Portrait Painting: The Heart of the Matter

While the vast majority of our topics are lighthearted, today’s post looks at an artist who addresses a very serious subject. His work goes beyond simply painting or drawing someone’s face, and I hope that you’re moved by it, as I am. The following originally appeared in Pastel Journal (October 2010), in a feature article by Anne Hevener, Editor-in-Chief.

The Heart of the Matter
by Anne Hevener

Artist Alain Picard (www.picardstudio.com) enjoys painting the landscape, but the face and figure are his favorite subjects and the subjects of paintings for which he’s best known.


No More Tears (pastel, 7×12) by Alain Picard

Picard renders his subjects in a lush, painterly style that appears fresh and unlabored. To get the effect, he pays particular attention to identifying the simple abstract forms within his subject. “I apply these quickly and broadly with the correct value and color key,” he says. “Even a few strong marks, if accurately placed, will go a long way in communicating a painterly approach.” Also key, Picard says, is the use of the softer pastels right from the start. “I work with the broad side of broken, unwrapped pieces to attain a ‘brushwork’ effect.” If necessary, he might go back in with harder pastels to refine the more detailed areas.


Evelyn (pastel, 11.5×19 ) by Alain Picard

Picard’s pastels Evelyn and No More Tears are part of a series of paintings he calls “Reflections of Hope,” inspired by stories, people, and images he encountered during a service trip to Rwanda in 2005. “I spent a week with a team of friends traveling the country, photographing the people and places I encountered, and listening to the stories of the Rwandan people,” Picard says. “Their stories were tales of horrific violence and unimaginable loss due to the 1994 genocide when 1 million people were slaughtered in just 100 days, but they were also stories of extraordinary hope, as forgiveness and reconciliation were beginning to take hold.”

Picard met the girl portrayed in Evelyn when he and his wife worked alongside her and others to build a clay brick house for an elderly member of the local community. “She was the girl that all the other children would follow around,” Picard says. “She’s a natural leader who commands your full attention with her captivating gaze. I still wonder about her–how she’s doing and what kind of life she has been given the opportunity to live. These sacred moments have etched themselves into my heart while visiting Rwanda. I suppose that’s why this painting carries such resonance with others.”

The young girl in No More Tears was living with her mother and her grandmother when the artist met her. “Her grandmother is one of the women who was systematically victimized during the genocide by known AIDS carriers,” Picard says. “A strategy of war that caused the virus to spread dramatically among women in Rwanda as a result.”

Picard created a portrait that would plead the case for children around the world. “Love, safety, and provision. These are gifts that all children deserve,” Picard says, “regardless of where they live–be it Rwanda, Haiti, New Orleans or your own hometown.” ~Anne Hevener

In addition to being a humanitarian artist, Alain also teaches others how to paint portraits. His newest DVDs include:

These must-haves are all newly available at North Light Shop. You can also learn more about his work at picardstudio.com, where you can view more of his life-filled portraits.

Warm regards,
Cherie Haas, online editor**Subscribe to the Artists Network newsletter for inspiration, instruction, and ideas, and score a free download on How to Draw People Using the Block-In Method.



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