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Mirra All Dressed Up

A work in progress

Mirra is my new grand-niece. I was very impressed by her liveliness this Fall (2003) and asked her father to send me some recent photos. I held off as long as I could, but finally, I have started a portrait of her "just for fun". (No, no, the picture to the left is not the painting. It's the photo.)

Early February, I blocked out the figure on a 24 x 30 inch canvas. I couldn't resist putting the face in. Dean's comment: "The eyes are too close together." (It's so nice to have your very own in-house critic.)

I painted further on Sunday, then took the painting in to the workshop I teach and did a demo, showing how to fill in the space. I also corrected the eyes. Dean's comment: "the leg is too fat." (He's right, of course.)

I am getting interested in the reflections in the floor. (Yes, that's not really poop under her little dress.)

2/16/04 - President's Day and I am trying to get some sense of depth and dimension in the portrait as well as correcting problems in the figure.

2/16/04 - Later in the afternoon. Here the painting looks a bit murky, because I am still in the stage of discovering exactly where the limbs fall, and I did some "moving around," because it's important that the child really appear to be sitting on the floor.

2/27/04 - At this stage of the painting, most of the under-layering was done. I wasn't happy with the background (above the head) because I felt it had gotten too dark and grey. However, the painting got a rest, as other challenges and calamities got handled.

4/3/04 - I am finally happy with the painting, in time to submit it to a judged show. I may do do a tiny bit more work on the toes on the foot closest to us. I took a photo of the final painting and of the original photo with me to a morning meeting today and got two interesting comments: (1) "Oh, your portraits are obviously your forte" and (2) "You've captured her better than the photo."

Now, first of all, I don't think that portraits are necessarily "my forte." I struggle with them. But I do like painting people. However, the individual who made this comment obviously feels more comfortable with "photographic" or "realistic" art. I didn't say anything, but my opinion is, if you can take a photo of it, why don't you? It is my belief that the existence of photography frees the artist from having too slavishly duplicate anything. The "art" in a portrait that is done from a photo will often be in the "editing."

Secondly, how can you "capture her better than the photo?" I can answer that. First, I know the child, and that's better than the photo. In doing a portrait of her, I'm not only capturing what's preserved in the photo, but my knowledge of her as a person. And second, what's so great about a photo? They really don't faithfully capture life. Really, I hate to say it, but they don't. Their colors are often blurred and "normalized" and muddy. And they don't "know" the life of the person.



Last updated: July 29, 2005
Copyright c. 2004 by Pam Coulter Blehert. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.