Oh the Places I’ve Been, the newest exhibit at Prairie Art Alliance, features paintings by Springfield artists Tiffany Beane, Shirley Caldwell Smith, and Leonard Gaither. I visited with portraitist Beane recently as she moved one of her latest creations from its new home at Prairie Heart Institute to the PAA Gallery.
Her portrait of cardiologist James Dove, M.D., president and founding partner of Prairie Cardiovascular Consultants and a major force in putting the Prairie Heart Institute on the map, marks a high point of Beane’s relatively short time in Springfield. Born and raised in Taylorville, she graduated with a degree in fine art and minor in graphic design from Western Illinois University. She later studied art education at Illinois State University. Beane set up shop in Springfield in 1995. Today she teaches art to individuals and groups in her studio and through Prairie Art Alliance.
Portraiture was not Beane’s first focus. “I started painting a lot of murals, working with interior designers,” she says. “Springfield was not a market where people easily commit to mural projects. It’s a lot of heavy labor, moving up and down ladders. I began doing portraits, which are less demanding physically, and when that part of my art began to take off on its own, it was easy to back off the murals. Besides, portraits allow me to develop the natural ability I have with realism. As a child, I was naturally drawn to faces and eyes. I’m a huge animal lover, and I get lots of business from all over the country, thanks in part to advertising in Bark magazine.”
All of her paintings today are from photographs she takes with a digital SLR. “I try to photograph my subjects and spend several hours with them as I do that. Sometimes I call a person back for a second shoot to better capture details, such as the color of an iris in the eye,” she says.
Paintings take at least three weeks but may take as long as six months.
Beane says she is not losing business to new higher-definition photography. “Most of my clients are committed to paintings,” she says. “Sometimes they will buy pictures I take as part of my preparation for the formal portrait. Some will ask for photographs so that a painting can be produced later when the person is better situated to afford a painting.”
The only slow time Beane has experienced is January through March. Unlike traditional seasonal gifts, portraits are often given for birthdays and even corporate occasions. Her portrait of Dove is a good example.
A free public reception for the exhibit Oh The Places I’ve Been, which runs through July 2, takes place 5:30-7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 7. May 6-8, the alliance also will feature a bonsai display, courtesy of the Springfield Bonsai Society.