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I started doing portraits early on. I find them very difficult. On the one hand, if you were to take a photo of someone and "pixellise it" in your head, and paint every single pixel faithfully, you will be able to get a very realistic portrait. So part of it is faithfulness of reproduction. But then you look at famous portraits, and you find that the people drawn have very "faithful features" while having very inplausible forms and proportions. To paint a good portrait, you need to identify the essence in terms of distinctive features and draw those faithfully, not in terms of dimensions or proportions, but in terms of how they differ from the norm. Of course, good caricaturists are great at that. They get the essence of a face or an expression with a couple of strokes. I find myself sometimes staring at people with striking faces, in public places, and studying their features to identify the distinctive ones. I think I am getting better at recognizing the distinctive features of the more striking/"abnormal" faces, but average looking and pretty faces are still very hard for me to analyze. Personally, I would not be able to be looked at the way I look at people in the metro or the bus. I wish I could snap pictures and practice at home. A drawing teacher told me that she does drafts during her metro rides. She must be quick, or take long rides, because I can possibly get anywhere, drawing wise, on any of my usual itineraries. Anyway. Practice, practice! But portraits are exhausting, especially when I am drawing family members, because of the emotional baggage around it. I think I have made "some" fairly limited progress, but I still have lots to learn. Practice, practice, practice.


as my office colleague called him, which is an endearing term meaning "coquin", or mischievous. From a picture taken in his daycare center. Technically, I cannot say that this is a good portrait. The eyes are too big, and there is little relief. But his face--and personality!--has character to spare, so he is relatively easy to paint.



Isabelle is an incredibly pretty attendant at a ski station where my better half and I took the kids for a class during the winter break of 2012. I asked her if I could take a picture of her, and she accepted. This was done from the picture. Unfortunately, the picture did not do justice to Isabelle in real life, and this portrait did not do justice to the picture. But trust me, she is very pretty!



A friend of mine (François) sent me a picture of his daughter Charlotte, who was about three years old back then. A very pretty young girl, with lots of character--as far as I can tell from the picture: the bright (green eyes), the curly hair, and the provocative smile. For this painting, I tried a "new technique". Instead of laying the colours one by one, from the lightest to the darkest colour--something you have to do with watercolour because of its transparency--I decided to start by laying the darkest colour first, and then "wash out" spots for the lighter colours. This technique provides much smoother transitions between colour zones, and provides me with more control--and more room for error/corrections. However, this technique does not yield high contrasts. Which is OK if you are a true watercolour painter, which I am not :-)



Wow. Now we are getting into deep stuff. A portrait of my father, mostly from a "recent" picture (a few years). There isn't really much to read into it. Whichever character the painting has is not a result of deep something coming out in the painting. It is mostly the consequence of good or bad drawing strokes. But let us just say that my father has a couple of characteristics that make him "easy" to paint in a distinguishable way: 1) eye glasses, 2) his very personal way of wearing his "kabbous", i.e. the Tunisian hat (a contraption of Turkish origin), and 3) some very characteristic wrinkles, specially in his neck and under his chin. One of my siblings said that he looked sad. That was not the intent. His eyes are probably too big--a typical beginner's mistake. And he is made to look more chubby that he was (he was chubby in his youth, when he was diagnosed with blood pressure in his late forties/early fifties, got disciplined about his eating habits in ways that only he could, and lost quite a bit of weight).



This is from a picture of my mother as a young wife, holding my oldest brother in her arms, facing the camera, but looking sideways to someone who was saying or doing something unpleasant or menacing. Unfortunately, it is an old amateur black and white, and poor resolution picture. My mother is (still) very pretty (no surprise there), with nice, well-proportioned features. She has no big nose, nor droopy eyes, nor pointy chin. Actually, today many have remarked that she looks like (better than) the Queen of England, especially with the white wavy hair.  When I become good at it, I will do a portrait of my mother this day and age.

PS: you would have to understand arabic to get the wordplay.



My better half, as a toddler, held by her father (RIP), in a cottage somewhere in the vicinity of the capital Tunis. I thought it looked pretty good/plausible, but the "concerned parties" didn't share my assessment. Oh well :-)


Based on a backlit picture taken in July 2017. Of course, she is prettier than that :-). I have other better lit pictures, but they are from too far.

Haroun au crayon


From a picture taken in July 2017


From a picture taken in July 2017. Was taken a siesta pn a bench in Pérouge (about an hour east of Lyon), on a surprisingly hot July day. Started a first version with colour nuances and the like, and then decided to go for two tones per colour: one for sunlight, and one for shade. I remember seeing this style somewhere, and Hopes, who is a designer by training, and an amateur painter in her own  right, gave the name of the painter, which I forgot, of course. But the background is artificial..

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