This week I put the finishing touches on my newest work "Portrait of Mr. John Tucker." John has character written on his face, and it is no wonder. He worked in the Disney Animation Department during their heyday in the 1990s, and looks himself as though he could play any number of charicaturesque roles. With so intriguing and expressive a look, I felt compelled to have John sit for me in my studio.
Capturing the sitter means many things to the painter, and is ultimately what a portrait is "about." The technical and intellectual demands of painting (i.e. brushstrokes, colors, values, light, shadow, logic, etc.) are all just the means of capturing the intangibles that are at work behind the surface. These might include the model's gesture, attitude, expression, and other such mysterious offerings.
With this portrait, the focus was on the expression in his eyes, the heavy tilt of his head, and just his strong presence. He takes up more space on the canvas than some of my other portraits, with less background surrounding him. This makes him slightly more imposing, which to me goes along with his stance and attitude . His clothing adds design to the canvas and flavor to his character.
Ultimately, such a personal portrait is centered on the expression and countenance of the subject. The use of heavy and expressive brushwork helps tell the "story" written on John's face. For another subject, I might have used much more subtle strokes and variations, but again, I was really after John's expressive qualities. His slightly veiled eyes show some mystery to his character and the viewer is left to fill in that mystery.
Looking closer yet, we see how abstract the brushwork is that, from a distance, reads like flesh and bone, light and shadow, and perhaps a glimpse of something more.