Can you be Creative and Express your feelings when you do a Portrait?

Artist: Unknown
Title: “A Chip off the old Block – Night of Virtuoso Father-son accordion duos”
Medium: Oil On Canvas
Dimensions: Unknown

I used Henry Matisse Notes as a guideline to give my opinion of a portrait painter.

Matisse says in his document “Notes of a Painter (1908)”, the painter is the best spokesman of his work, and it is not literature that is attached to his art/painting. A painter who addresses the public does it not only in order to present his works but also reveals some of his ideas on the art of painting, exposes himself to several dangers.

Painters like Desvallieres, Denis, Blanche, Guerin, and Bernard have written on such matters and were well received by publishers. Matisse felt that he would rather state his feeling and aspirations as a painter and not worrying about the writing of that.

Matisse felt strongly the tie between his earlier work and recent work but do think every day differently. His basic ideas did not change but his thought evolved and his modes of expression have follows his thoughts. His destination is always the same but he follows a different route to get there.

He also criticized other artists about their work not to show his superiority but to point out how their manners differ from his work.

Matisse was after expression and he has been conceded with certain technical abilities which limited his ambition and do not go beyond the visual satisfaction which you get when you look at a picture. Thoughts of an artist must not be considered separate from his pictorial means. The thought and the expression are equal and must be complete and not complicated. He also says that he can’t distinguish between the feeling of his life and the way he lives translate it.

The entire arrangement of his artwork was expressive, everything has it share when you look at the place occupied by the figures, the empty spaces around them, the proportions. He says that composition is the art of arranging in a decorative manner to express the painter’s feelings. In a picture every part is visible and plays its role, everything which is not useful in a picture is harmful. In his opinion is that a work of art must be harmonious in its entirety, any superfluous detail would replace some other detail in the mind of the viewer.

When you do a composition the aim is to use the surface according to the relationship of the picture, in other words, it must take the sheet of paper with the given format.

As you know is I want to be a portrait artist, this is not about how I feel but it is more a question of how the people feel who I draw or paint about himself. The moment which I got from them must I capture in the painting, not an expression of my feelings. Now I ask myself is it still art, if I don’t express my feelings in the artwork of the client? I can just as well get a full-time graphic design job and work along with the Corporate Identity document of the company. I say that because there are rules with the CI of a company so will there be specific rules when you paint or draw a portrait. You need to make sure that you copy the model exactly on the canvas. The use of color, composition, and your skills will give you the freedom of creativity and to express yourself.

Matisse said something that let me think and that is that everything which is not useful in a picture is harmful. I agree, especially with portrait paintings. Also, it can spare you a lot of time to leave things out which is not supposed to be in the picture. The main focus must be on the person you paint and everything which you add in the picture can make or break the painting. Therefore it is important to choose very wisely your photos or models and what extras you are going to add.

Matisse said every picture must be harmonious and superfluous detail would replace some other essential detail in the mind of the spectator. That means the primary focus must be on the person you paint, in some cases it is not wrong to use a simple background that will place the focus on the model to prevent distracting the viewer.

When you do a composition the aim is to use the sheet of the paper in the given format. The surface is been used according to the relationship of the model. If the size of the canvas change you have to change the picture according to that, by resizing the artwork. Matisse said if an artist wants to transfer one painting to another larger painting, which he will not be happy with, the artist needs to understand there will be a new order in the painting.

If you use this painting of “A Chip off the old Block – Night of Virtuoso Father-son accordion duos” for an example, to change the size it will change the background and the models. Then you will find that too much information will be added to the painting if you make it larger, and I think Matisse will feel that you give the viewer to much unnecessary information which can be harmful to the painting. In my opinion of this painting is when you look at the use of color, the shape and the clothes they wear will give enough artistic freedom for the painter to express his feelings and creativity. The harmony is perfect and the music instruments complement it. This painting tells a story of the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, the expression of the closeness between father and son is well-spoken in this painting. Both harmonies and the use of color can produce an agreeable effect. If you do this as a portrait it will remind the models of that time of excitement and happiness. I think the most important part for the owner of the portrait painting is to have a painting with members he knows.

I refer back to the painting of the Father and Son, if you had these two figures next to each other you will only have the effect of two people sitting and play a musical instrument, now with this composition can the artist create the feeling of intimacy between dad and son, caring, and stability by the father. This can also be the sole quality of the artwork. It was important for Matisse to define the character of the object or of the body that he likes to create. To do so you need to study the method very closely and I do agree with him. It takes the extra time before you start with the artwork. Inspect the artwork, look at it, and understand it. Look at the shapes and the hair, etc before you start to draw. You will have then a clear concept and vision from the beginning.

To give a painting a true and a more essential character the artist can help to seize a more lasting interpretation. Sometimes it can be that the expression is forced and exaggerated to a point of being disquieting and sometimes not, it depends on the artwork and who the model is in most cases. That will also help the artist to experience his creativity in a portrait when he is capturing the figure or figures.

Matisse used Cézanne’s as a sample and describe his work as well arranged and no matter what distance you stand or how the figures are represented you will always be able to distinguish each figure clearly and know which limbs belong to which body. He also says if there are order and clarity in the painting it also exists in the mind of the painter. I fully agree with him and feel that if you do portraits you need to have order and clarity about your model.

Matisse’s interest was the human figure and for me too. For Matisse was his interest not into the anatomical exactitude but for me, that is a challenge to that. To understand that. It is for me as an up growing portrait artist important to understand the human figure with his or her essential. Matisse says that an artwork must carry itself in complete significance and impose that upon the beholder even before he recognizes the subject matter and I think that applies also for a portrait.

In my opinion, a portrait has to have a balance, of purity and serenity and also can have a depressing subject which also can provide relaxation for physical fatigue. This is in contrast what Matisse says and feels about his art in these notes.

He mentions that you can’t differentiate between an artist who paints out of his head or from nature. The conclusion he has is that the end results in the artist will arrive at that totality which constitutes a picture. I think you can differentiate because it depends on the skill, experience, and how far the artist developed in his work or career. He also says that an artist must have the humility of mind to believe that he has painted only what he saw. I felt with portrait paintings or sketches it is more important for the creator to see and understand what he painted, which will give him the self-confidence to do his work and to capture the figure correctly. It is for the model or owner of the portrait painting to decide with the final product if it is correct after the acknowledgment of the artist because it is his work.

As a qualified decor painter, we learned to copy existing artworks, and I would like to agree with what Leonardo said: “He who can copy can create.”. It is of good practice to learn to copy first from existing artworks and then start to do your own thing in my opinion. I quote Matisse words: ” The role of the artist, like that of the scholar, consists of seizing current truths often repeated to him, but which will take on new meaning for him and which he will make his own when he has grasped their deepest significance. An artist always profits from information about himself, and I am glad to have learned what is my weak point. All artists bear the imprint of their time, but the great artists are those in whom this is most profoundly marked.”. What I make of it is if you have intellectual depth of your time, the experience the artist and the viewer have, and to alter the course of life will make you a good artist.


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