Painting What I See, Not What I Think Is There


Lilibeth André, Mandy, oil, 16x12

This is a two-sitting portrait painted live. Most of the portraits I post here are painted from live sittings. That is when the model is sitting in front of me and I paint what I see, not what I think is there. I don’t work without the model. It’s part of my ongoing training. I believe it trains the eye to ‘see’.

And what do I see? The main thing for me is the myriad of colors that are not there when painting from a photo. I see the tonalities that help model the features and give dimension to the subject. All of this is what gives me “brush mileage under my belt” for when I have to paint from sketches and photos because the model can’t be present. It helps me see where the stroke needs to go to bring about the likeness on the canvas.

Mandy detail

Lilibeth André, Mandy detail.

By training the eye I learn what to look for to really see what I have in front of me and not just go with what I “know” is there. I know there is a nose, a mouth, a shirt or hair. What I see is not just the anatomical parts of the composition but the effect of the light, the reflections off the apparel, the light and the shadow in strategic places that will tell anyone seeing the painting who the sitter is. It will tell the story of the experience as a whole.

The challenge with Mandy was capturing  her hair, not just the color but the depth and shine as well as the texture.

Sometimes while working on a painting I will see a certain characteristic in the model and represent it on the canvas. It is very rewarding to have someone approach my work and say they can see that particular characteristic. Especially when the comment is from a fellow artist. I can relish with them knowing that we know “I got them”. That was the case with Mandy. I felt I captured her characteristic features and left the studio with an accomplished feeling.




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