Charcoal drawing of Shivdev
I was falling asleep to a David Leffel video last night (I kid David–I love him), and in my state of half awareness, I recall him droning about what kind of person strikes your fancy as someone you would like to paint. He said you may like someone with deep set eyes or not, his point being — well I’m not sure but bear with me here. David himself is lucky in that he is a great subject, and gets to do wonderful self portraits. I am not a great subject and it pisses me off. I wish I looked like David. But I cannot put a Rembrandt beret on my head and a palette in my hand and pull it off. Just doesn’t work for me. I have a pretty good right bicep, but I am right handed and would have trouble posing that gun and an arm does not a portrait make.
Great models are not necessarily beautiful people though sometimes they do make great subjects. It could be a Smokey Mountain inbred that strikes your fancy. It could be a Russian bathroom attendant (yes, I asked one to pose for me right there in a Moscow bathroom once. I think she thought I was a little crazy or the KGB or something with all the pictures I was taking). Or it could just be someone with a great hat (see above). Shivdev qualified on two fronts because he has a great face of hair as well. Robert Henri obviously liked a young boy with horribly bucked teeth. Different strokes for different folks takes on literal meaning. I think that’s what David was saying. It just took him about 20 minutes to say it. I should offer to be his interpreter on his next painting video.