Painter Rebecca Berman creates dreamy whimsical characters with expressive eyes. Enjoy her portfolio and view more art on her website.
I love a good story. If I don’t understand someone’s behavior, I make up a backstory to fill the void. I make up little anecdotes in my head about people throughout my day.
After getting cut off by an aggressive driver, I’ll say to myself, “Ah, he’s probably rushing home to his sick grandmother or his cat…or maybe his grandmother’s sick cat.” I use these stories, not only to amuse myself, but also to ignite my own compassion.
Even if they are silly, outlandish, or just plain wrong, these little imagined narratives make it easier for me to give people the benefit of the doubt. I ultimately feel more connected.
I use backstories to give life to the figures I paint and sculpt as well. These are loosely based on my own human experiences, and bolstered by my imagination. I create scenarios, emotions and opinions for my subjects. Once I forge a connection to their stories, the creating part gets a lot easier.
Just like my fabricated explanation about the impatient driver, the stories I weave throughout my art don’t have to be realistic to be relatable. In fact, I love distorting my characters’ features—giant eyes and tiny mouths make frequent appearances. Still, I strive to make them feel real. Then viewers can recognize the humanity within them.
Whether I’m painting an adoring chicken or sculpting a head growing out of a vase, my aim is for others to engage with and ultimately relate to the small human stories within them.
My goal isn’t for them to say, “Oh, that’s pretty!” Instead, I want them to recognize some emotion and trigger empathy. “Oh, bless her heart!” or “Oh, she reminds me of my sister…I just love her!”
Becoming an artist was a process of writing myself back into my own story. After a career in healthcare and education, I found that being an artist allowed me to appreciate my own unique perspective and to focus on the emotional complexity of humans which has always fascinated me.
Our lives appear so linear. Yet, with just a glimpse below the surface, we see the intricacy—our minds and hearts taking turns steering the ship, our stories, real and imagined, overlapping and intermingling. My art explores these small moments, set within the web of the complex human experience.
One of the best things about painting and sculpting small human moments is that I’ll never run out of material. With humans, there’s always a backstory.