Tuesday 21 December 2010
CHRISTMAS ALWAYS COMES WITH PRESENT PROBLEMS
This is a present I planned to give to Mat and Vic.
This is what I was hoping for: Wild applause, cheering and clapping. Acclamation, congratulations, praise and plaudits. Tears of joy. People jumping up and down and doing cartwheels and summersaults. Being smothered in hugs and kisses and other overwhelming displays of everlasting gratitude. (Even, perhaps, material tokens of thanks).
This is what various people said:
Lynne: I'm still not sure about the one on the left. Her eyes are much bigger. (As if she's a barn owl).
Vicky: I'm not sure I can have a representation of myself in my flat. (As if it's a statue of the Virgin Mary to pay homage to every time you see it).
Ray: If you don't like it, try giving it to Mat's parents. If they don't want it give it back to us. (We'll find a cupboard to store it in).
Mat: (He's not seen it yet. Watch this space - if you're interested).
This is what Paul said:
I think that it's a reasonable likeness but a great painting? I'm one
of the most enthusiastic supporters of your recent portraiture but I
think you do have to be careful of this production line of gifts and
commissions from photographs. Digital photos are great at recording
happy moments but representing these images in acrylic for a similar
purpose and audience can have limited artistic value and interest.
Most of them are brilliant but compare this portrait to your other
December posts. This is quite nice but the others have much more
interest (and artistic merit, I would argue) because of what they
convey about the characters, in terms of their expressions and general
demeanour, what is captured in their eyes, and the other telling
details. This portrait doesn't capture these things entirely
successfully, possibly because it is a fairly generic, staged
photograph of a couple. (No doubt a lovely photo and a very attractive
couple clearly). It's just that their expressions and posture say
'Cheese'. There may not really be a case for expressing it in a
painting, other than the kind gesture of a gift, but this sentiment is
the other factor that might be undermining the portrait.
That said, the painting is growing on me even as I click back and
forth to it while writing this e-mail. In fact it's not too bad at all
and I can't wait to receive mine for Christmas.
If you're interested in any more of my views on art, don't worry about
e-mailing me as I'll be happy to provide them entirely unsolicited
over the next two weeks.
The trouble with Paul's email...
Well, before giving my final comment on Paul's criticism of my painting of Vicky and Mat, I decided to go back to Oliver Cromwell.
Here's what he said to the artist about to do his portrait:
"MR LELY, I DESIRE YOU WOULD USE ALL YOUR SKILL TO PAINT YOUR PICTURE TRULY LIKE ME, AND NOT FLATTER ME AT ALL; BUT REMARK ALL THESE ROUGHNESS, PIMPLES, WARTS, AND EVERYTHING AS YOU SEE ME; OTHERWISE I WILL NEVER PAY A FARTHING FOR IT." (The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations).
So, the trouble with Paul's criticism (from my perspective) is that he's absolutely right. And before my next portrait, I'm going to think very carefully about how I approach it.
Posted by Ray Johnstone at 15:33