I enjoy the challenge of portraits even though I find them difficult to do. Extra tension is added to the painting process in trying to capture a likeness, and I feel more constrained than with my usual form of painting.
I work from photographs of the person. Native Americans believed that the photograph steals a part of the soul, I can see what they meant. For me, it is a moment captured in time, and within that moment an essence is present.
When I study the face for each portrait, I am trying to feel out how the person appears to me, a touch of their character, an aura, expressing a mood or an element of personality. whether there is a touch of sadness, kindness, whether arrogance, elegance, mischievousness, love…there is a myriad of emotion contained within. Look for the beauty in their face, their body.
In the Eye of the Beholder
One of my favourite portraitists is El Greco, his work is extremely powerful, capturing the strongest of emotions. and in some cases the most exposed and rawest of human emotions. He had his roots in Byzantine Art, and is regarded as a precursor of Expressionism.
One of his loveliest paintings is ‘Christ Blessing (The Saviour of the World)’, on display in the National Gallery of Scotland. When I first saw this painting I thought it was a modern piece rather than being painted around 1600.
I have a long way to go when it comes to portrait painting, and I am still very much a beginner, but I enjoy the study, and the subtleties of trying to capture the person presented. Below is a pastel study I did during a Life Study class.