Finding a Face

My day has started out badly.  My camera misbehaved in a way that has me stumped.  I was taking photos of three paintings that I intended to show you, trying out all kinds a strategies short of standing on my head to get one without glare.  I finally figured out that I had to get farther get away from the painting to avoid the shine, and zoom in on it.  But the camera went into some kind of zombie mode wherein the painting showed up as a blank gray canvas.   I loaded the images into iPhoto and increased the exposure, to reveal a ghostly image of the painting.  Scratching my head.  Did I change a setting by accident?  It’s a Nikon D70, if anyone out there has an idea.


Meanwhile, moving on:  “finding a face” refers to the process involved in painting a portrait.  I contrast the two nudes with faces attached that I worked on earlier in the week, with the stubbornly unphotographable portrait with body attached that I worked on over the weekend.    Here are the bodies:

From Head to Foot

Larger copy of earlier pose

These faces are sketched in–not carelessly but not with any refinement either.  A little dot of paint placed in the right spot pretty much does the job.  Since the paintings are pretty rough overall, a refined face would look out of place anyway.  These paintings are in line with the fast and loose style toward which I am reaching.

Enter Dan Thompson.  I took a two-day workshop at the Institute with this painter, who hails from New York City (“the South”, as he refers to it) where he teaches at the Art Students League.  There were no beginners in this workshop.  In fact, two of the Institute’s teachers were taking part.  Whereas I have been mostly concerned with getting the features placed in the correct spot, Dan’s primary focus was on the shapes of things.  For example,  in Sunday morning’s lecture/demo, we explored, in great detail, every nuance of the nose, ears, mouth and eyes–in that order.  Before the demo of each feature, we received a lecture with diagrams. The following two photos show his roughed in portrait from Saturday’s morning demo/lecture, with the nose developed in the first one, and the ears in the second:



For the nose and ears, I made notes in my sketchbook.  Then I got a little savvier, and took pictures of the diagrams.  Here are his diagrams with lists of terms, one  for the parts of a mouth and the other for the eyes, followed by his demo of each:

Somewhere under all the arrows and embellishments, there was an outline of a mouth.




I loved it.  Every little bitty stroke had its own reason for color and direction, yet the product does not look overworked.  No blending.  I went back and examined my own work in progress from Saturday and was depressed; I didn’t even have the features in the right spots.

WIP– Halfway there?

But I pulled myself together and applied the thinking Dan had just demonstrated to us, and it got better–yet another portrait of Becky.  (For a few earlier portraits of Becky, see my blog titled “Becky”.  On his last go-round, he complimented me mildly, saying “nice job” as he left my station for another, and I have stored that memory in the place where I keep similarly encouraging statements, a place that I revisit whenever I think this whole striving to be great is just a foolish pipe dream.

umpteenth portrait of Rebecca

Aline Lotter is currently exhibiting:

at the Hatfield Gallery in Manchester (Langer Place, 55 S. Commercial St., Manchester, NH); at the Bartlett Inn in Bartlett; at the Red Jacket Inn in North Conway;  at the Soo Rye Art Gallery in Rye NH; at the law offices at 41 Brook St in Manchester; and at her studio by appointment.

6 responses to “Finding a Face

  1. Hi Aline,
    I thoroughly enjoy seeing your work… Your foreshortening from the knees back is simply wonderful…also, I just simply am loving to see your ,’unblended’, portraits!
    Please give yourself a pat on the back sometime too 🙂 Me


    • Thank you. By the way, the portrait was painted on an 18×24 panel, the smallest size on Dan Thompson’s materials list. I thought of you–you wanted me to go bigger. But there’s all this space to deal with behind a head-and-shoulders portrait! For the purposes of a 2-day workshop, 16×20 would have been more than sufficient.


    • Thanks. I enjoyed your blog “Diebenkorn” too. I never heard of Diebenkorn before, so it led me on a bit of a journey, which is what a blog should do!