In Search of Creating Powerful Portrait Paintings
Have you ever noticed that the pace of our lives is kind of like the seasons?
There are times when we are in full “go-mode”, creating, travelling, collaborating, building. I think I would compare go-mode to the spring and summer seasons.
Then there are times where we are more introspective, and the days slow down, perhaps we return to learning, reading, pondering, planning. Though these cycles don’t always coincide with the literal seasons, many times they do. I think that I am finding myself in one of the slower seasons. The days are colder, and I am outside less, which gives me more time inside and creating paintings in my studio. I am also traveling less, and I find myself going deeper within and having more inspirational ideas for my art. With that comes the desire to learn new ways of expressing emotion in my portrait paintings.
My Secret Experiments Using Techniques From Other Artists
For the next few months, I will be experimenting and following the techniques of other artists, to both improve my skills as a portrait and figure artist, discover new ways to tell my stories, and create paintings with meaning.
This week I painted along with Casey Baugh, a contemporary portrait painting artist who began using charcoal at the age of 13 and has perfected his skill of interpreting the human form through charcoal and paint.
Watch this time-lapse video to see me follow one of Casey’s paintings and listen to some of the musings of my mind while I’m creating an oil portrait painting.
Watch My Time-lapse Video of the Portrait Painting Experiment Below
Creating Paintings With Meaning
When I paint a portrait or figure painting, it is just as much about the meaning behind the piece as it is the technique. My goal is to capture the essence of a person during a certain moment in time.
What colors will I choose to tell the story of each person I paint? Will they be light and airy, or dark and foreboding? If I choose darker tones, will I still create light landing on the features in a way that speaks of hope.
Brushstrokes can also be quick and edgy to express motion or impulsive feelings. Or they can be blended to soften the look conveying peace and stillness.
There is so much that fascinates me about the human face. Things that we pick up on in our everyday interactions without even realizing it. The direction of the eye, an upturned corner of the mouth, a creased brow. One little change and the whole portrait can take on a different emotion, or even end up looking like another person completely.
I was fascinated with the way Casey casually blocked in large sections of dark, light and basic color, looking for tone and value, before being concerned with detail. I feel that this manner of creating a painting creates a more contemporary portrait. I know that I will definitely be using this oil painting technique in future pieces.
I Found a Sisterhood!
Let me tell you about my weekend in LA! The one where I met like minded people who made me laugh, reflect and even cry tears of understanding, connection and compassion. Where I heard the most beautiful voice of a world-renowned singer and teacher. When I learned tips in self confidence from a model who walked the runways of Paris. Where I enjoyed a gala full of dancing, great food and even greater company. Where I had the chance to share and listen to personal stories. When I had a personal professional photo shoot. And where I formed collaborations with other businesses created by women and for women.
Just where does a girl living in a small town in Ontario, Canada get to do all these amazing things in one weekend?
Well, she gets on a plane, flies to LA and goes to Fiercecon of course!
Fiercecon is explained as ‘not a conference, but a connection”, and it couldn’t be more true! Coordinated by Catherine Grace O'Connel and her team, it is a connection of women in midlife and beyond, where no "mean vibes" are allowed. A safe space where a sisterhood can be created. A sisterhood that boosts confidence, forms friendships, explores ideas, creates collaborations and encourages success. Here are a few beautiful ways that a sisterhood can accomplish these things.
In the summer of 2014, my children and I went through a particularly challenging season. During that time, we received food, friendship, counseling and care from our community. Since then, it has been in my heart to give back to others even in small ways, as I am able. When the local YWCA approached me asking if I could donate a piece of my art for their upcoming “She Talks” event, I agreed and was especially excited to have a small share in an evening where women from different walks of life, would come together to share and listen to stories of tenacity and grit. Stories that connect, uplift and draw us closer together.
I present to you the 7 inspiring women who spoke that evening and a bit of their stories that will touch your heart.
The pathway to inner strength
As I sit on my deck on this beautiful July morning, I am reminded of how much nature helps me to reconnect with my inner voice and brings such peace to my soul. The stillness of towering trees, the constancy of the flowing river, birds singing their morning songs, and the sun creating ever-changing blue, purple and golden hues as it rises in the sky.
Before my young boys wake up and the stillness of the morning is broken, I think about my own childhood. I try to reconnect with who I was. I think about the dark times in my life and how they shaped me...
Being an artist can be a lonely affair. Minutes turn into hours, haunting music inspires the gesture of a paintbrush, the scent of mineral spirits hangs in the air. A day passes. And another.
When we emerge, we criticize our work, we walk away, we come back, we scrutinize it, we change it, and we change it again. And in the end it has become a creation in and of it’s own.
We tend to be loners sometimes. Even so, we derive inspiration from those around us, the world we live in, and the natural terrain. These are some artists that inspire me, let me tell you why.
I follow these artists on Instagram, it’s an inspiration to see their works in progress, their finished art, and a little piece of their day, as I go through mine.