Ego is something that we’re born with; very young children use it to get what they need and want (food and something that’s gotten their attention, like a ball), and for adults, at best it drives us to be excellent. Ego is part of the reason I’m able to write these newsletters for you…like an actor on a stage or an artist who hangs her work for the public to view, my words are out there, and we–actors, artists, writers–must believe in ourselves enough to do it, and we (if I may speak for others) actually don’t mind the attention and feedback.
When I view portrait paintings, I can’t help but think about ego: did the model ask to be painted? Why? Did the artist see that individual and feel beckoned to paint him or her? Why? While not all portraits are meant to be beautiful in a conventional sense, I’ve never seen one that was ugly. Even the controversial works of Lucian Freud speak to me about humanity and the less-than-ideal realities of the human body. To me, portraits are often a historical snapshot of a life–you can assume many things about a person when you see his/her face on a canvas…her economic status, her joy or pain. And in female nude figurative paintings, you may be able to tell by the swell of her belly (which reminds me of the phrase “pot” belly, as was sweetly referenced in a 1994 Quentin Tarantino movie) if she’s had children. Looking at a painting that includes a man’s hands, you can see if he’s spent most of his time working in the fields, on cars, or in an office.
We’re all so unique, and yet essentially the same.
If you’ve been receiving this newsletter for at least a couple of months, you may remember reading about the culturally significant portraits of Alain Picard. (New readers, I welcome you to our community, and invite you to take a moment to learn more about his ethics.) I’m pretty sure that the children he painted knew not of ego, at least in any negative connotations–they embody innocent beauty.
I’ve heard several artists say that painting a portrait isn’t about creating a mirror image or photographic rendition, but rather it’s about truly showing who that person is. Part of the challenge of this is having the skill to portray emotional and physical attributes. In Alain’s DVDs, you can learn about painting skin tones and more in pastel. If you don’t paint with pastels, browse our extensive resources on portrait painting in other mediums as well. Your ego should affirm that you’re worth the investment of education.
Yours in art,
Keep your eyes open for the October issue of Pastel Journal for portrait advice–Alain Picard is writing a “Skill Builders” column on painting skin tones.