In Search of Loose Portraits
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.