WHAT EXACTLY IS A PORTRAIT?

11/22/2011


 
 
ROBIN, STUDY IN BLUE
 
 
For the past year I have been painting one-sitting renderings of the live model in which the head  certainly takes central focus. Nevertheless each of these paintings is not  what I think of as being a “portrait” in the traditional sense. I gravitate to the human landscape, painted live,  as a taking-off point ––a foray into total and free experiment. And I end up painting myself as much as my subject. It becomes a dual rendering of both of us.

I aim to accomplish something  totally different with each canvas–– to transform portraiture into something that is going to surprise, hopefully, shock me.  I  do love the traditional media–oil,  acrylic, watercolor, the brush, the palette knife though.
 
 

WHAT IS A PORTRAIT?

I just wish I could come up with a boffo  substitute for that staid word––“Portrait” .  My ambition is to capture  that essence  of the human condition, that resides in this person generous enough to pose for me. (Posing is very hard work.)

I  paint from life, and if I am fortunate enough to have a model, I don’t want to ruin that rush of immediacy by using a camera for reference. Especially since I try to go beyond achieving a “likeness”.  Although my subjects  usually recognize themselves, if that is important.  To my mind, a good photograph makes better sense in accomplishing a flattering, engaging portrait. And who doesn’t want to look good if it’s their “portrait”?

Luckily, I  feel off the hook on the particular dilemma of pleasing a “patron”  because  I aim for the inner essence–– that which speaks out to me, and becomes a corroboration between sitter and  painter, to create something original, and  that with luck, possesses a timeless quality.

 The model, for me, presents   an opportunity for both of us to  explore and experiment  towards new directions. To make fresh discoveries in the realm of truly expressionist  art, as opposed to copying what’s posed in front of the artist’s easel. I aim for the model’s essence in the hope that I will refresh my own mojo.
 

VIBES

 
 When I  was painting our model, “ Robin 1 ––A Study in Blue” ( At  the Forest Hill Art Club) , I felt certain vibes, which later proved to have some validity. I sensed  her Indian roots, the beat of Jazz, a strong brave resilience in the face of a difficult life. And later, when she clued me in about her background, my intuitions proved right.

I  also found a softer, vulnerable side to her character which I approached in this other painting done alternately,  in the same 4 hour sitting –– Robin 2, A Study in Raw Sienna.
 
 
 
 
 
 Robin, Study in Raw Sienna     
 
 
 I often use a limited palette for alla prima painting and tend to paint duo studies of the same subject, following a basic credo that I apply to every painting or drawing done from life study of the model––

One-sitting only,   painted  alla prima  to capture freshness.

Vigorous, bold brush strokes. Pusillanimous dithering around doesn’t appeal to me.

No use of photography.  I know that wonderful art is being created thanks to the miracle of digital photography, but it doesn’t work for me. It stands in the way of my ultimate connection to the subject.

My ultimate goal–– Each painting should be a freewheeling experiment, taken to its own honest conclusion.  
 
~
 
ruthrifka1@gmail.com
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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