Hope Cunningham Fine Art

To view more of my work, please visit www.hopecunningham.com

Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Cecily 14X11 Original Oil on Panel

Cecily in the studio

Today I am posting a painting that I do not consider successful at capturing a likeness of the sitter. I am inviting feedback, so don't feel the need to hold back. There are a lot of things I do like about the  painting; the color composition and brushwork are fresh. What doesn't work in the painting results from my attempts to flatter the model according to my personal aesthetic, losing my grasp of the gesture and not trusting my eyes.

With regard to my personal aesthetic, I am learning that my love for the face in repose is not shared by many consumers of art. All those years spent in life studies in the studio created an appreciation for quiet, reflective gestures in my models. However, as I have mentioned before, the most frequent criticism I get from folks in the studio is, I love it but she looks sad. Personally I cherish my contemplative nature and find myself often turned inward, enjoying my relationship with my Self. Many people, I am learning, do not want to be represented to the world in this way. They want to be viewed as happy and engaged with their surroundings.

My inner jury is out on this point but the issue did underscore my reluctance to paint the ever elusive movements of the mouth. I knew I had to confront this challenge before I could decide if I truly wanted to focus on more prosaic portraits. Dewees Island is certainly providing ample opportunity for learning about painting the gestures of the mouth.

In terms of losing my gestural intention, comparison of the painting and photo makes evident my tendency to turn the face toward a full forward perspective rather than adhering to a 3/4 perspective. The differences are small, but it doesn't take much to lose a likeness or result in a skewed perspective. It's easy to see where cubists got the inspiration to paint the portrait from several different perspectives at once.

Which all culminates in the error of not trusting what I saw. When I was painting the mouth, it just seemed impossibly wide and off center, so I adjusted it to make it appear more symmetrical and less toothy. Big mistake! The asymmetry that I saw was my brain hitting me over the head saying "Perspective Dummy! Its a 3/4 view!" But did I listen? No. We all have very strong cognitive schema that have the potential to sabotoge our drawing skills. Those schema demand a full frontal view. Had I trusted my eyes and not let my personal aesthetic interfere, I would have ended up with a much more honest and accurate (and succesful!) portrait.

Perhaps I will paint it again.......

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