“Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.” — Oscar Wilde
One of my favorite contemporary artists, and now a friend, Mary Whyte, relates in her newest book,
” Painting Portraits and Figures in Watercolor”: “Painting portraits is a special breed of art. It requires sound drawing skills and a general understanding of human anatomy and how it works. It also requires that you have empathy and respect for your subject and are able to see the unique physical and emotional qualities of the one person you are painting.”
Each time I set out to do a portrait, whether it be a drawing or a painting and whether it be human or animal I am always trying to honor the individual in front of me. It is easier for me to do this if I am working from a live model. Working from life enables you to interact with the model as well as give you a three dimensional view. Whether drawing or painting you can feel the change in form, see the minute changes that take place during a sitting, and interact with your subject not possible by working with a photograph. Since I tend to be a slow painter I typically am finishing up a portrait started from life with photographs that I had taken during the sessions. By this point I already I have seen their skin tones in person and have already spent enough time with them to know a little about their life, and their personality. Working this way is so much easier than working solely from a flat photograph.
Currently I am working on a portrait of N’jelle who is a wonderful dancer (and model). We had classical and jazz music playing in the background and several of us felt that she was doing choreography in her head while she sat for us. We could almost feel it. I hope I can capture that sense of movement in this piece. Here is a reference photo I took during her pose and my loose beginning in oil on linen board. I will post some pics of my progress during our next session with her which is Wednesday, April 17th.
Coming up: Thursday, April 18th I will post more pics of our next session with N’jelle. The week after I am so excited I will be attending the 2013 Portrait Society of America Conference and will post pics and notes as I can from that conference. Stay tuned!