Saturday, July 9, 2011

People or Places?

Some seem surprised when I say I find portrait drawing easier than landscape. It's true that rocks, trees and even mountains can be moved around in a landscape painting to suit the painter's needs, but rearranging eyes, nose and mouth on a portrait will not help the composition, despite what Pablo Picasso tried to tell us. So, doesn't that make it harder? Well, that depends upon one's motivation. Over time I have put more into learning the human face than the landscape. Early on, when I lived in Pennsylvania, commissions ran probably twenty to one for portraits over places. When I began entering juried art shows, judges were quicker to accept my portraits and figures than my landscapes, The portraits were hung better in juried shows, too. So a little money and prestige motivated me, but more importantly, I am absolutely fascinated with the human face. In my teens, I was obsessed with learning how to draw people. The life and individuality seen in a person's face, the light in their eyes, is mysterious and endlessly fascinating.

While I continue to practice and hone my people drawing skills, developing landscape skills has been more my focus in recent years. If my love for landscape lags behind my fascination for the human face, it's not because I don't feel strongly about it. The vast amount of time I've spent out in the landscape, most often by myself, has shown to me it has life and light of it's own. The landscape has light and life to give, when it will, perhaps in ways not unlike the giving nature of the best of people.

The commissions for places I received when I lived back east were for civilized places; homes, churches, a golf course. Those were of course fun to paint, but my heart is in more wild places. What a civilized landscape has to offer seems limited, sometimes even restricted. It's puzzling to me that many people don't see themselves as part of the natural landscape. The perspectives offered by people and the landscape might be different, but aren't we made of the same stuff? The influence we have on each other is profound. Each is tied to the well being of the other. Forms and rhythms apparent in both people and landscapes are like a family likeness, and reveals our relation to our mother earth.

While I continue to build representation in professional galleries more interested in landscapes, my interest in the human form and face will continue. It's my goal, eventually, to combine people and the landscape in some of my paintings.

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