Tuesday, 5 March 2013

8 Reasons To Enjoy Painting Portraits

When I was in art school (I went to Mount Allison University, in New Brunswick) I painted a lot of industrial subject matter and things that were dark, and used lots of browns and greys in my work.

During one of my painting critiques in second...or third year, I cant remember exactly which, I had a classmate remark that I need to use more colour. At the same time, our painting professor was encouraging us to make a painting a week. He said we had to consistently deliver, and to push ourselves. 

I got into a habit of working quickly with colour and doing colour sketches on cardboard. I shifted that into a project where I would paint 50 portraits of people I knew in 50 days..so that I would (hopefully) begin to work very quickly and looser with my paint applications.

I painted a lot of my friends in this time. I took a lot of photos and worked from those as reference. I like this because each one has a story behind it. More stuff at www.jonshawpaintings.com

This is my friend Mike. We used to work together at the Keg restaurant in St.Catharines where I grew up. One time we came home from the bar to crash at my house, but my parents have really loud dogs so instead of risking waking them up he crashed in the back seat of my old car. My dad asked in the morning if I knew that there was a person in the back of my car. It was an odd talk because it was 7am and I was really hungover.

My buddy Hal. This friend is an exceptional artist and we used to jam on drawing back home all the time. He backpacked south through South America and is one of the more travelled, interesting artist friends I know. 

I went to art school with my friend Jessie. She always had this amazing ability to paint bright, vibrant works with minimal brushwork. I always envied her marks and how she could confidently build up colour areas with variety and geometry of paint. It was so cool to watch.

This is a self portrait I did. I really like the angle of this. I won't talk much about myself, as there is plenty of that on this blog already!

This is my friend Jono, who I still jam with here in Vancouver. I have painted him more than anybody else, maybe 5 or 6 times. One time I painted a 4' x 4' picture of him playing his bass with his tongue hanging out. He loved it and put it in his apartment. His girlfriend disagreed.

This is my friend Lynn who graduated a year before me and now runs a gallery and artist-run-centre in Lunenburg called the Power House. Our friendship began out of a mutual interest in metal sculpture and time spent in the metal shop, which is also what explains my initial painting direction before adding colour. Lynn and I have been known to use grinders and drink coffee at the same time.

My old roommate Neil. What a fellow. I remember painting this piece when I was watching Snakes on a Plane at my old house. I also remember this one flowed so well and came together so quickly. Must have been from the quality of that movie in the background! The first time I met Neil was when I was unpacking my bag upon arrival in first year at our residence room. His parents were also there. The first thing that happened was my big glass bong fell out of my bag onto the floor and we all stopped and looked at it. That was awkward.

This is my friend Sarah. She was really into theatre and also modelled for some of our life drawing classes. It was always awesome when a creative person modelled because they didn't act weird about it, and when you saw them around campus things wouldn't seem strange. Sarah's a great actor and cool gal.

At some point with my new working styles I will definitely go back and make more figurative work. It's just a matter of time now! You can scope whats currently new at www.jonshawpaintings.com


  1. Just saw this post Jon! Neat to look back, I remember those paintings! Thanks for what you wrote about me, perked up my day a bit. I'm drawing moths (I love moths).

  2. Thanks friend ya I miss those days too! still got my BFA poster up on my wall :)