A Heart for Art
Alana Knuff prefers painting from real life, not a photo. “My fascination is with the person’s face,” she says. “You can see their personality, their soul. I’ve always loved painting people because they each have their own uniqueness.”
Knuff started creating portraits professionally in 2008, but she’s adored the art form her whole life.
“I started drawing as a child,” she says. “When I had free time I would sit out on the porch with my pad of paper and sketch people. I started with imaginary figures, and then gradually worked my way to people. As I got older, I created my first portraits—one of my mother and then one of my college roommate.”
up with a mother who taught art and a father who was a mechanical engineer, Knuff felt torn between her analytical mind and her artistic heart. She worked most of her life as a capital project manager for Harvard and the University of Texas, retired in 2008 and began living her dream.
“I decided that my artsy side would finally have its day. I feel like I’ve been on the expressway in the art world for the last few years,” she says. “I still have so much to learn about it.” Although I’ve worked a lot with pen and ink and with pastels, I know that my passion lies in creating portraits.”
Knuff did a lot of her learning this year at the Art Academy in Florence, Italy, where she studied portraiture with Maureen Hyde.
“It was a life-changing experience. I now paint every day and I’ve joined several art associations,” she says. “I have paintings in the United States and in Italy as well. I sold a painting to [master craftsman] Giorgio Filacamo while I was in Ravello; he’s made cameos for Elizabeth Taylor and the Roselyn Carter.”
A portrait can make a very exquisite gift in a family, and Knuff takes pride in creating something that will last.
“It’s a legacy, an heirloom,” she explains. “It’s also an act of love on the part of the painter.”
Knuff shares the different stages of the portrait’s creation with her client, ensuring that they’ll be happy with the finished piece. “I begin with the underpainting by using transparent red oxide,” she explains. “It captures the values and pose for the portrait, providing a roadmap for the entire composition. I then ask the client to come see it before I continue.”
Later, clients come back to check for additional changes.
“I want to know if I’ve accurately captured the person,” says Knuff. “There is nothing more satisfying than the client viewing a portrait of their loved one and falling completely in love.”
Speaking of love, Alana agrees that portraits make unique, timeless gifts for any romantic occasion, from Valentine’s Day to a wedding anniversary.
“There are two people in a marriage, and I suggest a portrait together of the husband and wife,” says Knuff. “Why not capture the love between them?”
“I’ve always loved the process of a portrait,” she says, “particularly the moment when the person finally jumps onto the canvas and you say, ‘A-ha! There they are!’ It’s exciting.”
Visit Alana’s website at www.alanaknuff.com. To view her work, go to the Hamlet Fine Art Gallery on Broad Street in Charleston.