Butler Exhibits ‘Lifescapes’ by Watercolorist

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – An exhibition of works by New Jersey artist P. Smallwood, whose watercolor portraits seem to reveal the personality of his subjects, is coming to The Butler Institute of American Art.

“Dialogues with Reality” will open Dec. 26 and run through Feb. 27. Smallwood will visit the museum Feb. 6 for a public reception. The artist calls his portraits lifescapes, because they portray the subjects within their natural environment and convey a feeling about how they live.

Louis Zona, executive director and curator of The Butler, had high praise for the artist.

“Smallwood’s work is watercolor at its very best,” Zona said. “It was once said that a watercolorist should throw away his first thousand paintings,” which speaks to the need for constant practice.

P. Smallwood in his New Jersey studio.

“But in the case of Smallwood, the medium of watercolor seems to be so incredibly natural to him. This is one terrific exhibition.”

The Butler exhibition marks the premiere of the show. 

“It features over 30 works, pairing my landscapes and figurative work for the first time,” Smallwood said. “I applaud The Butler for its continued support of American Realism and am honored to be selected for this tremendous opportunity.”

Smallwood wants the viewer to connect with the subjects of his art, and to experience their aspirations and desires.

As a Black artist, he chooses people who might seem unimportant to most viewers and puts them center stage.

Smallwood, who is primarily self-taught, focuses on perspective, form and how light falls on the subject. These elements are most apparent in his subjects’ skin tone, which reflect the artist’s fascination with both figure drawing and watercolor painting.

Pictured at top: “Battle of the Leather Coats,” a watercolor painting by P. Smallwood.

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