Expressions on Canvas


The Schenectady, N.Y. native Jane McCambley said she is fascinated by how the smallest expressions, such as the cock of an eyebrow or the lift of a lip, can transform a person’s face.

“My greatest inspiration is human emotions, expressions and interactions,” she said. “The human face is capable of carrying so much expression.”

Growing up with a heavily artistic background, McCambley began drawing at a young age. The third-year fine arts major said her mother, an elementary school art teacher, encouraged her to explore a creative process, but did not steer McCambley toward a specific medium. She decided to pursue art in college after discovering painting in high school.


“It wasn’t until later in my life that I understood that I could be expressive in other mediums,” McCambley said. “In college, I started experimenting in things like ceramics and photography.”

This semester, McCambley said she started painting in a way she never tried before. She is working with liquid washes, which, she said, is watered-down paint.

“I’ve been making a lot of cool discoveries about what happens when you use extremely thinned paint,” said McCambley. “It’s been a really interesting adventure for me.”

McCambley said she uses the backgrounds, or washes, to help her transform the paintings into something more than just simple portraits. Her portraits begin with these washes, then she goes over them with “normal paint” to render a person on top.

McCambley said her influences are constantly changing, but recently she has been inspired by paintings by Norman Rockwell and Chuck Close. Through her own art, McCambley said she wants others to be able to see how she views the world and wants to shine a spotlight on the things she finds beautiful, despite how odd or gross they may seem.

McCambley said she is amazed at how children perceive themselves.

“The tiniest things — a tutu, a crown, a pair of googles — can give children all the confidence in the world,” she said, “and an arrogance that really intrigues me.”

She has completed a few drawings and paintings of her sister who took dance lessons for 17 years.

“She’s really flexible and [can] contort her body in really strange ways that I often find beautiful,” said McCambley.

McCambley has never tried to force a political message on her work. She said her art has always been more personal.

“I think the way I view the world has to do with finding the beauty in the many eccentricities of human life, and I hope my work speaks to that,” McCambley said.