Double Talk

by | Aug 31, 2019

Double Talk was my first gallery show, in conjunction with artist and friend, Dianne Wile-Brumm, at the Craig Gallery in Dartmouth, NS in April 2005.

We were interested in art speak and how artists and galleries sometimes feel the need to write introductions to shows that are so abstract that they lose meaning for the casual viewer.

Diane and I decided to post part of our discussion about each piece alongside the paintings. Below follows a selection of my pieces from the show, along with our commentary.

Image © Norene Smiley. All rights reserved.
Eating Her Words – Norene Smiley

Eating Her Words 

This is an interesting piece and it seemed to be an important step in your watercolours. I like the searching marks on the face against the more realized eyes and mouth. (DWB)

I was trying to capture the subject’s startled expression, without worrying about an accurate likeness. I was attracted to the emotion of the moment and painted it quickly with a flat brush. (NS)

Image © Norene Smiley. All rights reserved.
What Was She Thinking? – Norene Smiley

What was she thinking?

I think you were trying to catch a fleeting expression with this piece and you have. The heavy darks give it an almost ominous feeling to me. Perhaps this was what you wanted. (DWB)

This painting was pivotal in helping me decide on the kinds of images that interested me. Up to this point, I just painted whatever I had on hand or was placed in front of me. The photographic reference was poor but pointed to the tonal quality of the image I was striving for.  I was trying to express the emotion coming  from the figure and drew on what I had learned in the earlier painting, ‘Eating Her Words’. I went in with gouache at the end to intensify the darks, hopefully underlining the mood I was trying to capture. (NS)

Image © Norene Smiley. All rights reserved.
Telling Tales – Norene Smiley

Telling Tales

You have captured the sprightliness of this subject with an exciting composition and strong contrast of rich darks and large open spaces. The touches of alizarin red really make it sing. The whole piece is filled with movement. (DWB)

The expressive hands and feet of the subject drew me to this image, even though both have always been a challenge for me. This was one of the first watercolours I did after taking an acrylic workshop with Brian Atyeo. This painting got to the point of being over painted. Although I would normally start again, I decided to stick with it to see what would happen. Even though it has problems with the logic of the composition, I am pleased with it. The acrylic experience taught me to be more patient and work out problems on the surface. (NS)

Image © Norene Smiley. All rights reserved.
Retreat – Norene Smiley


This gorgeous piece seems to be a culmination point in your watercolours. It retains your exuberance but is taken further- with all areas of the piece more fully realized than usual. Again your palette is successful, and the dark-light contrast is beautifully controlled. This is one of my favourite paintings. (DWB)

This image was initially all about form. The mark making eventually became a secondary concern. I was trying to translate the introspection and mindfulness of my friend. This woman takes nothing for granted and is spiritual on a very primal level. (NS)

Image © Norene Smiley. All rights reserved.
Monika Deconstructed – Norene Smiley

Monika Deconstructed

The deep darks pull the eye right to the heart of this piece and the sweepy area of cerulean blue makes a good contrast to the stillness of the pose. I think you have captured the weight of her body against the chair. (DWB)

This was a two-hour study during a portrait group session. I thought the slumped attitude of her pose told a story and focused on that rather than trying to capture an accurate likeness. (NS)

Image © Norene Smiley. All rights reserved.
The Porch – Norene Smiley

The Porch

This is an excellent companion piece for the Nap. I am in awe of your boldness, the wild palette, and the haunting mood of your acrylics. (DWB)

This is an image I struggled with over a period of about two years, through countless versions in watercolour and acrylic. My friend was beginning to feel paranoid, I had painted her so often. It was almost as if I couldn’t get it right until I was ready. The composition and proportions were the most challenging. Once I decided to reduce the size of the figure’s head, everything else fell into place. (NS)

Image © Norene Smiley. All rights reserved.
The Life of the Party

The Life of the Party

I have seen this piece through several transformations and the composition seems difficult to me, but you have made it into a very powerful painting. I am fascinated with the more sculpted background faces against the flatter foreground one. I think you have tied it together with the drink glasses echoing the light of the background in a similar way to how you used the sunglasses in Green Monster. (DWB)

In this painting I departed from the original reference more than in any other painting. It has a darker, uneasy, almost claustrophobic tone. The story takes precedence over the texture, mark making and composition. I don’t know if it is successful but it kept my interest through many versions and I learned a lot in the process. (NS)

Image © Norene Smiley. All rights reserved.
The Reader – Norene Smiley

The Reader

To me this piece is about surface. The paint feels rich and almost liquid and I love the texture in the visible scratches. The minimalism of the subject lets the eye dwell on the surface, but the intimacy of the hand coming off the page gives an almost voyeuristic quality. I think it is one of your most successful pieces. (DWB)

This was the first image I was attracted to where the figure became one with the background structure. This is one of many versions, as I varied the composition and position of the figure within the frame. I struggled to lose the detail, remove the brush marks more and more, not quite knowing what I wanted, only knowing what I didn’t want. (NS)

Image © Norene Smiley. All rights reserved.
The Punch Line – Norene Smiley

The Punch Line

Wow! This piece jumps off the canvas at me. It says everything there is to say: texture, form, colour, value, composition. I love it. (DWB)

The underpainting became the most important aspect of this painting. It provided surprises and the painting seemed to almost paint itself. I was going for the gesture of the figure and it seemed to spring forward like a gift. (NS)

Erin At a Glance 1, 2, 3 with subject at Gallery Show

Erin at a Glance 1, 2, 3

These three paintings seem very different from your other acrylics. So sculpted, portrait-like, realistic and fully realized. But I love them. To me they show another direction you could follow if you wished. (DWB)

I was trying to capture the expression in the eyes. Her eyes speak volumes. (NS)