THE 13 QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE STARTING A PORTRAIT

So here I am at the difficult stage of working out my entry for the Archibald 2017.
As many of you may know, I have my subject. Cathy McGowan, Member for Indi, has graciously accepted my request to be my subject.

Up until this point, I have spent some time with Cathy to get to know her a little better as the first step to designing my painting. I have had morning tea with Cathy at her home and recently visited her at Parliament house, to get an idea of the work side of her life. 

So the question is - what goes on in my mind and how do I go about completing this project?

It isn't just simply doing a painting of Cathy, making sure that it looks like her. Well, it may be for some, but not for me. I hope to give you a bit of an insight into how I go about my work. 

Even though the actual painting of the picture can be difficult, it is not the toughest part. With enough technical skill this can be done relatively easily. That is not to say that it is easy and that there won't be headaches.
There is always a struggle., a battle , and a good analogy is that of fencing (not putting up fences, but sword fighting).,However, it isn't refined and neat like a fencing competition in the olympics, but more like a sword fight among pirates. Bloody, sweaty, and all over the place :)

Anyway, the really difficult part is coming up with the design and the concept. This is what separates an Artist from a painter!
It is a little like a chef looking at all the ingredients they have and coming up with a new dish rather than just following a recipe out of a book.



How will I paint Cathy?  Basically I have to try and answer a series of questions. Some of these questions may need to be answered in isolation to others, while some will be influenced by other questions.

Here are the 13 major questions I need to ask myself:

  • What side of her personality, or 'story', will I try to convey and how the hell am I going to do this?
  • What size will the painting be?
  • What medium will I use?
  • How much of her will I paint - head only, head and hands, full figure, or some other combination?
  • What colour combination will I use?
  • How realistic/or not will I make the painting?
  • To what degree of finish will I take it?
  • What will the lighting be, if any?
  • What will she wear and will this be important?
  • What tonal range will I use?
  • What viewpoint will I take - above, below, side on, etc?
  • What will I do with the background?
  • How much space on the canvas/paper will the figure take up?

So, for now, it is a lot of scribbling for me as I try to sort through these questions and come up with answers.
As can be seen, these scribbles mean nothing to you, but they are an important part of my creative process.

I recently read a chapter called "What you don't see is what you get" in the book Orbiting the Giant Hairball. It sums up this scribble part of the process very well. 

Below I have included a snippet from the book for your interest.

If you see me sitting at the coffee shop staring off into space, know that I am actually working. It is the cows in the paddock time :).
The creative process is not necessarily  something visible to the onlooker ... certainly not at this early stage.

Am I nervous, scared that I won't succeed in getting what I am after? ... absolutely! Will that stop me?  No. Welcome to the world of an Artist. 

So join me for the blood, sweat and tears as I move through the creative process to the finished product. I may need your support during these times when I feel like giving up.

In the next post, more about thinking, planning and a list of possible aspects about Cathy I may wish to capture. 

Also, your chance to have some input!