Monday, August 19, 2013

Portraits

It's been a summer of painting portraits, more or less.  I don't know how to classify paintings that have some figurative element, like this one, which I know I've already posted:


  Is this a figure or a portrait?  I can never tell.  For me the subject here is beauty.  It's of a new model who--well.  Back I go to one of my old questions.  What do we mean by beauty anyway?  I know from painting many subjects and many people that beauty is infinite--that there is no shortage of beauty in this world, that everything--everything--is beautiful.  

But.  

There is just nothing, nothing, nothing in this world like unto the beauty of young woman in bloom.  Sigh.



Here's another case in point, in terms of the subject of a beautiful young woman.  Here something more is going on than the simple effort to capture that beauty, however.  The subject is a friend of mine, someone I have known and worked with, admired and learned from, a former graduate student who has taught me a great deal about many subjects: Renaissance literature, feminism, teaching, writing.  And she is herself a wonderful artist.

When my friend saw her portrait, she gave me the compliment of noting that it was a good rendering--"it looks like me!"--but also added the comment "I am so fucking suspicious."  My friend is someone who walks through life bearing considerable--what's the word?  Edge.  The painting is a reasonably faithful rendering of a photo I took in a modeling session, and it's true that she felt her way into the session (a session in which she offered not full but considerably nudity) tentatively, in a guarded way.  That is the way my friend feels her way through life, actually, so I do agree with her statement.  But only in retrospect.  When I chose the image to paint, I saw only the stunning beauty of her eyes and hair, the glow of her skin.  As I told her, the photo made my painting hand itch.  

If the painting indeed offers a faithful rendering of my friend's "edge," then for me that edge has become part of her beauty.  And I told her that.


And then here's my son, from a photo taken on Pismo Beach earlier this summer, when we traveled in that direction to celebrate the graduation of my nephew from UCSB.  I have nothing to say about this piece apart from the fact that it was a pure labor of love.  The painting is now hanging in our hallway.