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Thursday, December 31, 2009

"Different Strokes Portrait Challenge"

Karin Jurick's at it again, she has presented 180 keen artists with her second portrait challenge. Both times I have participated I have found it to be a very interesting experience painting an anonymous person, one you have never seen and know nothing about. In each case I have found that for the first few hours I am focused on shapes, drawing, trying to get things accurate. But as the person begins to unfold on the canvas, I start to notice the tiniest subtleties of expression that show their character, and as I am nearing the end, I feel a real sense of who this person is.

The biggest challenge with this portrait was that I didn't realize until very near the end that I had made the distance from her chin to her eye too short. There was a strong temptation to try and fix this by making some minor adjustments, but then I remembered something I had read about John Singer Sargent. "He never attempted to repaint one eye or to raise or lower it, for he held that the construction of a head prepared the place for the eye, and if it was wrongly placed, the understructure was wrong, and he ruthlessly scraped and repainted the head from the beginning." 

As I contemplated the options, this rang very true. For the purpose of this exercise I couldn't justify the time, but it certainly impressed upon me the need to step back and assess all of the relationships on the canvas more often during the painting process, and I will remember this in the future. 

See all the portraits here:

Note: January 9th, 2010 
I have been in touch with the woman I painted, her name is Prabha Narayanan and she lives in India! How cool is that? You can view her work here: