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"There is no greater work of Art then a great Portrait" Henry James

Updated: Mar 10, 2023

Portraiture. There is something in the challenge of trying to capture an expression, the psyche or the details in the subject’s swirly curls. Although at a young age, with pencil and charcoal, I felt confident with portraits. When it came to painting with brushes and colors… let’s just say, that we didn’t hit it off.

I wish I had a picture to show you of a portrait that I completed at the end of week-long seminar in London at LARA art school in 2014. I think all my classmates would attest to the fact that it was an “attempt” – that looked like a cartoon character. The poor model posed for hours…. And I remember our instructor’s comment as he hovered over my shoulder saying – don’t stop. Keep all the information in your head – and at some point, it will all come together. That said from a realistic portrait artist – was bold.

But he was right – it did come together. Kind of magically. It’s not that I practiced non-stop portrait paintings. It’s that I did it, and I could detect my mistakes. It was so hard trying to correct them. So, I decided to loosen up. The result was the creation of the “Thumbnail” project, portraying famous personas – actors, singers etc. If something went wrong there – there is no way of hiding the mistake. Everyone knows what Sinatra or Elvis look like. Right?

Commissioned portraits come along– and that is a process that challenges me every time. But you know what? I don’t think I ever want to do things that are “easy”. I have a strange relationship with the creative process. I research till I drop, I ask questions, and one brushstroke follows the other.

I always look for a meaning, for an emotion, for a new technique, for something innovative, for another viewpoint. I save hundreds of screenshots and come back to study a fellow artist’s technique or the way the gold leaf was placed.

I’m currently learning from an extraordinary portrait artist - Juliette Belmonte – who produces striking artwork. Here’s a progress picture of my daughter’s portrait as I’m working on it. I’m a month away from the completion of the course, so I will post the end result then.

The thing is, if you care about something a lot, then you can’t help but to learn from your mistakes, to look carefully, to delete what doesn’t work and choose different strategies. When you are happy with the result then you can say with confidence: Look at how many good decisions were taken. This applies to pretty much everything, doesn’t it? My goal is a great portrait (and a whole bunch of other things!!)

What is yours?

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