Painting portraits is always special. The last time, only a few days ago I sat down to paint a model from life. I was asked by her, why I liked painting portraits. Immediately I told her, that there are three things I love most about portraits - particularly when painted from life:
First, it's the special connection and the interaction with another human being that you might have never looked at before. I find it exciting to meet new people and also have a chat with them while I paint. During this exchange, one of us learns something new every time - about a certain job, about art and painting, or about life and different philosophies in general. This connection isn't less precious when painting a self-portrait - it's a conversation with my own self and a great way to connect to your own soul as an artist. Thus, I don't believe in painting technique just for its own sake. A big part of the painting process is having a vision and being in touch, being empathic with a subject.
Second, I really love the challenge painting a portrait in oils brings. Each model has its own vibe and mood. It may slightly move and thereby challenge my vision of a painting - can I keep at it despite the changes? Can I catch the main aspects of a character in such a short time frame (usually I am not painting life sessions longer than 2 hours)? Plus, every face has so many interesting and unique lines and shapes, shadows, and lights that like to be caught and kept onto the canvas. Skin tones are also quite fascinating to me - they can be so vivid and different that it's sometimes hard to tell if there is a local color at all - there are reds and greens, yellows, greys, oranges, or purples. Who would've
Third, I feel this connection really transports human emotions well towards the viewer - as social human beings most people are drawn to faces, eyes in particular. I love to catch the emotional content in a portrait by extracting the soul of the model and fusing my perceptions with my vision of the painting without losing myself in every detail. Sometimes it's a certain illuminated color of the blouse that strikes me, sometimes a dreamy look in the model's eyes.
All in all portraits are one of the subjects I enjoy most in oil painting and it's always a joy to see how viewers respond to them in a gallery or after a painting session.
What about you - do you like portraits? Let me know!
Have a lovely day,
"Paintings are a sanctuary for the mind"