Oh, I have struggled with this painting!
Last October I got a beautiful letter from Sarah Komba, the Tanzanian student I support through TETEA (Tanzanian Empowerment Through Education), and she included two pictures of herself. I decided that I would paint her portrait as a gift for her, using those photos. She is a beautiul woman, strong and intelligent, and through her I recapture a bit of my own Peace Corps experience as a teacher in Tanzania.
Foolishly, I decided to place her in a 2/3-body portrait alongside an emblematic African tree. I wanted a unique composition, and was thinking of Alice Neel’s “Nancy and the Rubber Plant.” But for reasonable framing and shipping, I chose a 9×12” canvas, foolishly not realizing that this would make her head approximately the size of a thumbnail. I was painting a miniature on rough canvas weave instead of a linen or hard surface. Then, the tilt of her head and the flat lighting on her face made it devilishly difficult to achieve a likeness. Painting the Occupy Philadelphia characters was SO much easier.
Still, after a lot of scraping, repainting, scaling and overlaying her photographs with my in-progress work and making endless measurements, I did come up with a good painting that I am glad to send her. Finally. Whew!
And so (drum roll please!) HERE IS SARAH KOMBA: