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Capturing Characters: Angela Parragi

Molly McLaughlin

We talk to Canberra artist Angela Parragi about the traditional art of portraiture.

Canberra is well known for its galleries full of famous paintings; however, portraits of actors, politicians, sportspeople and historical figures by accomplished artists can seem a world away from the average person. Young Canberra portrait artist Angela Parragi is bringing fresh eyes to this traditional artistic practice by painting the things that inspire her in the everyday.

“Sometimes I’ll see someone and think, ‘they’d be good to paint,’ I’m always saying that,” she explains. “Something in my brain goes off and I think ‘oh, yes I want to paint that.’ I’ve often thought of asking complete strangers I see out and about if I can paint them.”

Angela graduated from ANU with a Bachelor of Arts (Visual) and has studied at the Julian Ashton Art School in Sydney and the Florence Academy of Art in Italy. In 2015 she was a finalist in both the Cliftons Art Prize and the Black Swan Portrait Prize, and she was recently commissioned to paint a portrait of HerCanberra’s founder, Amanda Whitley — a gift from her in-laws, who are big supporters of Canberra artists. Angela’s passion for portraiture stems from an interest in the people around her.

Peter Shergold Commission, oil on canvas, 2015

Peter Shergold
Commission, oil on canvas, 2015

“Possibly painting people is a way for me to study them,” she says. “I find paintings of people are the most interesting subjects, and maybe technically the most challenging. If you don’t capture a flower exactly it can still read as a flower but with people we’re so finely attuned to minute facial differences there’s no room for any error. It’s very personal and specific.”

Even with access to photography constantly increasing, Angela sees portrait painting as an art form that can capture much more than just a subject’s physical appearance.

“Really, I think paintings can offer so much more than photos; more insight and more of the artist’s interpretation,” she explains. “I generally work from photographs as people don’t have the time to sit for me but I’d like to spend more time with my subjects because I think that’s how it should be done. However long I have with someone I work on picking up all I can about them, I feel I fairly good at that now.”

Amanda Whitley Oil on canvas, 2015 Amanda Whitley is the founder and director of the blog "Her Canberra" Private commission

Amanda Whitley
Oil on canvas, 2015 Amanda Whitley is the founder and director of the blog “Her Canberra” Private commission

Although Angela has found success relatively early in her career, she is constantly working to improve her technique and is inspired by artists like John Singer Sargent, Diego Velázquez and Joaquín Sorolla.

John Singer Sargent is my hero,” she says. “I aim to paint like him, and that standard means I’ve got a long way to go! As a child I liked colouring in and drawing on the walls because I just wanted and needed to draw to capture what I saw. I am compelled to do it.”

Angela’s portraits are realistic and detailed with a clear personal style, and she prefers to focus on the subject rather than the audience. She hopes to exhibit more in Canberra and interstate in the future.

“I like to leave it up to people what they take away from my work,” she says. “I interpret what I see but I leave it up in the air. If it’s a portrait, I want them to get a sense of the person from my work. I’d like them to be interested and want to look at my work, intrigued.”

Angela Parragi is currently accepting commissions. You can find her website here

Feature image of ‘”Riley” 2015, oil on canvas’ by Angela Parragi.

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Molly McLaughlin

Molly McLaughlin is new to Canberra and is attempting to prove to her friends that the capital city can be cool. This mostly involves frequently going out for brunch and then posting about it on social media, along with trekking up hills and around art galleries. She is half way through her uni degree but spends most of her time reading, writing and planning her next adventure. More about the Author

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