Face Making

Artist Gwenn Seemel’s bilingual blog about art, portraiture, free culture, and feminism.

I (never) made a painting from this sketch.

2008 . 05 . 18 - Comments / Commentaires (0)

In the months before I finished my undergraduate studies, I received a handful of commissions. Thrilled to begin my career, I agreed to do a kind of painting that I was fairly certain I would ever do again. The client wanted me to create a composition with three faces—her own, her husband’s, and her dog’s. I already preferred the one-face-per-frame setup, but I took the commission in order to confirm whether or not group portraits were for me.

Upon completing the painting, I was satisfied but not excited. I decided that I would not be doing any more group portraits (though four years later I did!) and impulsively chose to not document the piece. At the time, I hadn’t figured out a routine for photographing my work, so it just seemed easier to overlook this painting. Of course, now, I would give anything to be able to see the work, to learn from where I have come from. 



sketch of face

Instead, all I have left of this commission are a few source photos and this sketch. The client moved to another state and I have no way of contacting her. Live and learn!

Early on in my career, I was especially open to trying work that I wasn’t certain I would enjoy. It was the best way to figure out what my parameters were. As I was experimenting in this way, I painted a few posthumous portraits. Since the subjects were deceased, I never got to interview and photograph them. As I suspected before agreeing to the commissions (one in 2003 and—just to be sure—another in 2006), meeting my subjects and working from my own photos is necessary to my process. If I create without direct knowledge of a model or from photos that are not mine, I don’t feel as though the resulting portrait is entirely my work. This limitation I place on the kind of commission work I will take is part of what makes my paintings portraits instead of figurative images.


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CATEGORIES: - English - Business of art - Drawing -


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