Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Layered Look

I did think about taking some video during the portrait painting class that I'm taking, but didn't want to intrude on the others in the class.

And, I couldn't figure out how to mix paints, hold a brush or two along with a wipe rag, be able to squeeze out more oils as needed, hold the camera and zoom in and out at appropriate times, and run back and forth to the snack table!

It's a lot of work being an artist.

I did write last week that I would post the painting as we go along, and here to the right is week two of the same model, with another layer of paint.

You don't get to see the painting stroke by stroke, but hopefully you see some progress.

I was surfing the web and came across this portrait painting video and thought you'd like to see what we artists look like in action:

While some painters have insecurities about having people watch them paint, I don't mind.  In fact, I seem to do a bit better if I think someone is watching.  Don't know if I try to do better in front of an audience, so they think that I know what I'm doing, or if it's akin to a joke I read recently.

"How many artists does it take to change a light bulb?"

"Ten.  One to change it, and nine to reassure him about how good it looks!"

It always helps when you hear positive things.  Some like to hear only good things.  I'd rather have honest critique.  I did have an art instructor in a class setting once take a painting I was working on off my easel, look at it for a moment and then drop it on the floor, paint side down.  As he walked away, he said, "Garbage.  Start again." 

I knew the painting wasn't going well, but....

I probably should have picked that oil smeared canvas off the floor and framed it with all of the dirt, hair and unidentifiable objects now embedded in the surface.  "Studio floor - a study."  I could have been rich.  A whole new genre.  Floorealism...hmmmm.

Next joke...

"How many modern artists does it take to change a light bulb?"

"Four.  One to throw bulbs against the wall, one to pile hundreds of them in a heap and spray-paint it orange, one to glue light bulbs to a cocker spaniel, and one to put a bulb in the socket and fill the room with light while all the critics and buyers are watching the fellow smashing the bulbs against the wall, the fellow with the spray-gun, and the cocker spaniel."
Back to the portrait.  I have managed to get her face positioned in the right direction, but keep struggling with that nose.

The instructor says that I'm painting my nose.  When she said that, I went right to the paper towels and started to scrub my face for errant oil paint.

"No," she said, "You don't have paint on your face.  You're not looking at her nose, so you're painting a picture of the one you see every day....yours!"

"But," I protested, "I can't see my nose."

She grabbed my brush out of my hand and plopped the end of it on my nose, giving it a dollop of paint, and said, "Now, go in the bathroom and look in the mirror and clean that off and you'll see what I mean."

What's with me and these instructors and paint everywhere but on the canvas?

So, here we are at week two.  The model continues to be outrageously patient, holding her poses so well that you could almost tell time by the shadow cast by that nose, if she were outdoors during the day and were in the middle of a garden in the sun...she is good.

I wish I could do her justice and come up with something that really looked like her.  There are about six students in the class, mostly beginners, and as the model takes breaks I can almost hear her wincing as she passes the canvases of the various students and looks at our efforts.  I hope she doesn't drink.

Everybody who paints portraits wants to capture the likeness so that the sitter is pleased, along with the artist.  And, perhaps even someone who didn't know the model would see the painting and then the model would walk in and the viewer would turn quickly and say, "That's's so good."

You never know when a good representation can come in handy.  There's a story that the artist Pablo Picasso surprised a burglar at work in his new chateau.  The intruder got away, but Picasso told the police he could do a rough sketch of what he looked like.  On the basis of his drawing, the police arrested a mother superior, the minister of finance, a washing machine, and the Eiffel tower.


We have two more weeks of working on this portrait, so you will be treated to at least two more rounds of "what does the model look like this week."

I did a little bit of work on it at home this week (something you shouldn't do, as you should always be looking at what you're painting) and made some improvements.

Here it is now...let me know what you think!

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