-A LIFE OF ART-
WILLIAM C. SHRIVER
My venture into portrait painting was a training exercise more than anything else. Early on, I knew I wanted to paint people and I was quite taken with the work of the traditional portrait masters such as Sargent and Serov... the Russian painter. And I knew if I ever wanted to paint people with the aptitude that I would require of myself, portrait painting was a good way to learn the skills necessary. Ultimately, I saw myself doing paintings of people in settings I would choose, with models, of subjects, and with meanings that were important to me.
But it takes time to develop some skills and they can't be rushed. I knew the works I saw myself doing in this regard were still many years off so I decided to focus on commissioned portraits as a training ground... albeit a very difficult one.
Portrait painting requires that one capture not only the physical likeness but also an attitude and look that pleases the client. That, in and of itself, is a difficult task and the skills necessary are both substantial and subtle. I felt if I could become good at portrait painting, it would serve me well later when doing paintings of my own choosing with models. Ultimately, I am more drawn to the work of someone like the French Neo-Classical painter William Adolphe Bouguereau, than Sargent, for Bouguereau's mastery over painting skin as well as his subject matter. However, Sargent and Serov both served as strong inspiration and great sources of learning.
As great fortune would have it, I also became acquainted with Bettina Steinke, one of the very top portrait painters in the world, and she was so kind as to offer me her guidance and help, talk to me about techniques and skills, critique my paintings, and just be very encouraging in the visits I was able to make to her studio in Santa Fe in the 1980's. She was a wonderful artist and I am blessed to have known her.
This portrait commission is of the former Chairman of Pennzoil International.
Suntanned and a resident of the Southwest, he agreed that an outdoor setting would suit him well.
The cigarette was included, at the direction of his wife, as she said it just wouldn't be him without one. Well, cigarette or no, he is a good looking man and, in the world of portraits, the client chooses the details.
As stated on a previous page, this portrait is of Carmen Freideberg of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, a very gracious and lovely woman.
Her husband, Pedro, is a famous artist and is responsible for inventing the molded hand chair in the 1960's.
This is a detail, from the portrait I did for Siri Singh Sahib, the spiritual leader of the Sikh religion in the Western Hemisphere. He has since passed. But after receiving this painting, he was very pleased and I was then commissioned to do the Official Portrait of his wife, Bibi Ji. Bibi Ji is currently the spiritual leader for the Sikhs in the Western World.
At the time I did this painting of Sui, it represented a departure of sorts for me, and a step forward. Modern in feeling, I wanted to capture her intense gaze wrapped in great beauty.
The setting was a snowy winter day and her fashionable blue sweater added to the sense of style and contrast.
This has always been a popular painting, receiving many nice compliments over the years. It was commissioned by a woman in New Mexico and, I believe, captures the warmth and relaxed lifestyle of the desert southwest.
And Airedales are just the most wonderful dogs!
As portraits go, in style, this painting of an old friend of mine is one of the more traditional ones I have painted.