I whispered to myself that if I ever did an album, I would commission Amanda Blake to do a painting for the album cover. As my hypothetical album became ‘Not All the Leaves Are Falling’, I messaged Amanda and crossed all my fingers and toes that she would say yes. It was such a happy day for me when she did!
I emailed her some early mixes of songs, wrote down my musings about what I was trying to express, and left her to do her thing. I got to watch the process in action as ‘Not All the Leaves Are Falling’ took shape in sketches and then in colour, until at the end of the process this beautiful 10inch oil painting on wooden canvas arrived after it’s intrepid journey from the other side of the world.
My beloved painting lives on an antique table under my bookshelf in my bedroom. I love the autumnal palette, the contemplative air, the depth and beauty, the soul space, the hand reaching out to catch the falling leaf, the female figure who is both me and not me (though I made sure she had my new hair-cut!). Every time I see the album artwork I feel a sense of deep contentment, the satisfaction of vicarious expression.
I was intrigued to know more about Amanda and am delighted to be able to share this conversation with you, giving some fascinating insights into this woman who knew she wanted to be an artist from the time she was three years old.
A Conversation with Amanda Blake
Amanda, what place did painting and art have in your childhood?
I was about three years old when I decided I wanted to be an artist. My parents are artists so it was always a huge part of my life. One of my first memories is of playing under the table my mom was using to sell stuffed animals at craft shows. Later she worked in clay and when I was older I’d help paint ornaments for spending money. For as long as I can remember drawing was my favourite activity. I spent hours and hours drawing mice in ball gowns when I was little.
At what point did you decide to make art your full time gig?
I briefly convinced myself to try for a more serious career and switched majors again and again while in college – psychology, art history, French, graphic design – but once I discovered painting a couple years in that was all I wanted to do. When I graduated university I went to a summer intensive painting program in Chautauqua, New York. While there I sold my first paintings out of my studio and knew I could make it happen. It took a few years of working at coffee shops and restaurants before I decided to make the leap and do it full time. It’s not an easy job but I can’t imagine ever doing anything else.
How do you describe your own art style?
The paintings that speak to me the most are those of the early renaissance, post Impressionism and abstract expressionism. I try to incorporate everything I love about painting in to a voice that is mine – try not to follow any particular movement. When I have to quickly describe my work I always say it’s narrative work with imagined figures inspired by superstition and the early renaissance. It doesn’t quite sum up what I’m doing but gives a feeling for it I think.
‘She would find answers in the dark’ | Amanda Blake
I have always been drawn to the visual portrayal of ‘soul essence’ in your paintings. Where does this come from?
My primary goal with my work has always been to create something that the viewer will feel an emotional connection to. I spend a lot of time thinking about what it is that draws someone to a piece of art and try to capture that in my work. I read a lot about superstition and symbolism and much of my work comes from that – I feel like they are a shorthand for the themes that interest me of people searching for meaning and answers in life. I feel like that is what all art is really about when it come down to it – making order out of chaos, beauty out of nothing, trying to find meaning when there may or may not be one. I want people to look at my work and feel this understanding, feel like it’s familiar. I’m constantly searching for the right balance between specific and vague – find that place where people can see my intentions and still have room to create their own stories.
‘The stars would lead them home’ | Amanda Blake