It's the beginning of my summer term at Watts Atelier. I usually only take one class a term, but decided to double down over the summer and take a whopping two classes. I'm taking a portrait painting class and a drawing class titled, "Head, Figure, and Quicksketch." I take this latter class at least once a year. It helps me to reconnect with the basics while also developing better design and nuance.
My first portrait class of the term was yesterday and this was the result (Oil on canvas board, 9x12")...
Many thanks to my instructor, Meadow Gist, for her help. Overall, I like the construction and flesh tones. But it needs some refinement and shapes need to be better designed.
Until I find my rhythm a few weeks in, I feel like I'm in survival mode when painting a portrait from a live model in two hours. Abandoned in the woods, you worry about establishing a shelter, getting food, and making fire. After that is settled, then you work on building a hammock and decorating the cave with some fresh cut flowers. In painting, I'm trying to get the drawing and flesh tones accurate, then I want to establish solid value ranges, identify key plane changes, and get all of the canvas covered. And once all that is done, then I'll add the flourishes. As I progress this term, the survival aspects happen quicker, and I'm able to spend more time on the fun stuff. I still always battle with the "grass is always greener" aspect. If I paint thick, I wish I had painted thinner. If opaque, then transparent. If looser, then tighter. It's a conflict I will never win.
I struggled with the far eye. I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to get that far eye to read in a way I found pleasant. I pushed and pulled. The angles and edges have to be perfect. I went to the San Diego Museum of Art today and investigated how other artists negotiated the far eye. To my dismay, they all kind of sucked in their rendering. At best, they downplayed it so that attention wouldn't be brought to that challenging area.
I looked at one of my favorite paintings in the museum... one by George Dawe titled, Portrait of a Dignitary in Turkish Costume.
And then I zoomed in on the eyes....
Egad! The far eye is huge and looks closer to the viewer than the near eye. Since this was a commission, it was unlikely that Mr Dawe painted the eye exactly as he saw it since a bulging eye would have been unflattering. I guess a few of us struggle with that part of the painting. Although if you're going to error, perhaps it's best to go with non-distinct rather than bulging.