View Full Version : When you just can'y capture it...

03-20-2001, 10:06 PM
Ever try a portrait and no matter how many times you try you just can't capture the expression or feeling that you see in the photo??
I have been trying in vain to do my sons portrait from a school photo, he has a very strange expression, I almost had retakes made because he made such a strange face (he is seven and was trying to be a big goof off!)
I have attempted several times and while I get a good portrait of a boy, it doesn't look like MY boy, and it's driving me crazy.
I could choose an easier, generic looking photo, but I don't feel Im learing much that way, I need this challenge!

03-20-2001, 10:16 PM
'deafdog', those 'school' photos, and studio portraits in general, make for for poor sources for painting or drawing from. Why? Because they use too many light sources, and they have a flash that flattens the form out badly. I suggest that you take a photo with one light source, preferably high and to one side. You will have much greater success, and the result won't have that 'this was obviously painted from a school photo' look. Give it a try, I believe you will like it MUCH better...

03-20-2001, 10:24 PM
Yeah the photo is crap, but I figured that expression would be great practice.
I will have to get some better shots of him soon.

03-21-2001, 08:18 AM
just because you have a photo, it doesn't mean the photo is right. take a roll of film of your kid,,,and you will see that some capture his personality better than others. if you're doing a full front, switch to a 3/4 pose.....{M}

"it's alright to be judgmental,,,,,,,,if you have taste"...MILT

03-22-2001, 04:06 AM
deafdog...well my heart goes out to you...i tried to do one of my son and well after what seemed hundreds of attempts...i gave up...lol... i tried to do it also from a small picture....but there was no way that it seemed right....i agree with the rest...take lots of photo's..... http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif

03-22-2001, 04:44 PM
Well http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/biggrin.gif http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/biggrin.gif. I just posted a graphite of my son. It wasn't a school photo but close. Never been so discouraged, so, as usual, I quit. After discussions at WC I went back to it--and finished it. I didn't quite capture the cute look he had in the photo but it looks just like him (cute kid, huh!). Just about used up an erasure LOL. But I know what you mean, that particular photo was the one I had to try. Maybe you need to leave it for awhile, like I did, and give it another try. (About 3 weeks ago I started it.) Good luck!!


03-22-2001, 05:07 PM
Totally unrelated specifically to this one project...but pertinent to us as artists is the fact that to make great art, you have to make a large volume of poor art...working hard to weed out the bad along the way.

Helps here at WC will go along way perhaps to help throw some stuff out quicker...but dues yet need to be paid.

I've been painting now for 25-30 years. In the past two years, I've put out perhaps 200 paintings. Do the math. That doesn't count wood carvings, or other art. Nor does it count the many many sketches and sketch books I've filled.

When someone (and this is not describing you), really is about to lose it...expecting excellence to come so much sooner for them, I act as though I were offended and ask why artistic development should be so much quicker and better for them than it was for myself?

Doesn't sound like I'm being encouraging, but really I am. Give yourself permission to grow. Recognize great talent in others so that when you richly deserve it there is no cause for self-doubting. See yourself in this for the long long haul, with making art not an option but a lifelong passion and pursuit. A lifelong student.

Certainly don't beat yourself up over not being able to turn mud without straw into bricks! (my metaphor for not being able to extract a good portrait reference from a poor photo). It WILL in time, come! Be persistent. You never fail until you stop trying.


The Artsmentor

"Painting is easy when you don't know how, but very difficult when you do!" Edgar Degas

03-22-2001, 05:28 PM

Sooooo true. But I'm one of those whose work MUST be promising to start with or I give up, no matter what talking I do with myself. I must overcome this... Roan recommended a book "The Artist's Way" for people like me. I'll be getting it soon.


03-22-2001, 08:52 PM
"Art and Fear" is another good book, which you can find on Amazon.com


The Artsmentor

"Painting is easy when you don't know how, but very difficult when you do!" Edgar Degas

03-22-2001, 09:30 PM
I can relate to the fear, and frustration. But the key is to NOT give up! How many times have all of us said to ourselves "I can't do this right!", but it is only when we go back into it with diligence, will it eventually pay off. Yes, we have to keep trying, and it certainly helps to have people here to bouy us up when we feel our faith in ourselves sinking. I think it is a very normal feeling for all artists to go through discouraging periods. It is what we do with it that counts. Do we give up, or do we continue on? It is a constant upward struggle, and I think we all realize that it takes hard work and perserverance. With each step forward there will be a lot of steps backward. How else do we gain strength to continue.
Larry, you shouldn't feel offended if people express thier discouragment with a project, but I do understand what you're saying. You have, I'm sure, felt that same frustration at one time or another. Some of us are still at the bottom of that mountain, and we aren't as sure of our footing. And a lot of us are teaching ourselves, too. Thank goodness for places like this where we can reach out to others, for compassion and understanding and encouragement. Otherwise, a lot of us wouldn't make it.


03-23-2001, 03:14 AM
well said bev...i agree...i will again try to do my sons portrait....but i dont have very many pic to choose from...and i dont think i was ready to paint his pic....so iam not giving up.. just picking another time to do it.. http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif

03-23-2001, 07:19 AM
Well said Bev...

Its not a "real" offense that I take, as I can't forget my own naiveity when younger and impatience. Its a hindsight thing that knows you can't simply wave a wand over someone or yourself and magically rid yourself of years of paying dues. You get frustrated for someone, especially when you see their errant expectations pushing them to an all too hasty decision to conclude being an artist must not have been meant for them.

I see kids today like that, and especially in sports. The blame falls upon coaches, and parents yell from the bleachers, students get mad...but the truth is a young person has to want it bad enough to work. Yet, even my own son (extremely talented and a graduate of a number of basketball camps) thought a person is graced with natural Jordan like ability and it comes easy, or its simply not meant to be.

UW Madison just let a young coach go because he has not much full coach experience, but he was a prodigy of Dick Bennett's system. He was a great college player himself, and admitted to having a goal each summer of shooting 27,000 shots. I mentioned that to some kids at school...and their eyeballs got big, and a few ball players said, "no way!" http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/eek.gif

Well...perhaps living in a mediocre world, more and more talent is being seen as something that just "is" or just "comes."

I actually grew tired of compliments at art fairs I received about my talent, all with an aire as though no effort were required. When people would say, "it must be nice to be blessed with so much talent!" or, "oh...I wish I had your talent" I often would say..."hhmmm..I don't think so!"
"What do you mean?" the come back,

"Well, I'm plagued with a great sense of responsibility...I don't go out and party, no clubs or hangouts on Friday nights as I'm sitting in front of my easel. I rarely watch television. Not much time for friendships or doing things that aren't art related. My money goes back into my art. I drive a 1984 van I manage to keep going. My kids don't dress in designer clothes...and, I'm rarely satisfied with anything I do...always striving to be better! You see 'good' and I see need for improvement!"

Eyes then blink in bewilderment, and a short, um.."well...um, have a nice day!" as they walk off. hahaha.... Oh well....

I don't want credit for my talent. I'd like some recognition for my stubborness to not let becoming better at making art as a goal slip away. I've worked hard. Burnt the candle...and my poor wife had to put up with my rants, moods, and obsession. Sure, I can help others avoid some of that which was my frustration... and enjoy the satisfaction that not all will have to go thru this entire process of not having help. Though I had hardly any.

So...I'm just sorta playin' here Wendee and all. Believe me, I want to see you all succeed. I want to see you beat those demons that would drive you from it.

Something inside me feels people are less likely to be blindsided and lose hope if they understand some kind of commitment is going to be required to reach higher levels, so that when such roadblocks come, that notion my son had that "becoming" a ball player 'must simply have not been meant to be' does not keep you from realizing your potential.

I'm not trying to be discouraging...
http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/biggrin.gif http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/biggrin.gif


The Artsmentor

"Painting is easy when you don't know how, but very difficult when you do!" Edgar Degas

[This message has been edited by lseiler (edited March 23, 2001).]

03-23-2001, 08:18 AM
Larry, I understand colpletely what you are saying. I dont expect I have tpo be perfect and believ me I am my own worst critic. Its just frustrating when you can nail down a picture of a stranger but cant even make your own son look like he does, lol.
The whole reason I am here after 32 yrs of hiding my art from the world is because I was never confident in my art, even when the few people who knew about it kept pushing me to pursue it because they think I an talented. I dont give up, I get frustrated but I keep trying. None of us are perfect, at art or anything else. All we can hope for is that after a long labor of love we can have a portrait now and then that stands out and says hey look, this is pretty darn good!

03-23-2001, 08:29 AM
Of course you're not trying to be discouraging. If anything, you are being most encouraging. You are here to let us know that it takes hard work, persistance, and you are an example of where that hard work can take us, if we keep trying.
I do believe talent is a gift, but that is not to say that it can't be improved. We can see talent evident in little children. But talent is not the same as skill. And it is these skills me must develop, and we must keep developing them all our lives, because we can never stop learning.
I might have some talent, but oh how I lack the skill! This is where the frustration comes in! I wish it came easy, but it doesn't. And the harder it is, the more I feel like ripping out my hair. I have many days like that. But within me is the need, the all-consuming desire to learn. The art I was born with must be developed, or I will be a very unhappy soul.
I think we're on the same page here- I'm not disagreeing with you at all.
The public won't understand that no magic wand was waved over you, and that your hard work is what produces the fabulous work that you do. But we as artists, whatever level we're at, we do know this within ourselves. We balk sometimes at the hard work, and we are also sometimes afraid of it. But deep inside us all is the desire to do our very best, and we strive forward in spite of the sometimes very painful realization that this isn't going to come easy. But we're human, and sometimes it just feels better to have a little temper tantrum or our own little pitty party (I use this description because this is what *I* do), and get it out of the way. And then tomorrow I feel a surge of confidence, and am able to produce something that pushes me one more step forward.
On a personal note, whether this makes sense or not- I am starting late in life. For me, there is a sense of urgency to hurry to get to places sooner than I am ready for. How many years do I have left to get to where I want to be? There is a need to make up for lost time, so I trip over the stepping stones, instead of just taking each one with care.
I'm getting way off the original topic here. LOL
Larry, the best inspiration I found here was your 'mountain' illustration. You have no idea how many times I think of that, when I have one of 'those days'.
Might be a good idea to cross post that in maybe TAW forum, so all can benefit from it.

Bev http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif

03-23-2001, 08:54 AM
I could have written your words myself. I feel the same way! And I know how frustrating it is to have that need to create, and our attempt is less than we hoped. It is doubly hard to work from photos that are less than adequate. The work I do, I have to use photos. And more often than not, they are really poor quality. But knowing the subject as I do, I just use the photo as a general guide, and try to use what I know of my subject to bring it to where I want it to be. I have not once failed to capture what I'm trying to capture in my painting, which is the expression of the birds I paint. The face is my focus, and I nail it every time.
I am currently working on a painting that has me stumped. I can't plan the photo and shoot it as I want it to be- such as you could a still life. And I certainly can't paint from the live model. So I use the 'pose', and then have to use my own creativity to place the bird in the painting. Well, my point being, this particular bird has to sit on something, and no matter what I tried to place him on, it didn't work. So, after three weeks, he is still floating in midair until I figure it out. Frustrating? You bet! I've had to paint out portions I wasn't happy with numerous times already. And what frustrates me most isn't that I can't paint whatever support I need to place him on, it is that I realize I lack the skill to even know WHAT will look good in the painting! What will enhance it, and what will take away from it and mess up the composition? And I wish I could have someone who does have the skill tell me "Put this here, like this", but I have to figure this out on my own. I may very well find out after the fact that I should have done it defferently, but in that case, I have learned one more thing. And for that I am greatful, even if it means having to start all over again with the painting. http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/wink.gif
Keep going, keep trying. I know you will. I understand where you're coming from!

Bev http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif

03-24-2001, 03:30 PM
I've been painting for about 10 years, and portraits still take me weeks to months to do. I work from photos, and I always insist on an exact likeness, and I'm self-taught, AND without the kind of innate drawing skills I see in others. I just keep trying. If you look at my portrait in the Critiques forum "JOJO at 8 years old" (http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/Forum21/HTML/003202.html), you'll see an example of a portrait of a kid mugging for the camera. Capturing that expression almost drove me crazy. I just keep trying, and it's trial and error. However, once I capture it, everyone's happy http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif
Best of luck, it'll come if you keep at it.

"Paintings are never finished, only abandoned" (source unknown)
index.html (http://hamiltoncarroll.homestead.com)

[This message has been edited by bbbilly1326 (edited March 24, 2001).]