Friday, February 27, 2015

From the CONFERENCE INSIDER Portrait Society of America February 2015 Featuring Carol Arnold

“Beautiful Soul”
By Carol Arnold

Art is a language and you, the artist, have the power to communicate beautiful messages through your interpretation of your subjects.
My paintings are about my experiences, a self-portrait. Before I begin a painting I need to know what it is that I want to say about my subject. What attracted me to It? What is it that made me want to paint this? If I'm painting a garden, for example, I might say, "I like the flowers". Well, what is it about the flowers that I like?  I break it down into more simple terms, (color, value, drawing or edges) like "I like the bright colors" or "the soft edges of the petals against the background" or maybe, I'm not as interested in the color or edges, my interest could be in the stems and the intricate drawing of them weaving in and out of each other with the underside of the leaves and the dark brown soil.

The same applies to portraits, or anything else I want to paint. I may set up a beautiful model to paint. The first thing I need to ask myself is “What am I going to say about this model?” If I start before I know the answer to this question, I'll be just copying. I want to be excited to tell my story. Everyone has their own unique ideas about what they want to say - their “story”.  

Whatever it is, I need to make sure I figure it out, put it into words, like color, value, edges or drawing and keep it in mind throughout the painting process. I want to send a clear message to my viewers about what I want to say about what I am about to paint and I want them to be as excited as I was!

I was invited to friend and artist Kathy Anderson's house to view a group of her new paintings that were being shipped to Texas for a show she knew some of her friends couldn't attend. I packed the kids in the van and headed for Connecticut!

The studio was filled with artists and friends admiring Kathy's beautiful work. Florals and landscape paintings filled the walls. I turned the corner and gasped, (I honestly did). There was a tiny woman sitting in a chair by the window; she was completely content watching all the people talking and laughing with each other as she was enjoying her tea. She wore a heavy dark blue dress with a matching hat and scarf. There was a big blue belt with a large shiny buckle around her waist and a cross that hung from her neck. Her hands had rings and bracelets that were sure to have great stories! Out of these heavy dark clothes and shiny silver jewelry were the most delicate pink cheeks, squinty eyes and a big bright smile that lit up the room. I had to paint her! 

I talked with her daughter, artist and friend, Johanne Mangi, and arranged a time when I could paint her. Back to Connecticut I went! Mrs. Tardi needed a little coaxing but finally agreed to my painting her. I set the pose, made sure she was comfortable and started to paint. She was smiling from ear to ear! She kept saying "I feel like a movie star!"

She was so adorable, I put in my initial wash and points to show where the figure would sit on the canvas, waiting for her to fall into a more natural pose. It didn't happen. I was afraid that if I started to paint her smiling from ear to ear it would only last a few minutes. She was talking while I painted, about her late husband and her life. Her smile faded after a while and I was able to paint her features.
I knew my painting time was limited, I would only have a couple of hours with her, so I had to make sure I got the important things from life as I knew I would be finishing from a photo. She was so sweet, I fell in love with her. I took a million photos, most of them with a full smile! When I got home and eventually found the time to finish the portrait, I looked at what I had painted from life. Something wasn't right. It didn't look like what I had remembered of her or what I intended to say about her. I took out my photo reference and there it was.

When I met Mrs. Tardi in Kathy's studio, she was beaming with delight, I could see that I hadn't captured that in this painting. I painted her expression when she was talking about how much she missed her husband, thinking I would get a more natural pose. I was wrong! I missed the whole point of why I wanted to paint her (what I wanted to say)!

Text Box: “Find what inspires you and paint your story!”I became excited again, now knowing exactly what I was going to do. I was going to paint that tiny old woman shining her beautiful soul throughout the entire room! Luckily, I painted a small version of her with correct values, colors and edges and was able to use that as reference for the much larger finished portrait. The photo reference was used for the drawing. The result was exactly what I saw when I turned the corner at my friends studio. The painting was sold to her son and daughter, Joe Tardi and Johanne Mangi. My kids were sad to see it go - they said it lit up the whole studio and made them happy.  
Find what inspires you and paint your story!
"Beautiful Soul"