A pretty portrait of a child is often only of interest to it’s family. I have tried to paint my daughter before but have never been fully satisfied with the results, technically or aesthetically. This is a painting of my daughter, Molly. I wanted something that was specifically her: capturing some part of her personality without being cloying or saccharine. This is the first image of her I’ve done that really reads for me. A gorgeous bundle of sweetness, imagination and imperiousness all rolled into a pink Disney dress on an Ikea throne.
It’s very hard for me to paint small children for one simple reason: they are out of proportion! I was schooled in proportion and anatomy before I could read. My mother is an artist and my earliest teacher. She taught me all the golden rules of anatomy for adults, not children. Kids are a whole different ballgame: their heads are to big, their faces are distorted… maddening, most of my attempts wind up looking like distorted adults.
I was once commissioned to paint two identical portraits of a toddler for a divorced couple living on either side of the Atlantic. I painted them simultaneously, side by side, measuring with calipers as I went along. They were identical in every regard but, for some reason which I couldn’t resolve, one captured the essence of the child while the other seemed lifeless. When I presented them to the father (who’d ordered them) he immediately pointed to the lively one and said “That one’s mine.” The other was shipped off to the UK. I hope the mother liked it, it only suffered when compared to it’s twin.
Molly thinks this painting looks mean. I had to promise her, and my wife, that I would paint a “pretty” picture of her in exchange for being allowed to finish this one.