Couples Portraits

Today I saw a double portrait of the Kroyers from the 1800s. They painted each other on the same canvas. I’ve never done that, but it got me thinking of “couples portraits.”

There have been a few times I painted couples portraits, and quite a few more with multiple people in it – not begun as a portrait, but recognizable none the less. Here are some of my “intentionally painted couples” portraits.

Most of the time, the couples stay together. There is quite a bit of history in these paintings. The top left couple have been married over 30 years; top middle were married  over 60 years until the husband died; top right couple got married after this painting was made of them singing together. This was not painted as a portrait, but of lifestyle, included in a western exhibit I was in. She was especially adoring, I thought.

In the next grouping, the top left couple have been married over 60 years. The middle left couple were engaged in this painting. The bottom left couple were married about two years when I painted this. The bottom right couple were married 20 years at the time of painting.

Really, I love painting portraits as much as I panic while painting them. Capturing a likeness doesn’t always come so easily for me… it can be a very intense undertaking. I work very hard to capture the people. When I’m painting groups of people or painting other people, they sometimes end up looking so much like the people that they are almost too specific to sell as “just paintings.” I do enjoy the people most of the time while painting them, liking them, sometimes loving them.

One time I painted a man who I did not like very much, and it showed up in his eyes. The portrait was true, but it captured something I was not comfortable with. It’s really much better to love the people you are painting.

What happens to these very specific paintings? Well, usually the people want them. Sometimes not. What happens when they split up… and you have a portrait that ended up quite nice, but it is no longer “true”? One time I learned of a couple divorcing just as the painting was finishing. I had worked nearly 2 months on that one. Oh my. Needless to say, even though the painting was very nice, the portrait was no longer needed. I destroyed that one.

Every painting tells a story, but to me, people paintings have the biggest stories… so rich, so varied, so living.