Wednesday, December 11, 2019
documenting Aurora Town Crier John Webster - a Portrait of Perfect Stillness

Town Crier John Webster – a Portrait of Perfect Stillness

The only ‘great’ portrait (from a portrait) I ever painted was of Copernicus. I was about ten years old when I had a few unsuccessful attempts to paint a portrait of someone and endured a constant frustration of not getting it right. Then I picked an easy target. Copernicus had a uniquely shaped easily reproducible hair style that played great cover for reproduction of his facial features and facial expression. By adding hanging stars, a moon and a few planets in the background, nobody ever attempted to question my result of Copernicus’ head-to-body dis-proportionality. If only my audience knew that I was in fact mastering “bubble head” art, but that never transpired.

“I wanted to become a cartoon artist, a portrait artist, and an illustrator. This was my first idea.” ~ Karl Lagerfeld

I watched intrigued as nine artists gathered at the Aurora Cultural Centre, part of the Society of York Region Artists event, to paint a portrait of a historically significant figure, of the Town Crier John Webster. Town Crier John Webster was an interesting subject to start of with, unique character in unique decorum. And don’t forget the hat which does make him look like a town pirate, a few innocent comments I heard from children once. His stillness was perfect that day. Was he even breathing? On that day John Webster was a man of absolute stillness and silence, definitely contrasting his public appearance where he presents himself with elegance, rings the bell and loudly speaks during ceremonial openings.

“A work of art is above all an adventure of the mind.” ~ Eugene Ionesco

The artist’s work in progress was quite an intriguing experience as well. I don’t ever recall seeing a creation of a portrait of someone with a tool other than a camera. With one click of a camera button and split of a second of millions of calculations, a camera processes a captured moment into a recognizable image made of pixels. This is how easy it is to capture a portrait with a digital camera today; but how do you do it with a stroke of a pencil or a brush? Not easy, I would say.

The transformation process began. Talent and skill for sure on display. Time is a definite factor. Lots of patience. Interesting styles, techniques and attempts from each artist. Each artist worked with different tools, materials, assortment of necessary colours, canvas sizes and in different locations relative to the subject. It all started with straight and curved lines or just shading. It was interesting to also see how geometry and measurements are actually necessary to draw a proportional head-to-body human portrait, something I totally ignored on Copernicus.

I must say all were fabulous end results but it was the work in progress that left me with a new experience and greater appreciation of the work of an artist.

Anna Lozyk Romeo
Aurora, ON

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