5x7 inches, watercolor on paper
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Working from a reference inevitably raises the question of how closely I intend to (try to) match the source; or, put the other way 'round, how willing am I to allow surprise and inspiration a voice as I respond to my reference material?
I put this question to myself by recognizing that there is an inevitable point where I'll have to switch focus from the source to the work, to drop the original challenge and take up whatever new ones the work is forcing upon me as I struggle to make it as good as possible in its own right. It's the point where the work becomes my own, there's no avoiding it, and the only question is when I'll make the switch: Early on, mid-way, or at the last possible moment?
With my "eye" reference material—currently drawn from old photos and art history—I'm going for "as close as possible, but open…" I'm in it for the challenge, to see how accurately I can capture the range of values I see, how vividly I can define the forms, and how effectively I can force watercolors to mimic photos and oil paintings. But open enough, for example, to allow a hint of imagined color into this B&W subject's glowing eyes.
It must be said that I come to my "eye" studies knowing that I seem not to have the gift of catching a likeness; all my previous efforts in that cause have only deepened the mystery, and increased my admiration for those who can do it. Instead, I always wonder who I'll be meeting, from what alternate universe, when my work is done.