Oil portrait painting of beautiful young woman with brown hair, green eyes, flower arm tattoo, and pink roses in her hair wearing in vintage clothing, with a direct gaze back at the viewer. Artwork painted by Talya Johnson

Girl With The Flower Tattoo

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Oil on Hardboard
36 inches x 24 inches x 2 inches

I have a difficult time explaining this painting, but it’s time I try. The work has won me a couple of awards which is thrilling. But the question that follows her exhibition is often difficult to answer. Sometimes I feel words can get in the way when I’m trying to express something visually. But I think I’m ready to give it a go.

 Who is she?

 She is a beautiful young woman, clearly. At the time that I painted a study of her face, she was a professional model. My organization hired her to sit for a life portrait painting session during an artist retreat we were hosting. We sent photos of a John Singer Sargent painting to her stylist for some inspiration. We had a blast playing with her accessories once her her stylist was finished with her hair, makeup, and dress. This lovely young woman sat in a chair for a couple of hours while the artists all painted, and grabbed at one another. It was an enjoyable experience, and I don’t think any one of us will forget it. I took some reference photos, and painted this work from the reference photos and my oil study.

 Still I don’t think that is a satisfactory answer for those inquiring about her identity. I think they really want to know why I painted her, without a commission to do so, and in such a grand manner. I think they want to know why she is looking them so knowingly. They want to know what she is doing there in that non-descriptive space, dressed to the nines and obviously content with being looked at.

 What is so important about her? Some art scholars may have a tough time with the simplicity of this image, and the artifice of ultra femininity this woman seems to represent, an obviously modern woman attired in vintage clothing and hairstyle. In art school there was a great deal of pushback against such binary imagery of gender roles. If I had painted a man in the same pose and attire, it might have been more interesting to the art school crowd. Some saw her eye contact as a sort of invitation to look, to either entertain the male gaze, or invite envy from female onlookers. It’s frilly, and pink, quaint, nostalgic, and sentimental. The antithesis of the contemporary art dialog.

It wasn’t a man that looked at me the way this model did.

 The image was not intended to be saccharine not satire. I chose to paint this, with all its fantasy and frills because I saw strength in this woman, strength in her gaze that transcends the fleeting virility of youth or narrow limitations of Western beauty standards. This is a real woman, not a fantasy. So many people cannot see past a beautiful face! This woman was tough, confident, and fully autonomous. She chose to play dress-up with a gaggle of quirky artists most of whom were 20+ years her seniors because it was enjoyed the process as much as we did. She laughed with us, shared her ideas with us, looked at our work and encouraged us.

 While my painting study of her face was in profile, I wanted to capture the intensity of her own gaze when I photographed her; like she could see me through the heavy camera I hid behind, through my middle aged face long past its bloom, through my messy clothing covered in paints camouflaging an accumulated fat that has become a protective cast against my broken idealism. She saw through it all, straight into my heart. And she smiled! In my mind an instant connection formed; two women bound to the same unrealistic beauty standards, yet swept away by the fantasy and potential energy of the moment. I simply had to paint her.

 I was honored to have Girl with Flower Tattoo selected for the Art Muse Contest Emerging Artist Finalist Award and the Jack Meier Gallery Representation Award Finalist! Thank you so much Art Muse Contest, Jack Meier Gallery, and judge David Boyd! Also a big thank you goes out to model Samantha Matthews VanGorderand Beehive Beauty Shop as well as my Painted Ladies partners Karen Mattson and Karen Whitworth who helped make this the model session for this painting possible. Here is what the Judge had to say: ”I feel like the model is looking into my soul! Not an easy thing to capture with paint. The brushwork is free yet deliberate and I really love the dominant red color scheme that ties in with the rose tattoo and the little pops of green to lead the eye around the image. Very well orchestrated.”

 This original painting is now available for sale. She is painted on a birch cradled board for a contemporary frameless aesthetic, and ready to hang. Shipping to the US is free. Please inquire personally regarding international orders through my contact page.