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Old 05-10-2008, 02:56 PM   #1
Clayton J. Beck III Clayton J. Beck III is offline
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Joined: Dec 2007
Location: Oak Lawn, IL
Posts: 100
A likeness, why the difficulty?

These are some thoughts I have on the subject of likeness and the difficulty even the most accurate drawing can bring.

Much of our ability to recognize other people may also be a result of our emotional response upon seeing them. If we don't have a familiar feeling perhaps we may not recognize this person even though their faces are similar to the way it was upon the last meeting. Some people I believe recognize other people more from a mechanical-mathematical type of recognition of measurements of faces and others perhaps their emotional response to them. I think this may explain why portrait artists will receive different judgments about their work from various people. Simply because the artist has chosen a particular response that they had to the subject in their own particular way and if the artist's vision doesn't match the viewer's, little connection is made between the viewer and the artwork being viewed. Often times, I believe, the sitter's emotional response to the artist and the artist's emotional response to the sitter so strongly comes out on the canvas and is so unique to that situation that others may not recognize or see a likeness in the face of the sitter simply because they've never seen the sitter in that situation. I believe this explains much of the poorly received and dissatisfactory results of some portrait sessions. The artist can only paint his point of view and if that point of view does not match the viewer's then the resulting portrait is often deemed a failure. The portrait itself may be mechanically perfect and the result still dissatisfactory. I believe this is often the case when lesser artists project and trace an image onto a canvas with no understanding whatever of perception and likeness and end up with a poor portrait as a result.

I teach my students many methods including the traditional systems of drawing such as perspective, anatomy, line and mass, gesture and rhythm. As skill develops I try to instill in my students the idea that skill is not the only thing they're going to need. I tell them not to forget that their subject is a human being and that you also are human being not just a recording instrument. Your subject is not a still life. You have a visceral reaction to your subject on so many levels it would be a shame to only try to capture the coldly analytical "camera-like" image that so often pass is as great art these days. If one's skills are developed enough and one's response to the subject is clear enough, great things are possible on the canvas.

I would hope that the following example is more than a 'likeness' as it is my daughter.

"Renata" 26" x 32" Oil on Linen. One session.
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