Wind & Matter - Watercolor Portrait
Portrait paintings in the familiar classic style are mostly common in oil paints. This technique is creator-friendly because of the flexibility of the material, the long drying time that allows changes and additions easily as well as the opacity and durability of the paint and canvas, which allow for slow work in layers. Oil paints allow for continuous work and countless repairs. In contrast, watercolors are delicate paints that are usually smeared on paper. The encounter between the paper and the water element of the colors is as expected challenging; On the one hand the use of water requires working with the paint, color control and working in thin layers, on the other hand the paper is not tolerant of large amounts of water and even if working with extra thick dedicated paper, there is a limit to its absorbency and therefore the number of corrections is very limited. Watercolors require high skill, both in controlling the movement of water on paper, in working with the transparent layers, maneuvering the colors between blending and separating and strict supervision of the stains on the page, since watercolors continue to work a few more moments after meeting the paper.
An experienced artist will develop a way to maneuver between water and paper, which are opposing elements but have to cooperate. One such artist is Sandro Lieberman (1923-1977) who created the portrait of the author S.Y Agnon in watercolors (51X66 cm). The painting was done in only one color: black. The artist expertly manipulated the water to create the many intermediate shades, shadows and boundaries of the details. The light is actually the paper itself, exposed in the exact places and colorless.
The artist presents us with a supreme maneuver between paper and water. The painting shows the author using a minimum of stains and lines on the page, the artist creates an impressive, realistic and expressive portrait. Despite the spotty, slightly impressionistic work and the fading frame, the author's age and action can be discerned: he bows his head to a book. The book is represented by wonderful minimalism, one dark line twisted like a bird's wingspan, below which the painting ends in the white of the page and above it a silhouette of the book's pages. The author's meditative expression is described through the staining and wetting work of the page, dark spots concentrated around his eyes, eyebrows and nose and sculpting his physical figure, crafted light spots adorn his forehead, under his eyes and the bottom of his face thus giving us a character description. So few lines, so much expression. In large and evocative spots, the artist gives details about the author's lifestyle and status: a yarmulke, a jacket and a tie, a book delineating the character at its base. The magic in this painting emerges from the sensitive use of the dark water color, which dances powerfully on the paper and leaves it room to emerge in its whiteness, as it allows movement of air in the character design. The same airiness can also be understood as spirituality in the form of the author.