November 25, 2008

What's Done Cannot be Undone
This is the title of my forthcoming painting of Sarah Bernhardt as Lady Macbeth, my most annoying and difficult painting to date (at least in this actress project).

Everyone has a vague idea of what Berhardt looked like from all the posters by Alphonse Mucha, but I'm here to tell you: everyone is wrong.

Sarah Bernhardt has a big nose, an overbite, eyes spaced wide apart and frizzy hair combed into a myriad of different combinations. I know this because I've looked at a jillion (yes, a jillion is a lot) pictures of her. I've been working (unsuccessfully) on a portrait of her as Lady Macbeth for the past several months, and last evening, I simply painted her out of the picture. Back to square one.

I had photographed my model reference using a low, creepy light source (footlights), and try as I might, I could not get the model to resemble the Divine Sarah. Her features are just too unusual for me to replicate into a normal looking person with that bizarre lighting. So it's back to the drawing board. I'm going to use my second choice reference photo, and--this is the important part--I've found a photo of Sarah's face that matches the reference almost exactly.

After piddling with it for three months, I hate to start over at this late date, but there it is. Apparently what's done actually can be undone.


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