Here is my last portrait painted on commission. I must admit, it was hard to finish! But he is on his way to Germany now, the “Herr Rechtsanwalt” (Mister Lawyer… by the way a great one, ask me info if you need one!), well rolled in his cardboard tube and I can only hope that he will arrive punctually for his birthday on the 27th of May.
Portrait is a difficult art. Some artists try it, but most of them abandon. I saw it many times amongst my artists friends, and my art students, from which -sadly- not one persevered. Some people say that portraits in the style I do most of them (by the way, it is the client that sets the style, not really my choice!), “only” look like a photograph and that it is not “real” art. I don’t agree at all. If you look on the net, you will see a lot of portraits, done from photographs and trying to look like them, and which finally look like dead porcelain puppets, or even worse. So please, don’t tell me it is not an art: when they are well-done, with love and deep sensitivity for art and the model, they simply look wonderful, and as alive as the person him( or her)self. I saw many people crying when I delivered them the portraits they ordered from me, and they took me in their arms, and they said:
“Thank you so much, it is so wonderful!”
and most of the time they came back to me, brought me a moving gift and commissioned a further portrait from me.
Is this not the essence of art, to move people to tears?
I think it is…
Anyway, as I said, a good “photographic portrait” is a very difficult art. The tiniest deviation in the eyes or mouth line can change the whole expression and even the whole person. Each point of light and each shadow reflect a different character. And this is where it becomes complicated, much work, and, at the end, art!
I rarely spend less than 25 hours to make such a portrait. I first do the drawing, emphasizing the head shape and the main features, and the main part of light and shadow. Then I put a first level of pastel chalk to model the face and reach a first impression of lights and shadows. Then a second level of pastel to refine everything, especially the similarity with the model.
And then begins a long, difficult but exciting phase of work with colour pens, hours and hours of observation, of research, of tiny steps which at the end lead to the real similarity and give character and life to the painted portrait.
A good portrait is not only much work, but it is too a deep effort of sensitivity. It is essential for me to put myself into the skin of the model when I paint him. The result being that with time passing by I start to lose my own personality and have the feeling to become the model myself. How often, with this one for example, I found myself smiling like him, apparently forced to smile like him to be able to paint his smile! Or, one day I had to paint a cross-eyed child, and I tell you, I finished up cross-eyed myself, which of course, complicated the drawing process…
I said at the beginning, that I suffered finishing the lawyer. Why? He has a quite easy face, no complications, no deformations, is not cross-eyed, and has a beautiful, natural smile: the perfect model! The problem was that I had been forced to abandon him in the middle of the process, you might say adjourned, to paint a series of 13 commissioned bullfight paintings. At the end, I saw bulls everywhere and even worse, considering the fact that I invest myself as much in the bulls as in the portraits, I had become a bull myself!
Impossible then to re-enter the lawyer’s skin!
But who knows, perhaps this portrait one day will reach astronomic prices, having been painted by a bull? One already saw paintings by monkeys sold for crazy money. So why not a bull?!