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UmUm Magazine - My Life of Art (by Lisa-Anne Rego)

I left Bermuda at age seven, but never forgot my roots and the beauty of my birthplace. I decided to return to live in Bermuda, following on from my position as Artist-in "Residence" with the Masterworks foundation in 2001.

Every summer I returned to visit my father, until I began my training at Scotland's Glasgow School of Art. Prior to this I did a general Art and Design course in Brighton, designed to help generate a portfolio and secure a Degree Course. My work consisted of pastel drawings of my grandmother's nursing home and its residents. Initially I began to study my grandmother's portrait, paying particular attention to the mathematical proportions of her face. Slowly I began to move from mathematical consideration towards emotional expression! This portrait 'Nana ' executed with conte' crayon on banana paper reflects her painful expression. It was the first drawing I had ever made which I felt captured the 'soul' of a person. It was the Easter break when I began my study and in less than two weeks the course would be evaluated. I was told that I was on the verge of failing the course due to severe 'artistic block'. I resolved that I would draw my grandmother and the nursing home and had the full, if somewhat bemused support of my grandmother. Her bedroom became my art studio and I worked until late at night for two weeks.

During my second day I decided to sit at the foot of the foyer's stairs, looking through a large Victorian entrance way. The perspective was unusual and careful measuring was required. The pastel drawing entitled 'Another dimension' reveals my love of classical-schemata, using line, form, proportion and color to create recession. The manipulation of these elements at a deep level is an intellectual act, not simply emotional. Ironically the expressive artist Vincent Van Gogh influenced me at this time. His intense vocation as an artist combined with his passion for studying marginalized people's lives inspired me. I was deeply moved by his letters written to his brother Theo, which revealed his conviction of God's handiwork in creation and his passion as an artist. In order to draw the Dutch peasants, Van Gogh lived amongst them and studied their activities. I too spent time immersed in the nursing home, talking with the patients until my mathematical precision exuded an emotional, soulful aspect. Suddenly, my senses were heightened in this environment and even the sounds of an elderly person's footsteps descending the stairwell seemed terrifying!

To my great surprise the body of work was recognized by three separate 'undercover' art critics and I won a traveling scholarship and secured entrance into Second

Year at the world-renowned Glasgow
School of Art. During my Degree course I focused on the plight of homeless people and dark Glasgow stairwells. Once again I found ready models, disassociated from mainstream society who unlike the elderly could be quite aggressive at times. After three years, these motifs became quite oppressive and affected my mood. Having graduated with Honors in Drawing and Painting I divided my time as an artist and teacher. In 1998 I returned to Bermuda following an 'artistic slump' to predominantly visit family. The island's vibrant color and sparkling light inspired me to embark on a new body of work.

Gone were the familiar images of sick and elderly people that I had focused on for my Degree. These were replaced by youthful renditions of Bermudian children.

My previous dark Glasgow stairwell subjects became well-lit Bermuda street scenes.

The majority of my Bermuda collection was done in a studio in Scotland over a period of two years. My working method involved me making on-the-spot sketches and taking carefully considered photographs. I showed my portfolio to Tom Butterfield of the Masterworks Foundation and was given an Artist-in-Residence opportunity for Spring 2001. The collection was entitled, "32.18N 65.00W a
new view of home" and featured for six weeks in the main gallery of the Bermuda Society of Arts.

One of my first canvases was called 'Surprised', featuring a Bermudian boy beside a traditional veranda. His face was strongly lit and I enjoyed modeling the features to render form. The brightly coloured wall contrasts well with the boy's

complexion. I also emphasized the textural quality of the walled area, which contrasted well with the child's smooth skin.

'Surprised' led to my first group portrait commission of the 'Collis girls'. I took several photographs and made some preliminary sketches of the three girls beside their colorful water tank. Both Graham and Caroline Collis were very helpful in helping me obtain a natural group pose for their girls. They were so pleased with the result that they commissioned me to capture their beautiful Bermuda home in oils! My classical training allows me to use a glazing technique to build-up surfaceforms using oils paints, gradually building up the lighter areas.

The change in subject matter meant that I had to replace my earthy, limited palette with a more vibrant one in order to reflect the island's sparkling light. However, much of my classical approach to art

remained the same, but my use of color and surface texture was greatly extended. Meditating on youth and health provided me with the opportunity to show that Bermuda's beauty is neither shrill nor superficial. I wanted my images to communicate widely to both Bermudians and visitors in a profound way.

Since returning to Bermuda I began to return to my medium of choice - soft pastels. I find them to be less mechanical and more direct, which seemed fitting in my youthful subjects. During my stay as Artist-in-Residence I had to work quickly on my drawings of children. I made a series of drawings of a local boy 'Asher I' using terracotta pastel paper, charcoal and white chalk. The studio in Dockyard had beautiful light reminiscent of my Mackintosh studio in Glasgow, Scotland. The model had a beautiful face but was somewhat sullen that morning, which made for good character studies!

The '32.18 N 65.00W..a new view of home' exhibition opened last summer and was a long-awaited vision realized! It was wonderful to share that moment with new friends and more importantly my family. I am very concerned with the arrangement of light and shade in my paintings. 'Burnished' features a street scene which is almost deserted apart from this lone figure, but she is not at all alienated in her environment, unlike my homeless subjects in the huge city of Glasgow. I enjoy the interplay of rich foliage and brightly hued facades that are found around Bermuda. I tend to omit details whilst emphasizing others, such as the red's brilliance in this piece. The walled areas were densely worked in order to make the red all the more luminous. I'

I typically work on a small paper size, which allows me to work more decisively and resolve the elements more easily. I strive to make the surface layer appear

textured upon the walls through the media of both oil paints and soft pastels. Organic natural forms are then easily sculpted using soft pastels upon accurate base colors.

'Dismissed' features a North Hamilton street in Bermuda. Light transforms this brightly hued facade, which includes a lone figure leaving the picture frame. The paper support is umber, which can be seen in the shadowed areas. There is a subtle nuance of yellow in this piece, but the overall impression I wanted was the illusion of sparkling light

'Winter's light' features a St. George's street on New Year's Eve. It was inspired by a wonderful yellow glow in the sky, which was reflected on the crisp buildings. The photograph was taken on the eve of the new millennium and the atmosphere was quite eerie. Light and shadow give this piece the illusion of depth or recession, whilst helping to create mood.

I have found St Georges to be visually rich for my street motifs. I noticed in 'Most Lovely shade' the magical effects of light on the distant building and the interlocking shadowed areas. I enjoy using perspective to create recession and 'pinning' accurate values to a color for the same reason. It is very rewarding to find Bermudians so excited about identifying my street scenes!

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