At last I have finished the portrait of Thom's mother that he and David commissioned me to do so long ago. I have been working steadily but getting nowhere, discarding one image after another. I wasn't quite sure what Thom wanted for one thing, and I couldn't seem to get an idea of my own. I looked at the pictures I had of her over and over. I listened to Thom and David talk about her, but nothing worked. Her likeness elluded me, as well as any feeling for her as a person.
Finally on Friday night the painting sprang into my head, not the details but the concept. As soon as I got up Saturday morning I started to work on it and stayed at it almost constantly for two days. It was very absorbing, since I had no product planned. I put down whatever came to mind and then reacted to it, compositionally and emotionally. All the information in my head came together so that it pulled itself together into a cohesive statement. I had fun.
I was very happy with the product, but almost immediately I began to worry about it's unconventionality. Lois is not the kind of person to go for modern art, at least as I imagine her. I also worried about David and Thom's reaction. The other portraits I have done for them have been, well, I was going to say more what one would expect. Now that I think of it, though, I guess not. Anyway, I mentioned my concern to Thom and he said his mother would not expect anything conventional from him or from any of his friends. That made me feel more comfortable and I am relaxed enough about it now to enjoy it.
This painting has taken up a lot of my mental energy for weeks. I'm glad it's done, and very relieved that in the end it was a success. Right up to the last few days I almost lost faith that I would pull it off. Portraits are a special kind of painting for me. It sounds like so much artsy crap to say that I have to really feel that I know the person. I almost have to learn to love them in a way. But no matter how it sounds, it is nevertheless true for me. I can't copy a face.
Some of the stuff about artists that people think is just so much bull is actually real.