Face Making

Artist Gwenn Seemel’s bilingual blog about all the faces she makes while painting faces and other things.

Getting it right

2010 . 02 . 02 - Comments / Commentaires (6)

Sometimes, I start a painting one way and it finishes very differently.  But that’s in the nature of things where painting is concerned.  It’s part of the eternal quest for an undefinable “done-ness.”



process of painting a portrait

My painting of Bob for Subjective certainly took a few twists and turns on its way to “done-ness.”



process of painting a portrait

Originally, I’d conceived of it as a portrait of Bob looking at a portrait of Bob as Henry VIII, King of England.



process of painting a portrait

The connection with the Tudors is a tenuous one at first glance.



process of painting a portrait

I based my choice in large part of the fact that when I asked Bob to describe himself to me during our interview he replied “I am the King of England!”



process of painting a portrait

But there was more to my decision than a desire to show Bob’s wisecracking nature.



process of painting a portrait

My portrait of my own father for Subjective also features an important king—the linchpin in a game of chess.



process of painting a portrait

I liked the symmetry of referring to kings in both of my Father portraits. 



process of painting a portrait

Besides, dads are the kings of families.



process of painting a portrait

Of course, this particular dad-king was having some issues.



process of painting a portrait

While in theory the composition should have worked out…



process of painting a portrait

...in practice I was having trouble with it.



process of painting a portrait

I tried to make the frame within the frame work…



process of painting a portrait

...and I tried to make Bob who was looking at Bob-as-Henry work.



process of painting a portrait

But I ended up painting out both of them. 



process of painting a portrait

And then I gave up on that canvas entirely and started this painting.



process of painting a portrait

My original canvas had become too sealed with layers paint, so I started over on a new one—a clean slate.



process of painting a portrait

Everything I had learned in the last version was still with me…



process of painting a portrait

...but I made a fresh start with that knowledge.



portrait of Bob Bernstein

Gwenn Seemel
Father
2009
acrylic on canvas
36 x 24 inches
(detail below)



process of painting a portrait

There is no right or wrong in art, no definite answer.  A painting’s “done-ness” can only be measured in how the work makes the artist feel—in how it fits into the artist’s vision of what her-his work should look like.

To see Subjective in Portland, visit the North View Gallery by this Friday at 4 o’clock…

The gallery is open from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM.

North View Gallery
Portland Community College Sylvania Campus
12000 SW 49th Avenue, Portland, OR 97219


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CATEGORIES: - Practice - Process images - Subjective -



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(6) Comments / Commentaires: Getting it right

-- acire -- 2010 . 02 . 06 --

totally cool! great to see the progress like this.

what do you do with the canvas you ditched? throw it out? give it away? save it for later inspiration?

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-- Gwenn -- 2010 . 02 . 06 --

I saved a small piece of the old canvas—just the face part—but when I looked at it just now, I wondered why.  Sometimes it feels good to throw it all out!

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-- Claire -- 2010 . 02 . 06 --

Tout recommencer ? Quelle idée !! grin
Another beautiful portrait! I love the drips, and the beautiful shade of yellow that appears in so many elements of the painting, the clothing, the background, and even warming the skin of the subject. It’s almost as if he were lit up by candlelight, or maybe he’s standing near a fireplace. How appropriate for “Henry VIII”!
(I don’t know why I think he’s standing… Was he standing or seated in the photo you were working from?)

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-- Gwenn -- 2010 . 02 . 06 --

It’s true: I should give credit where credit is due!  I have a habit of starting paintings over, but I wouldn’t have done it with this one if Claire hadn’t suggested it. 

The problem with starting completely fresh is giving the new canvas and primer enough time to cure properly, but I happened to have another canvas of the same size lying around, so it only made sense!  Brilliant.

I think Bob was sitting in the source photo.  I wish I could remember what he was talking about when he made that gesture with his arm/fist.  So expressive!

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-- Jacques -- 2010 . 02 . 07 --

The positive brightness and lightheartedness born in this portrait of Bob, which flashes out of so many of your paintings, seemed in such stark contrast to Becca’s portrait of her father. At first glance I did not recognize that the two were of the same man.  When reality hit me, the next thought was of my own startled experience in my late twenties, as an acquaintance of my own age, who had worked some years with my father, portrayed him as having attributes to which I had apparently been completely blinded.  Perhaps Becca was surprised in the same way at what you saw in her father.  And so, once again, you help us by proving the truth of what your grandfather once said to you, “...artists see things….”

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-- Gwenn -- 2010 . 02 . 09 --

I’m not sure whether or not Becca was surprised, but I do know that I certainly was by her portrait—of her father and of everyone else in the series.  I learned a lot about all of us by looking at us through Becca’s eyes, hands, and paintbrush.  It’s startling the different things we reveal to different people!

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