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Taking Liberties with Portraiture

Colors Add the Charm

By: Tamara Pavich
Updated January 05, 2022
Taking Liberties with Portraiture

Over time, I noticed the work of Laura Pierce, Diane Phillips, April DeConick, Brigitta Phy, Deanne Fitzpatrick, and others, who were hooking rugs with elements of realism, but who broke with convention and infused something else— we might call it the artist’s unique style, her imagination, her impression. As I considered their works, I learned not to expect a photographic subject or scene, but rather to accept and enjoy these pieces on their own interesting terms.
Part of my difficulty when attempting realistic portraits was flesh color, which might be too pink or too taupe, too bright or too flat. Creating accurate features, proportions, and colors just gave me too many variables to control. But I’ve found that taking liberties with color and allowing value to do the heavy lifting puts color in a more helpful role. I found that blue, purple, and green shading succeeded in creating the likeness at least as well as my not-quite-right skin tones. Suddenly all the colors—including the flesh colors I included—were happily off the hook in terms of realistic accuracy, because value was responsible for that accuracy. These colors infused energy and brought the subject to life in a new way.

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