“even if your subjects aren’t great before you paint them… they sure as frick are when yer done”
THE WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHER
– Oil on Canvas, Life-size –
I had the luxury of spending nearly a year on this large oil painting, a commission for a portrait of an American Wildlife Photographer. He travels the country year round, headed into national parks and wilderness to natural habitats, finding grizzly bears, buffalo, eagles and hawks, wolves, owls, foxes, cranes…and records their thrillingly dangerous exotic lives on film.
There was so much to include, and the painting went through a great deal of editing out and adding into. I wanted his intense focus, coupled with expansive kind humanity of him I learned (though we’ve never met) from our correspondence. Hair blown by wind, sunburnt from camping and hiking.
His love of books is in there, and a map pinned to the wall behind him. The universe opening up beyond his shoulder, a canvas jacket thrown over it, strong bare arms and sleeves rolled up for action. A notebook in his pocket, he’s a writer, too. And a shirt that I wanted to look like a comfortable favorite, a second skin, practical and functional. (The wardrobe’s invented). The camera, his beloved Nikon, cradled near his heart and kind of making a glow through his fingers. His left hand cradling a special lens. The equipment from photographs he sent.
It kind of went beyond just the person, I wanted to capture the sense of his life in what he did, to make a portrait maybe of all who follow such lively pursuits and go off to wild places to find what’s in them.
It was a major undertaking. He’s a remarkable fellow. He was very pleased with the outcome. He said I got it right.
I like it a lot, too.
[Comment from a viewer on Redbubble]
“This is fabulous, Baba. And I don’t even know if you fully appreciate the grandeur of what you do.
You know it’s a massive project alright ’cause you put in the hours, days, weeks and months. And you did the background work that every serious portrait artist must in order to get as close to their subject as they can, especially if sight unseen. That’s a big part of the project too as it’s what gives the final artwork its soul and reason for being.
But I don’t know if you totally realize is the enormity of what your work means for the subject. I don’t know if a seasoned painter gets the full blow of what it means to have your portrait done organically by hand with traditional media.
So this guy, for all his wonderfulness and strength of character and rugged good looks, has a big problem.
Where is this going to hang that will do justice to its enormity (and I don’t mean in terms of physical size)?
If he’s got a study or a library that’s got a lot of his history in it, he’ll at least have to rearrange the whole room so that your portrait becomes the center of that universe. That could work. Or it could be the cover of his ultimate autobiography… but he’d have to make damn sure the content lived up to the cover.
Having said all that, he’s probably got it sussed. ‘Cause if he said you got it right, that means the guy IS greatness personified. ‘Cause that’s the impression this piece translates. Every detail works towards that end.
Truth is Barbara, even if your subjects aren’t great before you paint them… they sure as frick are when yer done.” :-)billyboy