Monday, August 2, 2010

Drawing from the Past - Sorolla's Beach Paintings

One can't be a classical artist without looking frequently to the past for inspiration. We all have our favorites, and most any portrait artist will tell you they worship the likes of J.W. Waterhouse, William Bouguereau, Anders Zorn, and of course J.S. Sargent... if you want me to talk about my favorites and which ones have shaped my painting style, that's a subject for another post. But I do want to mention one particular artist whose work has helped me with some of the challenges in my current portrait commission.

Spanish artist Joaquin Sorolla (1863-1923) is perhaps best known for his renditions of fishermen, sailors, and bathers on the beaches of Valencia. His sunlit whites are usually drenched in color so bright and convincing that you squint as though you are right there on the beach. Sorolla's renditions of naked young children playing in the water look so slippery and wet you can almost feel the salt water on your skin, and you find yourself thinking about moments from your own childhood when you played so long at the beach that you had sand covering every inch of you. This is the convincing and powerful nature of Sorolla's work. I've been studying his beach paintings to help understand the qualities of light and water which I've just mentioned, for a family portrait I've been working on. First, here are a few samples of Sorolla's work:

Finally, here are a couple detail shots of what I'm working on, a portrait of a family of three. They wanted a bright, happy portrait on the beach - it was their 2-year-old son's first time seeing the ocean. You can see I wasn't quite as bold in my highlights as Sorolla, but the family wasn't immersed in the water, either. :-) Still, I had a wonderful time capturing all the color in the lights of their clothing and the glow of their skin.

I will post a picture of the finished painting once it's been delivered to the client.

Family Beach Portrait Detail

Family Beach Portrait Detail 2


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