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  • Writer's pictureLisa DuBois

In the Eye of the Beholder

"Behold"... not a word that we hear in everyday language. Ever hear the phrase is "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder"? This phrase could be used to describe an unequally yoked couple in terms of physical beauty, for example a Billy Joel/Christie Brinkley marriage.

Christie Brinkley and Billy Joel were married in the 80's and divorced in the 90's
This uptown girl and backstreet guy were married almost 9 years

The word "behold" could be used when comparing subjective preferences to works of art. We might be at an art museum and I love a certain painting which you think is atrocious. You acknowledge my love for the painting by saying with a shrug, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."

"Behold" feels so much more weighty than "look" or "see". "Behold" carries a deeper connection. If I behold a painting, I am doing so much more than looking at it. There is something about it that draws me in. Of course, there are some works of art that do not draw me in. I can be anywhere from indifferent to repulsed by them. I do not behold those pieces of art.

It is easy to recognize a Rothko painting. They are blocks of color on a field of another color. As the artist neared the end of his life by suicide, his paintings evolved to blacks and greys. You might love them. I look and move on.

A woman walks past a Rothko abstract painting
"Orange Red Yellow" by Rothko, sold for nearly $87 million in 2012

When I behold something, I gaze at it. I consider it. It stirs my soul. It could be anything from a child's drawing to a masterpiece by Caravaggio. "John the Baptist" by Caravaggio, one of my favorite paintings to behold, is at the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City. Every time I visit the museum, I take time to behold this painting. It has captured my attention ever since I first saw it back in the 1980's.

John the Baptist painting by Caravaggio
John the Baptist by Caravaggio

During the past year, I have developed a style of portraiture that I like to think of as something to behold. They are original acrylic portraits, painted with brushes and palette knives. Each portrait is a unique portrayal, using a hybrid of traditional and contemporary styles. I often paint from a black and white photo reference, making these ideal paintings from old family photos.

Black and white photo of a woman from the 1940's
A photo of Thelma, a friend's grandmother

I take great care to first paint the likeness of the person, capturing the detail of an eye, the light reflecting off the philtrum, and the curve of a mouth. I utilize colors that may not necessarily be associated as skin tones, and yet, it clearly feels like skin tones.

Then comes the vulnerable moment. I set down my brushes and pick up my palette knives. There is always a moment of combined fear and excitement as I lay down the first swath of color with the knife. I have already invested much time and care into this painting. Will this moment ruin it?

It hasn't yet.

My friend's grandmother, Thelma, was a woman who saw joy through the trials of life. In her later years, she was much different, as dementia had taken over. When my friend saw the finished portrait of her grandmother, tears came to her eyes. She said, "This is my grandma before she wasn't my grandma anymore."

Portrait of a woman from the 1940's
Thelma, a beauty to behold

There is a thrill when I see what happens to the painting as it comes alive with strokes of color from my palette knives. No longer is it just a reproduction of someone's face. I like to think of it as the way God sees us. He sees beyond our imperfections. He sees us with a beauty that is beyond our human flesh. He beholds us in all the wonder and glory that He has made us to be. He sees us with a level of love that is beyond our understanding. He ultra-beholds us.

I like to think that my portraits capture some of that. They capture something beyond an image of a person. They capture the "je ne sais quoi" of a person. They are something to behold.

Ethan, whose name means strong, enduring, firm

People first notice the eyes in my portraits. The eyes capture the essence of each person I paint. The palette-knife strokes of color capture their wonder and glory.


If you are considering a portrait, first we will meet, either in person or virtually. I'd love to discuss your portrait over coffee. I want to know about the person I am painting. Who are they to you? Is it a great-grandmother, a son, or maybe a grandchild? What are they like? I love hearing their stories, and gain insight to their personality. Their story becomes part of the painting. As I set up for each portrait, and during the painting, I pray about the person and their family. In prayer, I agree with what God has to say about them. They have a wonder and a glory all their own. They are loved and they have purpose. Behold them.

If you would like to learn more about my portraits, and to look at dimensions and pricing, please click here.

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