Tag Archives: likeness

Portraiture…the “extreme sport” of art!

On a number of occasions over these past few months, at various times, it has struck me the high degree of challenge there is in portraiture, particularly in aiming to capture the likeness of an individual.  Surely portraiture is the “extreme sport” of art because of that challenge. 

A few examples which have set me thinking…  Driving in traffic up from the Spit Bridge towards Mosman, I happened to briefly glimpse to the right of me, and in the time it took me to glance back to my daughter I commented that the person in the car that had just past us looked like a friend of ours.  All I had seen was the briefest glimpse of a silhouette, I didn’t recognise the car, and sure enough my daughter confirmed that they were subsequently waving to us.  Likewise waiting with a friend at Canberra airport recently to meet another friend for a reunion, as we sat in the lounge watching the passengers disembark we happened to notice “someone’s arm pulling on a jacket” and in that one gesture we knew it was our friend.  

Then today…visiting a couple of artist friends (Rhonda Meryl-White and Masako Gordon), amongst many topics covered over lunch we were then looking at some images on the computer when a close up of one eye only was shown on the screen, I immediately identified the model.   Our power of recognition from even the smallest amount of information amazes me.  It’s actually quite daunting if you think about it too much however I also find it quite fascinating and part of the thrill of portraiture in getting that likeness.

Precision, spontaneity and dancing between…

Drawing and more drawing.   I started portrait classes in January and the learning curve has been steep.  Going back to the basics, the fundamentals and endeavouring to absorb the intricacies and intimacy of the human face and figure.  Anatomy.  I never studied it at high school and yet here I am learning it now and it is fascinating.  My teacher, Nafisa Naomi, is passionate and particular, which is precisely what I wanted.  And precision is definitely the word.  There are days when I get a likeness and others when they are just not quite there and it is my observation that is out.  I am finding it challenging and yet rewarding.  I now have a series of self portraits in charcoal, figuring atleast if I am drawing myself I am not offending anyone!  Oh the inner critic runs rife!

But I am missing my painting.  I have been missing the colour and the canvas.  So inspired by a recent visit to Nicholas Harding’s exhibition at the SH Ervine Gallery, I got out my palette knife and some beautiful colours and, with the joy of much greater freedom, did a couple of floral works (see my Floral Works Gallery).  I love the way the colour mixes undercover of the knife’s blade, and which seems more like a wand as you wave it across the canvas, never precisely sure how it will translate.  I love the way each swipe is uniquely recorded and never to be repeated, a spontaneous creation.

So I am dancing between.

With humility…

I am currently working on a portrait (actually two) and decided to take one along to class for some guidance.  Portraiture is a new skill I am looking to develop.  I already know that I love to paint them, even if they are challenging or perhaps it’s because they are.  For me it is like being with that person and exciting to see them emerge from the canvas.   So far I have been largely self taught in this area and I’m pleased I am actually achieving a reasonable likeness, yet I know there is much I can learn.

So I took my current project along to class and I couldn’t help but find the experience humbling.  Pleasantly so.  With humility is the opportunity for real learning to occur and I sensed the wonder, the open curiousity and joy of being a child again and learning something new.  In being vulnerable, in saying “I don’t know, I’m not sure what to do here” and being open to guidance, to then be able to absorb on so many levels so many new insights.  Choice of brush, use of medium, the type of strokes, to loosen up and, in this specific instance, how to capture and portray the fluidity of hair.   (It helps to have a wise teacher though, who nurtures and encourages that childlike curiousity, particularly for an adult to drop into that state).

With the exhibition recently launched and lots of build up to the event, then all the hype with the opening and enthusiasm for my work, I could see how easy it would be to get caught up in that and forget my roots.  Forget the foundations and the fundamentals that there is always still plenty to learn.  The ego in its glory could easily have got in the way of real progress.  And curiously in my openness to learn and willingness to lay down my brushes and be guided by an experienced teacher, another joined with humility to also learn.

So with my new knowledge, no better way to learn was to put it into actual experience so both portraits are now being worked on.  Each with their own unique challenges.   My next development goal: to improve my blending of skin tones.  And with humility and love, I know that it will happen.