Wednesday, October 22, 2008

New Portrait Project

Yesterday I started my new portrait series of people in the Portland creative community. Amanda Soule was my first subject - she sat for me in my studio for a couple of hours. Amanda is an artist, writer, photographer, musician, crafter, home schooler and mother of three (soon to be four) children. You can learn more about Amanda and her work on her sweet and spiritually uplifting blog,

I am having people sit for just two hours and then I am taking photographs of the pose to use as a reference to resolve each portrait. This is new for me - I typically do not use photographs. But I'm finding that it is freeing in a way. I don't have to be a slave to what I see and can use the photo as a jumping off place. Amanda brought her knitting with her and a teacup with a bird design, asking that perhaps birds could wind their way into her portrait. After she left the studio I took my bird book off the shelf and opened to the Purple Martin and then to the Black Phoebe. Both these birds seem fitting somehow - maybe because they are country birds - and also because their dark feathers match Amanda's hair. So I am working these birds into the background. I also plan to use some of Amanda's photographs as material to weave into the background as well. I still have a ways to go to complete this piece, but I don't think I'll do much more to the face. I like the gentle softness of the features and although it doesn't look exactly like Amanda, it feels like what I know of her.

I started another portrait today - I will post about that tomorrow! I find that it's a good practice for me to be working on two at once.
It feels very satisfying to be back working in portraiture again! More soon...


Susan Beauchemin said...

Very nice--it looks like it's about finished!

martha miller said...

oh, i need to mess around with the background a bit more...
but thanks, sue!

artslice said...

Wow, Martha this looks great! I was so happy to see Amanda (Soulemama) as your subject. I've never been to Maine but read both of your blogs regularly... and here you are in the same room. I love the idea of the birds - and she looks great, I can't believe her baby's due soon. How big is this piece and will she be keeping it?

Now who's your next subject?! :)

martha miller said...

Hi Brenda

Yup, Portland Maine's a small town in many ways - I hope you can visit sometime! And if you do, you'll have to sit for a portrait!
What I have told the people who are sitting for me is that I will make each of them a nice quality color print of the finished portrait in exchange for their time sitting. I want to have an exhibit of all the portraits at the close of the project (which will probably be in 1-2 years, because, as I promised here on my blog and to myself, I am not doing these at a mad pace like I did my thesis project!!! I did the bulk of those 80 portraits in 4 months! Whew. No wonder my arms went numb! What my body had to do to get my attention...)
When I exhibit the portraits they will all be for sale. I will most likely make another book as well.
This portrait of Amanda is on 41" x 29" Rives BFK, my all time favorite paper to work with! And yes, Amanda does look terrific! She is a very graceful woman. When I was almost full term I looked like I had the nose of a TORPEDO under my smock! :^)

mrs.deane said...

This is very beautiful (I have seen the possibly completed piece). I think that your mind is so amazing as you have snuck so many things into the details of your painting.

Do you know of Emily Martin - "the black apple". She is super creative in the craft/art world and I think she would be amazing to do a piece on. She very recently moved to Portland and she can be found at

martha miller said...

thankyou, mrs deane!

i will look her up!