50 portrait paintings of friends, relatives and strangers
This project started in March of 2015. I had recently finished my last series of paintings of women artists, called The Messengers and as always, in between series, there was a lull in my creativity while I waited for the next inspiration.
I considered going back back to painting encaustic abstracts, but then I thought, “What do I most enjoy painting?” The answer was, faces.
Faces have always been intriguing to me. I almost didn’t make it into 6th grade, because I didn’t keep up the assignments in the arithmetic workbook; rather, I spent my time drawing my classmates. My teacher was very supportive of my art, telling my parents that my talent should be encouraged, but I couldn’t move to the next grade without completing the math workbook. Mom and Dad were not happy about me wanting to become an artist. They did want me to get out of fifth grade; so my father helped me every night to catch up with the math assignments. I remember falling asleep at the table, but I got it done. When I handed in the workbook to Miss Hope. (A fitting name for a wonderful teacher), she said, “If Ezshwan can do it, anyone can.”
The idea for the 50 Faces project started out with a plan to make 100 faces. My daughter, Cynthia Hamilton, suggested that “Fifty Faces” had a nice ring to it. I agreed, still not sure how it was going to continue.
I put out a request for people to send photos to my email address. I said I didn’t want smiling faces; no dark glasses and no babies. At first, I received some perfect photos. More photos came in, but many of them were blurry, too small, bad angles and just not usable. I decided that since I was not charging for the portraits, I could pick the best ones. I relaxed my rules a bit and did end up painting some faces with big smiles and one face with dark glasses. Each day for weeks, I looked forward to painting the faces of friends, family, acquaintances and strangers.
I photographed the process of each portrait and published one each day on my blog, I did not start by drawing, but just began painting with bold, bright colors that became subtle suggestions of color on the finished faces.
Frequently, as I worked on the faces, I remembered John Singer Sargent comment; “ A portrait is a painting with something wrong with the mouth”
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