Friday, 30 December 2011

My thought process for painting portraits

This second Christmas portrait was an experience. I've never wanted to take on a commission of a real person. Mostly because I know to do realism well, it requires longer time. I'm afraid my enthusiasm is a rather flakey friend and might not last more than 3 sittings on the same painting.

The scarier thing was, the commission was of a friend, Pierce, who happened to be like part mentor, part cool-comraderie-crude-comic-relief during my stop-motion filming stint. I was nervous to trust my own skills to be able to pull off an accurate portrait of him.

My first thoughts when I get requests are often
"Why do people think I can do this?!"
"Why do people put wads of money in my hand and trust that I will deliver?"
"I don't even trust myself."

Crazy right? But I honestly think that before I start a portrait.

Then I start it. And push myself. I do many, many drafts. I finally settle on one.

Inking is tedious but the least stressful.

I begin to paint and freak out multiple times, laying down the permanent washes.

A few days later I think I've wrecked it.

Near the end I truly feel I've ruined the portrait. I'll wail to Tim how stupid my painting is and how I want to give back the money the person has paid me. Tim sighs and says to me how I'm like this for every painting and it always turns out fine. And I say "No, but this time it's true!".

And then I peel myself off the floor and force myself to work on, adding the final touches...and finally I reach a point where I stand back and look at it and I genuinely feel "It's alright! PHEW!!!" and breath a sigh of relief.

I either have to start charging more and get an agent so that I can distance myself from the personal nature of each request, or I stop doing this as my work and get some other day job.

So how do I feel about this personal person portrait of Pierce and his cat Neville?

It helped that Liz, his partner who commissioned the portrait, was a gorgeous easy going client and had a good idea of what she wanted, and that it was a comical idea too.

I'm happiest with how the red curtains worked out. It was a lot harder to paint than it looks! Decievingly simple looking, but I didn't count the so many shades of red I had to replicate in order to make it look like real curtains and not just an abstract mass of flesh from hell (that was the point I was wailing to Tim, 'I've wrecked it!". The cat Neville was a breeze. He's got such a funny face don't you think?! And of Pierce, well I guess I'm my hardest critic as I'm still not sure I did him justice. I  know Liz loved how it turned out, so that's great.

This halfway copy on white actually looks pretty good! It was hard to paint around wisps of hair when I added the solid red curtains in, here it definately looks more natural. 


And this is what Pierce really looks like, and their cat Neville:

 I hope you're happy with the portrait Pierce, and know that I tried my bestest. x.

1 comment:

Jo said...

That is super awesome, Rose! I think you are your own worst critic because it is always the creator who doesn't see the best in their work.

I am hoping to take up life drawing again, let me know when it is going to start up again.