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Try, try again

December 5, 2008

I love drawing and painting portraits, but  I’m really not sure why.  I usually work in watercolor or pastel, and I find that getting a likeness often hangs on a single brushstoke or mark – trying to work on a detail that’s slightly off can cost you the whole project.

Recently I tried to rework one of my random paintings that had gone off .  I really love something about this man’s face (he’s a stranger, photographed on a Paris morning) and expression, and I missed it completely.  I thought it was ok, I’d just move on, but, I hate to admit,  it’s been eating away at me.

Here’s what that one looked like before I Played around with it even more – it’s now in the trash.

Well, I’ve tried him again.  This one looks quite like him, but as the painting itself needs something, I still have a good chance of ruining it.  So I’ll post it here, just in case my likeness gets lost.  Critical comments are welcome.

A close up of his face – I’m quite happy with it close up, but when I move back it loses something.  Does that happen to you when doing portraits?

I’ve also notice that my favorites in this series of  portraits of randomers are those where the hands show.  I’ll have to remember that when selecting photos – hands do tell us a lot about a person.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. December 5, 2008 2:30 pm

    Hey – this is looking great! About moving back from the portrait… Sometimes it’s the value and contrast of value that’s lost when you move back from a drawing or watercolor. Especially in a portrait where so much of the tonal work is (and must be) quite subtle. But rather than overworking it, you have to determine how far away it really needs to be read.

    I once read an article on photographs of authors for book jackets and a large portion of the writing was about the use of hands in the photos — mostly hands to sides of faces, head resting in chin. After reading that, it was quite amusing to look at the book jacket portraits. You might have fun doing that next time you’re in a book store.

    (Don’t you hate pitching work in the trash after long hours of work? I’m sort of getting used to it…)

  2. December 5, 2008 3:45 pm

    I like the close up but, moving back, i like the over all composition. It’s very interesting with out taking anything away from the portrait.

  3. December 6, 2008 2:24 am

    I rather like the background you put this man in and he has an interesting pensive mood.

  4. December 6, 2008 1:22 pm

    I do like the new composition very much, Casey and agree that hands can be as expressive as faces. They add a lot of interest but, for me, can be as hard to capture as an expression.

    I think this one is going splendidly.

  5. Lisa at Greenbow permalink
    December 6, 2008 1:24 pm

    Since I can’t see the photo I can’t see what you are fretting about. It looks like a good protrait to me. I do like seeing the hands. I have never thougtht about that before.

    I hope that after you walk away from it you are satisfied or at least something will jump out at you that will “fix” it.

  6. December 6, 2008 2:52 pm

    Hey Casey – instead of putting this in the trash (goodness!) just send me your rejects – I”ll love them all and keep them safe until you want them back!

    He’s wonderful, I love the hands and the color is great. Perhaps you should think of the photo as simply a jumping off point – perhaps your interpretations shows one specific side of a person that exists underneath the photo. Hope that makes sense…

  7. December 7, 2008 5:07 pm

    okay, here goes: I am not sure if you are showing us the whole piece but if you are I am bothered by 2 things. First is the green triangle behind his head. I just think it needs to be toned down some because my first look draws my eye to the bright green. Second is where he is in the overall composition. His gaze is directed off the format so I travel from the green and then off the painting.
    What I see much improved is the face structure and hands. The first (trashed piece) his head looked a bit small. I think in this you only need to ‘subtly’ define some of the shapes. A bit more contrast perhaps under his lips and neck area. But just a bit more. His expression here is very well communicated and his hands seem to tell a story. Well done!

  8. December 8, 2008 1:56 am

    You’ve captured a subtle expression and I love your colors.

  9. December 8, 2008 5:14 am

    I remember this one from the earlier image. I admire how you go back at it–I tend to do worse after I start fiddling again with anything. Yours looks fresh and beautiful. I really like it and I totally agree that the hands add so much. Lovely, Casey!

  10. December 8, 2008 8:03 am

    Je trouve le deuxième très réussi et s’il manque quelque chose selon toi c’est peut-être just à cause du cadrage : ton portrait recadré est encore mieux ! moi aussi j’essaie des portraits et pour l’instant j’en suis tellement mécontente que je n’ose même pas les montrer ! c’est chouette, continue !

  11. caseytoussaint permalink*
    December 8, 2008 11:14 am

    Thanks so much everyone for the really helpful comments. He is now going to be put away for awhile while I contemplate my next move. I am so relieved to have caught a likeness this time that I can leave him alone for a bit.

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