Monday, January 23, 2017


Portrait at 2 hours

This is Lily. As I said in my first portrait, she is cool, quirky, has a dog named Shadow and she's a photographer. You can see that first portrait here.

For this portrait, I met Lily at her house. We sat down for awhile and caught up on each other's lives and then turned our attention toward her portrait. The last portrait I did, she was standing behind a birch tree with one of the "eyes" of the birch bark taking the place of her right eye. To me, there was something poetic and poignant there - partly hiding and protecting herself and her identity, but also firmly planted in a forest of birches "looking" through another lens, or "eye", that to me, symbolizes her connection to the natural world. We discussed building on that same idea in my new portrait that would merge a part of my portrait with a photograph of her.

Then, I started to work on her portrait. I sat across from her at her dining table. A window to her right delivered beautiful morning light reflecting off the snow outside and casting a radiant golden glow on that side of her face. I took some photos knowing the light would soon change. Then I continued drawing and painting. It took Lily some time to get comfortable. I often ask people to look at me as I'm drawing them and, although they usually settle into it, the first few minutes are unsettling for most people. It's an intense experience to look into another's gaze and with Lily, I found her attempts to get comfortable particularly raw, attractive and intriguing. She was clearly more comfortable behind the lens than in front of it. I could only hope to capture some of this vulnerable beauty. At the end of 2 hours (my self-imposed deadline), I wasn't even close to capturing what I really wanted to capture. You can see in my "Portrait at 2 hours" photo that I was still working out the basics and building up shape and color. At this point, a resemblance is there but there's not much light, energy, or feeling.

"Finished" Portrait
And this is both a frustrating and tremendously exciting thing for me now with these live portraits. I would like to complete these portraits in the time I am with my friends but so far that just hasn't happened. Perhaps I need to work smaller, take more chances, push myself to go faster. But as frustrating as it can be, I am also extremely excited to keep pushing and exploring and so thankful for my friends for helping me and encouraging me and connecting with me on deeper levels while I am doing this in front of them.

Back in the studio, I was motivated to "finish" it - to push toward what I wanted to originally capture - so I continued to work from the photographs I had taken until it got closer to the feeling that I was going for. I probably spent another 3 or more hours in the studio working on it. As I move forward in this project, I would like to keep to posting the portrait I produce in the time I am with the person I'm painting and not let myself off the hook by knowing I can rely on their photograph to help me "finish" it or realize my internal vision.

12x16 watercolor and pencil in my huge Moleskine sketchbook.

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