The last time I did a portrait of someone I knew, let alone a member of my family was a very long time ago. I used to sketch self-portraits and portraits of family members when I was a kid and through my teens. In fact, doing portraits was my thing and over the years I have produced a lot of them. Never though, have I painted or successfully produced a full sized colour portrait until now. My subject?
My daughter, Grace of course. Possibly the trickiest subject there is, for me at least. The last thing you want to do as an artist, is unwittingly mess up the face of one of your children when trying to render them artistically. And in watercolour, no less. As if it wasn’t challenging enough!
Four days ago, I really wasn’t very confident that I could pull this off. Looking at the finished product four days later, I’m not exactly sure how I managed it. I seem to have suffered temporary amnesia with regards to the process of its production. In fact, I had the crazy notion yesterday during a minor fit of euphoria after adding the final hair on my lovely daughter’s head, that I might actually do a series of these (if she’s willing to contribute her face to my efforts, of course). However, now I’m back to where I was four days whence wondering how in the holy hell I’m going to manage it!
The element of surprise is nothing to be sniffed at, especially when sneaking up on oneself becomes the modus operandi, such as it has for me. If I catch myself unawares, then perhaps I’ll find myself happily painting away at the fourth or fifth painting in this series wondering how on earth I ever doubted my ability.
Luckily, my daughter has a fairly broad repertoire of facial expressions worthy of immortality in paint, and not unlike her mother she has a fairly healthy sense of humour (she’s going to need it…)!
During a conversation with said child/young adult yesterday (soon to be 16 – gawd, where does the time go!) I mentioned that painting in her in oils would have been a lot easier. There is a broader margin for error when painting in oils. Watercolour, however, is almost a one shot wonder. You have to be relatively confident that you really like the colour and the marks you’re putting down on the paper. There is a much greater commitment to the painting surface with watercolour than there is with oils. With oils, if you mess up you can at least scrape it away or wait for it to dry and paint over it. Not so with watercolours, both confidence and precision are key. Too much overworking can both damage the paper’s surface and muddy all your carefully applied tonal layers. It’s a very sobering artistic medium to work with, that’s for sure. Almost as sobering as having a soon-to-be-adult daughter who is fiercely independent!
All that being said, I’m happy because my daughter is happy right now, and that’s all that matters to me. She liked her portrait; and I get to live another day with paintbrush in hand. What’s not to like?