‘… an image that I may or may not recognise to be myself.’
‘Oh! That’s me!’
‘I thought it looked like someone I might have met once.’
At the end of a sitting I invite the sitter to sign the finished portraits, just as I also sign them; I also date them since, as sitters have observed, the watercolour portrait is a document of a specific time spent together.
I sometimes wonder, if the portrait significantly fails to resemble the sitter – to be like them, if they might refuse to sign it, that is, to authenticate it. Despite the fact that these three images are simply unrecognisable as the people who sat for them, the sitters did sign them. What the portraits have in common is that they look plausible.
My observation is that it isn’t always the degree of likeness or unlikeness in the portrait that results in a sitter identifying or not identifying with the picture. Some sitters’ initial reaction is to identify – ‘Oh! That’s me!’ – and others not to – ‘Well, it doesn’t look like me’ – when my own perception is that the portrait resembles them but insufficiently. Some sitters want to please the artist, just as the artist might, in some sense, want approval from a sitter.