September 11, 2013

“By Any Other Name” – Acrylic Portrait

I’ve been working recently on a new series of paintings. Portraits in acrylic. All 16″x20″ on stretched canvas. The second one, entitled By Any Other Name, was an unexpected success and then spurred a whole bunch more in the series.  The first one? Well that was Smith. I mentioned briefly that this one was painted in the dark using a projected image. While the end result was interesting, it’s actually not my favourite image. I spent too much time in the dark and I think he turned out rather sketchy. Or in artist terms, like a gesture painting. Unfinished. But he served his purpose because now there are more. (And I may just redo him in the refined style for kicks).


I only have two shots of By Any Other Name and those were taken as evaluation shots. So this post will be somewhat short. I’ve spent time taking a long, hard look at my portraits and other people’s portraits. And thinking about what makes my work different. There are better and worse painters out there than me, so why would someone buy my work? It’s a valid question and a hard one. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time trying to find my artist’s voice, as it were. I love the portraits I’ve done up to now for the most part but at the same time I am able to look at them critically. Because not doing so ensures improvement never happens. Plus I live with another artist so critiques happen whether I like them or not!

Aside from the issues I’ve talked about before like having a distortion in most of my pieces, I know I have issues with colour. I’m not going for life like because there’s no point; that’s what cameras are for. But there are times I get it right, and times that… well, I’ve haven’t shared. Like a bright pink portrait of Ten which will never see the light of the internetz. At the same time that I have issues with some of my work, I have this incredible drive (and always have had) to paint portraits. There’s no question about continuing. The question is how.

Smith, above, was done in fun. I had zero expectations on it but just wanted to paint. And I wanted to do something fast and free and completely different. I decided to knock out colour altogether. And forget about achieving a likeness of anyone. My goal is to paint the “feels” rather than get the likeness. Those decisions were incredibly freeing and I knew I needed to do more. So I tried again.

I don’t paint many females and there’s no particular reason why. Maybe because the media I watch is male dominated.  Maybe because I like men 🙂 But I am fully aware of this imbalance esp because my youngest spawn is immediately attracted to women in everything she sees. Women in stories, movies, cartoons. She finds them, no matter how small the role and identifies with them. It’s made me completely aware of the imbalances of how females are portrayed in media, and more importantly how they appear in my work. Or don’t. So I’m fixing that, starting with By Any Other Name.

This painting again had no expectations and came together really fast. I spent one session building up the painting and two more refining it subtly. So in this version, taken during the last refining session, I figured I was close to being done. Taking the photo showed me areas that needed help. Like the highlight on the left cheek which is too bright. And the eyes which didn’t feel glassy or juicy enough. Subtle changes that make all the difference.

By Any Other Name

This is the final though I have to take proper photos of it.

I really like the close crop of the painting. The black and white, which eliminates the issues I had with skin tones and let’s me practice pure light and dark. The colour of the canvas is coming through (I painted most of these on pre-coloured canvases). I think the intensity of the expression works well overall.

With this style of painting, I feel like I’ve found my stride for portraits. My voice. We don’t need another painter who does head and neck portraits. But this? This works.