Exploring Portraiture

I’ve been fascinated by faces ever since I can remember, seeing beauty in every face including in those that are not considered conventionally beautiful by a culture.  My first memories of drawing portraits are from eighth grade in a summer hobby art class in India where I was born and raised. Since then, I’ve been fascinated by portraiture while also daunted by it given the masterpieces that abound throughout history and culture. I drew portraits in watercolor and oil paints while still in grade school. A few years ago, many years after I had immigrated to the United States, I returned to the art using pastels in a Split Rock Art workshop (a fantastic program that was offered over the summer by the University Minnesota till it ran out of funding a few years ago) learning from the master artist and stellar portrait painter, Gaela Irwin, who has a studio in Kentucky. You can find more about Irwin’s incredible work here.

More recently, I’ve been exploring the medium of sumi-e ink on paper using a bamboo brush, a new medium for me whose immediacy I love. This work is displayed in the private Docent and Guide lounge of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (where I volunteer as a Collection-in-Focus Guide) through the end of December 2015. In my portraits I try to capture the spirit of the people I am portraying, and the moment in time. People are infinitely more than their portraits but who are they really – that is the question a portrait presents us with and tries to answer. Often the subjects of my portraits are my sons, Madhav (16 years) and, Keshav (10 years) when I can catch them in a quiet moment, reading, or absorbed in one of those ubiquitous electronic gadgets that have taken over their/our lives. I am also fascinated by images of beautiful women, in fashion magazines and elsewhere. Who are they, behind their facades that are presented for our appreciation and enjoyment? It is hard to tell but the answer is probably hidden in plain sight and I want to find out.

I came across the following quote in artist/illustrator Barry Moser’s book ‘One Hundred Portraits’ (see more of Moser’s outstanding work in black and white is here): ‘Every man’s work, whether it be literature or music or pictures or architecture or anything else, is always a portrait of himself.’Samuel Butler, The Way of All Flesh. All our work, then, is an exploration of ourselves. The journey continues…

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