In Search of Loose Portraits

Edge Lighting 
24 x 20

Even the most relaxed, loose painters can seize up and paint uncharacteristically tight when they tackle portraiture.  I own the gorgeous book about the Russian-born Impressionist Sergei Bongart.  His work is as loose as it comes with the exception of a few commissioned portraits.   When you look at those, you'd never know it was the same hand that made them.   In order to secure a likeness, painters often have to push their paintings further than they normally would, connecting all of the dots that they'd rather leave separate.  

That effect was what I struggled against recently when I painted this model in dramatic side lighting.  To avoid getting too picky, I'd occasionally obscure an edge or mash the paint of her features together ("smooshing" is the highly technical term for this) in order that I could find them again with less precision.  I'm pretty happy with this piece, but know that I'll continue to strive to capture a likeness with fewer small brushstrokes.  My ideal and goal is to do most of the painting with a brush of at least 1/2" width.  There's no way that could look precious!  I'll let you know how it goes.

Happy painting!


Bobbi Dunlop said…
Hi Ingrid,
Lovely depiction and as always you make it looks so easy and so fun!
Thanks, Bobbi! It's never easy, but always fun.

Erik van Elven said…
Great painting Ingrid, with the right amount of smooshing :)
Really standing back as far as possible from your painting also helps to stay loose as well. Another great tip is to not wear your glasses if you have them (or borrow someone else's if your eyes are good :) ) That way you don't get obsessed with details.
Good tips, Erik. Thanks!
I saw a photo of Sorolla painting in his studio and his brushes had handles that were 3 ft. long. I wonder if it's possible to find those nowadays.
Dean H. said…
Tightening up on a portrait almost seems to be a universal tendency, Ingrid!
Smooshing is always good.
Love your color choices on this.

ps...Recently I tried one in the style of Scott Burdick. It was the closest I've come to a successful portrait in a loooong time.
I had a look at the portrait that you did in Burdick's style and love it, Dean! I think portraiture is the most fascinating thing to paint. It's amazing to watch a person and a mood appear on the canvas.
Happy painting!