Friday, October 3, 2014

The "A"rt school of hard knocks; The difference between my portraiture and my studio work.

"Al and Maggie"

There is a fine line between portrait and figurative art.  I don't mean to discredit portraiture, that would make me a hypocrite for sure!  I just mean that the way that I approach composition, color, application and even paper type is different for a portrait than for my studio work.  Traditional portraits are normally of a head and bust centered or even floating in the middle of the page.  The subject is usually smiling in contemporary work and the end result is very flattering. The subject is often making direct eye contact with the viewer and is just sitting there posing, looking pretty. Portraits don't tell a deeper story but are all about the likeness that the client wishes the world to see.

A portrait of a girl that I did from a photo several years ago in charcoal with white conte on grey Canson mi-teintes paper.
A portrait of a dog that I did from a photo.  The clients asked that it be drawn with a toy in his mouth.  I really did not enjoy doing this painting but I am including it here as an example of my typical portrait request. The clients loved it, that is all that matters when doing commissioned portrait work.
A portrait that I did from life of a young lady wearing a hat.  It took me less than 10 minutes.  This is what I refer to when I call something a quick sketch.  Some times I call them McSketches but never in front of a client!   I have been a quick sketch artist and teacher for a very long time.

When I am creating a figurative studio piece for myself I want it to be more narrative and tell a story that the viewer will be drawn to.  (No pun intended... well ok, I intended it.)  The composition is not centered with my studio work, but I attempt a more interesting format, often breaking the composition into thirds. I am also a bit more expressive with my technique, something that most of my portrait clients do not usually appreciate.  My clients have always preferred a glossy perfect reproduction of their photo in most cases as you can see above.  I give that to them because it is what they want, but I don't necessarily enjoy doing it.

I don't usually post my portrait commissions on the blog unless they are really special.  In the past I have felt that they are simply a different animal than my studio work.  However, my increased production of non-commissioned studio work and more time spent in study this past year has changed my commissioned work tremendously.  It is also obvious also that my long history of earning my bread and butter as a portrait artist influences my studio work. When creating work for shows I mostly create figurative pieces and drawings of animals because that is what I have been doing since I was a know it all cocky art student back in the 80s. The end result is that the two breeds of my art world are merging.  I like it.  It feels right.

I was so very excited when Joy sent me this amazing photo of her husband Al and their dog Maggie. For those of you who know me know that I am very close with my furry family.  My mom still teases me because as a little girl I would spend more time talking to my cat than conversing with other kids. So, when I saw the love in this photo I related to it and then begged the client to allow me to draw it as the photo appeared instead of just a floating head of a dog.  You can see the relationship between Al and Maggie.  It tells a story of love.  I hope I get more commission requests like this.

I did the drawing in pastel on Canson mi-teintes tan paper using the rough side of the paper.  You can see the texture of the paper and it's original tint in the valleys of the paper, and see the pastel stroke sitting on top of the hills. Remember that the viewer's eye always enters a drawing at the lower left of the page. In this composition I used the diagonal angle of the texture of Al's shirt to lead us to Al and Maggie's arms, which lead you right up to Maggie's face. Her face leads up up to Al's face, then the line of the chair leads you right back down to their arms which lead you back up to Maggie in a circle. Just to make sure that the viewer's eyes stay in the drawing I created a diagonal texture in the large negative space behind them, aiming right back to Maggie. When using a diagonal in your own work remember that this creates energy.  I normally keep the background subtle so it doesn't cause a war with the subject in a portrait however here I felt that this piece would be more interesting with energetic diagonal strokes. My intention is that it would suggest the metaphysical power and energy of love raining down on these two motionless creatures frozen in time.  They almost seem to be soaking up each other's love in silence.

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