Thursday, April 19, 2007

Avery and Jazz

"Avery and Jazz" © 2007 Karen Mathison Schmidt
12x12 • acrylic on 3/4" cradled gessobord • SOLD

I posted progress photos of this painting a few days ago; here it is finished!

Several weeks ago my friend Andrea commissioned me to take photos of her son, herself and her mom, in various combinations. Of course, being 7, Avery wasn't really into the photo shoot; it was next to impossible to get him to sit in any one spot for more than about 4 seconds, and even harder to get a natural expression out of him. (From experience I know that it takes about a thousand clicks of the shutter to get 2 or 3 really good shots of a kid or a pet - thank goodness for digital!)

At one point I got Avery to sit looking out the window and tell me all the things he could see out in the back yard.
Me: What do you see out there?
Avery: ummm...
Me (clicking away): Is there an elephant out there?
Avery (very matter-of-fact): No.
Me: Hmmm ... he must have gone home to eat lunch. Is the giraffe still out there?
Avery (laughing): No-ho-ho-ho!

Then, just for a second, he stopped talking and was just looking, and their cat, Jazz, hopped up behind Avery and was looking in the exact same direction. It was the kind of moment a photographer dreams of – a real gift! I snapped the picture and I knew I had a gem. Out of an hour long photo session, this turned out to be everyone's favorite. Later, looking at the photos on my computer, I knew I had to paint this one. I've been trying to build up my portrait painting portfolio (wow - say that 3 times real fast!) so I have more to show potential clients.

The big challenge for me in painting a portrait is to end up with a good likeness without trying to control the outcome too much. It's kind of like a creative tightrope walking act, trying constantly to keep that balance. And of course I want to be true to my own style, seeing as how that might be a reason that a person chooses me over another portrait artist.

I have a tendency to be very detail-oriented in my work, which is a plus in my graphic design job, but which I have to fight against in my painting in order to keep my brushstrokes loose and painterly. Somewhere in my past (it could have been in an art class or something I read) I heard that the less information the artist provides in a painting, the more the audience has to fill in from their own experience and memories, so a less detailed work can seem very personal and familiar, even when you're seeing it for the very first time. This might explain the extreme popularity of impressionistic art.

Well, boys and girls, that concludes our art class for today. In closing, I would like to say one more thing: it was really fun painting the cat!


Leslie Pease said...

WONDERFUL. It finished beautifully~you should be proud and the person who commissioned should be thrilled!

Mary Sheehan Winn said...

It is beautiful, especially the detail you included of the cat.
Well done!

Melanie said...

This is absolutely beautiful - I obviously dont know the child or the cat - but I'd hang it on my wall in a flat second!! Really lovely. I love the feeling it evokes. Makes me just want to sit back and ponder all things :) Awesome!