Night time River Cruise, Saranac River 6x12

Night time River Cruise, Saranac River 6x12
Night Time River Cruise, Saranac River 6x12

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Mirror Image

Diane - Spring '14 Selfie
Yes this is me. One of my sitters had asked early on if I was doing a portrait of myself. The question jolted me like sticking my finger into an electric socket. I had not given it a thought. Then another sitter – a scientist – asked when I do it, would I turn it around? Another zap.

Here is the answer, with some musings. No I wouldn't turn it around. That would be two mirrors and asking for 14 years of bad luck if I proved less than graceful in my studio, which could be entirely possible. One mirror was enough.

The musing. When I see myself in the mirror what I see is a reverse of the real world. Sure it is what people see in a general way, but the reality is I do not see myself ever the way others do. I look and think of how I look from the moment I first peer in the mirror in the morning to the last time at night, brushing my teeth, as a mirror image.  That is a lot of time working on the reverse image in my head, don't you think? We all do that.

When I make a Face to Face portrait of a person, I am not seeing what their own perception of their own face is, what their mental image was from that morning.  I am working from what I see, not a mirror image.

Does that change how someone reacts to seeing their portrait after being worked on for two hours? I suspect that is a bit of it.

There are other factors. 

Making a portrait in a couple of hours with talk and other distractions is akin to live theatre. Kids want to wiggle, people want to talk, the body wants to be in motion. Some have other things on their mind and are not in the moment. It can be me too, not finding the right color, a bad start to a morning, "a piece of bad potato." Live theatre is no different, every performance is a little different,  timing on or not; a dropped line or all in perfect sequence.

After a couple of hours have gone by in the process of making a portrait, I feel like the person is looking at me from two places – the work and the person. About that time I feel I am real close to the raw but finished piece and I let the sitter look at it. Sit where I have been sitting and look at the image, I say.

This is the moment of truth for me. For the most part I have worked hard to catch the person in the painting, the essence, not every flaw or wrinkle (not enough time), but the person who has chosen to share a couple of hours with me to talk, listen and let me see them.  

I am learning, it doesn't always work. Sometimes that person just doesn't "see" themselves in the work. Hear the sound of the pin prick in the balloon?

I think some of that reaction, is the reality of how we see ourselves, mostly in reverse. Then maybe too I just haven't quite gotten who is there. That will happen.

I promise to always do my best to capture the essence of the person across from me. From there, I work on making best better.
How many do you know?

1 comment:

  1. find ted mack. or have someone find ted mack to sit for you. he lives in saranac lake now