I must have painted hundreds of portraits but the person I have used the most is me. Self analysis? The always available model? I still have my collection of self portraits, my gallery of Dorian Gray. They date from the immature art student trying to understand her own face, to many later portraits of the artist in her studio. I observe as a stranger the slow passage of time. Then later I see this much older face. A stranger with lines and grey hair. Someone I hardly recognize. I place her in an exotic surrounding, with a falcon on her arm. Know thyself? Perhaps I am avoiding just this.
A painting is never a photograph, and never tries to be one. It is a series of images one placed over the other which is part of the process of creating a painting. A good portrait is more than just a likeness. One sitter told me it was like psychoanalysis, and another said she was nearly unbelieving in what she saw in her own face. For we are no longer seeing ourselves as mirror image. And of course a portrait reveals as much about the subject as it does about the artist. It becomes a meeting of minds.
In the course of painting a portrait, and usually I need at least four sessions, it is as if various barriers are crossed.Things are felt between artist and sitter which are never said in words. The relationship can become nearly intimate. There is a strange tension between us. We are both. both artist and model, searching for the secret which will unlock the door.
When in retrospect I look again at one of my portraits I see my subject unchanged from the day it was painted, But one should always ask oneself the ultimate question, ‘This portrait, is it a good painting?’