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Improving the Artists Ability to See


As you may know, I have been on a journey to create 100 portraits. I am counting the piece I posted today, depicting Tom Holland, as #60/100.

This process has stretched out far longer than I had hoped. My goal was to complete 100 portraits in 2021. I realized at about number 50 that that was not going to happen. The pace was gruelling and too arduous in the context of my life right now.

While my tendency is to beat myself up about that, I am working on slowing down and allowing the process to be what it is.

More than any other emotion, I tend to feel frustration in relation to my art practice. Frustration and deep inadequacy. Those are my two constant companions.

The logical question that arises from this admission is: Why do you keep creating art if it makes you feel frustrated and inadequate?

Well, the answer to this is deeply complicated. I believe part of the answer lies in the truth that the pursuit of creative growth is something, innately and deeply ingrained in who I am. You may not be a believer in the creation myth or the idea of intelligent design so predestination in relationship to one’s disposition or potential path in life may not fit your particular understanding. But, creation or a God-given purpose or drive aside, perhaps this drive in me could be seen from an evolutionary perspective as well. Perhaps my drive to create lies in millennia-old roots of the evolutionary drive to solve problems and figure out creative solutions to communicating safe practices in terms of food retrieval or some other long repeated ritual throughout our climb as a species.

Whichever path you look at this through, the act of creation as a practice is in my marrow. The desire to grow in this practice is in my spirit. Engrained into every fibre of who I am. Without this practice, I devolve into a state of numbly processing life on autopilot. Creation is in everything I do. It is how I look at every aspect of life.

In my relationships, I have a choice to tear down or to build up. To create or destroy. Loving words to my children can be an act of creation and intention to pour into them to produce stability and knowledge of love within them. At the same time, I can inadvertently tear down when my patience runs out and I allow my base selfishness to win the day.

The frustration I experience with my lack of skill with regard to drawing and the perceived need for growth in my creative process is a fire in my belly. It propels me forward. I am learning to treat it as a welcome companion. A refiner and a friend. Something that compels me to grow and helps me remain humble and curious. 

It is for this reason that I examine my work with a fine-tooth comb.

In creating this portrait of Tom Holland, I wrestled to capture his likeness. I did this piece in a free-hand approach. A majority of my portrait work these days includes a preliminary tracing of the subject to fast-track the drawing process. This serves to expedite my creative process as I am creating these pieces in my “spare” time and allows me to focus on rendering the subject in painting the light, chroma and form.

In this case, I chose to slow down and explore the drawing.

Inevitably, once “finished” I perceive flaws in my piece. Both in terms of structure and proportion.

This is where the digital tools I use come into play. I love that I can quickly trace my subject and compare the traced lines with the finished piece. It allows me to evaluate where I fell short and then contemplate how I could approach the piece differently next time. It also encourages me. While I am still making errors in seeing when drawing freehand like this, I do see growth in my capacity to see light and shadow. This is a clear reflection of the growth and learning I have accomplished on this journey toward my goal of 100 portraits.

The images posted above show the altered “final” portrait, the lines I used over top of my original drawing, my original drawing and the portrait I studied from. (Side note: The portrait I studied from is actually a photo of an incredible 28” tall sculpted bust of Tom Holland. LINK HERE)

I don’t know if this post resonates with you. What I do know is I’m still on the side of the mountain of my creative journey. I suspect I will be until the day I die. But the sweetness of the view from certain areas of the mountain as I climb keeps me engaged.

It is my hope that this year you all find your passion and drive well intact and that you, like me, push forward with enthusiasm and honesty.

Thank you to may patrons on patreon who are a massive component of my journey. I am truly grateful! To become a patron go to Patreon.com