I’ve already declared that 2020 — the Chinese year of the Rat — will be a year of imagination for me. As each day goes by, I find myself building onto that single word and watching it grow and blossom. My year of IMAGINATION has now evolved into a year of ideas, inspirations, and creative adventures.
On Sunday, my grand-daughter and I had quite an adventure, or perhaps it would be called a mis-adventure since things didn’t turn out the way we’d planned. In the end, though, maybe that’s what makes for a truly good adventure. If all we do in life is follow a pre-outlined plan, we might see a lot of interesting things, but we’ll also miss that spirit of adventure that brings so much joy and excitement to life.
As I continue wandering along the path of artistic discoveries, it is exciting to step off here and there to learn and try new things. Like creating skin tones and painting portraits. I’m good at neither, yet that’s not the point. For me, the point is that it’s fun to try these things, fun to be a bit adventurous, and helpful to see that what I’m doing is only a starting point. My portraits might not be very good today, but maybe tomorrow they’ll be better. And, best of all, I can easily see that my portraits today are at least a little better than those I’ve attempted in the past.
With my very first oil portrait — that lady with flowers I painted almost as a dare to myself back in December 2018 — my only objective was to come away with an image that resembled a human being. She did… but barely. And that was fine. I was pleased.
And then I played around with a couple not-really-too-serious attempts at self-portraits. The objective there? Simply to do it. The idea was so daunting that I couldn’t be serious about it. I had to just play with the idea and have a little fun.
Recently I completed another quick self-portrait, and I’m surprised but pleased that there is a definite resemblance there. I can show it to friends and family members and they can recognize me.
Painting that self-portrait was a bit like opening a doorway. I began to see how using lights and darks really can create dimension and depth in a painting, how an artist can use brushstrokes and colors to shape a human face.
Now, I’m stepping through that doorway, and from time to time this year, I’ll be painting various portraits, hopefully learning and improving with each one.
My first — a young man — was inspired by an article in Artist magazine. Although I attempted to follow along with the artist’s step-by-step instructions, my results were a far cry from hers.
Here is my Portrait of a Young Man:
He does look human, I think, so I’ve surmounted the first hurdle. I did lose a lot of definition in his facial features, and somehow his nose got slightly misshapen. Oh, well, it happens.
Mostly what I wanted to do was to play around a bit with the lights and shadows. I love the shadow on his right shoulder, and I like the highlights on his forehead, his cheekbone, and the back of his neck.
And for that skin tone? Well, remember yesterday I said I wanted to work more with red? That was my starting point for creating his skin color. Using the principles of adding a complementary color and white, I mixed red and green to create the darkest shadows, then gradually added a bit of white. I did mix in a touch of a cool blue around the eye area to give that area a more recessed look, and then I continued with the blue to create a bit of a background.
Definitely not a work of art, definitely a bit uncertain in its lines, but definitely a step in the right direction. Painting portraits is adventurous, and I’m excited to follow this pathway.