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
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
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.