Painting a Portrait

These days, I’d rather paint a landscape

Than a portrait of a person’s face

Of which the defining feature is the soul,

And I never catch its special grace;

I can paint eyes which are almond-shaped

Brown yet infused with a green light,

Or extra wide, the full circumference

Of the blue iris in plain sight;

The oval and heart shape of faces are not a problem,

Some have a characteristic square jaw

But then the delicate relationship

With the point of the chin is hard to draw.

The ogee, the line of beauty, made known to me

Through Alan Hollinghurst’s book of that name,

Curves in the corners of the eyes and mouth

So I, the artist, must raise my game.

Even my own sexagenarian face,

Small jowls and deep lines, remains elusive,

No brushstroke in a darker shade of flesh

Is ever properly conclusive.

And those I love – if I draw them –

You know at once who it’s meant to be,

The sketch may be a decent attempt

But it doesn’t come near what I see.

It is not altogether a  question of light

And not altogether a question of line,

More like ‘the hard problem’ of consciousness

Or the human face as the image of the divine.


July 2016