I painted this as a gift for my daughter upon her graduation from high school. It has our old Echo Park neighborhood on the left, and on the right the city where she was about to go off to school… New York! I based it on the Mona Lisa because I wanted to do a classical portrait. What is more classical than the Mona Lisa?
I thought it looked just like my daughter, and still do. My wife, and others in the family, don’t think it captures her looks at all. The eyes are too small or the nose is too big. I think the portrait has presence, and captures the feeling of a grad about to leave the nest. It also captures her beauty, despite any perceived issues concerning the relative scale of her features.
I love this portrait, but moreover I love the background. It’s dynamic and subtle at the same time, not boring at all, which can happen a lot with portraits. And the color palette is really beautiful as well. I am finishing a class assignment portrait and I am dealing with the background now, so hard for some reason. Like I don’t want to be plain and boring but at the same time I don’t want too much competition coming from it. Sigh. :)
My daughter continues to enjoy her portrait as well. I think it did a good job of capturing her at that period, now four years later (she is about to graduate from college). The background was fun to work out, trying to fit the shapes of the Mona Lisa to her life experience, past and future… Echo Park and NYC. It all turned out to be quite realistic!
There’s something about the nose that I like. It reminds me that, unlike the eyes, the nose does not stop growing and neither does the head. If you look closely at young people (who have not yet grown fully into their hat size), the nose often looks like this. It’s disjointed in a way and it’s very subtle. You have studied her face very carefully and captured a “youthful” nose rather than a romanticized unreal version of it. But then again the people in your paintings do have an unreal (not cartoonish, mind you) character to their body posture and uneven skin tone and musculature that is your own; don’t change a thing!
I hadn’t thought about that, in terms of capturing a youthful nose, or that they keep on growing. Certainly mine does! I did try harder than usual to capture the way she looks here. I prefer to invent faces when I paint multi-figure compositions. It’s half the fun to bring these strange characters up out of nowhere. It is my tendency always, so when I do straight portraiture like this, I have to really restrain myself.
I really love this portrait. It reminds me of my own daughter who lives in New York. She is also dark haired, olive skinned with simiilar eye color and she has a certain look about her that is similar as well. I think it’s just your magnificent painting that gives off this image of a girl in transition. My daughter is 25 and has been alone in New York for about 1.5 yrs. She is reserved and has big eyes. I love this the more I see it.
Thanks, Leslie. My daughter has it hanging in her room here at home, even though she is away. It is her surrogate, watching over her stuff! I will be painting my younger daughter at the end of the year, as she enters her senior year of high school. Same size paintng, but very different girls…
This is a beautiful painting…I’ve seen it live. It seems to me I react far more viscerally to a portrait that pushes beyond the literal or exact. Seeing the artist’s vision or hand as you have, speaks volumes beyond a simple portrait and keeps me involved in the painting. There is a psychology (if I can call it that) to her and you in this painting. It is really incredible.
Thanks, Cynthia. Ava seems to like her portrait quite a lot. I don’t know if she feels it is flattering or not, but she is interested in how she is depicted. Seeing how another perceives you is a curious experience. It certainly works much better through painting than photography, as the hand of the artist is so much more evident. The filter of the ‘other’ is that much more intense.
I have talked with many friends who do body work and have had there share of beautiful women as clients, even movie stars. They all will have a negative comment about there own beauty. Generally speaking, woman are less than confident about there own looks. Your daughters are beautiful and i know where it comes from. Both parents.Scott, I always love your portraits of people.
Thanks for posting this! The expression really gets her self-composure. And now that you’ve set this kind of precedent, I’m looking forward to seeing the next one of Atiyeh!
It may come sooner than graduation. I think I’ll have them both in the Paternal Suit project, so I might have to do it a year early. Or maybe she can just study harder and graduate a year earlier!
Which has led me to think once more about the old question of whether a portrait is more or less accurate when not photographic. One of the arguments being that characteristic expressions and postures can occur on different limbs/features at different moments and be collected (concentrated) by the artists, while the camera is limited to what is happening at only one instant. Which is appropriate because we ‘read’ a painting in time, so that while we move our eyes from one feature to another, it is as if the figure were alive. But when we read a photograph, we scanning an instant are frozen in time.
Also it looks like there is some interesting play with perspective going on in this painting with the features having something to do with the picture plane. If so, maybe somebody with more painterly savvy can articulate what that is exactly…
I have felt more ‘presence’ from painted portraits than I ever have from a photograph of someone. I talk to Rembrandts in museums. I think that has more to do with the painterly inventions of the artist than his subject’s personality, or any fluctuations in movement or posture on the sitter’s part. In my experience (when painting from life) the little shifts are lost in the focus of trying to capture what is before you in as accurate a way as possible. Any capturing of characteristic expressions that occur through small shifts over time would happen at a subconscious level.
As for the question about perspective, I shifted her shoulders to fit the extreme perspectives on both sides of her. Her eyes sit just above the horizon line, so she is looking slightly down on the viewer, while the rest of her drops away as if you were quite close to her. It is a forced perspective. I often bend the rules to get what I want out of a picture…
Maybe the perspective situates the viewer inside (or right on the edge of) what would be considered, for an American anyway, her ‘personal space’? (Is the personal space of a portrait different from that of a living person?)
Thanks, John. High school graduation is a big deal. They are done being children and about to go out in the world and apply all they have learned to an independent life (well, mostly independent!). I certainly can’t afford to send her out into the world with a load of cash, so she gets a painting instead. As for the beauty, that’s all her mother’s genes. She looks just like her.
She will keep the painting all her life: cash would be gone quickly. By the way, I was noticing that Hackett Friedman Gallery is being reborn as “Hackett/Mill.” Looks like it will be all about resale…
Thanks, C! I just realized that when looked at blown up to full resolution you can even read the text on the background truck and the books. And see the whole band at the party! I took this photo myself, so I wasn’t expecting such full details.
Hi, not having the pleasure to have met you or you beautiful daughter. This picture speaks volumes to me.
She looks at you with eyes of a daughter. Wonders how much longer should I have to sit here. Do you really see me Dad. I love you Dad. Dad’s always think their daughters are pretty but am I really. She every bit of mystery that Mona has but more.
When my girls were younger I used to joke about giving them horrendous facial scars so they’d have to learn to live by their wits and not their beauty. Ava ends up having both. What wonderful weapons for life’s inevitable battles!
Scott, it’s been amazing watching your kids grow up. You’ve captured her features, and your love for her. No small feat. I admire the courage to be tender.
Hey, Peter, now that my girl is all grown up I don’t have to be such a hard-ass! But I know what you mean. Age, and a long career making these things, brings some greater degree of latitude in what I’ll paint. Even a Mona Lisa inspired portrait of my daughter!
By the way, you’ll appreciate that the “Kids” painting you did when Ava was born now hangs in Ati’s room. Both girls have grown up with that little gem.
Both are good and accomplished at film and photography (Ava’s Blog of her Morocco semester abroad: http://salomeya.net/ava/), and Ati’s amazing film: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uGzWAvsmsIU) Both can draw very well, but after seeing the hours their dad puts in at the studio, I don’t know if they want to follow in my footsteps.