Chelsea Burns

oil on canvas
8″ x 10″

Casey Roonan
Teaching Assistant
Illustrator & Comics Artist

“I am a conceptual painter working in the format of narrative representation. I graduated cum laude from Humboldt State University in 2011, and have since moved to Seattle, where I work in the television and film industry. My process is tied to my community of filmmakers and artists; I paint the people I work with.

In my work, I explore power and connection. I imagine an incorruptible power source which fuels and supports our connection to each other, the planet, and the universe. This is what illuminates my subjects. I paint hard-working hands. These are the hands of people who are consistently told that there is no valuable place for them in society. I strive to dispel this damaging message by honoring them and their work in so many careful and faithful layers of oil paint. My goal is to inspire people who see my work to acknowledge and get in touch with their own power.”

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4 responses on "Chelsea Burns"

  1. Profile photo of Alexander Rowe

    I love this piece: I agree with the others that I read this as an intimate portrait before even seeing your statement, and that posing the hands more naturally could be a great additional element of identity.

    Your technique is wonderful, your attention to detail and knowing what to paint and what to suggest is really terrific. The subtle shifts in the background are actually some of my favorite parts of the piece – it’s not overworked, it keeps our eyes on the hands you want us to focus on.

    The composition is simple and bold, but for this one it works really well! Not only a continuation of this series of hard working hands, but I’m curious about how other hands would fit in – hands of the retired, or of students – different walks of life. The contrast could be an interesting statement in and of itself. Depending on the “companion” hands, your message could change.

  2. Profile photo of Deepti Menon

    The painting technique you demonstrate in this piece, and specificity with character, is so impressive. I find myself spending so much time appreciating the detail in the nails, the age of those bandages, the discoloration of the tattoos, and all the lovely wrinkles and folds in the knuckles. It feels so intimate and personal, I really get a sense that the artist has some sort of relationship with the subject.

    I wonder what would happen if you positioned the hands differently, perhaps in a more natural gesture. Right now, the way the hands are positioned is very posed and exposed. However, I think a lot can be told by how this person may position their hands when caught off guard. Is one hand always fidgeting with the other’s nails, do they twiddle their thumbs, do they naturally ball their hands up in fists, or perhaps there is always a pencil/cigarette between their fingers?

    Additionally, like Professor Lieu suggests, this gesture could also tell us more about their relationship to the film and art industry, Hands are a wonderful subject matter, so there are endless opportunities. Great work, I’m excited to see more!

  3. Profile photo of Clara Lieu

    Your painting technique is absolutely exquisite, the way that you’ve carefully rendered every section of this painting that is terrific! I think it’s wonderful the way you are painting hand portraits of people you know, there’s an intimacy there that comes across beautifully in the painting.

    One aspect that I like a lot is the fact that these are hands that work in the film/TV industry, I’m wondering whether there is a way to convey that more clearly, in your representation of the hands. I think one aspect you could play with is how the hands are positioned. Right now the hands looked very posed, and by doing so, you lose the opportunity to take advantage of the gesture of the hands, which can be so expressive.

    What if the hands were in a position where the gesture of the hands showed the physical wear and tear of their activity? Right now I think the specificity of the bandages begins to show that; these aren’t ordinary band-aids the hands are wearing, they seem made out of something different. I would recommend pushing that specificity further, maybe the painting zooms in much more dramatically to only the tips of the fingers?

    Lots of possibilities, would love to see where you take this work!

  4. Profile photo of Lauryn Welch

    Even before reading your statement, I felt as if these hands were portraits. Hands have that quality of being very particular and expressive of an individual, and you did such a careful job at capturing all of the unique, narrative details of this pair of hands. The tattoos, watch, and dirty nails each hold a place of importance.

    At the same time, hands are kind of the second most studied part of the body after the face, and have a tome’s worth of symbolic value spread across millennia. Could you make a portrait that expresses the human value of your subjects without painting hands?

    I think of artists like Katarina Riesing and Clarity Haynes that paint vulnerable, striking portraits of the body without the traditional identifiers of hands or face. Your technical expertise is astounding, so I would love to see you expand upon this!

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