Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Update and a Trip to the MFA Boston

I live about 2 hours outside of Boston in New Hampshire, moving here from the Chicago suburbs about 6 years ago. I've wanted to go visit the MFA Boston since before I moved here and, finally, just went this weekend for the first time.

It was perfect timing too. I've been second guessing my decisions on these portraits, particularly the ones I've been doing, including this current one, in which one side of the face is in darkness. What have I been second guessing myself on? Well, mainly how dark to go on that side, the colors that show through, and how much detail and the values to attribute the eye that is cast in darkness. So I went through the collection of paintings, century by century, focusing on portraits with similar lighting and noted their choices. The MFA was perfect for this lesson; they have a great room with several John Singer Sergeant portraits including the Daughter's of Edward Darley Boit, a painting that can not be described. I made my way down in history next focusing on the Colonial portaits of John Singleton Copley, best known for his famous painting of Paul Revere & my favorite in the collection, a painting he did of his brother and his pet squirrel early in his career. I then worked my way through the European paintings on the second floor, again going from the most contemporary to the older. To my complete surprise, at the end of the wing, the MFA boasts an amazing collection of dutch work from their golden age: my favorite still-life painter Claesz as well as several portraits by Rembrandt. How can I get a better teacher than a Rembrandt portrait for my little "problem" in these portraits!? I was so happy I looked through the entire room with tears in my eyes!

As soon as I got to the studio yesterday I reworked parts of the dark side of her face in my portrait, bringing out more of the highlights around the eye and adding a bit more darker value and detail in the eye. I am extremely happy with how it looks now; it just feels right, thanks to the great masters at the MFA!

One thing I was worried about in these portraits was how much "red" I see in the dark side of the face. I wasn't sure if I was seeing wrong, but I was happy to confirm that that's how others see it too, when looking at all the portraits at the MFA. If anyone knows why that is the color left in the dark side of a face, I'd love to know! My theory is that it may be a reverse to aerial perspective.

& now finally for updates! I've decided to rearrange the studio and hang the piece on the wall to work the rest of the drawing.


Deborah Ross said...

This is one sensational painting. I think it looks perfect, and it lifts you out of the cp category and into the great portrait painters' level. Can't wait to see it finished, and I bet you can't either. :-)

Vicki said...

Dear Nicole,

Thank you for putting into words and affirming for yourself -and also for me - how you step into the unknown of your art. It's like they say - there's always something we know in what we don't know, and there's always something we don't know in what we know. Thank you for helping me with this so beautifully through your portrait work. And thanks for the trip to the museum, a miracle for me. And one more Thanks for the size and skill of this work in progress.


Kim Ratigan said...

All your work is beautiful Nicole, but this portrait is stunning;
Bravo for having the ambition and drive to create if on such a large scale. It is impressive looking in the photo, and I imagine it is even more so in person!

The Golden Frog said...

Wow, Nicole you really have done an amazing job!
It's a lot of work too! I managed to finish the grapes drawing and another one, so please take a look if you have some time. I really love this portrait of yours! Wish I lived closer so I could see it in person.

Alisha said...

Theory on the red half

Having done absolutely no experiments and having pondered this question for an entire minute, here is my theory. I think the shadowed half is red because the light is actually shining through the skin from the light source. Just like you can shine a flashlight through your hand, the light can go through the flesh of your face. The red obviously come from your blood. Since there is no light source on the one side to be reflected off the skin, the only remaining light comes through the skin, creating a red glow. How does that theory sound to everyone? :)