A Portrait Worth a Thousand Lessons

You’ve heard the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words." Well, in Jeanette Leake’s classroom, a portrait is worth a thousand lessons.
Like other Fine Arts faculty at Hutchison, Leake is a working professional. She worked solely as a portrait artist for 15 years before beginning to teach. In fact, her portfolio includes many Hutchison families. When she was commissioned to paint the head of school’s portrait, Leake recognized it as an excellent opportunity to bring her students along on the journey with her in her studio space on campus.
“The learning that happens in this environment is amazing. The girls are able to see my progress, revisions, and decisions, and ask questions along the way.  I want them to see art as relevant and to understand the process and work that goes into making art,” she says. For Leake, who has portraits in collections and businesses around the country, that process begins with photographs and sketches.
“I begin by painting the figure in shades of green that act as an underpainting. Then I begin to layer glazes of thinned paint on top of the flesh areas to create a more lifelike feel to the skin,” she says. “I think it was special for the girls to feel a part of the process. When they visit in the future as alumnae, they will remember this portrait as being part of their learning experience.”
Leake paints in oil in an old master’s technique and says she loves painting with color, which made Dr. Ring an interesting subject. “Dr. Ring was fun to paint because she has such a colorful personality and because she wears color.  I love painting with color, so I knew this painting would be fun,” says Leake.
Hutchison’s Fine Arts teachers are working professionals, giving students a taste of what it’s like to excel in the arts and earn a living in a craft about which they are passionate.
“My family and I are blown away by the portrait. Jeanette did a beautiful job!” said Dr. Ring. “I especially like that the girls could feel a part of the process. That means a lot to me. Hutchison is great in that way. Our teachers are always looking for ways to teach in a fun and engaging manner.” 

Read More

Hutchison is the leading private girls school in Memphis for ages 2 years old through twelfth grade.