Beauty & the Brain (and capturing likeness)

Image: Nicolai Fechin “Portrait of a Woman”

I love portraits! The more I draw and paint faces the more I find each one beautiful. A little trick for capturing likeness: When I look at my model, I ask myself “What is it that makes them unique? What do I like about their look?”  Sure enough, the answers come to mind, and I make adjustments.  The photoshopped, perfectly symmetrical, line-free faces just don’t do it for me. It’s not reality! Differences make the difference, and here lies beauty.

“Perhaps the mission of an artist is to interpret beauty to people – the beauty within themselves.” Langston Hughes

I was reading some scientific studies about beauty and how different decades and cultures have different tastes. No matter what people find “beautiful” though, studies show that by simply looking at it our brains’ reward circuit is stimulated. That’s the same area activated by good tasting food or pleasant smells. Have you ever felt it was a treat looking at art you love? Now you know why!

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” -Pablo Picasso

It’s a good time to allow yourself to see beauty. And if you’re an artist, allow yourself time to capture it. It’ll be a double treat!

What work of art feels like a reward for your brain? Comment below. I’d love to hear from you!

Artist, DNY Instructor and Author
I love painting faces, flesh, and fabric. The more tactile I can make a painting feel, the more I’m satisfied with it! I feel blessed to make art every day and look forward to the next day to continue my projects. Traveling to teach workshops is also something I can’t believe I get to do.
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Kelly Foss Author
I love painting faces, flesh, and fabric. The more tactile I can make a painting feel, the more I’m satisfied with it! I feel blessed to make art every day and look forward to the next day to continue my projects. Traveling to teach workshops is also something I can’t believe I get to do.
5 Comments
  1. The Princesse de Broglie by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres. I don’t know why, but it amazes me everytime. When I see it I feel as if I’m taking a deep breath and it gives me a sense of calm. If we are talking a more exciting type of reward for the eyes, then I do enjoy Klimt paintings, and Moreau’s jewel tones!

  2. I love what you’ve written! I agree completely about trying to capture reality in the moment rather than relying on perfect line work and symmetry. What you speak of inspires me. I also love works of art that notably focus all of the attention on one specific area and let the rest fade away. It reminds me of how our eyes dart around a room resting our attention on an object only for a moment. Your work is beautiful and I can’t wait to see what all you see, create, and inspire in others.

  3. I love this! Art truly does have a way of evoking emotion and pleasure- even in on my lowest days seeing a beautiful piece of art, or a sunset, can restore a sense of peace and hope. I love “The Accolade” by Leighton. I feel the image captures beauty, humility and a quiet strength in both characters.

  4. I often wonder when I see a historical portrait( and indeed any portrait) did the person really look like that? I was amused to find that Napoleon ( and presumably other such leaders and royals) had his official court artist. This may have been as close to photoshop as you could get then for modifying outcome.

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