Sunday, June 6, 2010

Julie Kay's Portrait Party

the other day i kindly received an invitation to join Julie Kay's portrait painting group on Flickr.

the idea is that one sends in photos of oneself, and then paints and posts portraits of the others who have sent in their photos. The huge attraction for this blogger is that NO SELF-PORTRAITS ARE ALLOWED!

The whole thing is a lot of fun, with 231(last count)  talented members creating a constant stream of brilliant, clever, humorous, beautiful, dramatic, whimsical, insightful, inventive portraits in every imaginable style. Thanks Julia for organising it all.

yahooooo, a holiday for me, and for you, gentle reader, from morbid introspection (it is actually my semester break).

so here are some of the paintings and drawings i completed and posted on the Painters Party over the last few days. They are a mixed bag because i'm using the oppotunity to motivate me to revisit some of my older styles of working and to try out some new ones.

goat transforming, oil on black paper, 23 x 28 cm

Inma, watercolour on paper, 27 x 23 cm

Allan, reed pen and ink on paper, 26 x 34 cm

Herman, brush and ink on paper, 26 x 34 cm

FlickChick, Conte crayon on paper, 32 x 24 cm


  1. How wonderful, Harry.

    If I read correctly this flickr exercise precludes the need for self portraiture because a bunch of artists, more a horde of artists - what's the term for a group of artists?-agree to allow each other to paint their portraits from photos. No self portraits allowed.

    You thereby preclude the problem you once mentioned to me, namely that people who ask to have their portraits painted can sometimes complain about the results.

    Here such complaints are less likely as none of you are vain enough to care, I presume. You allow yourself to be painted for the love of your art.

    And it pays off by the look of things. These portraits here are terrific. I especially love the two women. Thanks Harry

  2. Harry, they are all excellent but one thing i don't get is: you said you did all of these? yet i was sure they were done by different artists as each has such different handling. well done!

  3. well, yes it helps with finding victims. But then i would prefer to take the photos myself mostly so i have control over composition. And i'm unlikely to get extremes of facial expressions. And if i paint someelse's portrait, i'd like to meet them in person and have a live sitting, even if only brief. It is all good fun but sadly can't replace me, for the time being, for the purposes i have set myself.

    Glad you like the women. Inma informs me she is happy with hers. Thanks, Elizabeth.

  4. hi rahina. Yep, i did the lot and then some. I try to pick a medium and style that i think will best suit the person in the photo. And that way, i am kept on my toes. It's all a learning exercise.

  5. Hi, I thought they were all done by different artists too until I read further on. Amazing how each media changes the way they are looking. I envy your skill in drawing faces, something to aspire to - and I really like the changes of media too. Very interesting work.

  6. Me gustan todos tus retratos. Lo que me impacta es que utilizas para cada uno una técnica diferente y, sin embargo, todos son impactantes en su estilo. Parece como si lo hubieran hecho artistas diferentes. Asombroso.

  7. Harry,

    I agree with Carolann - "something to aspire to." I wish I had you here so I could pick your brain and get some hands-on instruction.

    All of these examples are magnificent!

    Have a good week,

  8. this is a really cool project ... and the portraits are really impressing .

  9. Hi, Carolann. I think one reason why each medium chnages how a sitter looks is because of its influence on me as the artist.

    As i try to exploit what each does best, i find a rigger brush loaded with indigo wash naturally produces whippy lines that look like pen work. Except the brush lines have greater dynamic variation in thickness and can suddenly scumble when used sideways. All so different from a stick a conte used on its side for purely tonal work.

    It's what Barbara Bolt calls 'co-responsibility' for mark-making - the materials themselves are agents of the emerging image. A paining is not soley the work of the 'artist'. Materials matter.

    All those who paint on bond paper and whose watercolors are never all they would wish, i advise to purchase some cold press watercolor paper and be amazed at the difference in their work.

  10. gracias manel. Todavía estoy aprendiendo, así que probar de todo. Sé que nunca llegarán a su perfección hasta que seleccione un solo estilo y el trabajo durante un largo tiempo.

  11. it's a lot a fun, Caio, and helps motivate me to do some painting (i'm so lazy). Thanks.

  12. thanks Brian. We each do what we do. I really admire the precision, optics and intelligence in your work. I could never do it. So if ever you want to swap tips ....

  13. I really like the sketchy style of Herman and I love the drama in the first. I guess the medium we choose has a lot to do with how we draw/paint our work.

  14. Harry,

    Please continue to blow me away. Thank you.....pajamas

  15. thanks Sam ... Herman is a bit out of plumb but that's what happens when i just start doodling on blank page with a whippy brush

    and thanks for giving the first one a mention - not everyone's cup of tea ... it's from a photo of a brilliant artist who calls himself "goat transforming into a cathedral" and i was searching for a stylized image of him that might capture some of the mystic power i see in his extraordinary paintings

  16. rather, thank YOU, Alan ... for my part, i'm still haunted by your dragonfly haiku

  17. i especially like the goat-transforming portrait, Harry - verging on lascivious alright :-)

  18. hi Regina, nice to see you back. I've been enjoying your pics of the Holy Land.

    Yes, i'm afraid he has ended up with more twilight devil than cathedral angel in him than i intended, lol (i don't think he cares for it) ... but it was fun to do and started out well intentioned with the soaring flying-buttress-like up-strokes defining the forehead

    but maybe the red for eyes was a mistake, though they were quite orange in the pic he supplied ... hope he forgives me, lol

  19. Maybe art is just like love... and according to the girl who dies in The Love Story, "it means never having to say you're sorry" -- in light of good intentions at work and all.

    The way i see it, although these are not self-portraits and although i realise the goal of portrait making is perhaps to capture the personality or the nature of the sitter/model/subject, they reveal/betray different aspects of the artist and the viewer of the work too (i.e. to the extent that a viewer can relate to it and name it) and so it would be odd for your subject to take offence. Herman is also intriguing - basic instincts? furtive? the diabolical in you? Just teasing, Harry :-)

    It's a wonderful treat going through your latest work.

  20. Wooow! Harry, it seems to me a wonderful idea, and I love the different portraits that you are posting here. I like your variety of painting styles that your show us. See you on blogs.

  21. true, Regina, there is no need to apologise over the painting ... the very premise of the group is to offer up one's photo as fodder for others to do with as they can or they please and i expect what he sees is a poor likeness rather than an ill-intentioned work (though my own belief is that capturing a 'likeness' is not the essential most everyone assumes that it is)

    and what you say about portraiture in general is most interesting, The images come from somewhere. They come from out of the person that made them, even if based on a photo of drawn from life.

    Indeed, it's interesting to observe how different, though all recognizable, the figure drawings in a life drawing class are. This is because the drawings are the product of each individual's uniques perceptive/cognitive processes, and drawing skill-set.

    The very choice of subject may be revealing. This applies to landscape as much as to portraiture, and to photography as much as to painting.

    And so we look at Vincent's paintings of his room, or of Arles, or the portraits he painted, and know they reference actual places and people. But that is not what has been prized about them or what has brought them and Vincent such fame. Rather, it is what of Vincent himself is invested in them.

    in the light of artists like Vincent or Schiele or Bacon, i believe your observation is increasingly relevant the further painting departs from photo-realism. With increasing abstraction comes increased projection of imaginative inner world of the artist. Expressionist marks reveal emotional states of the mark-maker.

    Even composition may expose an orderly, or staid, or conventional, or idiosyncratic, or original, or daring, or revolutionary, or schizophrenic or mind (schizophrenic artists tend to produce a charactisteristic gendre of work often recognizable by psychiatrists - though that doesn't mean it can not be good art)

    so, yes, i would have to agree. Those four paintings above reveal something about myself. The tricky bit is recognizing what that something may be.

    For, how much of them is contrived image-making - artifice, conscious rhetorical flourish, pandering to an audience's mind-set, obeying artistic conventions, deliberate persona managent?

    And how much is unconscious projection of my inner imagos and of self-leakage in mark-making?


  22. hi Lozzano. I'll need to get back to my study project (which means more self-portraits) but will post another small collection of portraits of others soon, to give us all abit of variety. You yourself have been on quite a roll lately. Let's all keep painting.

  23. Hello Harry, unaware of your work, feel me great. Your work have lot strength, greetings.

  24. hi dakota, welcome ... i've just been to your blog and like your pen portraits very much (interesting what you say about Biro)

  25. Hello Harry,
    I really liked all the pictures,
    techniques are varied, well placed.
    I chose the Inma, Watercolour on paper, 27 x 23 cm
    I found an amazing very beautiful picture.

    Opportunity to comment on the penultimate post
    was very good, very creative.

  26. thanks, Paulo ... the watercolor, eh? ... you romantic :))) ... and i'm glad you liked the previous post, figure with the chair - your own work is so creative and has such impact. Saludos.

  27. thanks AC, thanks for coming by ... i've just had a look at your delightful watercolors - nice and fresh

  28. Wow, you have been busy doing a great deal of work. I like your experimentation with all the different styles. It can be very difficult and frustrating working from photographs and you did a great job with all of them. I’m currently going crazy doing a portrait of my husband for his upcoming cd (he’s a composer/guitarist), so I know how difficult portraits are. I thought I would go out of my mind, mostly because he is worst model ever, he keeps moving around. I finally finished the painting and now he decides he wants to change the hat he’s wearing, I could strangle him!!! I really can’t imagine the torture that portrait painters go through with all the complaints about how you painted them. My husband told me that I made him look like Cornelius from Planet Of The Apes.

  29. hi Teri. Thanks for your sharing your experiences with portrait painting from photos ... and husbands! :))

    Cornelius?!! You have just eloquently put the case for self-portraiture! That has been my staple so far and will be again very soon when my semester break finishes and i have to get to my real work.

    And as Francis Bacon said, with self-portraiture at least your model is always on time. Cheers.

  30. Wow, these are fabulous! I especially like your Inma and Flickchick! It's amazing your good you are with so many different mediums! Thank you for your kind words on my portraits. As a beginner I'm sometimes intimidated by all the talent out there!

  31. thanks raena ... i know what you mean about all the talent out there ... sometimes i feel like i'm way out my depth by entering the company of excellent artists ... JKPP has heaps of people whose drawing skills way exceed anything i am capable of, and a few professional artists to boot

    but my cover is this blog, that i'm a student, learning, not claiming to be an artist, that i'm simply making bits of my study available to anyone interested ... that helps

    but even more help is the realization the everyone is a learner ... Leonardo de V was a life-long learner ... the web has enabled us to form a virtual community of artists, leaning off each other ... and encouraging one another, for nearly all have some self-doubt

    painting and showing exposes one, makes one emotionally vulnerable, requires courage ... even starting on a blank piece pf paper requires courage - all that white is so intimidating and the voices in our heads tell us we will muck things up even before we have made our first mark ... we live by courage, seeking out like-minded company, networking with generous and positive fellow learners on a journey of image-making

    i've gone on a bit long there and didn't mean to get preachy - but hey, it's my blog, lol

    see you at Julia's :))))

  32. You have some amazing talent. When I see work as wonderful as you. I laugh when I call my self an artist..

  33. Now Katelen, you obviously didn't read my reply to raena immediately above :)))).

    I am pleased you like some of my work, but would be distressed to think the directions i am taking in anyway dented your enthusiasm for your own work. We are partners, you and i, in a great adventure. And we are here to encourage each other along the way.

    From a quick peek i see lots of interesting ideas, creative activity, stimulating discussion, philosophical musing on self-discovery, mixed nedia works, photography, and an army of followers! I'll certainly be back for a thorough savouring.

    So let's make a pact not to make comparisons, but rather to swap ideas, techniques, knowledge - and encouragement! Keep painting.

  34. Love the diversity and freshness of these portraits. If you are interested, I am doing a drawing a day challenge for 2010, many of them portraits...

  35. thanks for dropping by, Joanne. Of course i'm interested, and have just now taken the opportunity to enjoy your consummate skill. It is a treat and instructive to see the work an artist in such demand.

  36. Hi Harry,

    Each time I stop by your blog I am more intrigued than the previous time! It is here that I have found a place to learn, REALLY learn and I am very excited about it! You may be a student, but you are also a teacher... and you are 100% an artist!

  37. wow, thank you so much Nicki ... your vote of confidence gives me a real lift :)))

    warm regards, harry

  38. These all are great Harry, it shows that you master so many diverse styles!

  39. Thanks for the generous comment, Rodney.