I cannot paint faces. I gave it up long ago. Mrs. Blackmon, bless her, taught me how; it’s me. I just cannot get faces to look right, so all the people I’ve drawn or painted for decades have been boldly faceless.
Then came my daughter, and for the first time in a very long time, a photograph that inspired me to try portrait painting again.
(I’ll confess right up-front that I “cheated.” There is still some disagreement in the artists’ communities as to whether the use of a light projector is cheating. I say anything goes. I took the photo, I did the work to project and transfer the image to a canvas, and I have done all the work from there. There is still plenty of skill involved.)
So here’s the thing: I don’t really need to know how to draw faces. I just draw what I see.
Ears are hard. I have no idea how to draw an ear.
Hands are really hard. I suck at drawing hands.
But I can look at the photo of the ear and see that there’s a long triangle-y shape with a kind of curvy tail on the end, and it widens out to a kind of fan shape up here… and I can draw that.
This is my beautiful daughter. I took this photo a couple of years ago, and it is my favorite – and it is the one that has finally inspired me to attempt a portrait again, eight years after the last one.
I don’t do faces. Yes, it’s a cop out, but it’s still the truth. I can draw eyes, mouths… I’m really good at the shape of the face, and I lovelovelove drawing/painting hair. But the whole thing? The sum of the parts? Nope. Math is not my subject.
I’m really good however, at drawing what I see. No methodism for me; I take what I’m looking at and break it down into lines and shapes, and I draw those, and it usually gets me pretty close. In this case, I used a projection of my original photo to get the basic outlines down – the shape of the nose, the placement of that ear, where the lines of the fingers go, etc. Then I colored in the outlines. (It’s not as easy as it sounds!)
This was the first iteration, done with acrylics. Then I decided to switch to oils, using a thinner that I was unfamiliar with, and it didn’t work the way I wanted it to. Now I’m trying to get back to where it was before.
One of my challenges as an artist is dealing with unexpected outcomes like that. Once I get into a groove, when something suddenly doesn’t work, I have to put it down and walk away from it completely. I suppose that’s my way of fighting my other instinct, which is to do too much. By now, I know better than to try to force something that isn’t working. But now I need to work on shortening my cooling-off time.
I’m improving. This canvas was set aside for months, not years.
I’ve had a blog for over ten years, and during that time as I’ve updated and re-vamped and moved things around, I have done my best to move my random thoughts with me, to preserve at least some of what I’ve written over the years.
This time though, I can’t find any of my old blog posts. The site has been moved to WordPress, finally, which is what you’re supposed to do when you want to have a grown-up website. And I backed up my old site files, but now they only exist in a jumble of code and HTML gibberish, and I can’t figure out how to sort through all that to find any actual text. I didn’t back up any of the individual blog posts that I knew I wanted to keep. What was I thinking?
So now I’m starting over cold. No notes, no archives, no background information, just… Go.
So here we go. Welcome to the world of me.