Why portraits?

These portraits I make are somewhat inaccurate and amateurish, and my appreciation for my friends who have played along is immense. I have the deepest gratitude especially for those friends who my portraits have produced the least likeness of. I also thank everyone I have sketched till this point for not objecting to being sketched, although I never did give you a chance to say No. You all learned about your likeness after it was made public. Some of you have asked me why you haven’t made the cut yet (which I find totally flattering I must admit), and I feel obligated to explain that I chose my subjects primarily at random, assuming a good full face picture with some good lighting and clarity was available on your facebook page, and then lacing my decisions with a little bit of reason and playing a tad with the creative license our friendship would permit.

So, thank you! It’s been an absolute privilege. The pleasure is all mine.

Y-sketch1
A recent sketch of my son

 

‘Why portraits?’ I asked myself. Why isn’t a watercolor of landscapes, streets, still life, perhaps something abstract, more satisfying? Why not explore a new media, try dabbling into a different style like impressionism? Why does drawing a face draw me in (pun intended) so much?

First of all, let me not hide it – it gives me immense pleasure to see appreciation for my work (no wonder)! But what really heightens it is that I made your day or made you feel special for a little bit. I think some of you just felt great that I thought of you, and spent a good deal of my time laboring it.  Its special for me too. It gives me the opportunity to reminisce the time we have spent together, fun we have had and things we have shared. The time, anywhere between 60 and 90 minutes, I take for each sketch, also feels like an intimate conversation with you, a way of slowing down and catching up in this ‘culture of speed and information overload’, so much so that in my recent time away from family, I decided to add a little color to the whole exercise by adding a cup of coffee and sitting in front of my fireplace. That sort of completed the picture, the only thing missing was perhaps having you in person in the scene, which would have been a total waste from a portrait sketching perspective, since I am really lousy at sketching people live. The pressure of that is enormous. And I would definitely not want you to know just how many times I use the eraser during the course of the activity. It would just break your heart, and erase the mystique that surrounds art in general,  like taking Santa out of Christmas.

I have come to realize that what intensely drives me is the element of surprise involved in making portraits. You scribble away, on an on, stroke over stroke and then suddenly and magically in one special moment the likeness of the subject emerges from the inanimate piece of paper. Like all creative pursuits, the beauty of the moment of completeness cannot be described, and trivialized by description. It also feels to me like a moment of discovery – that feeling every creator gets when they see their creation for the very first time. No matter what you know about your own creative process, the end result always amazes you, makes you pause and think – ‘Did I just create this?’ That single moment is epic, and may well be the biggest reason why I draw portraits. Sometimes its that little glint in the eye, the little crevice near the corner of the mouth, or just the faintest of strokes highlighting the cheek bone, that completes the picture in the most inadvertent way. You don’t realize it when you do it, but see it immediately after. It’s the moment the face gets life, and almost gets ready to have a conversation. When I am drawing someone I know personally, it’s at that moment that I smile and say:

‘Hello, you’re finally here! What took you so long?!’

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