Felicia Forte working in her studio

Felicia Forte

United States 1979



Felicia Forte
Felicia Forte
United States
March 31, 2016

Felicia Forte is an American painter and painting instructor whose work is strongly focused on portraiture. Most of her paintings are very expressive, close-up portraits which are clearly psychological. She doesn’t like to embellish and simplify people’s features – instead, Forte prefers to depict people just the way they are, without concealing any physical flaws. Also, she is fond of representing any kind of fleeting, minor feeling as precisely as possible. Her portraits show a wide amplitude of human states of mind and this emotional diversity is one of the key values when it comes to Forte’s work.

Forte’s paintings are very expressive, psychological close-up portraits

Felicia Forte - Punk, 2015
Felicia Forte – Punk, 2015

Double Career

Forte was born in Los Angeles in 1979 and she studied fine arts at the California Art Institute in San Francisco and the Art Students League in New York.  After graduating from the art institute, she showed interest not only in starting her career as an artist but also in teaching art students to paint portraits alla prima, which means directly on the canvas, without any underpaintings. Painting alla prima has to be  completed in a single session since the paint needs to remain wet and it is impossible to correct any mistakes later. This kind of direct, immediate painting is a challenging approach and students have to be fully aware of every stroke they make and every color they decide to use. Forte excelled in this method herself and is proud to share her knowledge with art students.

Felicia Forte - Destroying Something You Worked So Hard To Create, 2014
Felicia Forte – Destroying Something You Worked So Hard To Create, 2014

Honest, Uncensored Portraiture

The artist’s portraits are all done in a very recognizable style that she has built over the years. The facial features of her models appear very prominent because of the strong light resembling the lighting used in photo studios and also the backgrounds she uses are somewhat similar to backdrops in photography. But this is where the similarity of Forte’s work and photography ends – even though her work is representational, we cannot call it photographic because her lines and shapes are bold, dramatic and not utterly controlled. She is letting her models’ emotions  appear  uncensored in her portraits and this approach brings a strong sense of rawness and immediacy. The value of Forte’s portraiture is already recognized – in 2014 she participated at the Plein Air Convention and Expo in Monterey, California and in 2015 her self-portrait was exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in London, where it won the best portrait award. Forte’s artworks have been shown in numerous group exhibitions  and she was also Artist-in-Residence at de Young Museum of Fine Art in San Francisco.

Forte picks a facial feature she finds most enticing on someone’s face and then emphasizes it

Felicia Forte - Swan, 2015
Felicia Forte – Swan, 2015

Appreciating Imperfections

It is interesting to observe Forte’s way of painting, since she likes to pick a facial feature she finds most enticing on someone’s face and then concentrate on emphasizing that feature, no matter if it’s something beautiful, like lively and expressive eyes, or something imperfect, such as a strong nose or blotched skin tone. Forte proves with her portraits that anything can be made special and worth attention, if shown in an insightful way, from a different point of view and without sticking to preestablished visions of beauty.

The artist is represented by Abend Gallery in Denver, USA.

Felicia Forte lives and works in Detroit, Michigan.

Featured image: Felicia Forte working in her studio
All images copyright ©  Felicia Forte

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2016NexusAbend Gallery, Denver, COGroup
2016AnimaliaAbend Gallery, Denver, COGroup
201525th Annual Holiday Miniatures ShowAbend Gallery, Denver, COGroup
2015TRAC2015 Invitational Art ExhibitionTRAC Conference 2015, Thousand Oaks, CAGroup
2015Urban LifeAbend Gallery, Denver, COGroup
2015BP Portrait Award ExhibitionThe National Gallery, London, UKGroup
2015UnfurlGallery 1261, Denver, COGroup
2014Urban AspectPrinciple Gallery, Alexandria, VAGroup
2014Pay it ForwardPrinciple Gallery, Alexandria, VA Group
2014Women Painting WomenPrinciple Gallery, Charleston, SCGroup
2014These are a Few of My Favorite ThingsPrinciple Gallery, Charleston, SCGroup
2014Exhibiting Artist at The Plein Air Convention and ExpoMonterey, CAGroup
2013(R)evolution: Women Painting WomenPrinciple Gallery, Alexandria, VAGroup
2013Women Painting Women International Juried ExhibitionTownsend Atelier, Chattanooga, TN Group
2013The Man ShowKwan Fong Gallery, California Lutheran University, Thousand Oaks, CA Group
2012Still, Life and LandMaxwell Alexander Gallery, Culver City, CAGroup
2012One Hundred DollarsLittlefield, New York, NYGroup
2012City StreetsStudio Gallery, San Francisco, CAGroup
2011TinyStudio Gallery, San Francisco, CAGroup
2011National Juried Exhibition, All Media 2011Chico Art Center, Chico, CAGroup
2011Fresh Air: Landscapes of CaliforniaFremont Gallery, Pasadena, CAGroup
2011Contemporary Painters, Bay Area ExhibitionArc Gallery, San Francisco, CAGroup
2011Members Show1870 Art Center Gallery, Belmont, CAGroup
2010Drawings and Paintings1870 Art Center Gallery, Belmont, CASolo
2010Doll HouseArc Gallery, San Francisco, CAGroup
2010Coastal Art League and Museum Annual Juried ShowHalf Moon Bay, CAGroup
2010Fall Fusion1870 Art Center Gallery, Belmont, CAGroup
2010Spring Open Studios1870 Art Center Gallery, Belmont, CAGroup
2010Daydreams and NightmaresGallery 25, San Mateo, CAGroup