Pandemic Voting Inspired by Jacob Lawrence

Pandemic Voting Inspired by Jacob Lawrence

To celebrate the birthday of one of our master artist; Jacob Lawrence. I partnered with Saatchi Art for a special art exhibit where I created an artwork in his honor.

Jacob Lawrence captured African American life in the 20th century. Both abstract and incisive by combining Cubism and Social Realism. , Lawrence’s paintings brought Black subjects, their struggles, and their histories to the forefront. 

I approached this painting the same way he worked, working from dark to light. Starting with black paint and applying it across the painting and then moving to brown. Lawrence’s method of painting was very systematic and normally started with many thumbnail sketches from his central idea.

Then he would make a larger comp before scaling the drawing up for painting. He used a system of doing one thing at a time throughout the entire process. He broke each painting up into three parts, foreground, mid-ground and background. He didn’t  mix colors or use perspective in his artworks. The goal was to make them very flat and show a grand view of what’s going on. Making the viewer feel part of the artwork was a big deal to Lawrence. When you look at one of his artworks, you feel you are one of the carpenters constructing a building, or a family migrating to a new life.

"When the subject is strong, simplicity is the only way to treat it." -Jacob Lawrence

My approach to this painting comes from the same thought process as his. Working in the Lawrence method, I sat and thought about what is going on in the world: With the pandemic still raging here in the US. life has shifted to mask wearing and elbow bumps to replace handshakes. Social distancing is now the normal and day-to-day task for a lot of us has become a scary activity. To get the right narrative, I asked myself these questions:

What are people doing?

Where are people going?

What are today’s issues?

After thinking about this, I sat down and created a few thumbnail sketches around voting, living in a pandemic and civil rights. One of my thoughts was to have an African-American figure attempting to vote while the voting machine was being driven away on the back of a truck. This idea would lean strongly toward civil rights and could evoke powerful feelings. A second idea was to put a central figure largely in the foreground at the table. This could bring the viewer into the painting and create a dramatic feeling. However, both ideas would not give me a Lawrence type of composition. In the early stages of this painting, I went back and forth with ideas as he did, and finally came up with my painting “Pandemic Voting”.

“My belief is that it is most important for an artist to develop an approach and philosophy about life - if he has developed this philosophy, he does not put paint on canvas, he puts himself on canvas.” -Jacob Lawrence

Jacob Lawrence and Vincent Keele

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Pandemic Voting Inspired by Jacob Lawrence

Vincent Keele Fine Art