I started my New Year on a happy note, watching the engaging artist Christian Hook win the Sky Portrait Artist of the Year award 2015. This is the self-portrait which resulted in his selection as a competitor:
He has prompted me to get back up on my soapbox once again, and even to re-examine my own processes along the way.
Any artist who watched those trying to win the coveted prize would have found the programme fascinating....in particular, I was fascinated by how many used the camera quite openly - in fact, I was, perhaps because I am somewhat old-fashioned about some things, slightly horrified to see them taking pictures of the sitters on their ipads, and then, with hardly a glance again at the sitter, they worked directly from those images. I felt it was rather rude to the poor person sitting for them for 4 hours, quite frankly - if I had been that sitter, I would have been not only rather upset, but also rather irritated, I think - what on earth is the point in sitting, painfully - because it IS painful to sit still for four hours - if the artist doesn't even look at me! However, in each episode of the programme, there were several artists at work, and some of them did work from the sitter - so the sitters had to suffer I suppose.
Christian, the winner, works partly from photographic reference material...but in his case, the photo is purely a starting point. He said - and I am paraphrasing here - that he feels the camera produces a finished piece of work, and it is the artist's job to take things further, in order to express his creativity. This earned a huge round of applause from me and is the main message of this blog post.
Christian likes to create a mess on his canvas...for quite some considerable time. He then begins to "find" the portrait in the mess....but even then, he will regularly ruin what he creates, in order to deliberately make mistakes, and come back strongly again from those mistakes. He likes to have a sense of movement in his images - and achieves this powerfully.
Here is his portrait of Ian McKellan. What a brilliant likeness, and what an exciting image, created within just four hours.
if you would like to see more of the portraits painted for the competition, you can Google Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year, and I believe there are also some time lapse youtube vids to watch too - tho I could not find the recent ones.
Maybe this time of year is a time for contemplation of our process, to see if we too can become more uniquely creative.