Channeling My Subjects
I’m Starting to Think Maybe I Do…
I’ve often been asked if I’m channeling my subjects when I’m working on a portrait because it seems that I manage to capture a bit of their souls. I never really thought about it and often, the question amused me. I never did take it seriously though until the past few years.
It’s not unusual for artists to work on projects that come with ease and others that are like pulling teeth. Some projects are just like that. I never really considered that it might be a matter of some kind of spiritual connection with the fur babies that I draw. Recently however, I thought that maybe I really am channeling my subjects. Now before I lose you all thinking, oh no! There she goes. She’s getting all woo-woo airy-fairy on us! Hear me out.
When I turn a finished drawing over, I don’t ever mention that their pet’s portrait was agonizingly painful to draw, like pulling teeth, chasing shadows, etc. I figure that would be kind of rude. It isn’t until afterwards that the recipient tells me that their beloved pet was particular to only being affectionate with them and nobody else, but that I managed to capture them perfectly. Others that are super easy and seem to just flow from the tips of my pencils are super affectionate with everyone and anyone who is willing to give them attention.
But, seriously? Channeling my subjects?? It didn’t really become more obvious to me than when I did the portraits of my roommate’s three cats. It was one cat a year as a birthday present. So it wasn’t until I completed the third portrait that I realized that the ease or difficulty that I had with each really did correspond to their individual personalities. Two of them, the two Burmese cats, flowed. As is typical of the breed, they are very friendly and almost dog-like in nature. It was almost as if they couldn’t wait to jump onto the paper. Me, me, me! Pet me! Love me! Here I am, here I am, here I am!
The pretty silver tabby on the other hand, was the complete opposite. Her portrait was rather difficult. It was elusive, shy, and timid, just like she is. It’s odd, too, considering that the photo I had to work from is absolutely gorgeous. So much so, that I couldn’t wait to get started. But once I did, it was a real struggle. For the majority of the day, she hides upstairs in her mama’s room. She comes downstairs to eat, but generally makes a beeline right back upstairs when she’s done. And just as she needs to be coaxed into coming close enough for you to pet her, so too did her drawing need to be coaxed into being.
It wasn’t until all three portraits were up on the dining room walls and I sat there reflecting on the experience of drawing each one, that it struck me how similar each one was to their personalities. Coincidence? I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not. If so, it’s a rather long string of coincidences of all the portraits I’ve done over the years. I don’t personally know the majority of the pets that I draw. So, who knows? Maybe there’s something to it…