A couple days ago I had the great pleasure of seeing the Michelangelo show at the Metropolitan Museum with my artist friend Margie Ball and about two thousand other people. Entering the show was like entering a conga dance that snaked around each masterpiece. I lost Margie in the mob, but found the portrait Andrea Quaratesi. This exquisitely sensitive drawing is in contrast with the bold strength of Michelangelo’s other works.
Clearly Quaratesi was a special person to the Master. According to Vasari*, Michelangelo said that drawings, such as this one, “were carried out for love rather than duty.”
I have noticed that love can come from “duty” (such as a commission), as well. Most of the time during the act of painting I fall in love. It seems to have something to do with concentrated observation and is a wonderful perk of the job that I don’t often mention. While I’m painting, I look to my subject for guidance. What color, shape, value, texture and composition is it offering me? During that time I begin to feel the essence of the place or thing. Hopefully that essence translates into the painting. I don’t know how that happens, but I do know that when it does it feels like love.
Sometimes you paint something because you love it and sometimes you love something because you paint it.
This pet portrait was the latter
And this Dress was the former
Then there is Narragansett Bay, which perfectly dovetails both.
So pay attention! As John Tarrant said, “Attention is the most basic form of love, though it we bless and are blessed.”
Happy Valentines Day!
*Vasari , born in 1511 was an Italian painter, architect, writer and historian. He was Michelangelo’s first biographer.