In Reference To Van Gogh

Just thought I’d share my final color project at OCAD. We had to choose a famous piece from a famous artist and make direct references to that painting, while making our piece respond to a piece of text or quote of our choosing. I decided to go with Van Gogh’s Portrait of Madame Trabuc and the quote:

I don’t paint a portrait to look like the subject, rather does the subject grow to look like himself.” – Salvador Dali

Basically, I asked a friend to sit in as a model while I painted directly onto her face. I wanted to experiment what it was like to translate three-dimensionality into two-dimensionality on a three-dimensional plane. It responds to the quote because at first glance, it seems like I’m just mimicking the color palette and expression/pose of Van Gogh’s portrait, but in fact, there are several little details that make my subject her own person.

Van Gogh painted Madame Jeanne Lafuye Trabuc’s green dress with controlled, evenly spaced brush strokes to represent her strict and solemn disposition. My friend, however, being outgoing and full of optimistic life was painted using quick “alive” strokes. I also used more highlights in the face and hair to add a youthful vibrance, and replaced the flower brooch with a metal necklace to symbolize her urban lifestyle. I also explored some other areas such as Van Gogh’s painting having pink undertones (hence the pink shirt), and both subjects being of Spanish descent.

It was an interesting way to end the color explorations term!


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