What can I say about portraits? I go through phases of loving doing them, and then hating doing them. It’s because in my worst moments I’m a grumpy perfectionist. Even more so than with nudes, people can tell at a glance if a portrait is “off” - the eyes just a bit too far apart, the nose too short or long, the mouth too wide, high or low … and don’t even get me started on hair. But that’s what makes it so compelling for an artist, because when you get one “right”, it’s enormously satisfying and you immediately forget all the past failures. Until your next one, of course.

I find more and more I’m drawn (no pun intended) to more informal portraits, where the likeness is recognisable without being exact. For some reason I find it easier to capture character when I ease up a bit on likeness. Although, curiously, the likeness tends to look better if you’ve also captured something of the character of the sitter.

Full disclosure: I am yet to paint a portrait from life. I really, really want to, I just haven’t had the opportunity. You might think, “why not paint your friends and family?” … the reason is, it’s actually harder to paint someone you know, because your brain is so full of assumptions (ie: I “know” what they look like). But then, you don’t want to paint a stranger only to create a bad painting and embarrass you both.

Like I said, I love painting portraits. Except when I hate it.

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