Monday 4 February 2008
Fear of the Face
A portrait, and, indeed any figure study, is the most difficult subject to portray. It's easy enough to get away with drawing a tree with a branch too short- but we'd all know if I drew the life-model with legs of different lengths!
In portrait, the elements and proportions that amount to a recognisable individual have to be rendered most precisely- and I'm talking millimeters here. In my painting of Ruth and her baby, a very minute adjustment gave her mouth that "careful does it!" expression.
From our birth, the human face is an important aspect of our understanding, social skills and survival . The brain is well tuned to know if a person's recognisable from their 'likeness'.
I include an ' Easy-peasey Portrait- Astonish your Friends and Family!' class in my courses in the studio and at the chateau. We take the fear and panic out of " I can't draw noses!!" and learn to see the face in a calm, objective way as an arrangement of angles, shapes and simple tones. See photo.
Following on from my previous blog, photos can play an invaluable part in any portrait study. Of course, the best thing would be a subject who had time to sit whenever called upon, but this is an impossible scenario. Even the Queen's portrait painters resort to photos in between sittings. Thought- this must be one of the few times that Her Majesty is a subject!
Now and then, a client will ask for a 'surprise portrait' as a gift . For this, several good photos taken from different angles are best. Flash photography flattens features and a natural light source, perhaps to one side, is ideal.
Alastair Price used several fairly poor photos for the portrait of our friend's brother. Knowing him already was a good help, and anyone reading this who lives in our vicinity will recognise the kindly Dr Haouisee- the man with all the vowels to his name!