Monday, 1 March 2010

Face values

How we see our selves and how others see us are two different things. That perception can sometimes make or break our lives and have a great impact on our self belief.

I recently completed the commission shown here for a friend. She had asked me if I could do a pencil portrait of her granddaughter from a small photograph. I usually only paint animals as they do not seem to have the insecurities we have. For many years I had found animals much easier to relate to than people.

The last portrait I did was a painting for my parents golden wedding anniversary. It was based on a treasured sepia photo of them both when they first met in their early twenties. Dad loved it, Mum hated it. I was not even a twinkle in their eye when it was taken. After my Mums severe critique I vowed never to attempt another portrait.

With convalescing and now my attempts to gain further work experience and hopefully a paid job I have not been able to paint since last July. A mixture of a lack of confidence, time, the cold in my studio(converted small bedroom) and my parents conservatory where I could use oils and feelings of guilt that I should be using my time more fruitfully had temporarily cut off my creativity. With a very exiting creative project producing murals, I have been asked to do at my local hospital, looming, I had to drive my butterflies away. If people ask me to help I always try to say yes and it felt nice to be asked. I offered to produce a sketch rather than a detailed portrait as I felt I lacked the skills to produce a professional portrait. I got some great advice from some artistic friends who specialize in graphite pencil work.

I used very thick water colour paper 638g Not rag paper from Paper works and Derwent water soluble Graphitone pencils light and medium pencils together with dark and very dark non soluble derwent graphitone. I was given the following useful tips by an expert graphite artist. You can use blue tack to lift many light unintentional marks on the paper. You can also use cotton wool pads to blend. Fabrino Aristico paper is supposed to be very good for pencil work. Faber-Castel Graphite pencils and or Grafwood Carndache pencils which are Swiss made and cost £1.99 each. For beginners Derwent Graphite approx £6 for a tin are a good starting kit.

Saturday I nervously arrived at my friend’s door to meet her and her daughter. As I walked in there was a young child who looked somehow familiar from the photo. I had never met the granddaughter or her Mum before. I was not 100% sure if it was the grand daughter I had just drawn or another member of the family. I had asked my friend tell her daughter to be totally honest and been assured by my friend that her daughter would certainly say if anything was wrong with the picture. The image in the photo was quite small but the child was clearly beautiful, absolutely perfect in her Mums eyes. The difficulty as an artist doing a portrait is to decide how honest you try to portray an image and how much you subtly change before it no longer captures that person’s uniqueness. Thankfully her Mum was thrilled and her daughter recognized herself immediately. The innocence of youth. Out of the mouth of babes. I was so relieved although my humble picture could never do her justice. Her name is in the title of // I love the cute mouse in the video.

Like many artists I am uncomfortable with pricing my work or knowing what to ask for a fee especially from friends. In the end I asked them to make a donation which I could use towards the materials for the murals task at the hospital. Afterwards my friend said I looked very anxious when I first arrived, which I was and so I explained the story I have written here. We were all happy with the outcome. They were happy with their gift, my creative confidence was restored and I had learned a lot more about myself and also artistically.

Today 2 years into my new life, two years on from my facial feminization surgery with my GRS healing well I shared a magical experience with my Mum at our doctors surgery. We had both arranged to have blood tests at consecutive times. The kind nurses had seen both of us in very different circumstances over the past few years. I had at my darkest hour suffering from a breakdown been carried in to see them totally broken, drugged up on prescribed anti depressants unable to function any more, tears flooding down my cheeks at my lowest. The strain of living a lie; feeling as though I had been sacrificing my life for my loved ones, who had been in denial for 11 years, too much for me, at a time when in truth I had not been ready to transition, until I sank to this point. Only recently my Mum had been so ill they would not let her leave the surgery until they helped her to breath properly. To see the smile back on my Mums face was priceless. Today we were in a different place.

Mums asthma is under control and her blood pressure lower than it has been for years. I have put on over a stone in weight since my surgery but thankfully I needed to and it has all gone mainly in the right places. My face is much less gaunt and the answer to "does my bum look too big in this?" is now approaching Yes lol but I am soooo much happier.

"You both look so well, so much better now" said the nurse which was sweet of her. "Debbie you look just like your Mum, your smile, your eyes, I have never thought of you as anyone other than Debbie, a female. You are in the right place in your life now".

My loved ones and I have all been across a mythical river that often threatened to sweep us away under a torrent of conflicting emotions. We are now on relatively dry land on the other side, enjoying the view while we can. Nicky has made a great song about waving from the other side a phrase created by a special friend. My thoughts are with a very dear friend, an inspirational dear friend whose friendship I value so much who is about to undertake FFS across the pond in America. She is in a place that used to have a well known TV series called Cheers

All of the challenges posed by FFS were for me very much worth it, I hope and pray Jo gets well soon and everybody knows her name for her wonderful kind compassionate many many talents.

Cheers to you Jo
May your FFS bring you everything you wish for.



Anji said...

As always a lovely inspiring post from you Debbie. Do you think that Jo realises how many of us there are behind her?

When I got the chance to draw a real live nude I didn't do very well until I found by box of sanguine crayons. The warmer colours and the texture just fit the subject.

I'm so pleased that your commission went well

Jo said...

It's a lovely picture Debbie :-)

And thanks for all your love and support...


Karen said...

It's a beautiful portrait and I'm glad it went well for you. I understand it can be a minefield doing someones potrait and it's great to hear it went well for you.

Lucy Melford said...

A portrait must be one of the hardests things for an artist to attempt. You have to capture the subtleties of expression and the character, and yet still produce something that the subject would like to have on their wall forever. Even famous painters can produce a portrait that displeases: such as Graham Sutherland's portrait of Winston Churchill, which was destroyed by Lady Churchill.

After the hospital mural, can we see Debbie the Portrait Artist? If you want practice, and a donation to your chosen organisation or charity, I for one would volunteer to sit for you!


NickyB (aka the CFG) said...

super work Debbie :-) xx

Anonymous said...

Its great to see you so happy and your mother so well.
You deserve it.

alan said...

Lovely portrait, Debbie! As is the one painted by your words further down...may spring bring you inspiration, commissions and smiles!


chrissie said...

Nice pic, hon!!


Anonymous said...

TAHNKS FOR YOUR SHARING~~~VERY NICE ........................................