Process: Painting people, creativity and being free

A subtle shift in the placement of light or line can have a powerful effect on the character of a painted portrait. Capturing expression, mood, an individual’s unique facial structure, requires keen observation and a honed ability to interpret discoveries into a personal visual language.

For me, I feel that a human figure in a painting provokes the same kind of curiosity that makes people-watching so interesting – underneath absent minded gazing lie the questions “What’s this person doing?”, “Where is she going?”, “How is he feeling?”. Reality shows take this proclivity for voyeurism to its most mundane extreme. With figure painting, you tap into this curiosity, which, for me, is an endless space ready for exploration.

How do changes in color, texture, framing, details, etc, change the viewer’s reading of the portrait? Does a blue background make the figure look sad, with a post-breakup-wandering-a-rainy-street-alone feel or does the blue give the portrait a summery feel, bursting with the joy of a clear July sky in Alaska?

Right now, I’m still working at learning the intimate details of facial anatomy, so my work is always a combination of study, exploration, overt intention and creative inspiration. I go to the canvas with a general idea of color and subject. What emerges is a result of intuition fired during the painting process. I’ve tried before to paint to achieve a predefined end but, as I work, unforseen possibilities present themselves that are more compelling than the original idea. For me, letting go and being lead by creative intuition is a fundamental part of the art making experience. To resist, results in a certain amount of suffering. And the finished work seems to be a product of something beyond my previous imagination, almost like magic.

As members of society, we humans spend huge amounts of our energy conforming to predefined ideas, with limited time and space for our unique vision to emerge. Making art is a moment where you can be totally free, bound only by your own personal limits. So, in doing something as traditional as studying portraiture, I am both exploring aspects of myself and standing up against daily conformity in my life.

Making art – it’s a simple act with a powerful consequences.