Love Them Extra Because They're Weird

I own up to the fact that I am drawn to the portraits artist Jenny Morgan creates because they are unconventional. Yet they capture qualities of the human face and our other human qualities in ways that read very true and lifelike. I like them because they are different, but not just because they are different.

Merging the Phantom by Jenny Morgan, oil on canvas, 42 x 32, 2012.
Merging the Phantom by Jenny Morgan,
oil on canvas, 42 x 32, 2012.

When learning how to draw faces, there is a lot of rote visual information to take care of–two eyes, one nose, one mouth. Yes, each face is different, but the nuts and bolts of the work are the same. This can sometimes standardize the way we work. Maybe you've seen this. Taking a portrait class, everyone's works can look the same. And this makes absolute sense in a class setting. But individual artists need to discover their own way of drawing faces and painting the human figure that is theirs and theirs alone. Morgan has, and she doesn't let the baseline of similarity implicit in all portraits (two eyes, one nose, one mouth) prevent her from articulating things through the human face in new ways.

Bunny by Jenny Morgan, oil on canvas, 37 x 32, 2012.
Bunny by Jenny Morgan, oil on canvas,
37 x 32, 2012.

She uses color, shadows, angles and a collage effect of images (a profile versus a frontal portrait, for example) to create moments that are psychologically intense and visually stunning. To do this in a genre of painting that has been around for centuries, such as portrait drawing, I consider to be even more impressive.

If you've found the person or model who makes you want to start drawing faces but you want to make sure you do your subject justice with strong skills and sensitivity, Expressive Portraits: Watercolor and Mixed Media Techniques will give you the instruction you need with demonstrations in watercolor, pencil, pastel, and more, including information on using brushwork techniques and layering to give each face you draw liveliness and spirit. Enjoy!

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Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.   

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