22 January 2011


Michelle Pfeiffer
14" x 11", watercolour, 1988, private collection

At some point in the winter of 1988 I decided to challenge myself by painting a portrait. After completing my first three, largely abstract, explorations into watercolour (this, this, and this), I thought something more recognizable would be fun to try. I don't remember why I chose Michelle Pfeiffer for it because, then, as now, I think she's a fine actor, but I feel kind of indifferent about her. Maybe it was Tony's suggestion...

You'll notice first that the likeness is barely there, if at all. The hair is all over the place (I deliberately exaggerated what I saw in the photo). The skin colouration is weird, but I do like the transparent glazing effect evident all over her --something I remember not being able to replicate in the next few paintings I did. This is obviously student-level work (I was, after all, just 17 when I painted this).

A couple of years ago, I thought I'd track down the original photo ref I used (or find  the original photo online) and make a new painting of her at my current skill-level --just for fun, in the interest of comparison. Maybe one day...

Meg Ryan
22" x 15", watercolour, 2001

For now we'll have to settle for my portrait of Meg Ryan above for comparison (mind you, this painting is now almost 11 years old --and, incidentally, regarding the actors, I feel about Meg the same way I feel about Michelle, that is, largely ambivalent). I definitely got better at likenesses in the 13 years (and dozens of paintings) between these two paintings, and certainly my watercolour skills improved as well. The glazing and blending in the skin (and hair, especially) is more sophisticated, there's an attempt at evoking the smooth fabric texture in her top through the blending, there's a stronger level of contrast and design overall, and, yes, that's once again a matrix background --which I started using in 1988.
Both of these paintings were done using magazine photo reference.

I bring up these two celebrity portraits because I'm currently working on a massive 15-painting 12-painting portrait series (in oils; based on my own photo ref of local farmers) and I thought it'd be fun to share some more older work and show a bit of my progression as a portraitist and watercolourist.

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