Thursday, August 29, 2013

Fantasy Portrait for a Young Child - and My Approaches to Portraiture with Infants, Children, and Pets

     A little something on the light and cuter side I had finished earlier this summer
                                             (my twitter followers may have seen this already):

Jeanne Hospod

The Bunny Hutch Sleepover
acrylic ink and acrylic paint on stretched canvas
approx 12"x 8"

One of the frequent questions I'm asked by people when they see my work is if I can do a portrait of their infant/young child/pet in a similar approach as I would with a self portrait or other portraiture. The answer is, unfortunately..no! That kind of work requires someone who can commit to a live sitting over several sessions and keeping reasonably still.

I suppose they mean from photographs, but I really hate using them other than for very small reference areas post live sitting. There is so much lost in translation (color, dimension, as well as the vibe and urgency of all the moments of the session distilled into one)  in using photo references as a main source. 

I have painted a few older children directly. They do need to be mature enough to understand what they are committing to, be a willing volunteer (separate from the parent's imposed wishes) and are able to relax into a pose with minimal fidgeting,  I ask that the parent also budgets for and pays the kid for their time as they are working almost as hard on the portrait. I'll bring a roll or two of quarters per session and pile up the earnings for every 15 minutes (after each period I give them a mini break) of keeping still. It also helps to have a favorite movie playing in their line of vision.

I've  also made gestural action sketches from life...the type of drawings that are only minutes long and made in multiples. I would then pick the best out of a group from an afternoon's work for a reasonable compromise with someone who wants an observed interpretation. ( Side note: As far as pets go, cats, with their flexi spines and springy selves are great for this sort of thing. Dogs can get a little weirded out if they are on to the fact you are watching them intently for a period of time..they feel stared at which is a threat to them. They hunch over, lick their nose nervously and sloooowly slink out of the room....) 

The other alternative is to create work based on infants/young children/beloved pets is to approach it with my dreamscape/fantasy kind of work. In the example above I had the mom give me some highlights of the child's loves, quirks, curiosities, anything that captures his attention. I will accept family photos for this, as it's more for a broad cartoon like approach to a likeness. 

The boy pictured was only about a year old. From what the mom told me, he was a pretty chill little kid, friendly, loved cookies, his blanket, and was born in the Year of the Rabbit which she wanted to me to reference in  some way. So I imagined him just a little older with a bunny pal, having his first sleepover get together at his BBF's (bunny best friend) family underground hutch. His own family is comfortingly nearby (used references of the family home) in upper right background.

On an end note: I worked with this family quite a bit in the past. 

I painted his older brother (the zipping by skater pictured above) as an infant in the same approach years ago:

I remember photos of a really cute little baby with huge ears! Fortunately for me, his mother made a point that I capture them. So I played with it by using the shape of a Saturn like planet framing him, the shape furthered echoed with the U.S. Earthmama flying the spaceship he's tethered to.

When he was older, he posed for a live sitting with no small  help of the first Harry Potter Movie playing nearby:

Thought I'd add this too:
Years ago I had also had painted a album cover and graphics for the mom (the originals are in her collection), who is a musician. She wanted themes in reference to her experience of being a first time mother. I see a continuum of motifs in my current dreamscape work..fertility, tendrils of tangled growth, and space.

1 comment:

  1. Too brilliantly talented for words - I am such a fan of Jeanne Hospod! Always something new, visceral, and unique in her collection, always something to amaze even the most skeptical!
    - Angela