SUSAN MILLER-HAVENS APPROACH AND TECHNIQUE
"My representation of the figure has been informed by studio life drawing and by a knowledge of anatomy and psychology gained through careers in surgical and psychological fields. I want the viewer to see what I have seen, to think about the person and their situation rather than let pure representational poses close down possibilities. To this end, the majority of my portraits are not frontal. Gestures, body language.... a moment in time are meant to remind the viewer of some of the subtleties in life. Placing the image in a space defined by color but void of background objects presses the viewer to focus on the person or his/her situation."
Live Models and Photographs
I was taught traditional rendering of live models, but perhaps because as a psychotherapist I was also taught that starring at people is not the best route to learning about them, therefore I have never felt comfortable painting directly from live models unless it was just an academic exercise.
Portrait artists often point out that photographs do not give the same detail and dimensionally as a live model. This lack of detail and flatness is exactly why I like to take photographs of my models. This lack of preciseness in the recorded image that only reveals the pose gives me more freedom to paint subjectively, to invent. It is then up to me to make the piece appear 3-dimensional and alive.
Because of my clinical work in psychological and medical settings, I spent years studying faces, body language, thoughts and feelings, looking for wellness and illness. When I set out to portray what I think I know about a person in paint I want first to spend time getting to know them, what they care about, who they think they are. I do this by spending time with the individual in my studio, by reading about them or what they may have written, watching them in public, and talking to those who know them. I also collect photos others have taken of them, I take my own reference photos in the studio and where they work or live. When I decide on a pose I enlarge a black and white sc