I can’t believe that it’s been over 10 years since I started painting portraits. What a difference a decade makes! I have come a very long way.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I’m perfect now, or even better than I was before. I just have more experience now, which shows in my work as a consistent style—the mark, some would say, of an artist. I’m also learning to let go and let things flow… Isn’t that the mark of learning life, too?! I always want to grow, get better, and the best part—I pretty much always just want to paint so those first two should hopefully just fall in line.
Why I LOVE to Paint Portraits
If I think back to when I first started painting, it was always faces. I went to fashion school because I loved painting people—especially fashion models in all of their high fashion glory. I tore illustrations out of mags as a kid and grabbed my sketchbook immediately to see if I could draw the same as the published illustrator.
I stalked the greats: René Gruau, Antonio Lopez, and David Downton, and the classical portrait favorites: Toulouse Lautrec, Alphonse Mucha, Egon Schiele, and Edgar Degas. But for the last decade, my obsession with portraiture has come down to a singular artist: Stina Persson (@stina_persson_illustration). She has this insane ability to paint so freely with watercolour and ink, and channels Matisse with her bold colour block cut-outs—her talent is endless. Totally. Obsessed. Also, while we’re on the subject of cool, inspiring people, check out Blair Breitenstein (@Blairz). So unique and raw.
Why some people choose to be artists is something bigger than just a chosen career path, I’ve found. It comes from a true sense of cathartic creation. I accepted the term ‘artist’ as a descriptor when I realized that I actually get anxiety when I don’t get to paint and make art. Weird, right? Totally weird.
But back to faces. I’m in love with faces. I memorize them. I draw them, I scribble them, I paint them. I love that everyone is unique and has their own identity based on the shape and placement of their eyes on their face. Their ethnicity and personality all translate onto their signature canvas of identity: the eyes, the nose, the mouth, the face.
And if we’re going to talk faces, let’s talk about hair. I’m also obsessed with big hair. It works well with watercolour! Recently, I painted an inspiring girl who shaved her head when her nephew went in for chemo and let’s just say the exception to the rule can be so beautiful, too.
CELEBS, FRIENDS + FAMILY, Oh My!
I have definitely painted my fair share of celebrities: from Kate Moss on her famous Parisian Vogue cover to David Bowie—I met him once in Washington Square park on Easter Sunday, many New York moons ago—and his face stuck with me. OMG It was amazing. More recently, I fell in love with Halima; her beauty is so real and rare.
Another memorable one: the self-portrait I painted for the Toronto Artist Project. It was more raw than I usually go; I went old-school and simply painted my reflection that day. Does it look exactly like me? No. But I do love now how when I see it, I feel that mood I was in when I painted it. I was optimistic, but sadness lingered about other things. You can see it in my portrait’s eyes.
My favourite portrait ever, though? My sister, Katarina. It happens to be her 40th birthday, so this post is a tribute to her. She has one of the most gorgeous faces I have ever seen. Because I know her so well, capturing her persona on canvas was easy for me. Happy Birthday, Kat!
The MAGIC of Portraits
When a person is captured in a painting, they live eternally as art. And a part of me lives forever too. That is pretty cool to me. As the artist, I feel a bit of electricity as the portrait comes to life; especially when painting the eyes—you can sometimes see into a person’s soul through their eyes—and when that happens on paper or a canvas, it’s magic.
So writing this post inspired me to go through the archives and find some of the old portraits I painted. I may not have loved them at the time, but in their own way, each helped me learn and grow and appreciate what I do. To celebrate that journey, I’m doing a limited edition release of prints! They deserve some love—maybe your walls do, too? Only 20 of each will be available! See the archives here.