Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Portraits (and why I like them)

My first 'professional' art job happened when I was just a small girl. My brothers paid me some small fee (probably a quarter, or an ice cream cone or something) to draw a picture of my sister. Easy money, I guess, because I was hooked.

When I went to college, I knew I would be an art major. There wasn't even anything else I'd considered for a minute. I was a big fan of Leonardo da Vinci, Monet, Renoir, Degas and the other impressionists, M.C. Escher, and...Norman Rockwell. There are other artists, too, of course...but those are the biggies.

The thing that brought me back to those artists again and again was their ability to give the subject a life. They didn't just paint how a person looked, they painted who they were. They conveyed their souls straight through into the paint. You could feel yourself there with them, wanting to know more about that person across from you.

A broader, yet intimate, representation of their culture is also available in those paintings. For example, in Norman Rockwell's The Homecoming, which is the painting I keep above my bed, he depicts a young soldier coming home to his neighborhood after WWII. You can't help but feel happiness for the young man and those that so obviously fretted and worried for him during his absence. It symbolizes what so many people went through during WWII, and gives us the ability to empathize with our elders. This picture is worth millions of words, because it sums up what would be the memoirs of so many.

While I'm not claiming to be that accomplished, it is what drives me to keep doing portraits. I want to make the person looking at the portrait have that sentimental moment of their own, even if they've never met the subject. I want the people who have met the subject to look at it and recognize the person in the picture, not just their face.