Recent Portraits



Several years ago, I came to terms with the fact that I needed to step up my portraiture game. It was years since I knocked out a striking likeness and I was way out of practice.

Diving into the deep end of the pool, I sent out a mass email to people who were captivating.The criteria to be asked to be a subject was simple:  when I first met the person, did I think,  “OMG I would love to paint their portrait.”

The execution of this series was challenging for me because I needed to develop a reliable, reproducible strategy. So much of painting (and really all arts) is proportion. How, when engaged in a painting, could I ground myself when I knew the proportions were going astray?

Of course, the answer was Geometry. I set out to formulate a hypothesis and work the problem.  If I could have consistency in my process – If I could reliably return to a plumb / centered state, then I would be able to conquer my fears. But not a patriarchal, grid system. I needed something organic and forgiving.

The Masterpiece of the show is “Six Citizens”.  The creation of was the test of my hypothesis: Could I create a series of similar portraits that could hang together as a unit and stand alone as individuals? Could I depict different people and have verification about their identity?

Along the way I made many studies. Painted Cleta 5 or 6 times. Wiped out Belinda – and painted her again.

Other than the grisaille rendering and a traversing quatrefoil, the common element that each portrait shares is the distance from the third-eye to the bottom of their nose. The scale of the skull was rendered with respect to this same linear measurement using a geometrical algorithm employing the vesica piscis.

Happily, I found a simple, elegant, definable, reproducible formula to ground my reckless activity of art-making.

John Zavocki, March 2018

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