I’m often asked why I do portraits—because I love to share stories. Indeed, I consider portraiture a form of biography. Instead of using words and sentences, through line and tonality, I communicate an intimate visual accumulation of who my model is. I don’t write a paragraph about eyes, I show the eyes. I draw the jaw line as angular or round. I develop shadows and mid tones to convey depth. Time and life experiences work sculpt our faces and I love to depict this phenomenal onto paper with my pencils.
Since childhood, I’ve had an obsession with people. I want to know their stories. How did they get here? Why are they young-looking or why do they show more years than the summers they’d lived? Drawing them explores this. The conversations that happen while the model sits reveals more and serves as spices for my portrait.
Blanton posed in April of this year at my studio when I lived in Fresno, CA. We met at the Figarden Starbucks and quickly struck a friendship. He shared stories of his basketball days at Marquette University in the 60s. He was the star point guard. In addition to basketball, he stood up against racism–an act that hindered his marketability into the NBA. Disillusioned with the politics of the sport, Blanton went on to have a successful career in a different field. For years he worked in television in Seattle. Now, he’s retired and moved to Fresno to be closer to family. He has founded the Flight Club program in Fresno. It provides basketball training, leadership skills and emotional support to underprivileged youth. Last year, Blanton was inducted into the Marquette University Basketball Hall of Fame.
Indeed, I enjoyed our conversation during the portrait session. It was sprinkled with trumpet solos by Miles Davis on the iPod. I really like Blanton’s pose. To me, his eyes convey the traces of a long and committed life. I worked in pastel on tinted Canson paper.
Please feel free to share your impressions of Blanton’s portrait. I’m happy to respond to your questions, too. If you draw or paint, please share with us your experiences with doing portraits.