Thursday, April 13, 2017
This is Paul. Tall Paul because he's close to 7' tall. I did his portrait for the Portrait Project 250 series and he was #115 if you want to look him up.
I drove out to his house in Union on a cold February day to do this portrait. When I arrived, I met a friend of his and we all sat down in the living room near the wood stove, had a bowl of delicious chili and hot tea, and caught up on each other's lives.
Paul is a big basketball fan so there was a college basketball game going on while I was drawing him. The TV was to my right so he could watch the game while I drew his portrait. That's a convenient setup for doing portraits of people who watch sports on TV. The blue outline came later - sort of an afterthought.
This is Matt. His father was the first architect I worked with when I moved to Maine 17 years ago. I worked with his father for about a year and it was during that year that I met Matt. He had just gotten married and was starting a family and was busy building a house near his father's property.
I drove out to his house on a snowy day in February to do his portrait. I've been experimenting with filming the portraits so I set up a camera on Matt and another GoPro camera over my portrait to record a time-lapse video of the portrait. I don't usually like to draw and paint teeth so I usually suggest that people keep their mouths closed. Also, it's hard to maintain a smile over the course of the portrait which can last a couple of hours. But Matt was up for it so I agreed to step out of my comfort zone and paint him with a smile - which, I think, actually suits his portrait much better.
I struggled with it the entire time I was there and was so unhappy with it that I wouldn't show it to him. I told him I would figure out the problem, fix it, and he would see it when it was posted. Back in the studio, I figured it out. Of course, it was the smile and the teeth but it was also the amount of chin I had drawn below the upper lip. With the mouth open, the chin and jaw are much longer than I am used to drawing and I was not believing (drawing) what I was seeing. I learn something new in EVERY portrait.
The writing around Matt's head relates to a conversation we had while I was drawing him. And ironically, it contains the solution to the very problem I was struggling with during the portrait. I transcribed it from the video and it's about Matt's own effort at drawing portraits back in college where he tried to do portraits using a minimal number of lines to capture a person's likeness. I've started incorporating this exercise into my portrait sketches as well - so thanks for the idea Matt!!
12x16 pencil, ink, watercolor and acrylic in my huge Moleskine sketchbook. Text added digitally.
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
This is Jessica. Tall, athletic, kind and beautiful. I met her on a bike ride across Maine years ago. She's an artist - her passion for painting and experiencing adventure is summed up in a quote of hers I found on her website:
"I paint out of love — love for the world and for the human capacity to know the world through movement, recreation, and adventure. Kinesthetic intelligence and imagination are very important to me; so is the sensation of wonder. That a small movement of paint can capture a large movement of body through water, and that we can know the world’s beauty through both these actions, is astounding. It’s time we start picturing ourselves in the landscape more."
You can see her paintings and learn more about her here - http://www.jessicaleeives.com/
12x16 watercolor and pencil in my huge Moleskine sketchbook.
Monday, April 3, 2017
Tuesday, March 28, 2017
This is Leslie. She and my wife work together and have become good friends over the past 2 or 3 years. She's a great cook and hostess and pulls together the most fabulous parties. Occasionally, I'll come home and Leslie and Valerie will be hanging out playing cards or working and it will morph into Leslie making the most awesome dinner from the simplest ingredients.
This portrait felt different for me. For one thing, I decided to change over to acrylics from watercolor within the first few minutes of starting to paint. I wanted more texture or character than I felt that watercolor could give me. Secondly, I tried and, at least on some level, succeeded to let go of my usual attempts to appeal to do a portrait that she would like. I've been noticing this "concern for what others will think" almost always creeps in with these "live" portraits and usually makes me tighter in the drawing and painting than I like to be. So lately I've been trying to buck this concern believing that it "compromises" the portrait on some level. Maybe, by using a less familiar medium, I took my mind off one thing ("concern for what others will think") and put it toward dealing with the more technical and mundane issues of getting paint to do what I wanted. Regardless, I'm happy with the freedom I felt in doing this portrait and think the brush strokes, lines and scratches and rich saturated color reflect Leslie's character. Come in close and take a look.
12x16 pencil, acrylic and ink in my huge Moleskine sketchbook.
Sunday, March 26, 2017
Friday, March 24, 2017
This is Aidan. I've known him since he was a baby. He and my son went to preschool together. I remember taking my son over to his house for a play date one day when they were around 4 and Aidan got in trouble for something and his mom sent him to his room for a "timeout". Two minutes later I saw him running across the lawn in his underwear with a big smile on his face. Four walls couldn't contain him. He had climbed out the window and found freedom.
I did this portrait just a few days before he headed off to college. He's a good guy - smart, kind, athletic, and artistic. But don't let his good looks and calm demeanor fool you - he has a wild side.
12x16 pencil, ink, watercolor and acrylic in my huge Moleskine sketchbook.
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
This is Lisa. You can see the first portrait I painted of her here.
This portrait took 3 sessions over a couple of weeks. The first session we talked for about an hour while listening to Joni Mitchell and drinking tea and came up with a brilliant idea of doing an oil portrait that we could both work on together. The idea was that I would begin the painting, then Lisa would work on it over the next week, then I would come back and work on it some more and it would go on like this until we had a portrait we both liked. Since I didn't bring any oils, we scavenged Lisa's studio for a canvas, paints, and brushes then set up an easel in her dining room since it had the best light. I got the painting to good place that afternoon though we both agreed she looked too stern in the painting. You can see that painting here.
The next week I arrived to find the painting exactly as I had left it! Instead, Lisa started a new painting - a self-portrait she had done from looking in the mirror. So I suggested I work on that painting instead of continuing on with the first one. I quickly discovered how difficult it is to work on a mirrored portrait. Everything is backward so you have to study the subject then flip the study in your mind and then try to paint. It's really hard to do so after a few minutes I gave up and returned to the original painting. I made some improvements and advanced the painting to the next level leaving the background mostly untouched.
The next time I returned Lisa had made further progress on her self-portrait. I continued working on my portrait and we talked about the background until I saw it in my mind as a golden light. I wrapped things up and brought it home and finished it. This is pretty much how I imagined it.