I am reading a wonderful book about Soutine by Andrew Forge. In it the author writes the following about Soutine’s painting: Again and again we are left with sensations and paint and sensations-in-paint. He is like a man painting out of darkness, filling his dark world with things and people. Nothing is interchangeable, nothing is carried over from one thing to the next: he can paint a dozen turkeys and each picture is like the first discovery of a turkey. … His handling of it must be naive, bringing nothing from the past of skill or knowledge or practice; it also has to be virtuoso, allowing no reconsiderations and no backward glances.
With the busyness of life I sometimes forget how important this is. Images I see, and then must paint, remind me.
Yesterday I looked through a book of costumes for the theater and came across a painting of a masked woman. Since I have not been happy with the portrait of my mother, I decided to add a mask. Just as in life, it covers a multitude of sins, but more importantly, it provides some mystery. My first mistake with the portrait was to have my mother smiling. Smiles have no place in portraits, unless they are evil, joker-like smiles.
It made sense to paint a portrait of my mother next. But when I saw it after the first day it made me feel a little sad. My mother when younger was an avid bowler and tennis player. In each of the three photographs I used to begin this painting she was a two-toned blonde. Recently she had to stop her volunteer work which consisted of holding premature babies at a local hospital. Her smile is similar to her mother’s (see below) with one side of her mouth slightly raised. The cat eye shaped glasses she had been wearing when photographed with my father at the Copacabana are now very much in vogue. Hers may even have had rhinestones attached. Both portraits (mother and daughter) are testaments to how older fashions are brought back to life with each new generation. There is obviously more to do here, and it would seem the logical thing to paint a portrait of my father next. Honestly, I am finding these family portraits to be some of the most difficult: memories, and the effects of time are constantly asserting themselves and I turn to reading to not think about the past. Because of the years of tumult, it was my immediate family that instilled a true sense of compassion within me and a desire to avoid all such turmoil in the future.