Friday, February 3, 2017

Picture Perfect

     I used this painting on my December newsletter as it was in the December Men in Hats show about Harold Steves that we had in Gateway Theatre but I hadn't used it in a here it is. I wanted to show Harold out in the field with some of the Belted cattle. I have sketched Harold a few times when we have been at a meeting but, considering that he is a very busy man, this was done mostly from photo references. Some artists are very against using photographs at all for portraits. I think, for this, an artist would have to be very very well-known and the portrait would have to be commissioned. At that point, it would be easy to arrange for five or six sessions. For most of us, this is not going to happen and we are glad to be able to get a photograph of someone seen casually and then work it up into a painting, With our "long poses", we have around two and a half hours to work on a painting and then it is sometimes possible to get a photo  of the model (some don't like to be photographed) so the painting can be finished at home. I have just been doing pastel or watercolour work for Long Pose so as to avoid adding more canvases to the stack - so I have not being doing additional work from a photograph, as I am finished in the length of time we have.
     The history of portrait painting is a long one - portraits of princesses sent to prospective husbands for one. Think of Henry VIII feeling that the portrait of Anne of Cleves  was not a true one as reality was different from the flattering painting. In 17th-century Holland. social status was reinforced by portraits by prominent artists of the times. This continued with CEO's of business and important academics having portraits painted for display in their realms of influence. Then photography became better and society turned to studio photographs until that became mainstream.  Then it was back to painted portraits for those who could afford it. Curators at the Art Gallery of Ontario say that a successful portrait captures "what a person wants you to know about them and what the artist sees beneath the surface."  Lucien Freud was a master of letting the viewer see beneath the surface of his subjects. Brenda Bury,  an outstanding Canadian portraitist, says: "Looking at the portrait the viewer should recognize a fellow human. Machines, such as cameras, don't know the difference between the living and the dead. Painters are required to." Brenda has even painted the Queen and her paintings sell for $15,000 to $30,000. Drawings or pastels range from $3,000 to $6,000. I'd be happy  to work for  much less! There is something particularly interesting in the human face. I haven't heard if Harold has seen this painting but a lot of the people who viewed it at Gateway felt that it captured his personality.

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