Sunday, November 22, 2009


Keri is my new favorite sitter. She came to my studio this week to sit for a two hour head study for a painting I am doing of her. We chatted and painted. I found out about her life, after discovering her hostessing in a local restaurant, and she found out about mine.

We both took a risk on each other and thoroughly enjoyed our time together. She is smart and fun.

I love painting regular folk I discover on the street. They are so fascinated by being painted in a way that say a professional model is not because they have seen the process a million times by many different talented artists. The process seems almost magical to the newcomer it seems. Not so magical in my head though trying to talk and paint, be entertaining but also, do a good study. It is harder to paint a regular sitter than a paid model who sits stock-still and doesn't mind in the least if you don't chat. The point of portrait painting is to talk to the sitter while you paint I find. Catch a characteristic while their face is moving.

Most professional models bring a certain great energy to the room which is why they get paid. The best models are crazily booked up by all the art schools/artists around town. But a few models do not bring that energy. They have been working for years. Seen it all. They are bored, watch the clock, get on the model stand at the very last minute, and can be just plain difficult at times. This hurts, that hurts, the light is too bright, the music not right. I have witnessed this I hate to say in my teaching class over the last few years.

I know it is not an easy job, let me just say that, but I think a positive attitude is huge. A grumpy argumentative sitter (who is nevertheless being paid) is just a drain on the day. I always try to teach an upbeat class.

So back to the delight of painting someone who has never been painted from life. It reminds me also of why I like to do what I do.

Keri is indeed so very...I need to paint her more.


Rhonda Hartis Smith said...

Keri is so very very nice!

Laurel Alanna McBrine said...

Hi Johanna,

She looks like a lot of fun to paint - beautiful, great contrast between hair and skin and love the tiara!

Your idea of painting people you find on the street is brilliant. I hope you don't mind my asking, but I was wondering whether you pay her, same as a professional model, or do you compensate her with a painting? Do you approach an interesting person and say you would like to paint their portrait? Do you tell them that you will pay them to sit for you or mention any other consideration? I am curious to know how you make these arrangements.

Thanks for sharing!

Portrait Painting By Johanna Spinks said...

Hi Laurel:

Thanks for your interesting question. This is what I do if someone interests me. I approach them, give them my card, and give them the opportunity to visit my website to see if they like what I do. Tell them to email me if they do. I don't pay them. Sometimes I give them the painting but not before I have kept it for a while to study and see what I could have done better. Always offer a photo though. And make sure I make the experience of beign painted fun for them too. Coffee, tea and cake, maybe a bit of lunch. Talk about what I am doing while I am painting. Talk about them, their lives. Why they interested me.

So far I have found people very receptive to the whole process which is really rather lovely. Just spending an afternoon together, getting to know each other through paint.

However, as I mentioned in the post, it is a little bit harder than just paying someone to sit still for you. Because you are mindful that you want to do a good job/ likeness of them and also be somewhat entertaining and welcoming.