Shotgun Review


By Shotgun Reviews March 29, 2012

There are three major layers in Chris Doyle’s work Masque (2012), a beautiful watercolor with vibrant colors that have a sort of transparent feel. In the background there is a quiet, peaceful forest scene painted in cool greens, blues, and purples. This peaceful feeling is also conveyed through the simple, pleasing composition and the use of aerial perspective. There are a few trees on either side that frame the piece and the ground is blanketed in a layer of ferns, sticks, and large, leafy shrubs. The forest is a bit dark, almost like an early morning, which gives it a mysterious feel. It sort of fades out as you move backward, almost as if it is fading into the fog until the trees are faint, indistinct, barely visible shapes in the distance.

The second layer is a set of bold, black, opaque stripes—almost like a zebra—that contrasts with the transparent feel of the rest of the work. The stripes start bold, short, and thick and become longer and thinner as they near the center. They are symmetrical both horizontally and vertically, although they vary in size, shape, and width. The stripes give the piece a sense of movement, almost like waves moving in and out and up and down, as though they lie on a curved surface above the rest of the image and are moving in toward the central focal point.

The final layer is an odd, abstract shape at the center of the image. It is like a brilliant, cheerful “masque.” It is divided into small sections painted in bold, bright colors, making it seem almost as though it is coming toward you and framed by the black stripes and the quiet forest. It is symmetric about its center. It looks almost like a series of snapshots were taken of the forest floor and then cut out and pasted together to make this figure. In parts, you can see golden-brown soil with


Chris Doyle. Masque, 2012; watercolor; 44.5 x 67.5 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Catharine Clark Gallery, San Francisco.

bright green grass, shrubs, and wide leaves; there are even lines in parts that mimic the bold black stripes. The more you look at it, the more your eye transforms it into different images—a face, a rooster, a small red sandal. Its vibrant colors and varied shapes and textures, as well as the background layers, draw your eye toward it.

Overall, this image is filled with variety. There is a quiet, peaceful forest, a series of bold curves, and a brightly colored abstract figure. For me, these elements of contrast are part of what make this image so fascinating. It is filled with detail—the more you look at it, the more you see. Images pop out at you, and then something else catches your eye, and the image transforms into a different one entirely. The piece evokes feelings of peaceful, almost mysterious quiet and vibrant excitement that work together in perfect harmony. Its strong contrasts, bold shapes, colors, and rich details leave you still thinking about it and the powerful images and emotions it conveys.


Portraiture Post Facebook is on view at Catharine Clark Gallery, in San Francisco, through April 7, 2012. This review was produced as part of the Art Smarts workshop held in conjunction with 826 Valencia.


My name is Laura Pierson. I am twelve years old and I go to Hillcrest School. I am an only child and I live with parents in Oakland, California. I enjoy drawing (I do graphite landscapes and oil pastel studies of Impressionist paintings), writing (last November, I wrote a forty-thousand-word novella for National Novel Writing Month), and doing math problems.

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