51 Oil portraits from life: Community Remains part 3, the intuitive slow art of seeing
by Talya Johnson
One of the reasons realistic portrait painting is challenging, particularly in our age dominated by photographic imagery, is that there is very little room for error, or even interpretation, when capturing likeness of a specific human being. If an eye painted a millimeter too large or small, or a nose is missing a certain bump or specific slope, the entire image can unravel into a portrait of someone else. A simple selfie provides the sitter and viewers a far more precise and culturally "reliable" representation of my subject. However, "likeness . . . is certainly a different thing from what a photograph gives, which may or may not present a very true sense of the subject" points out Oregon artist George Johanson in his book Equivalents, Portraits of 80 Oregon Artists. "One's physical image seems changeable . . . The closer and more carefully one looks, the more the face changes from one viewing to the next" (11).