Portrait Practice

Leo portrait study
Leo portrait study oil 14×11

One of the best ways to improve your drawing skills is to draw or paint portraits. As a human we learn to separate people from each other as soon as we are born by the subtle differences between faces. So, when you are executing a portrait it is easy to spot where your drawing has gone wrong. (Even if fixing the problem isn’t so easy.)

But, so can everyone else.

Reagan portrait study
Reagan portrait study oil 14×11

Practicing for a visual artist, especially portrait practice, is a very intimidating thing. Once you make that mark, short of taking flames to what you have done, it is there for a lifetime of judgement. Unlike more transient arts, such as singing, or dance, an artist’s practice is easy to mistake for the performance.

I love the way Dianne Mize put it in a recent blog post.

“Developing skills to this extent requires practice, lots of practice. And here is where artists lose the advantage enjoyed by musicians, actors, poets, and all other performers. That advantage is that the practice sessions are distinct from the performance. Evidence of the struggle gets left behind the scene.

Not so for painters: we have our practice pieces starring us in the face. And there’s always somebody wanting to see what we’ve done, leaving us vulnerable to their comments. Nobody has to hear a musician’s practice nor hear an actor’s rehearsing nor watch an ice skater’s workout, but once an artist has done a practice painting, it’s there to be seen as if it’s the final statement.”

Nina portrait study
Nina portrait study oil 14×11

For the visual artist who wants to master his craft, there is no way to get out of the miles of not quite right, and downright ugly, paintings and drawings required before mastery is achieved. We have to suck it up, and grow a thick skin to all of the throw away comments that can stick with a person for a lifetime.

Substitute Model portrait study
Substitute Model portrait study oil 8×6

But, maybe we can shorten that road a bit if we all did more portrait practice, and invested in a blow torch.

Compose Blog

Merry Christmas!

adoration of the shepards by guido reni
Adoration of the Shepards by Guido Reni

Christmas is becoming the last bastion of all the things that are good in this world, even as it’s under attack by those who will not be satisfied by anything less than to see the whole world laid low in a ruble heap. I feel that Christmas is the only time of year when you can wish others well and mean it. It is the time where you can send goodwill to your enemies, and hope that they will let a little kindness into their hearts, and put aside selfish pursuits, and realize that goodness towards all is the only way to save yourself, and the world.

It is the time when those who have not given in completely and let their spirits become dead can smile as they place an extra coin into the hand of those who may or may not need it, with nary a care as to how it will be spent, confident that the act of giving will somehow guide it to where it can be best used. It is a time when we can glimpse the true nature of the world, where there is not a lack, but an abundance, where helping others get theirs will help you get yours.

It is a time when we can hope that those who get their thrills by tearing down the good endeavors of others might just pause, put their hatred and fears aside, and realize that as long as it is good, it is okay.

Be decent to each other.

And I hope everyone gets something beautiful for Christmas!