As a painter I feel it is required that I learn to master portraits.
The study never stops. If a young artist wants to find their way through the pigment early on, the best way to achieve that, to understand color and edges and balance and form and value and light, is to start with portraits.
Faces are familiar. We all have one, look at it practically everyday, and are quite familiar with it. We recognize a portrait pattern quickly and easily in nature or on canvas. Because it is so familiar, it’s one of the most accurate ways to learn how to use life’s color.
Achieving a representation is so flexible, it’s probably the simplest way to capture an object on canvas. It loves to be rendered in every detail, or distorted and contorted beyond belief. There’s a tremendous range of possibilities and yet, it’s still a portrait.
This category is far too large, but I can start with some of my personal favorites.
Frank Duveneck was a powerhouse brush handler. He started me on my own drive to use the brush as a signature device and not just to apply paint. The head study above is part of a long canvas of other studies. It is simple, direct, strong, confident, and narrative. One of many great passages here is the stroke over the eye, dragged through the underlying black. It describes the form, value, and character all in one move and gives the subject the age in his eyes.