Abstract Portrait

I really enjoy the art of Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky. Both artists taught at the famous Bauhaus and both have written about their philosophies. There is a compilation of Klee’s Bauhaus lectures and essays about art in two notebooks (The Thinking Eye and The Nature of Nature); Kandinsky also wrote down his ideas about art in On the Spiritual in Art and Point and Line to Plane.  

It so happens that Klee and Kandinsky were in another association of artists called The Blue Four, along with Lyonel Feininger and Alexej Jawlensky. I was astounded by the work of Jawlensky when I perused the section about him in The Blue Four Collection. His portraits range from stylized, minimalist line drawings to wildly colored oil paintings of heads.

Today’s watercolor experiment:

I wanted to paint a portrait of my brother Mike in the style of Jawlensky. Mike is autistic, low functioning and nonverbal.  We have never communicated in any meaningful way. Perhaps if I had been more attentive to subliminal cues or his unknown (if extant) way of relaying his inner state, I could say otherwise. I wish I could.

Jawlensky’s odd way of portraying individuals seemed an appropriate style emulate in visualizing the strangeness and unknowability of my brother.  I chose to paint one of his eyes an unnatural color, looking right at the viewer. This type of attention from Mike was rare. Mike’s other eye now is obscured by a film of some sort. I painted it a uniform blue color. I used reds for the lighted areas of the face and green (red’s complement) for shadows.

Watercolor: Abstract Portrait (Jawlensky)

Brother Mike
12″x9″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

The photograph from which this painting is derived may be found in the Progress post.

6 thoughts on “Abstract Portrait

  1. I was really struck by the blue waves of his uniform and the blue of his one eye – the thought that came to me was that they were like two different oceans, one in this world, one in a world of his own.

  2. I am totally fascinated by your blog, your stories of your brother, and of course, your art. We have an autistic great-grandson. He’s 6 years old now, non-verbal, but is making great improvements. I love how you’ve captured the unknowable and indefinable aspects of autism through your portrait.

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