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Old 05-12-2003, 10:53 AM   #1
Mike Dodson Mike Dodson is offline
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To "cheese" or not to "cheese?




In preparation for an upcoming portrait of my daughter, my wife and I were looking at some potential reference photos I had taken. In trying to reach a decision we were looking for a photo that would best display her personality.

The photo we thought best represented her was a photo of her smiling. After all she is a very humorous, fun, outgoing person. My first reaction to the photo was to say no because "smiles" are deemed primarily as non-traditional. After our discussion I made my way to my library of books upon which I chose one on Sargent's work (Richard Ormond's "Paintings of the 1890's" Vol.2). Surprisingly, I found many of his portraits to contain these "no-no" smiles.

I think the expression of the subject should represent the personality of the subject. I'm cautious of a lot of these "art absolutes" I hear or am I missing the boat?
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Old 05-12-2003, 11:34 AM   #2
Mari DeRuntz Mari DeRuntz is offline
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Mike,

You might want to begin your research here. At the top of the forum screen you have a menu bar where one option is "search messages." I think you'll find much interesting reading...
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Old 09-29-2008, 11:55 AM   #3
Anne Bobroff-Hajal Anne Bobroff-Hajal is offline
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Mari, the link you supplied here doesn't seem to work now. Could you give it again? Thanks!
Anne Bobroff-Hajal

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Old 05-12-2003, 11:54 AM   #4
Mike Dodson Mike Dodson is offline
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Mari,

Thanks for the link.

I agree with much of what I read and I make it a practice not to paint smiles where the other facial features are distorted but I have met artists who think you can never paint smiles or grins and I think we miss out on conveying to the viewer a very important characteristic of the subject, particularly to those who will hopefully view our paintings after we are long gone.

Thanks again!
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Old 09-29-2008, 12:13 PM   #5
Anne Bobroff-Hajal Anne Bobroff-Hajal is offline
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Hello, Mike, I very much agree that if we never paint our subjects smiling, "we miss out on conveying to the viewer a very important characteristic of the subject, particularly to those who will hopefully view our paintings after we are long gone." Generally I feel that human expression is more important than purely physical appearance in creating our bonds with each other. So to me, capturing the subject's unique facial expression is a critical element of portraiture. And the smile creates some of the closest human bonding of all. So I believe it shouldn't be excluded from portraiture by hard and fast rules - especially when the subject is a humorous, outgoing person, as you describe your daughter. A portrait of a person like this should capture her outgoing spirit as much as her physical appearance.

As some one new to this forum, I'm realizing this is an old thread, and I'm not sure what the etiquette is in pursuing it years later! However, the reason I launched into this is that I would love if you could provide names of some specific examples of the Sargent paintings you were referring to - I'd very much like to find & view them.

Thanks,
Anne

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Old 09-29-2008, 01:20 PM   #6
Julie Deane Julie Deane is offline
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I respect the reasons given for not smiling, but if the child is always smiling and this most accurately shows the personality, I'd go for it.
It does distort the face so that the eyes are smaller and the cheeks are fuller, though.

The teeth can be de-emphasized even in a full grin, through the use of lowered constrast, blurred edges, and not showing full details.
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Old 09-30-2008, 01:37 PM   #7
Richard Bingham Richard Bingham is offline
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Probably the most compelling reason the "traditional" portraits of the past did not show many wide, toothy smiles is the difficulty of having the sitter "hold that pose" when working from the life. The spontaneous, sincere expression in a smile can rapidly become a pained grimace . . . then there was the lack of dental care . . .

A huge pitfall for the modern portraitist is all the difficulty that attends working from reference photos as opposed to working from the life. No doubt you've read lengthy discussion of the pros and cons on these boards.

I agree heartily with Julie. At least twice, I feel I made a misjudgment of my sitter by not painting them with a smile that flashed some teeth (I tend not to favor "snapshot" smiles). The demeanor and personality of these individuals was such that in fact, it was in their character always to be smiling broadly - but not feigned, and naturally spontaneous.
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Old 09-30-2008, 03:07 PM   #8
Mike Dodson Mike Dodson is offline
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Sargent

Sargent........
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Old 06-05-2003, 09:35 PM   #9
Celeste McCall Celeste McCall is offline
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Not to Cheese

Hi there,

I think that some of the most intriguing paintings of people that I have seen either show perfect teeth, no teeth or exagerrated awful ones. So, if the teeth are perfect or if you are going for a portrait of a real "character" then say cheese. If not, then consider not doing it.

Kevin Aucoin, the famous makeup artist for models said to never say "cheese" when posing with a smile. He said that the word "thirteen" positioned the mouth much more pleasantly. My vote is with the NOT cheese, or make the teeth as perfect as possible without losing the likeness, or make them insignificant by not adding too much detail to them. Good luck as this will be a fun project for you.
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