The Portrait of Zia Marisa

  • Title: The Portrait of Zia Marisa
  • Medium: Oil on Canvas
  • Size in Centimeters: 50 x 70
  • Year: 2015 - 2016
  • Made in: Rome, Italy
  • Private Collection

There are many reasons to work from life instead of a photograph:

  • A live subject presents a sense of urgency—the subject can’t sit indefinitely—and urgency is a great catalyst for economy.  I think economy is one of the hallmarks of Velázquez and Sargent.
  • A photograph can’t carry on a conversation while you work.
  • The model will never return to the exact position it had before; each sitting presents new variations.  The final portrait is a summary of those variations… and those conversations.
  • All of the above opens a great door to chance.  ‘Chance’ is a generous friend to all things ‘original’.

Those are all really good reasons, but perhaps the best reason not to use a photograph is to make a painting and not a painting of a photograph.  (The more experience you have working from life, the better you will become at identifying the difference.)

If I know I won’t have the model for the time it will take to complete the painting, then I’ll look for ways to simulate the observation of life in the studio.

In the case of this portrait, I did a drawing from life, transferred that to the canvas, then used the drawing as my principle reference.  As I believe is evident, the photograph was mainly used to better understand volumes in the face and details of the dress.

Note: the size of the paper matched the size of the canvas, so as I made the drawing I was also thinking about scale and composition.

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