Friday, January 13, 2012

When Daniel Greene Painted my Portrait (Flashback Fridays #2)

During my first summer of study with Dan, he asked me to model for one of his weekly pastel portrait demonstrations. I watched so many of his demos that I could practically recite them word for word and even mimmick his motions with one hand on hip and the other holding a cigarette. When I told my parents that I was going to model for Dan, they both drove 3 hours up to Gloucester to see this for themselves. My mother being a porcelain artist and an artist through and through, looked forward to seeing first hand what I was learning all summer and the quality of the mentor I had chosen for myself. I was very happy they were there to witness Dan in action. I wore a body suit under a loosely worn light denim shirt which was my artist's uniform that summer. It was easy and casual. My hair back then was permed. I had a head-full of curls and I let them go wild (the style of the sixties and seventies) I soon realized what the job of the model meant to the portrait artist and also how difficult the job actually was. The spot light was on , so was Dan, and I was dying to itch my nose.  With each sitting the artist proportioned my features, aligned all drawing with plum lines and studied my face and shoulders so that with every step the true likeness of me emerged. The studio was filled with students and guests watching the master of pastel execute a well composed pastel portrait using me as his subject.

My late mother Alice is watching my Mentor work with close eye and melancholy spirit because I was the model.
She had a profound interest and understanding of the process demonstrated and confirmed my time studying there was well spent. My mom was my best friend and supporter and played a significant role in my pursuit of a career in art and living my life as an artist. She told me that "my art was never going to forsake me or leave me, it was going to be the one thing in life that I will always have and can depend on" She was so right.

My father Alfred was an electrician but also very creative. He was always creating and working in his workshop in the basement. He was one of the original "Mr. Moms".  He did all the grocery shopping and made all the weekday dinners for my sister and I because my mother worked each night. He instilled in me the desire for cooking and baking, taught me the basics and gave me confidence in the kitchen. However, he did not support making a living as an artist and did not want me to go away to Art College. He even tried to bribe me with a hot red convertible if I would stay at home! My parents stayed together all of their lives and gave me security, love and laughter. My father's sense of humor was a treasure for us. Watching Dan demonstrating here proved to him I was working hard at just what I was best at.

Dan chose a dramatic lighting for my portrait and had me look directly at him during the sittings. He looked slightly up at me (above eye level) which projected a bit of power, strength and seriousness.  He knew my character and my story, so as the portrait painter he could bring certain elements into the painting to reach the viewer.
Not just skill here, but all of the important elements to project emotion, sensitivity and intensity of the subject. He revealed me, my seriousness, my sensitivity, my intensity, my vulnerability, my strength, and my honesty.

This is in black and white, just values.  However, as Dan built up his patterns of dark, middle tones and lights the colors emerged in intense warm and cools as only our eyes can see in life (not photography). He pushed colors to their limits in their intensities and studied with his eyes every nuance of warmth and coolness. That made me crazy with excitement! Pushing Color! He would carefully draw each form on the head and neck but make sure that all of the larger forms composing the entire painting were relating correctly to one another. Drawing excites and stimulates me and at the same time it puts me in another state of mind, much like meditation or prayer. I have drawn all of my life and have never have gotten to the point of making it less important than painting.

Drawing is the base of all of my art. In The Art Spirit by Robert Henri, a compiling by Margery Ryerson of his many teachings, Henri said something like this, " The skillfully executed lined drawing appeals to the viewers intellect and the large masses of values and colors appeal to the viewers emotions" I love that book . It is a bible for artists and inspiration from cover to cover. My first book was given to me as a gift back in 1979 by the late Charles "Chuck" Sovek, noted plein air painter. I believe Dan used and uses both intellect and emotion in his work.

In color , my portrait sang.  Dan worked three more, 3 hour sittings to his finish. He developed my hair, face, garments and even my precious cameo I wore each day.  I own this pastel portrait by Daniel Greene and have the pleasure of looking at it each day in my home and remember that wonderful time of my life and the young woman and artist that I was. Portraiture is just wonderful.

In my next Flashback Friday I will show you pastels that I painted using Dan as my model .

1 comment:

  1. Another wonderful Flashback, Claudia! Bravo! Thank you, again, for sharing.