With those thoughts in mind, I wasn't sure how to start my first venture into the series. I contemplated bringing in some good friends to keep the mood relaxed; I thought about starting with a portrait of my wife since we're together all the time anyway; I considered a self-portrait; I even played with the idea of using an image of someone I didn't know...but life got involved and figured it out for me.
The first one up carries quite a bit of weight, somewhat in contrast to the entire idea that I didn't have a true "purpose" for this series other than exploration of a format I've never really explored before. I never sought to make a memorial or infuse this series with intense emotions, but recently my older cousin died unexpectedly and it seemed like life was presenting me with a situation to which I could contribute in the best way I know how. I wasn't best friends with this cousin by any means, but my very large family has mostly kept close enough, and my cousins always will hold a special place in my heart and life, especially through memories growing up at our grandma's cottage on the Mississippi.
It's a bit unexpected to start the series with a subject carrying the weight of a recent tragedy, but also comforting for me, as it presents a way to address the situation that seems more organic than a text or letter. Painting has always been my respite, and it makes sense I'd return to it in times of trouble.
This painting is still in progress. Updates to come. ----- If you'd like to get involved with the portrait series or commission one for yourself, send me an email or find me on instagram @dflemingpainting
As I've explained before, I don't typically start a painting with too specific a plan and almost never with an actual person in mind to depict. The idea of a portrait series is intriguing and exciting if a little anxiety inducing, but I've played with the idea for a long time.
Not that I intend for these portraits to be ultra realistic, or even necessarily all that representational, but painting an actual person comes with pressures that doing whatever I want does not. Actual people carry baggage with them. People care about other people and can connect with a portrait even if they don't know the sitter. People care about themselves, and even though I don't feel pressured to have any lofty goal with this project I do want the sitter and viewer to come away with a positive experience. Even if I don't intend for the portrait to be a literal representation, I ultimately want the result to be something viewers, the sitter, and I appreciate and want to look at. I'm not trying to paint someone's graduation photo, but I don't want them to leave feeling disheartened or ashamed of a portrait inspired by them.