Sunday, January 27, 2013

Aidez-moi, s.v.p.!


Those of you who read last night's post have seen the strange painting begun under the influence of Clausen and Bastien-Lepage.

You may recall that my point was that we should each place ourselves way out of our comfort zone from time to time. For me, that means portraits and figures. So I essayed a figure in a landscape, one with a high horizon. 

I mostly embarrassed myself, but I think it got a bit better today.

Nonetheless, I need some help from the portrait painters among you. I promise to reciprocate when you have problems with a meadow---honest.

Anyway, the 18 year-old "made up" young man is coming along...sort of. He seems to have come to rest somewhere between 1930's American Regionalism
and a Pre-Raphaelite sensibility. And all I had wanted was George Clausen's honesty. 

Here's a detail, with the boy's noggin, as it was when I headed home tonight (about half-size).


As it turns out it's very soft, but that rather fits with the idealized sense I have of the painting and with the rather palpable innocence of the young man.

So I beseech the portrait painters among you to come to my aid. While 
keeping the feeling, what should I do? Because the whole process is so terrifying for me, I get very timid about corrections (needed though they be). So I need you to tell me in no uncertain terms.

And, like I said, if you need help with a brook or a mountainside, I'm here to help.

For the longest time---despite the fact that I couldn't paint a portrait, or a figure---I wanted to paint like Sargent. I wanted that luscious swoop of a loaded brush, conquering all before it. I wanted the sureness and the bravado, and the whole alchemy of his technique. 

I never really tried to paint in Sargent's manner (aside from anything else I couldn't afford all that paint), but I'm sure I secretly believed that JSS, or Zorn, or Sorolla was lurking within me,  just waiting for me to liberate him.

It took me many years to realize that I painted best when I was most true to myself. That meant in terms of both subject and technique. As much as I might admire the bravura stroke, it's not part of my personality.

It's a hard lesson to learn, this realizing that maybe you aren't going to be a giant, that you won't be the John Sargent of your time.

But look at it another way. Sargent became Sargent by being true to himself. Perhaps Sargent pined to be John Kensett or Ingres, but found the goal at odds with his own temperament.

Thus do we all hope to find that particular marriage between our temperament and our talent.

Remember that your best work will be found where they converge.







  1. If you are serious with wanting feedback, I would be happy to tell you what I think. At the Florence academy of Art they didn't sugarcoat criticism so I won't. For someone who never paints portraits it has many good qualities. However if you want more form you will need more value. The darks could go darker. There are not many various edges, firm up edges around the eyes, nose and mouth and under the chin. Darken the white of the eye as well. Nothing is more difficult than painting a figure from imagination, I would look at some reference. Now that is my opinion, you will find some who completely disagree but as for academic representation you can look at my work and decide if my opinion has any merit. Nice work.

    1. Thanks, Matt. I'll see what I can do today. The general light in the painting is quite flat and even, so I haven't too much range to stretch the values. Edges, on the other hand, need attention, and I'll work on them today. Thanks for taking the time. I do need to be careful that he maintains his revenant quality, too.