Well, I've received back some feedback on the portrait I did of Ben, my 11 year old nephew (see previous two posts). Both Karen, my sister, and Ben himself both prefer the earlier version which they feel is most like him. Karen said she thinks it has "a certain something about it" which is not there in the finished version. She agrees that the final picture portrays him as older than he actually looks but the hair and eyes are very accurate. Ben thinks his nose is too big in the final version (!), the earlier one is just right and he wants to thank me for making him look good! A young diplomat in the making I think!
I've learnt a lot from doing this portrait. Here are some of my conclusions.
1. Drawing a member of your own family is especially challenging because you cannot help but be influenced, consciously and unconsciously, by your own knowledge and perceptions of that person. I often see Ben as a very wise head on young shoulders, he astounds me sometimes with his mature and thoughtful comments - perhaps that's why I ended up drawing him looking older than his years.
2. Drawing from a photograph is most definitely not an easy option, as some people would have us believe. It does, however, require a lot of careful consideration and skill if we want to end up with a drawing that projects an impression of freshness and vibrancy, alongside accuracy and realism. I know this is possible. I'm working on it!
3. The early stages of my portraits, and other subjects too, almost always look fresher, more vibrant and more accurate than the finished versions. I find it very difficult to determine that nebulous point of no return, you know, when the picture is done and it's either good or it's bad. I'll say things like "if I just make that a bit darker" or "that eye isn't quite right" or "it looks too insipid!" when I know I should be saying "it's good enough now, doing more on it won't improve it"! Would that I had the wisdom to be able to say the latter a lot more often!
4. I love doing portraits just because they are so difficult to do well and I really want to do them well. Do you detect a whiff of masochism in there?!
And finally...... Ben (of portrait fame) is running the Sport Relief Mile tomorrow to raise lots of money for this great cause. GO BEN and no slacking or you won't get my money!! (Just joshing, hehe).