An Artists Beginnings
In this case mine. I was a child artist and not from a family of artists. What I learnt was from experience -and I can’t even think of any books that taught portrait techniques back then, but I was not in the ‘art world’. So what I had was a passion to do portraits and no way of learning how to do them other than from copying from art books of great masters, and trying to do a half decent job on my favourite pop stars from photos in teen magazines.
My father and the rest of my family loved to encourage me. I found out early on that approval came from my work ‘looking just like a photograph’! At that time – 13/14 years old I was OK with that. They were adults, and knew better than me (even thought they didn’t of course). Meanwhile I had a mini teenage ‘career’ capturing ‘amazing’ likenesses of my favourite people.
So on I went – getting better and better at making my portraits look just like the photograph – and eventually with time and practice I developed something more of my style and approach to my work. But this happened gradually over a few years and almost without my noticing it.
I was also by that time researching my favourite artists and being influenced by them – which is inevitable. ( That meant trips to the library of course) Dad was still encouraging me along a photorealistic path – ‘Great darling – looks just like a photograph’, and I began to feel ‘unsatisfied’ with what I was doing. That was not my aim. I’m not sure I could have told you what my aim was at the time but it wasn’t to just look like the photo. He thought Canelletto was the greatest artist ever (his work is very photographic) but I preferred Monet, and Van Gogh and Rembrandt. But I was severely limited to what I could learn from books I could access as a 13 year old.
Later on in my research into Pastel I discovered the great French pastelist Jean-Baptiste-Simeon-Chardin along with so many others – whose work remains an influence to this day (portrait below of Chardin – his self portrait). Probably one of the first to not use a finger blended approach to his pastels. His work is a total tapestry of light; made up of a huge variety of marks in colour. Click on the photo to see it in a lightbox.