It’s easy to allow illustrator Tracy Lewis‘ portraits to fool you at first glance. They’re everything a classic should be- soft, focused and steeped in romance, beauty on beauty and topped with bouquets. The one thing that interrupts our initial response of polite pleasure, though, is in the eyes; something ravaged and hollow and at the same time full of intent. Just like that, what has to be said is said, and we can still pack our little hearts with the pinks and powder blues, but we are rendered helpless against the emotional narrative underlining each face and each piece. After all, that’s what makes it count.
Tracy’s online gallery features a title for every situation, ranging from single words like ‘Forgiveness’ and ‘Faith,’ to ‘Fleeting, Fading’ and ‘Blooming,’ all of which lure us into their respective moments of life or decay or both. The passage of time becomes a central theme, easily masked by an innocuous blend of pastels and femininity, but nonetheless unsettling once it makes itself known.
In Fading, our featured character stares beyond the frame with her eyes glazed over, resting her chin on her hand against a backdrop of huge petals. She’s bored, caught in the universal pose reserved for school, but again- there’s that desperation as her hand clutches her face, the deer in headlights facing a certain end. Tracy strikes that balance to play on our senses as her daintiest scenes slowly reveal the undisputable animal inside them.
Citing Old Hollywood glamour and the natural world as sources of inspiration, Lewis has perfected a technique that lets both of those in- an organic core, lacquered over and smoothed out. When working with watercolor, as she does most of the time, she layers, creating the multicolored sheen that draws our eye inwards. The effect is almost that of a puddle of oil by the curb- a metallic rainbow following the sun.
Tracy also adds ink to some of her images, using it to provide a bold outline around the aforementioned watercolor. In Sweet Pea, the animal skull is outlined in ink and filled in with nebula-like colors, giving the whole thing a crisp, tailored sense of completion without compromising its free- flowing nature. Tracy’s techniques, when paired together, make her pieces musky but elegant, like a thrift store wedding dress, working wonders next to their emotional context. Above all, Tracy portfolio has a voice, and that is what lets us put ourselves into her images to see if we can belong there.