Capturing The Soul With The Hand: “In an increasingly digital world, is there still a place for the old tradition of portrait painting? Alina Kulesh considers the prominence of classical portrait painting in the digital age. ”
When I first found out about The Genteel, I knew that their dedication to in-depth coverage on fashion, design, and everything in between would allow for “Capturing The Soul With The Hand” to come alive. Being my first piece for The Genteel, it was charged with extra pressure.
As an advanced ex-visual arts student — specializing in classical painting and drawing — I felt conflicted when I began to adapt to the steep emergence of digital documentation. I felt like I was cheating on a part of myself that I had identified with the most for so many years, but the instant gratification of the digital world was so alluring and fun I didn’t want to give it up. Unfortunately, I rescued myself from these thoughts with the unexpected illness of my grandmother–our family didn’t know how long she would still be in our lives; my first reaction was to draw her portrait. While I was drawing, many people asked me why I had chosen such a lengthy and time-consuming process. After all, I could have taken a great picture with my Instagram app and called it a day.
The simple truth is that I feel a stronger connection when I am putting my artistic skills, emotional and mental effort into a person whose face I am studying for endless hours. The deeper truth is that when I am drawing a portrait I am consciously and subconsciously pushing my positive energy (that I feel when I am drawing) to the person who I am concentrating on–in this case, my Grandmother Vera. Answering these questions made me realize that portrait painting is not extinct; it is stronger than ever due to the disposable and ever-changing digital culture. Most importantly, I concluded that portrait painting and digital photography are too different to be similar, interchangeable, or replaceable.
Surely I was not the only one who felt this way: I was very blessed when I stumbled upon the works of artists Veronica Tsyglan and John Michael Angel. They have honed their craft and continue to breathe longevity into a tradition that has shaped our society and Art History books.