Painting has been difficult over the last couple of weeks. I’ve not been happy with anything I’ve done since I finished the paintings illustrated here:
Most of my time was taken up painting the one below, to which I’ve given the title “Prophet”. But I’m not happy with it. I quite like the colour and texture of the face, but not the features. Around the face I’ve included stencilled phrases from scripture, but I’m not happy with those I chose to include. They give the impression that the face represents Jesus Himself – but that was never the intention.
(this was photographed at an angle to catch the light on the stencilled words – the shape of the face therefore appears a little distorted.)
Until I decide what to do next, I’ll put this one aside and start to try something different.
I think the attempt at a portrait came about because I’ve recently seen a couple of documentaries about Ben Quilty, a young Australian artist who recently had a short stint as a war artist in Afghanistan. I’d seen him previously in some tributes to the late Margaret Olley whose portrait he had painted, winning him the Archibald Prize.
Quilty isn’t known for delicate and detailed work. He makes a lot of use of pallet knives to apply thick layers of paint squeezed not from tubes but from large cartridges more like a building product than an artist’s material. Even though he applies paint like a bricklayer applies mortar, the results have a detail capturing much more than the physical appearance of his subject. He somehow manages to capture their heart, their thoughts and their emotions.
My own attempts at portraiture have a long way to go – but I’ll keep returning and giving it another go. One day I’ll get it right (I hope).
See this excellent article about Quilty