Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Artistic Study -- Honing Skills Through Portraiture



My friend Abigail was nice enough to sit for half an hour to allow me to quickly sketch her portrait. This is what was created in that time limitation.

Even though my current direction in painting is in the realm of abstraction, it remains necessary to know how to draw! This includes drawing from life, still-lifes, landscapes, interiors, figures, and the ever-challenging portraits.
Banksy made an interesting observation when he said: "All artists are willing to suffer for their work. But why are so few prepared to learn to draw?"

Drawing a portrait with a fixed time limitation is indeed a challenge and an excellent way to hone drawing skills. With drawing expertise comes the knowledge of line, shade, and composition -- the building blocks for creating a good painting.

To an artist, painting something completely abstract is almost the same as painting something realistic. Both are simply illusions created on a flat plane using color -- it is texture, brushstrokes, line, juxtaposition of color, contrast and subtleties which give a painting life, whether it is a portrait of a person we recognize or a form of something incomprehensible. The only difference, as I see it, is that an abstract painting is a blind process, meaning there is no final image the artist is aiming for or needs his painting to look like (unless he is using an abstract photograph or Photoshop -- ugh!); rather, painting abstract is a bit like a leap of faith, using a set of tools and skills to hopefully create something meaningful in the end.

The necessity of having drawing skill is further exemplified by the great Pablo Picasso. He could draw like the old masters when he was 15, yet he still decided to abandon the representational approach as he helped pave the way into abstraction, becoming the most famous artist of the 20th century. He did this with drawing expertise.