Before writing this article, I paused to consider the work of my young niece, Isabelle Ford Bullock. I’ve known Isabelle’s work since she was a child. She’s always had impressive creative independence. While I made things out of nothing (houses from cardboard boxes; ornaments from string and glue), she proudly produced jumbled knots and ghastly concoctions of food and paint.

But she gradually acquired structure. In the finger paintings and collages that followed, I rejoiced to see linear grids, and saw it as an unmistakable sign she was bending nature to her will whenever found items assumed objective form.161213_030103_101

Today she draws with enviable skill, modeling with convincing form and flesh. Her graceful lines and broad gestural range easily bring wisps of hair, or the glance of an eye, under her expressive control.

The result is far from accidental. Her skill remains evident as she courageously explores different styles, as in the classical elegance of this sketch:161213_030103_102

Like the masters, the simplicity of her rendering is unapparent until examined closely, and we realize there is no “there” there, and the expression comes not from slavish photorealism, but from intensely intuitive gestural control:

Even when she evokes the imaginative world of surrealism, the skill remains:

While consistent skill is an artistic virtue, fine art resides in a mysterious realm of originality, judgment, and taste – characteristics that typically elude young artists. These pieces show restraint of palette and good design judgment. Excepting for a celebrity subject, they avoid reliance on gimmick, and know how to stop working at the right point — none are overworked and there is understanding how to use less as more.

All artists evolve. These brief comments are but transitory reflections of a moving thing. As important as what we see today is what Isabelle produces tomorrow. We should all revisit her work in the future.

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