A Great Question from another artist... Any Answers?

Angela Fehr said...
Susan, I would have to think that the hardest part of portraiture would be dealing with poor quality reference photos. Do you ever get some that are so poor that you just have to turn them down? And are you more confident of a good likeness if you have actually met the person you are painting? You have to have a real assurance of your skill in order to do portraits, I think. I have had luck with a few portraits, but I am not skilled enough that I am consistent with getting a good likeness.
My answer...
Angela- Yes, sometimes I have to say no to working from very poor photos. Doing a portrait from photographs has enough difficulties without using bad references. Not that I don't give in sometimes... flash photography hurts my feelings but if it's the only photograph they have of someone who's gone... what's a soft-hearted artist to do? Likeness is about good measuring and good drawing skills and the ability to represent values well. And meeting someone doesn't give me any advantage unless they stay right in front of me the whole time. I can't rely on my memory for ANYTHING these days. Doing hundreds and hundreds, even thousands of portraits- that's what gives you confidence for the ones you do after that. If it's fun to figure out the puzzle of a portrait, then someone will stick with it long enough to get good at it. That's what I think. What do you think?

5 comments:

Pattie said...

Good questions. I am not 'one to write' on this, since I just did a portrait from a poorly executed FLASH snapshot of my stepkids. The front-on flash of light was not conducive to the subjects at all.My challenge was doing three faces in one portrait and getting a likeness. I thought I would do OK and create contrast as I went, as I had other reference photos, and knew the subjects pretty well. It turned out OK, but I wasn't 100% pleased and it was just for practice, so it was ok. I am sure to revisit it, since it's pastel. I should have known as I had been told, by a portrait artist, Dodie Rufner, never do a portrait from a studio photo or one with bright flash. It's true, they usually have no contrast, although lovely, they don't lend themselves to portrait painting. Likeness is my big thing. If it doesn't happen, then I chalk it up to practice and usually the next try gets closer! Susan, doing your colored portrait from a black and white is brave, but you are doing a great job with it!

Jo Castillo said...

This is a good study for us that don't do portraits. I know from other things that practice, practice, practice is the answer.

Good references are important, too.'

Thanks Susan, for sharing your and others knowledge.

painterchum said...

Hi Susan,
I really liked your answer to the question, very straight forward and all you said is so true.

Angela Fehr said...

Thanks for your answer, Susan - it was enlightening - I hadn't considered flash photography to be such a problem but I can see why it would be - the contrast of shadow and light reveals so much!

Susan Carlin said...

I got a few more responses to this question sent privately rather than posted as comments. One adamantly asserted that she only works from her own photos and only after spending time with the subject. I agree this way is ideal. I would never do posthumous portraits, though, if I followed that rule as an absolute. This week I declined doing a portrait from a photo taken from way too close to the subject. Lighting was great, the subject delightful, but the fish-eye-lens/ extreme foreshortening of the forward parts of the face distorted the features. I suggested new photos and how to take them. Fortunately, the subject is very much alive!