The Making of a Portrait

For years I have collected impressions of faces in my memory banks. Always redirected through outside influences and my studies about art and architecture, I have used only iconographic designs of certain faces that had left a more durable imprint on my mind and soul. One of the first portraits I had undertaken in my teens, was an interpretation of a sculpture from ‘Madonna with child’. I rendered it with a brown and black pencil on paper. When I was satisfied with its perfection and the expression of a demure woman who loves her child, I prepared it as X-mas present for my Mom. I recall that she was taken by the drawing and it moved her telling me that I had succeeded in expressing the emotion of mother to child. Perhaps I had a great longing of being loved by my mother like that, being on my own locked into the grey walls of a distant boarding school.

Sitting on a bench in a garden with a pergola overgrown with wine leaves, I sip on a glass of red wine and muse about a woman. She is an exceptional woman, somebody I have been referred to from my orthopedic doctor, who recommended me to have my hip joint operated on. The first impression I had was positive. She had a pleasant aura and I admired her lioness-styled hair. I felt that I knew her and that I had met her somewhere in my life before. Then my thoughts returned to conducting a life of an artist. Indeed, Imre Kertesz wrote about the writer as an artist and I recall his autobiography. I could relate to him quite well, as I felt similar and harboured similar thoughts before I came across his writings before he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. I read all the books that were translated into English or German, as books in Hungarian were not available in South Africa or Austria, besides my Hungarian was not of an average standard. Then I remembered that Imre wrote about a woman who fascinated him and they talked for a long time until they talked themselves into bed. Now then I thought, I might be not such a great talker, but a good drawer and painter and I might draw and paint myself into the heart of a woman I fell in love with. But was that love for that woman, or was it only reaching back to my teenage years, when I was craving for sensual love? Probably this strong feeling of the need of love had followed me all my life and still follows me. Now, before I criticize myself too harshly, there is definitive a woman of high skills and good standing in the community, who has changed my life by operating successfully on me. Besides I have, as an artist, learned to live life as a human and an artist, two roles that change at times at the drop of a hat. So, while I have great respect for the surgeon’s skills and profession, I was drawn toward the feminine side of Dr S. Her dusky and expressive eyes have settled deep within me. I have originally not admitted my brain to censor my feelings of being attracted to her, but then gradually, as I started to think about her portrait for a painting, my feelings of sympathy not only came forward but seemed to grow in me more and more. So, sympathy fused with the senses and I knew that these feelings were more than just sympathy for her.

At the third post-operative visit, I had completed a painting I considered to be an interesting work in the genre of portrait art. Yet, I had studied her face solely from a small photograph I had discovered on the Internet. I had enlarged it on my word program and printed copies of it. Then I had the good fortune that my first pencil sketch was a good representation of her appearance. But as I drew her face that way on the watercolour paper it became idolized and beautified far too much, representing her rather as a younger woman than the one she was in her late fourties, or early fifties, I guessed. However, with another addition of her face shown upside down, I was perhaps indicating my inability to show her typical facial expression as is. Besides my mind had been on love and my being attracted to her. I drew the nude of a young man who showed off the hip joint prosthesis on his operated left side and also added the one to the right side. Was it anticipation that she would do that? Indeed, as it happened a year later also successfully. I recall that she looked at the portrait for some time and then said: “I like the colours.” I pointed to the symbolic content of the painting, but it seemed that only I could see.

However, this is the artist’s crux, to show enough skills for a portrait that the portrayed person will be recognizable, yet to integrate it into the creative process that will destroy it to such an extent that it will be repulsive for an aesthetically minded person. Of course, I had her chosen for being my next Muse but may never have an opportunity to get a session with her in person. So all I hope for is to develop the portrait photograph, I also received from her on a calling card, into a face she’ll accept as hers, whereby overlaying my own creative style. How will I do that? No idea. Having mused about various ways, I have eventually discarded all upcoming ideas. Now, what’s the way forward?

To exercise ones new found health with two such fantastic hip joint prosthesis, there is new fitness with keeping walking, walking. Right, so by finding a new way of presenting her portrait with my own style, it’ll mean: drawing, drawing. Eventually, the artist in me will get into the groove and along the way, a new style of drawing will emerge that satisfies the artistic discovery. It’s the only way to go forward in one’s artistic endeavours. The mere idea of being able to awake the artistic groove is exciting, and I compare it with a meditation awakening one’s kundalini. Everybody can arrive at such higher ground, but it will take years of tenacity doing it. Like athletics, any sporting excellence, like making love. In this sense of a Sunday’s good mood, I’ll take up to carry on with my task of a pencil drawing, I wish to complete today, which promises to carry the main features of my Muse and through which I intend to work on various layers of colour to arrive at depicting her character traits. Or will it stay a pencil drawing? I do not know yet.

Writing some of my latest journal poems up on my ageing laptop, where the letters O and C have disassembled from the keyboard (besides already once fixed on the lit up keyboard and paid for), I had drawn with a Cretecolour Monolith 9B, 20409 Austria – the face of Dr S. It has inspired me tonight to add a third face with a red BIC ballpoint pen. Already had I added before a blue face slightly on top of the charcoal face, this morning, when sipping an espresso at Anker. There you are! I thought. The answer how to present Dr S’ portrait so she is still recognizable with the added in layers of her personality exploded in the colours red and blue. Her shadows. Representing her emotional being and her soul. WOW! In watercolor. Why did I not think about this earlier, as I had already four years back experimented with this idea? Only then did I look up at a specific watercolor pinned to the wall I had done in 2014, where I had come across this idea of fusing personality traits in a portrait. But there were four faces, splitting up perhaps four different Muses? Tomorrow I need to travel to ‘boesner’ in Simmering and buy some decent paper of excellent quality. Personality.ytilanosreP. INSPIRATION.NOITARIPSNI

How the Poet in me likes to experiment with mirrored writing. I think that I have the answer somewhere deep inside me, living together with my spouse, who considers herself independent and wishing to be a designer in her own right. I wish her good luck although she is all over me with her verbal monologues that castigate my being a highly creative being. An artist and a poet, I call the Poet in my journal poetry to refer to this being in me. As B wouldn’t understand my life with wearing two hats, at times a third one, helping friends, she is confused and often mirrors her personality through me as being the bad person, the one she is angry with and hassles with, until I have to withdraw. That she reads as a sign of my weakness, ‘not to sort out my married life’, as she calls it. Well, I have discussed with her already ten or more years that we are both creative people and like magnets have once attracted each other to end up destroying each other’s outer layers of creativity. Yet there are still layers left and some have recovered like the little grey cells of the human brain. So a naturally creative person cannot be kept suppressed, nor will he or she ever lose that innermost sense of creative want that is part of a wonderful gene, we have inherited from our parents.