Portrait Talk part 1

Some of you may be wondering what it is I’m looking for when I agree to do a portrait of someone and whether or not they pose for me.
Well, I generally prefer to work from photos, the reason being that a photo captures a moment in time. If I have a model posing for me, I’ll be able to capture their likeness but would be hard pressed to capture their expression because that fades over a very short period of time. The model is now staring blankly into space. To me that doesn’t make for an engaging picture.
I prefer to have my clients send me their favorite photos. I do this because of the emotional content of the photo, both in what is visually there, and what memories are surrounding the actual taking of that photo. Here’s an example of a photo I used in a portrait:

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This was always one of my favorite photos of me as a kid. I love the expression that says, “I’m up to something, you don’t know what, but you’re probably not going to like it”. I remember that was when I still lived in Barbados with my folks and we would go over to my Auntie Peggy’s house for dinner and the older folks would hang out in the back sipping rum and talking, while I would run around seeing what kind of trouble I could get into. Here’s what I did with it:

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There is more abstraction than the portraits I have been doing lately, but the feeling of contrast between the mischievous kid I was and the adult I am is there. Here’s another one I did from a home photo:

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My buddy Al lost his grandpa a few years back and asked me to do a painting for the family. They got together and chose one that they felt best showed who he was, this guy with a subtle sense of humor who had worked hard all his life and had these blazing blue eyes. Al told me specifically to emphasize the eyes, since blue eyes in a Mexican man are rare and his grandpa’s eyes always seemed to have this glow to them. Here’s what I did.

Al's Grandpa

 

These examples are of older paintings I’ve done. These days I try to emphasize my subjects by not painting a background. I want the personalities to come through without distraction. This gets us here:

My friend Adam's wife and son. This was a Mother's Day gift.
My friend Adam’s wife and son. This was a Mother’s Day gift.

I’m loving the simplicity of this style which has the added bonus of reminding the viewer that it is in fact a painting. As I hone my skills, I’m getting closer and closer to photo realism, which has been a lot of fun to explore. But I don’t want to just replicate what a camera can do. I want to do better.

 

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