Anne Shams Soulfire Art

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Inspiring Women Portrait Project: First Report


Pauli 4.18 copy

Pauli Murray

My current project is oil Portraits of Ten Inspiring Women.  The idea started with an April 2017 New Yorker article by Kathryn Schulz about Pauli Murray, Saint Pauli: She advanced two movements for equality—and was at home in neither.  Pauli Murray straddled the identities of white/black, and male/female. Her work at Howard Law School was brilliant but she was refused admittance to the graduate program of Harvard Law. Her Howard senior seminar paper became a resource for Thurgood Marshall and his team’s successful overturning of Plessey versus Ferguson, thus ending the separate but equal justification for school segregration.  Later her continued law research and writing was credited by Ruth Bader Ginsberg as part of the basis for the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Her portrait is a trial and a template. Ulan Moore, a classically trained painter taught me the classical portrait technique I will use for this project.

They will be triptychs because the central panel of the woman’s portrait will be accompanied by two side panels with calligraphed quotes by or about her. 

They will resemble icons because I believe these inspiring women’s portraits tell holy stories, their lives devoted to peace, justice, and nourishing and lifting the spirit.

I am painting the portraits in a classical style:  the painting techniques favored by the painters of the Renaissance, and used even by Degas and his contemporaries. These techniques include :  

  • composition based on dimensions such as the golden ratio,
  • preparatory drawing,
  • underpainting in grisaille,
  • oil paint,
  • and gold leaf.

The process may be a lengthy one. I will document it in following reports on this blog. Click here for the The Second Progress Report that illustrates the stages of Pauli’s portrait.


2 thoughts on “Inspiring Women Portrait Project: First Report

  1. Your icon of Pauli Murray is exquisite. It reveals many aspects of her life and personality. I am moved.

  2. Beautiful Image of Pauli Murray. So glad you shared with me. I am amazed by you talent and ability to produce such amazing paintings, not to mention the Inspiration behind them. Bravo.

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