I like a challenge.
Recently I have been getting together with some fellow painters to work on portraits. We paint for 3 hours, and the challenge is always to finish before the last bell rings. After holding a pose under lights, the model is surely done, but are we? These portraits are teaching me to focus.
I call this one “Spooky Light” (oil on linen panel, 11 x 14.)
The old flashlight-under-the-chin trick did weird things to the model’s features. I liked it! It gave me permission to go for maximum drama.
Our model returned for 2 more sessions, so we had 9 hours to finish this portrait. That gave me time to develop the flesh tones, shadows, and some facial details. However, for the next portraits I only had 3 hours each. I had to up my game.
To get this done in one session, I took a lot of risks.
Because, hey, it would either work or it wouldn’t. I underpainted the face using the pale green you see in front of the ear. Then I got wild with color, working as fast as I could.
When the final bell rang, I thought the brushstrokes could have been more precise. On the other hand, the face had real presence. It felt like something to build on. (Iris in Blue, oil on linen panel, 11 x 14.)
The next session, I set out to refine the brushstrokes.
I was working on a smooth panel instead of linen, so the paint was a little easier to control. After underpainting with orange, I kept adding red, purple, and gold, without fussing about the details. I let myself get into trouble just for the fun of finding my way out.
Occasionally I scraped paint off, or wiped it with a cloth, carving out shapes. There can be intense joy in wandering around in the wilderness of paint smears until the image finally resolves. I knew I was making mistakes and bad moves, but I didn’t have time to worry. I just kept going, and wiping, until things fell into place. (Iris in Red, oil on gesso panel, 11 x 14.)
On the next portrait, I opted for a bigger view on a smaller panel.
I simplified my task by inventing the green background. Still, I had to race against the clock to work out her clothing and the gentle twist of her body. It looked like I would end up with a lot of undifferentiated colored blobs. In a way, I did, but it worked out ok. (Lady in Hat, oil on linen panel, 12 x 9.)
These quick sketches feel like a new direction.
Our group will keep meeting to make portraits, so I will keep you updated from time to time. I would love to have your comments.
Being an artist has its joys and challenges, but, through it all, your support and encouragement sustain me. Thank you so much for being my audience.
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