Artist Stephanie Christopher Relies on an Unusual Technique to Create Her Portraits

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Indiglo, paper and acrylic on board, $1,099, Beacon Gallery. / Courtesy photo

Stephanie Christopher had hit a creative wall. While pursuing a fine-arts degree at Bristol Community College in 2016, the Randolph- and L.A.-based portrait painter found herself stumped by a class assignment—and soon began experimenting. Working with found materials, she discovered that shaping small pieces of paper into balls (or “orbs”) and attaching them to her acrylic portraits added the depth and interest she felt her pieces had been lacking. This technique eventually evolved into Christopher’s now-signature style, which she calls “orb art.” “I wanted to explore something simplistic and see what I could do with it,” she says. “And the feedback I got was beyond my expectations.”

Christopher’s portraits tend to capture her subjects in moments of solitude or introspection, with the balled-up paper highlighting facial contours and other key details. Her piece Indiglo, for instance, illustrates the pensive gaze of her daughter, while Beats re-creates a photo of Christopher’s son, his head bowed as he listens to music. “I want to match my subjects’ personalities with poses and color choices that represent who they are and what they’re about,” she says. “My art makes a more powerful statement than a standard portrait—the orbs make them a conversation piece.”

Beats, paper and acrylic on board, $749, Beacon Gallery. / Courtesy photo

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