"The Power of a Portrait" A great Portrait can have a profound emotional effect when first unveiled to a client. I was very surprised by this the first time it happened, and have thought about it often- Why is a Portrait so powerful?
From an artist’s perspective, my focus is toward the many tangible and quantifiable questions: Is the drawing good, is the colors the right value and intensity- these are the significant nuts and bolts of Portraiture. But I have come to believe there are greater mysteries unfolding quietly in the background during this creative process that are entirely intangible. Even though I’ve felt the results of this many times, I still don’t have a clear answer to the question- where does this effect really come from and just as relevant, what is my part in it?
I can say this for certain- Portraiture has a power over us like no other form of Art.
Portraiture is very challenging, perhaps more so than other genres of Art. Through our work in Portraits and during most of our daily lives, we all hope to build true and meaningful connections with others. As people are infinitely complex as well as Divine, this is a daunting task that is never really completed- it is always in process. A Portrait that comes from our hearts as well as our creative skills will hold the glimmer of the Soul. It can capture the Spirit of our subject, and this energy is in a language that others see and feel profoundly- it is Truth and Beauty.
"Draw Every Day" At the outset of my education, I wrote a well-known and successful artist- his helpful response included "Draw every day". It did not sound exciting at all. Drawing these days often takes a back seat to other projects. It's just one more thing on the long to-do list. New materials or interesting techniques are much more attractive, so regular drawing time is easily set aside.
After we've gained some experience, drawing practice may also feel a lot like the 'foundation work' done in the early stages of education, the stuff that beginners have to do. But it's not- drawing is so much more.
My thinking was changed by a personal revelation- here's the story: I was losing motivation in a painting group some time ago- the lighting was highly controlled in a way that I felt hampered good color and it would not be changed. To avoid more irritation, I shifted gears and went to black and white work with charcoal. The evening was soon great fun again, as I began also experimenting with various types of paper and medium. Along the way, something unexpected took place- the 'language' of my drawing and, indeed, my perception of the subject (portrait) and the myriad of drawing possibilities opened up before me tremendously!
This changed what I believed about drawing. It is said that drawing is a record of your thinking- not the other way around. Regular drawing allows exploration into realms of 'seeing' that naturally find their way into more developed work. We've all heard that the key to any successful work of Art is the drawing. As a boy, drawing was always fun- regular visits now renew my creative passions and excitement to help me continue and grow.
"Measuring" Measuring is one of the most basic tools of drawing. It is critical in Portrait and Figure for good likeness and correct proportions, and a basic tenet in Landscape to design well. Very few dispute these truths, but then will sometimes spend little time checking measurements at the start of a drawing. Why does that happen?
Work from life is exciting and an immediate start into line seems efficient. Some simply avoid the practice, thinking it an affectation that requires a beret, or that eventually sheer talent will make it all perfect at some point. The drawing will then somehow 'flow' seamlessly from eye-to hand-to drawing.
I know that great drawing does require talent, but just as importantly, it needs a tremendous amount of practice to develop skills of judgment. Regular drawing will strengthen a budding talent into a powerhouse. Drawing by eye along will improve judgment, but slowly- the best (and quickest) way to excellent proportion is done with an understanding of key relationships and careful measuring. This is good training, and the skills developed will build over time until proportion can be judged much easier and faster, then honed razor sharp with a few pertinent checks.
"Pastels" Pastel is pure powdered pigment pressed into round or square sticks with a bit of binder to secure it. The medium can be blended or left as visible strokes and lines on any surface that has a bit of texture. Under good glass, Pastel is the most permanent of all media- it will not crack, darken, or yellow with age.
Pastel can be traced to the Sixteenth Century- Copley, Delacroix, Millet, Manet, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Vuillard, Bonnard, Glackens, Whistler, and Hassam to list the more familiar names, used Pastel as finished work, rather than for preliminary sketches as earlier artists had done.
Degas was the most prolific user of Pastel and it's champion, for he raised it to the full brilliance of Oil. His protege, Mary Cassatt, introduced the Impressionists and Pastel to her wealthy friends in Philadelphia and Washington, and thus to the United States. Today, many of our most renowned living artists have distinguished themselves in Pastel, and have enriched the world with this glorious medium.
Flora Baldini Giffuni
Terry Ludwig Pastels Excellent non-toxic colors, generous square sticks- and Terry is the Best!
Andrew Loomis So relevant material from a generous and gifted illustrator/author- Amazon books.
John Singer Sargent Brilliant Bravura and prolific painter- a true giant in the world of Art.
J.W. Waterhouse Beautiful Art of the Classics- outstanding composition and skills.