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Buddha's head a constant source of inspiration

By JOHN GREENWALD , Lowell Sun, Oct 27, 2006

Lowell, MA (USA) -- All her life, Virginia Peck, 55, has made art -- painting, sculpture, prints and for, 10 years, commercial illustration for Reebok, The Boston Globe, Doubleday books and others.

In her early 40s, Peck took personal growth seminars and began exploring yoga, meditation, Eastern philosophy and spirituality. During meditation one day, "a light went off in my head and I realized I could combine my love of painting the human head with painting the Buddha's head," she says.

Peck graduated from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. She moved to Lowell from Newton last year "because I heard Lowell was an art-friendly town, and I've been very happy here." She has exhibited at the Concord and Cambridge art associations, the New Art Center in Newton and will be in a two-person show at the Alpers Fine Art gallery in Andover, from Oct. 24 through Dec. 3. The artists' reception takes place tomorrow from 6 to 9 p.m.


Official website: http://virginiapeck.com/


Have you always painted heads?

Yes, even as a child. Any kind of head, I like to do it. Realistic, abstract, expressionistic, masks, even on weathered tree bark. I find the human head endlessly fascinating. Combining that fascination with the Buddha's image was a natural progression. I've been painting the Buddhas for three years, and I'm still excited by it and feel there's more I can learn.

What did you want to accomplish with "Chants of Love"?

I've done more than two dozen Buddhas and all are about our modern frenetic lives and the possibility of a peace and serenity that the Buddha offers through meditation.

How do you achieve all those colors, layers and textures?

First, I begin with a spontaneously painted abstract. It's full of color, dripped paint, marks, lines and shapes. Next, I draw the Buddha's face in charcoal over the abstract. Once I feel the face is the way I want it, I rub out most of the drawing, leaving only a faint indication of the features.

Now I'm ready to paint. I mix marble dust in my oil paints to give them a thicker, rougher texture. I layer the painting with complementary colors determined by the abstract underpainting. Where the abstract was blue, I layer in orange, where it was red, I layer in green. I build up layer after layer, color after color.

Then, I gradually define the features to make them discernible. Next, I take thinned-out oil paint and drip it over the entire canvas. That pulls together all the disparate colors and shapes.

Finally, I touch up the highlight areas with fresh paint.

These paintings look almost abstract close up but are more realistic from a distance. Do you want that effect?

Yes. I find that I enjoy a painting that feeds you visually no matter what distance you are from it. I like how my work changes as you move closer or farther away.

What's next?

More Buddhas!



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