13.25" x 7.75"
oil on wood 2011
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Painting a Jolie Holland Portrait
Pheoris West was one of painting teachers in college. Last week I attended a painting demonstration by him. He painted a portrait of a model and while he was doing that he told stories about his life, about his college years and about painting. His portrait turned out really great. I learned a lot from him that day in just an hour and a half. I never learned much painting technique in college you know, I wish I had a bit more of that. I'm still learning, and occasionally (like this portrait of Jolie Holland) I make a painting just as a technical exercise. I never showed any of these musician's portraits to any of my Professors, I deemed these a mere hobby. My art was making large modernist paintings. The demonstration gave me an understanding of underpainting. My wife Maria always loves my underpaintings but really I knew as much about underpants as about underpaintings. In his view the underpainting is all about light, you become one with the source. (In the case of the Jolie Holland portrait that would be the sun.) He often paints his 'light' layer with extreme detail on a mid-value primed surface and then paints subsequent transparent color layers. (Jolie Holland is painted on blue.) Pheoris told the audience he learned to paint by copying. Painting, as athletics, for him was a competitive business. If he was blown away by some painting he saw, he would work to be just as good, or better. I attest to that attitude and to honor his teachings I decided to make a Pheoris West. It felt good doing it. It felt good being him and it felt good being the sun (especially considering the bitter cold circumstances the Jolie Holland portrait was painted in).
The Jolie Holland photograph I painted from was taken by Maria. In the original photograph I am standing right next to her but I cropped myself out of it for the painting. It's not about me, you see, it's about them.