When I don't have luck in landscape, I can still turn to portrait practice and feel like my time isn't a total loss. Every head done is one baby step forward (though some seem like a slip back). The above painting is done from a photo of Ian McKellen, the British actor (Lord of the Rings, X Men, etc.) who has a very expressive face and eyes. I didn't spend any time on the clothing here, since I was just pushing for a resemblance. Sometimes I begin with a sketch on the board, sometimes I just begin painting the large value shapes; sometimes I measure for accurate placement of major features and sometimes I just wing it. But I am finding that no matter which approach I use, it takes about the same amount of time to arrive at the destination. When I wing it, I will occassionally check back to measure and see how close I came to the reference, and it surprises me how very accurate my guesses have become. I guess the number of heads behind me has done something after all!
This one is less successful, and I probably spent less time on it because it didn't seem to have great promise once it was blocked in. There might be something there if I continue with it, add some glazing, change some temperature here and there. But it still counts as a head, a baby step, and every hour spent at the easel is time on the road to a destination unknown. This morning was our weekly plein air get together, and Randall mentioned that he just didn't feel it happening for him today. If someone as accomplished as he is can feel that, I can feel excused when it happens to me. Sometimes the magic isn't working. Sometimes the subject doesn't speak to you in a way you want to translate. Even great natural beauty doesn't necessarily make for a good painting motif. But when, for whatever reason, I catch a feeling in what I see, get excited to get to the easel and discover if I can get it out of me, if my idea works in paint, if my mind and my hands can work together for a change and share something my heart is experiencing, then it doesn't get any better than that. That is worth the countless times when it just doesn't seem to be happening and the result is blah. Every blank canvas holds the promise that this time might be a good one. And I'm talking about a good that is relative; good compared to what I have done, or good compared to the disappointments. I find that it requires a certain degree of optimism to step up to the easel, something not easy for a life-long pessimist. Maybe that's what Art brings: Hope to the hopeless.