Portraiture

One of the hurdles for me blogging-wise has been the necessity of providing photographs of something interesting (usually that means a painting or two). Today, I have a bunch of new painting photographs to show off, and the problem has been to pick a subject. I am learning a lot about painting portraits, but there is so much more to learn–so I thought you might be curious about that kind of a groping process.

Like most painters, I don’t have a ready supply of models willing to sit still for hours while I paint their likenesses. That’s why artists have mirrors in their studios. The self-portrait up above is the latest one, the fastest one, and the most fun. Sure, it doesn’t look like me. I apparently look much younger when my face is animated and reacting to other people, or so I am told. But the face I see in the mirror is stern because I am concentrating so very hard on the shadows and contours and the precise placements of eyes, nose, mouth, and that pesky ear, which never seems to live exactly where it ought to. Anyway, I don’t really care if it is a faithful rendition of how I look, because it is really only an exercise.

I think I have been getting better. My first self-portrait was completed over two years ago, and took many hours under the tutelage of Adeline Goldminc-Tronzo. I can’t find a photograph of it–must have been so bad that I deleted it from my albums!

The second one was also forced upon me by Adeline a year later, but I quite like this one.

Finally, the most recent, done all by myself with no tutelage at all, here again in all its glory. Hmmm. Glory not quite the right word!

Painting a portrait from a photograph is hard. You do get an expression that is unforced and lively, but you also get harsh shadows perhaps (depending on the skill of the photographer) and no photograph can capture the delicate variations in skin tone. An expert portraitist can probably supply nuances from memory. If I ever get to be such an expert, I will let you know. In the meantime, here is an example of what I mean. I took a lovely photograph of my two granddaughters and tried to make a painting of it.

They both like the painting, so I succeeded in that way, but can’t you just tell it was painted from a photograph? You can probably also tell that I did not use any mechanical aids or grid to get placements correct. I am trying to train my brain to see correctly without help from a projector or even a ruler. Now for the first time, I see something a little “off” about the left eye on the lower face. What is it? (More than the shift in her gaze from photographer to her sister) Here is the photograph I was using:

Tabitha and Natalie, cavorting in Boston, 2010

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