Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Self Portraits

The Daily Painter's Gallery wanted to do a self-portrait showcase on Wednesday, so I am posting to have my work placed with the others in the gallery. A self portrait is something I've contemplated doing lately. But I've been very lazy. I've been so relieved to have my normal routine back that I can't figure out what to do first. So I've been sketching, reading, relaxing and thinking a lot. I think that counts as gearing up for my next paintings. I did these very quick sketches tonight while my daughter was in her bath. My reflection was in the window next to me. Not very clear. I contemplated going further and getting a little Picasso action with the double shapes I was seeing. As it is, I did a contour type drawing and a pencil sketch. I think I like the contour best.

Thinking about self portraits, I look up on the wall in my studio and see this self-portrait I did 8 years ago. It was so labored. I remember hating the work. I did a complete grayscale charcoal sketch, transferred it to canvas, did an underpainting in burnt umber (or sienna, who knows) and then worked into the opaques - and worked and worked and worked. And never got to color.

detail view)

I wonder if that style of painting eventually helped me to hone the loose, alla prima style I am achieving now, or if it was just a way to work for awhile. I think when I got into plein air painting I realized that the underpainting was not going to work. I've since abandoned it completely. Sometimes not even toning or shading areas of light and dark. Just going straight into color, opaque and/or transparent.

I find the alla prima style so much more suited to my tastes - its energizing to paint and to look at I think. I am amazed by the work that some artists are able to put into a piece and I admire their superior craftsmanship, but I find that the work that really turns my head is that which was created with minimal description, with passion and - well - that conveys the artist's impression. Something in which a piece of the artist's heart or soul is in the work and which has been interpreted through their hands, and comes out something new. I read somewhere that some great contemporary (i.e. living) artist was quoted that to be able to make the mundane beautiful was the mark of a real master.

I'm waxing poetic this evening. I usually have a very hard time expressing "arty" thoughts ( I did not say artsy fartsy.) Though people tell me I am a good writer, this particular subject is hard for me to express. Speaking of, if anyone wants to volunteer to jot down a blurb or two for a bio for me, step on up!! :-)


Roxanne Steed said...

interesting thoughts on painting, it was like you pulled them out of my own head....and yes, you stated those arty thoughts quite clearly! I appreciated seeing the comparison of portraits, too (with those thoughts behind them).

michael clark fine art said...

I totally agree with what you said about the all prima approach and leaving more up to the viewer. I did the whole tight painting thing in art school but I can not stomach it anymore. Plus plein air work makes you through that approach out the window. Interesting though I just got the Jeffery Watts DVD and I was surprised to see how much layering he does in his work while it still looks alla prima.

Diana Moses Botkin said...

Interesting progression; thanks for sharing!

Claire Kayser said...


Jill Donahue said...

Must agree with Roxanne Steed -- you said (and so well) what I've been feeling lately: that if I can't get it down in one go, it just withers and dies on the canvas. Love your work.

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