I took a break from painting portraits for a while; several years, actually. While I love the process and the sense of satisfaction I get when the painting is done, I don't love the pressure that comes with a commissioned portrait.
When I painted Johnny Cash, or Marilyn Monroe, I painted faces that I had been seeing my entire life. But to paint someone I've never met? Now that's a challenge. I really want to capture the subject, and have the person who commissioned it say "Yes, that's it!"
Don't get me wrong - the people who commission the painting usually give me a lot of artistic freedom. The pressure I feel is from myself. From my inner critic, from my perfectionist, and from me just wanting to do a good job.
Such is the case with the painting above. It's a portrait of a friend's father who recently passed away. She commissioned it as a gift for her sister. It is really an honor being asked to paint a portrait for someone, but to get to memorialize their father? That's just amazing.
I was excited about the opportunity. I loved the black and white source image she gave me; it was really a moment in time. Here's the thing: I knew the inner critic would pop up. I knew the pressure of wanting to honor my friend's late father would be there. But I was able to paint through all that muck because I knew I could. Experience told me that I would be able to get through it.
So many new painters want to give up when they're halfway through a painting.
At some point things start to get challenging, and often enough, the painting will start to look bad. It's perfectly normal for paintings to go through an ugly or awkward stage, and that's not the time to give up. That's the time to double down, dig in, and work that paint! Paint through the doubt, the fear, the voice in your head that says you're not good enough.
If you're a new painter, know that that voice may never go away. It's your inner critic and it's there to protect you. After a while you just learn how to deal with it. And until then, you've got me to tell you to keep going.
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