Leroy Forney

Artist, Oil Painter

The Sarah Komba Portrait

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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:

Msama;a Secondary School, Songea TZ

Sarah is a promising Form Four student in Songea, TZ

Author: Leroy

A scientist by training, I retired to travel, then landed in Philadelphia to paint - and recently, to explore alternative materials for art. Currently I create Bas-relief Cardboards as my unique environmental medium.

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