Atelier · March 9, 2007

Friday in the atelier: “Hope” by Paul W. McCormack

Paul W. McCormack is a “living master”. Born in New Jersey in 1962 he received formal art training at the DuCret School of the Arts.

Long ago, traditional portrait painters had big studios with lots of windows to let in the right quality and quantity of light, they had places to pose their subjects in this natural light, and they worked in sessions until they had enough detail to finish the painting without further need of the model. A painter might paint “on location”, but only if the conditions were right. Technology seems to have changed that.

Mr. McCormack’s technique, according to his website, is to paint the subject in his or her own “personal surroundings”. He uses photography to help him find the best composition, although he may also add pencil sketches color studies. He then takes the photos and other material back to his studio to create his painting.

Years ago, when I first saw an artist use a photograph as a reference, I thought this was some form of cheating – but I know better now. This isn’t an example of David Hockney’s “Camera Obscura” where the painter essentially traces a projected image. This is more like a permanent copy of a sitting model in the desired pose, a pose where the artist does not have to worry about losing the lighting as the day ages. And in today’s busy world who has the time to sit as a model for a portrait?

The two paintings I’m displaying here (cropped details, click on the painting to see the originals) are both watercolors of the same subject, Mr. McCormack’s favorite model, his wife Karen. The first painting is titled, “Hope” and the second is titled “Expectations.”

McCormack has this to say about his wife as the subject of his paintings:

For the past fifteen years, with the exception of my commissioned portraits, I have chosen to focus on painting one model. She is my love and the mother of my son. “Expectations” and “Hope” are portraits which unveil the intimacy of a husband and wife, of artist and model.

I love the painting “Hope”, the details jump out at me; and the subject seems preoccupied with some small worry – I can’t help but feel there must be something I can do to help.

Paul McCormack’s website contains the details of his history and awards in a much better format than I can present here. Treat yourself to his online gallery, it is well worth your time.