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For the Birds: Teresa Oaxaca’s Best in Show Winning Piece

The Art League caught up with Oaxaca, Best in Show winner, and Art League Instructor on her award-winning work as well as what she’s working on next. Oaxaca’s piece in the December Open, Conference of the Birds, features a seated figure, with fixed gaze at the viewer. The woman’s face and upper body are surrounded by a blooming headpiece of colorful flowers, and lushly colored tropical birds in keeping with Oaxaca’s maximillist neo-baroque style. Teresa’s work features classical painting styles, with updated colors, and doll-like figures with strong narratives.

Conference of the Birds, Teresa Oaxaca
Conference of the Birds, Teresa Oaxaca

What was your goal with this piece? Was there any symbolism or feeling you wanted to convey?

Sometimes I like to incorporate echoes of earlier trendy subject matter in my contemporary works. The subject of St. Francis of Assisi speaking with the birds is a very common and charming scene that I have seen repeated in Renaissance art and literature time and time again.  I had become fascinated with birds at the time and had been collecting them and wanted to incorporate them into a piece of my own.

What’s your creative process like, from an idea to a finished piece?

I like to take a very direct approach to painting and dive right into the piece with color after a somewhat loose drawing onto canvas.  My paintings have about three layers in them from start to finish, and due to the size of the pieces I tend to have to partition each work day into a different section of the canvas.  This does give me the added benefit of letting colors dry as I flit from one section to another. I do wish I could paint with a longer and more sustained session however, with no breaks, but alas I have to sleep.

Teresa Oaxaca
Teresa Oaxaca

In this work, “Conference of the Birds” your figure has strong gaze with the viewer. What inspired this choice?

I tend to give a strong gaze with most of my subjects.  It seems like a very natural way to portray people to me, as if the painting were looking back at you and asking “What, what do you want?”  Which is how most people would react to being studied and gazed at so intensely. In this way the painting makes more of a psychological connection with you.

Laughing Queen, Teresa Oaxaca
Laughing Queen, Teresa Oaxaca

What is some advice you’d give artists wanting to improve their figurative work?  

I do have a figure drawing class coming up in June at The Art League School.  Learning figurative painting is a life time effort that can be aided greatly by studying early on from the best examples and with the best teachers you can find.

Do you prefer to work with live models, or photographs?  

I like to use multiple reference points and not limit myself to any one way of working.

In my shadow by Teresa Oaxaca
In my Shadow by Teresa Oaxaca

Where do you collect the many items that adorn your compositions?

I find them quite naturally along my path, whether on foot or on a mobile device.

What are you working on next?

I am working on several larger multi figural pieces that will balance more narrative and compositional elements.  My goal is to go larger and tell bigger stories. The decorative element will still be key.

See Teresa’s work in the Gallery through January 6, and see a demonstration of Teresa’s work here. See more of Teresa’s work and features on the Art League blog.

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