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Artist in residence
By John Moody

Tiffany Beane wears a bunch of hats.

She's a businesswoman, a teacher, a photographer and an animal lover. She's also a mother and a wife, the pride and joy of her life.

She's talented at the whole lot, but here's the thing: She was never very good at math.

"That's why I couldn't go to veterinary school, couldn't do the math," she said, smiling.

Vet medicine's loss is art's gain.

Of all the aforementioned roles that Tiffany Beane fills in her life, the one that she is gaining a wider reputation for professionally is as an artist, a calling she's pursued for more than a decade.

She has figured out how to combine all these facets of her world - the mom and wife roles are, of course, most important - into her life as an artist. In the masterful portraits she produces for corporate and private clients, you can see the heart and eye of an artist. In her home-studio on Springfield's far west side, where she runs her business, Tiffany Beane Fine Art & Portrait Studio, you can see the independent businesswoman who manages to balance family and professional life.

Her elegant and tasteful home is decorated with photo after photo of her handsome boy, Christian, now 3. There are photos of Tiffany's husband, Chad Jones, posed with their little guy. There are lots of shots of their girl golden retrievers, Sophie and the late Marley. Not often, but every now and then, you catch a glimpse of Tiffany herself in a photo. This is the centered family person. At ease with family and friends and visitors. At ease at her easel. She manages to live her life on her terms.

Her studio on the lower level of her home is open and airy, bright, with yellow walls and tall ceilings. The tools of her trade are here: On both ends of the room are large drafting tables, each with a work in progress on display. Around the room are books, paints, brushes, professional-grade markers and large and small easels.

You can find oils, acrylics, pastels, colored pencils, water colors and charcoal. She has a television in a nearby cabinet, but she prefers to listen to her iPod or to an audio book while she's working.

 She is booked for months ahead of time. Her work is sent all over the country to customers who have found her via the Internet or from some well-placed national advertising she does. She knows her business.

She's from Taylorville originally, not so much from an artistic family. Judge Don Beane is her father, and her mother, Janice, worked as an office manager. Her own family begins with Chad, a Petersburg native who works in aviation.

As a teacher, she holds workshops, sometimes at the Hoogland Center for the Arts, and she teaches classes in her home. She teaches kids and adults. For the adults, she tries to keep it fun for them, too.

"I like to make it a social event, with music, wine and even champagne," she said.

The folks at the Illinois Municipal League hired Beane to do a portrait of their late executive director, Steve Sargent. Beane had never met Sargent, which is not unusual for much of her work.

The finished product, delivered late last summer, impressed her clients.

"We were extremely pleased," Roger Huebner, general counsel for the league, said. "When you know someone for a long time, and they pass, and an artist is able to catch his essence and spirit ... she'd never met him."

Sargent had succeeded his father as executive director, so the commissioning of the portrait was so that the new art could join the piece done years before of Sargent's father.

The league's headquarters at Fifth and Capitol, known as the Sargent Office Building, is where the two portraits hang side by side.

"For someone to put that to canvas, it's amazing," Huebner said. "Steve was the kind of guy, when he walked in a room you knew it. His smile, facial expression, his whole demeanor ..."

First, Beane did the piece in charcoal so she could be certain she was on the right path. She was. Here is where her skills as a listener came through. She had been told about Sargent's fun personality, "the twinkle in his eye, the little sparkle" that he emanated. According to Huebner, "it was shocking" the way she captured him in the final portrait.

The Sargent commission is fairly typical of the corporate work she does. It's not unusual for her to be hired to do a portrait of a CEO, a physician, a judge, a member of the clergy, even the political realm or maybe of a large donor to a hospital or university.

She works from photographs or videotape sent from clients. She interviews her clients and, if possible, meets with the subject, which is most often not an option. She's really after the person's mannerisms, behavior and such details as "how their teeth show when they're smiling."

What she's attempting is to "capture as much personality as possible. If I can meet the subject in person, that's perfect," Beane said. "I can see their physical features, in particular, their eyes. But that's not always possible because it's a surprise or they've passed on."

Even though she usually doesn't meet the subject, she said it doesn't inhibit the process, especially if "the photos are good, clear, and I have good insight on the person, a clear idea of who they are or were."

She specializes in people and pets, too. She can make you cry over a long-lost dog.

Here's how it goes when a potential client calls:

  • What medium?
  • Number of subjects in portrait?
  • How much of a person's body is to be rendered?
  • Are hands/feet in the portrait? (that complicates the piece)
  • Background in simple black or detailed?
  • The overall size?

The answers to those questions will determine pricing. The actual painting of the piece itself takes a number of weeks. From the booking of the job to the time of its delivery takes several months.

For a client who is too late for a specific date, Beane will customize an announcement wrapped in a satin bow. The photo the portrait is based on is included with a note (wording is customized) saying that a portrait has been commissioned for you by your loved one.

She came to her calling by accident. Beane started out hand-painting furniture and doing murals for local designers; she had to stand on a lot of ladders. But her heart was elsewhere. What she'd always loved were human faces and the shape of the human body.

"A husband came and wanted a portrait of his daughter for his wife," Beane said. "I was off the ladder, and I didn't go back on."

The best part comes when a client gets their portrait. It's always been that way for her.  

"That's very rewarding, when I get that feedback," Beane said. "I'm very excited for them."

Check out Tiffany Beane's work on her Web site, www.tiffanybeane.com.


Story published Friday, December 4, 2009 ( Volume 4, Number 7 )

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