Amanda Hy­att

Part 8-Paint­ing Faces

International Artist - - Contents - Amanda Hy­att

Lessons in Wa­ter­colour, Part 8-Paint­ing Faces

In this ar­ti­cle I am pre­sent­ing ways to paint the face. This is not por­trai­ture be­cause “A por­trait is a pic­to­rial rep­re­sen­ta­tion of a per­son usu­ally show­ing the face. The in­tent is to dis­play the like­ness, per­son­al­ity, and even the mood of the per­son” (Mer­riam-web­ster).

Un­less a por­trait of some­one is rel­e­vant to a buyer, friend/rel­a­tive or is for a com­pe­ti­tion, paint­ings of recog­nis­able peo­ple are usu­ally very dif­fi­cult to sell. A paint­ing of a generic per­son is much eas­ier to sell and can be turned into art rather than just a por­trait.

True purist por­trait paint­ing is an art genre of its own, which I greatly re­spect, re­quir­ing a much more dis­ci­plined ap­proach. It re­lies on the in­nate tal­ent of the artist who will use much anal­y­sis, po­si­tion­ing, tonal work, com­par­i­son and an in­tense study of the sit­ter. This ar­ti­cle is not about por­trait paint­ing as a genre.

There are many great com­mer­cial por­trait painters of the past (e.g. Sar­gent and Kin­stler) and many less com­mer­cial face painters (e.g. Goya, Renoir, Lautrec and Manet). All have pro­duced great mem­o­rable faces but where some faces have ex­cel­lent rep­re­sen­ta­tion of all the fea­tures of the sit­ter in their proper place, oth­ers have pro­duced faces that are sim­i­lar to the sit­ter but not per­fectly cor­rect. These lat­ter paint­ings have artis­tic li­cence about them and could be any­body. The art of true purist por­trait paint­ing though is a com­plete art genre and of­ten por­trait painters are mainly known for this rather than their land­scapes. Face painters on the other hand do not have so much pres­sure to be per­fect.

Other non-purist meth­ods of paint­ing faces in­volve grid mea­sure­ments and the pro­jec­tion of the face onto the can­vas us­ing trans­paren­cies. Many of the mas­sive head paint­ings in to­day’s art world are done via pro­jec­tion of the photographic im­age.

Other meth­ods of paint­ing faces is to stick to a theme, big eyes (e.g. Keane) or green skin (e.g. Tretchikoff). As with all art al­ways, the end prod­uct will ap­peal to who­ever likes it. It is what­ever leaves an im­print on you. Minia­ture face paint­ings of the past are col­lected be­cause they ap­peal. The very clever por­trait painters of Mont­martre and most tourist des­ti­na­tions are ex­tremely pop­u­lar and their re­sul­tant art work is trea­sured.

Paint­ing faces can also be in the form of car­i­ca­tures (see Poul­try Fanciers) where lib­erty is taken with cer­tain el­e­ments of the face, e.g. ex­ag­ger­a­tion of dis­tances be­tween eyes or be­tween nose and mouth, en­larg­ing of ears. Car­toon­ists use these ex­ag­ger­ated fea­tures bril­liantly through great ob­ser­va­tion and un­der­stand­ing of their sub­ject. Faces may also be painted the­atri­cally (see James Hy­att as

Prof Fate), cos­tumes are a fo­cal point and give ex­tra in­ter­est. Sorolla or Sar­gent’s Span­ish dancer paint­ings are ex­am­ples where the face is sec­ondary to the cos­tume and ac­tiv­ity. The paint­ings of this genre re­quire artists to un­der­stand body lan­guage and ges­ture.

My method of paint­ing faces is to “just be­gin” and let the won­der­ful medium of wa­ter­colour take over. There is cer­tainly much more risk in­volved but with added washes and lift­ing off a rea­son­able im­age can be ob­tained. There is much plea­sure to be gained in “free fall­ing” into a face paint­ing with­out the self-im­posed pres­sure and re­straints that a photo re­al­is­tic out­come de­mands.

“If I cre­ate from the heart nearly ev­ery­thing works; if from the head, al­most noth­ing.” —Marc Cha­gall

Poul­try Fanciers

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