By Steve Siciliano
After taking care of some rather nasty business in Chicago recently I unwound with a few pints of Alpha King at The Map Room then went to Gene & Giorgetti’s where I had a bottle of a second growth Bordeaux with a thick, dry-aged porterhouse. I went to the Art Institute the next morning and spent about an hour looking at a painting that I particularly like. What I find most striking about this portraiture is the way that Rembrandt used elements of light and dark, a technique called chiaroscuro. I’m going to employ this technique while painting the following portrait of Samantha Lowe.
The black background in the portrait contrasts sharply with the brightly illuminated face. It’s an extraordinarily beautiful, well-proportioned face, one side of which is bathed in light, the other faintly dimmed by shadow. The face has high cheekbones, a delicate, slightly upturned nose, and full lips that, when seen from differing perspectives, may present the barest hint of a frown, an indifferent pout, or a vaguely enchanting, somewhat mischievous smile. There are perfectly formed dark eyebrows underneath a snow white, flawlessly smooth forehead onto which drops a single curving wisp of coal-black hair. But ultimately it’s the eyes that you are drawn to. The eyes are dark and are surrounded by shadow. They seem dangerous, and if you look directly into them they in turn bore into you; if you merely glance at them the way you would glance at the sun, they appear to be focused inward, as if they were reflecting upon privileged, esoteric knowledge or, perhaps, some secret, unspeakable sorrow.
After Samantha Lowe walked into darkened bar from the late afternoon light she stood just inside the door and those eyes slowly surveyed the room. Jimmie was standing behind the bar and when he saw her he looked over at me, frowned, then went back to his crossword. The Crazy Hippie was asleep at a table and when he felt those eyes pass over him he suddenly snapped awake and blinked a couple of times before looking down at the floor. Two regulars who were playing pool stood with their mouths slightly open and I thought they were going to genuflect. But it was Charles Brewster’s reaction that was most puzzling. He had moved to the bar, and when Samantha looked at him he coolly returned her gaze and gave her a slight, almost imperceptible nod.