The first five paintings of Portraits of American Teens were a perfect fit for The Warehouse Theatre’s lobby. Here are some photos from my artist reception. Had a great time meeting new Greenville folks and catching up with friends. What a nice surprise when my oldest daughter who lives out of town showed up for the reception.
I am getting near completing the painting “Francesca” and will be posting it soon.
In the meantime, here are recent photos taken of “Ethan” and “Megan”. I don’t know about most artists, but I find that after I sit with a painting, I usually find things I can improve. Both of these paintings called for changes to the background.
With Megan, I still wasn’t completely satisfied with how the composition was working and how your eye moved through the painting. After looking at it upside down, sideways and backward . . . . meaning I looked at it a lot, I decided to extend the dark of the tree down the right side and also darkened some areas in the grass toward the bottom of the painting. I think this allowed for two things, one of which turned out to be a happy accident. In trying to solve a compositional dilemma, I found that it also effected the mood of the piece. With the portrait of Megan, one of my goals was to allude to her anxiety, and by darkening areas I ended up reinforcing this idea. Compositionally I think it works better because the darks starting in the left hand corner lead you in a circle around the painting, up the left hand side and around to her face.
On the painting of Ethan, I made some minor changes. I removed the bleachers in the background and replaced it with a simpler landscape. I think the bleachers were a little too distracting. I have included before and after photos.
I am so excited to get started on this next painting because this girl really intrigues me! We met two weeks before she was scheduled to move to Massachusetts and despite her life being in flux, I found her to be both calm and accommodating. I envied her spontaneity as well as her go with the flow attitude: two qualities I have always admired in others but find difficult to exhibit myself. While chatting over coffee, Francesca was like an open book and filled me in about her life. She talked to me about her family, friends, pivotal moments of her life, as well as her influences, hobbies, character and personality. I started to form some loose ideas in my head about how to capture my impressions of this interesting, quirky, creative and confident girl. A week later we were out taking photographs and in a couple of hours we were done.
Francesca is an only child from a close-knit family. Her mother is Columbian and has extended family living here in the United States as well as Columbia. I learned that her very free-spirited nature is also very descriptive of her father, whom she admires and considers her best friend and one of her biggest influences. Having had the opportunity to travel, she has developed an appreciation for other cultures as well as gratitude for the opportunities she experiences as a citizen in the states. Francesca has lived in several areas of the country and it may have been the necessity to adapt to her new surroundings that has contributed to her outlook on life: one of openness, willingness to change and a desire to learn and experience new things. Some of her interests include circus performing, visual art, travel, writing, language and drama.
The first thing I noticed when I met Ethan was his confidence. He is obviously a very physically fit guy and takes pride in his athletic abilities and physique. What I didn’t know until later was he is also very friendly, captain of his track team and loves to goof around and laugh with his team mates and friends. Despite his cheerful and carefree nature, he takes his leadership role as track captain and athlete very seriously. I attended many a practice observing him in his element and saw a hard working competitor and a supportive and encouraging team member. It is all of these things that I wish to capture in my portrait of him.
Do you know a teen that would be interested in being part of my project “A Portrait of American Teens”?
I am looking for teen subjects that would bring diversity to the group of paintings. Diversity in many forms: could be ethnicity, family structure, personality, interests and goals. If you have a teen in mind, let me explain the process. I have subjects fill out a questionnaire and provide me with a candid photo of themselves. If I decide that they are a good fit for the group, meaning that they capture something different from what I already have, we would meet to get to know one another. If the process goes further, I would arrange for a photo shoot. As I get to know the teen, I will be formulating ideas about how to focus on what it is about them that I want to present to the viewer of the painting. I normally paint the portrait from the reference photos, although in some circumstances, if the teen is available, I may ask them to sit for me in order to make some prepatory sketches.
There is no monetary compensation for their time, although I can provide the teen with a cd of the images from their photo shoot. The finished painting, photos and any sketches made belong to me as well as rights to reproduction. I will not photograph or paint any portrait that is pornographic or defamatory in nature and parents and or guardians are welcome during any or all of this process.
If you or a teen you know a teen who might be interested, please contact me through the contact page of this blog.
Here is the progress so far with the first painting in my teen series. Initially I worked on some sketches using my reference photo to make some composition changes. I have included her hand on the right: No need to chop her off at the wrist. Since the bench provides such a strong directional line into the painting, I like how the direction of the path then counterbalances that movement back in the opposite direction. In the reference photo, I don’t like the tree behind her head, so I removed it and placed another tree in the distance and to the right. My thought is that the dark from the bench will lead to the dark on the ground and then follow up the tree. I plan to arch a shape of dark leaves over and around on the top left, in effect, completing that circle of dark which started with the bench. Hopefully this all leads your eye to the focal point of her face. I am not positive at this point if this is the answer, but I will follow my thought process and see how it works.
Then it was time to paint. I transferred my sketch to my canvas with charcoal and then created a simple under painting using yellow ochre and burnt umber. This helps establish a rough drawing as well as starts to set up the values. As I begin to add the color on top of the under painting, I am continually correcting any drawing issues.
One of my biggest challenges in this painting is going to be her jacket. How do I add enough detail to describe the jacket without getting caught up in every fold, wrinkle and pleat? Arrgh!!!! Along this same thought process, I have decided not to make the bench a perforated metal like the one she was sitting on. Too much detail where it’s not needed and would probably attract too much of your eye. Keep it simple!
I didn’t have to look too far for my first subject. Who do I know better than my own children? My first painting in the “teen series” will be my daughter Megan. Some words I would use to describe her are shy, cautious, artistic, funny, creative, musical, concerned with fashion and her appearance, and pretty. Megan also struggles with anxiety and although I don’t want the portrait to scream anxiety, I do want to allude to it. Here are a select few from reference photos I have taken of her. I like aspects of each of these. Can you guess which one I chose to use?
I am working on a series of large oil paintings and my plan is to have between 8-10 paintings when I am done of individual portraits of American teens. These portraits will not be like a commissioned portrait in that a commissioned portrait is usually a portrait that shows the individual in their best light. The client has a specific way in which they want the subject presented and although I am the creator, the artwork is a collaboration between my myself and the client.
These teen portraits, on the other hand, will be about my vision and my connection with the other person as I see them. This means showing their strengths as well as their weaknesses. Like an orange, I want to peel away the rind and get to the pulp. I want to show their inner character as well as what they look like on the outside. I want to tell a story. How do they present themselves to the world? What emotions lie beneath the surface? What are their influences and background? Are they confident, shy, nervous, athletic, pompous, gifted? These are just some of the characteristics and questions I hope to get answered as I get to know my subjects. Obviously no one portrait can present all aspects of a complex individual, but by focusing on something that stands out to me about each teen, I hope to present a diverse and interesting snapshot of American teens today.
You may ask why teens? The idea came to me through my own experiences with my two teenage daughters. I find it interesting and amazing how in the span of just a few years I can really see the young adults they are becoming. They each have very different styles of dress, interests, personality characteristics and goals. They are trying to figure out who they are, differentiate themselves from others or sometimes are just trying to fit in. Their influences come from many areas including family, school, religious beliefs, and of course peers, media and popular culture. By observing my own daughters and seeing how genetics as well as outside influences have affected who they are, the idea of exploring and creating a collection of diverse teen portraits intrigued me.
So now the search and process begins to find my subjects and create this collection of paintings. Part of this blog will be devoted to capturing and sharing this journey with you, my reader. I hope you find it interesting and beneficial. I would love to hear your feedback along the way.