Portrait – a picture of something or someone intensely observed. Often the word portrait conjures a picture of someone important, or a school picture of a family member. But a portrait can be anything keenly observed. To do a portrait is to become one with the subject, to see the minutia of detail and form, then decide how to translate this, and one’s emotional response, onto a two-dimensional surface. Painting a portrait of a rock is a way to find the spirit of a place, and pay one’s respects. Amen.
Technical painting notes – I selected this “view” because of the way the nomen rock really stood out from the much smaller stones around it, and the beauty of the pure form of the rock. It looked like it had rolled into place long ago, and yet it’s eventual fracture is clearly evident. Surprisingly, it has remained intact and in the same place on the Quoddy Head for as long as I have been visiting. It is a rock with a gently defiant personality, and another of my favorite nomen rocks. Placing the primary subject almost dead center on the panel was a conscious choice. Icons, and many other traditional religious paintings, usually save the center for that which is sacred and most important. Placing the rock in the center is a traditional expression of honor. Balancing the central “formality” necessitated introducing a sense of chance – the slope of the shingle and the interruption of a few modestly larger stones into the pattern of the shingle does this. The fog was accentuated in part for the sense of mystery it provided, and also to represent that which we can’t see.
I used a limited palette of burnt umber, ultramarine blue, transparent iron oxide, pyrrol red, gold ochre, sap green, greenish umber, dioxazine violet and titanium white. The combination of complements (warm reddish colors mixed with ultramarine blue) provided sufficient color and tonality, while allowing me to emphasize the drawing and form.
I saw the subject line and wondered to myself “What a portrait of a rock?” and I was not disappointed!