Friday, August 24, 2007
Portaits R Us
John Singer Sargent was once reported to have said, "A portrait is a painting with something a little wrong with the mouth."
I have been working on a set of portraits of Marines I met in Iraq during my deployment.
Two of them I have signed, and the third is nearing completion, though I could paint forever on them (someone else said that a painting is never finished... that is also true)...
I am always excited when a painting comes to its completion--if it can survive over-working-- because as it matures, the colors and values all begin to resonate in harmony, and the time of ugliness is over for the piece (I have a theory that all paintings go through an "ugly adolescent" phase before they grow up and are let out of the house)!
I love Alla Prima and direct painting, as I have stated in previous posts, but there is definitely a richness in the classical methods of painting, in which layers of color and glaze are applied over an underpainting, slowly bringing the surface to maturity.
The hard part is that one can too easily get stuck in a painting and over work it. Also, an artist's production is drastically slowed with the more "Academic" methods.
Portraiture, with all its demands and difficulties, also has an inherent power, in that the viewer sees the arrangement of form and color that you've created as a personal object-- that is, when you paint a person's image, people relate to it more deeply-- especially if you've rendered the likeness in a pleasing way.