"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers theme for TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon artist's musings melding metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

A story of when a dream becomes real

"Te Ata," 5 x 7 watercolor, my first portrait
"I don't do portraits. I'm not that good," I told a student last fall who asked if I'd paint one of  her and her dog.
For some reason in December, in my do-it-yourself art school reading, I thought I'd perhaps try to attempt one, more of a hope or dream.
You have to understand that my brother and I grew up in the home of one of the best portrait artists of all time, our father Terrence Miler Clark.
I've written about his remarkable talent  many times. Our memories of being sketched by him are numerous and we both have several of his portraits hanging in our homes. 
"Sit still," we were often told while posing again. Here are two of those stories and examples of his work:

I wish I had that talent, but don't. It's more in seeing and being able to transfer that onto paper. I've referred and commissioned a pencil portrait from a former student instead. Susan also has the ability in charcoal.
Also understand that entire books have been written about watercolor portraiture (Dad's were usually meticulous colored pencil portraits).
But then yesterday, a friend called and asked me to do a watercolor card of  a Chickasaw.   I hesitated, but said I'd try.
Then he sent me a photo of who he wanted, but in black and white, plus references for color for clothes, feather, jewelry. 
The pressure built because it was Te Ata, renowned Chickasaw actress and storyteller.
First step was trying to select colors especially for skin color, searching the Internet, and getting his approval.
Second was trying to draw the outline and main features of this woman, which took more than one try.
Several steps were thinking about  deciding colors, solving problems of light and shadow, and where to start.
He wanted a red tailed hawk feather and I knew that would be easiest. The most difficult would be the face and especially the eyes. That meant I'd do her eyes last, so the entire portrait could fail at the last. 
Yesterday, I painted the feather, her hair and costume. And stopped.
Today, after much procrastination, I began by erasing most of the drawing lines, or making them very faint. 
Then came the light flesh colors, leaving the eyes white. Then came the shadowing to give the face form. Then came the lips. Then the eyes, and a few final touch ups on shadows.
I learned a lot, and am thankful my friend likes it, and am thankful for the opportunity to push myself. Taking a risk becomes a story of a dream becoming real.
But it's hard work, though when doing this the rest of the world goes away. I found a quote from my Dad recently, that sums it up: "The harder I work at painting, the younger I feel."

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