living room, and I’m still fascinated looking at all of those faces.
My goal in making portraits today is to create art that invokes that same strong connection between the viewer and the art: a longing to look… and look again. A connection that is palpable.
I use a variety of materials to create my portraits: pens, pencils, acrylic paint, watercolor, and collage, to name a few. I prefer to create my portraits on vintage book pages and covers, or antique paper. Allowing the age, yellowing, and any text or marks to give the portrait an immediate sense of history. It’s also a reminder that, like the paper they’re drawn on, life itself is ephemeral. When working larger, I incorporate more vintage collage elements to create that same sense of depth and story.
Largely drawing from my imagination, I do not aim to create a true likeness of any one person, rather to portray the feelings I get when painting them. And even though I rarely make literal self-portraits, each portrait I make is, in fact, also a portrait of myself. A journal entry, so to speak. A look into my soul at that point in time.
I hope you enjoy the view.
- Jules Tillman, 2023