Wednesday, April 15, 2009

My Doctor and Her Grandaddy

My Doctor and Her Granddaddy, Watercolor on Paper, 18 x 25 Sold
Copyright Pat Aube Gray

Yes, you read that right! That adorable baby is now my doctor! Following the recent death of her beloved "Granddaddy", I was commissioned to paint this portrait from the doctor's favorite (obviously old) snapshot! The doctor is partial to watercolors and this painting lent itself beautifully to that medium.

Painting portraits from photos is something one should seriously undertake only after drawing and painting from life, and then only when painting from the person is not feasible. (Posthumous portraits, of course, fall into that latter category.) Photographs flatten form, alter values, diminish truths, and are subject to the quality of the camera, the digital resolution or film development, the color calibration of developers or computers & monitors, the lighting, and the expertise of the photographer. To drive this point home in a class recently, I gave students multiple photographs of the same subject, each developed, photoshop enhanced, and/or printed differently so that they could see that the resulting portraits from each one of these photos would be vastly different. I then posed the model, the subject of those photos, on the model stand. They were immediately able to see not only the difference between the photos themselves, but also the difference between all the photos and the model!

Once you have painted from life long enough, you understand what will be lacking or altered in photos in comparison to the actual subject, and you learn to make appropriate corrections when painting. Creating the illusion of depth and three dimensional form in a two-dimensional medium is a practiced skill. In today's world, time constraints often disallow the luxury of having a subject sit for us. So if you really want to paint portraits, it behooves you to paint from life whenever you can to prepare you for that inevitable commission you will have to execute from a photo.

And speaking of portraits, next week I will be attending the Portrait Society of America Conference in Reston, VA. I missed last year's so I am really ready to attend this one. It promises to be a great conference, with many portrait demonstrations and guest speakers. This is something I look forward to and always hope I will be a little more enlightened when I return home. Following the Conference, I will be teaching a five day portrait workshop in LaVale, MD.

1 comment:

David Larson Evans said...

I really really love this one.