You may remember a post from a few weeks ago about the constant nagging of an idea. Well, this idea is one of those that just won't go away. So in order for me to get it to leave me alone, I have to get it onto canvas. I have had the desire to paint a portrait of the LDS (Mormon) prophet Joseph Smith for a while now. Just recently I also learned of an opportunity of possibly having the portrait featured in a documentary about him (if I get it finished in time). So I figured that there was no better time than now to work on my newest painting.
Of course, this does not come without it's fair share of challenges. With a normal portrait, you have the subject sitting right in front of you, but Joseph Smith was martyred in 1844. Photography hadn't really taken off at that point, so there are no actual photographs of him either. However, a death mask was made and is on display for the public to see. The original is in Nauvoo, Illinois I believe, and a replica is in the Museum of Church History and Art in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The image above is a sketch that I completed from the death mask. It is an amazing experience to try to capture the likeness of a person who left the world more than 150 years ago. And yet, it was interesting to see how I felt like I knew this man better after I had sketched his profile. This is a man that I have always learned about, but obviously have never met. It is very hard to explain, but it almost felt like I was meeting him as I worked on this sketch. Perhaps it is because I was sketching his actual likeness, from a mask that was made from his precise features.
Even though I have been working on sketching and drawing the death mask, I have also realized that in order for me to create the pose and the portrait that I want, I will need more than the death mask to work with. I plan on creating a small bust out of modeling clay and using that to capture the right pose, lighting, and so forth. I'll post my progress as I continue with this project.
On a separate note - he had quite the nose, don't you think?
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