Week 17 of Life Book continued the theme of working intuitively with a lesson by Jenny Wentworth on portrait painting. I found working on this lesson to be very challenging as it pushed me out of my comfort zone in a few respects. That, however, is no bad thing. I embarked on this course precisely so that I could be challenged to try new things, learn and develop, understand what works and doesn’t work for me and grow as a result. This lesson really stretched me and I enjoyed it precisely because of that.
I spent the longest time I have ever spent on a Life Book lesson (so far) beavering away at this portrait, fidgeting and layering until my paper started pilling. The idea of the lesson was to paint a portrait without sketching at all, just using the paint and whatever other media came to mind to develop a portrait, working intuitively the whole time. I am beginning to appreciate that most paintings go through an ugly phase but this one went through several ugly phases. As someone who is much more comfortable and experienced with drawing than with painting, it was so tempting just to pick up a pencil or piece of charcoal and draw into the painting. I did, however, resist that temptation and kept fidgeting away with the paint. One consequence of not drawing any elements is that the eyes are not the same. Annoying. I also struggled trying to get the eyes to look life-like, not too starey-scary, the whites not too glaring. I added some metallic paints, including the addictive splattering on hair, just to tie the whole thing together and add in some light among all the dark neutral tones.
I am not sure how I feel about the outcome of my response to this lesson. I definitely learned something about the perseverance I require to keep pushing through the ugly stages, my ability to mix skin tones is improving and I am definitely starting to feel the benefit of all the previous lessons requiring me to work intuitively – especially as I felt free enough to just reach for whatever media I thought would do the job without putting much thought into it. However, I definitely remain more of an illustrator-drawer than a painter. I think my work would have benefited from the scaffolding that a preliminary drawing would have provided. And I still need to work on eyes. I think I may need to add this to the long list of Life Book lessons to have another crack at later in the year.